If you’ve been writing blog posts for many years, has your ideal client changed – and if so – has your content changed with that? Making sure you’re taking advantage of all the info your analytics is telling you about what your readers want to hear more of will also allow you and your content to evolve and change over time.
Planning out a strategy to your long form content writing will make the whole process less daunting and easier to manage and fit into your busy schedule. The goal here is to make it something you look forward to doing, instead of a chore.
Rich: Rebekah Radice is a blogger, a recognized social media leader, and a CMO for Post Planner. As a speaker she’s been featured on CBS Los Angeles, ABC, and at the NATO International Summit. She’s listed as a Top 10 Social Media Content Marketer by Onalytica, and most recently a Top Marketer of 2017 by Brand 24. Rebekah, welcome to the show.
Rebekah: Well thank you very much. Terrific to be here.
Rich: I know you’re a big deal just by the fact that that’s the shortest bio anyone has ever given me. The longer the bio sometimes that means that somebody is trying to compensate for something. But you’re like, “Nope, here’s three things I did that are pretty important.”
Rebekah: That is hilarious. Yeah, I like to keep it short and sweet.
Rich: That is not long form content, but we are going to talk a little about long form content today. So as I mentioned, I read one of your blog posts all about high performing content and I was really taken by it and kind of wanted to talk to you a little bit more about that.
So we’re going to talk about creating high performing content, and let’s start at the beginning. How can we determine what is high performing content, how do you rate that?
Rebekah: Well it depends on if we’re talking about your blog or we’re talking about social media. But if you’re looking to blog content that you created over the last several years, it’s very easy to go into Google Analytics and take a look at what is still bringing you traffic, what has turned into an evergreen post for you that continues to perform. So that’s really your best place.
If you’re looking at social media you’ve got tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, you mentioned Brand 24, just so many different ways that you can see who’s interacting with your content and how are they interacting. Are they ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’, and what kind of engagement is that content getting? So really look to the data to get to get to the bottom of what you can use to either drive people to your website and your blog, or what continues to perform well where you’re getting great engagement on social media.
Rich: Ok. Now are you ever taking it to the next level? I have certain posts on my blog that are just still killing it sometimes after 8 or 10 years, but they’re on “How to Convert Your Google Presentation Into PowerPoint”, which is not bringing my business any business. So are you also sorting through that and saying what is actually bringing me business when you try and take a look at some of the past performers?
Rebekah: Oh absolutely. And I think that’s a critical piece a lot of people miss where the audience that you might have built up at one time is not necessarily the audience you want now. It’s always ok to sort through and sift through that content and determine what really makes sense for your business at this stage and is there value in re-sharing or updating that content. Because yeah, for those of us that have been blogging – I started my first blog in 2004 – there’s a lot of content I’ve written that’s either so outdated that it’s no longer relevant and doesn’t make any sense anymore, or to your point, is it not bringing me the type of clients that I’m looking for. So I think this is a really important first step that you determine what is high performing, but also what is valuable to your business.
Rich: I think that’s a great point because when I take a look at our Top 10 posts there are a few in there that actually lead people into the funnel for somebody who would want to hire a digital agency, and then there’s just some others that don’t. In fact, by far our #1 most popular post on the Agents of Change website is “The Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine”. Now I’m glad I’m helping people out with the best restaurants in Portland, Maine, but honestly it’s probably not bringing us any people who are actually going to come to the conference or tune into the podcast.
Rebekah: Yeah, so true. And it does evolve over time, doesn’t it? At least for myself I know when I started, who my target market was at that time wasn’t my target market today. So I think there’s freedom in releasing yourself to the shackles that sometimes bind us to our content thinking that it’s high performing, it’s bringing all this traffic to my website, but truthfully it’s not leading them deeper into your funnel and they’re not actually getting to that activation stage where you’re able to convert. They’re not doing your business any good anyway, so better to just let go and release yourself from that.
Rich: That’s a great point and I do think we all have to realize that when we’ve been in business for any length of time, who we go after and who our ideal client is may have changed. So when we’re taking a look at our high performing content, what are some of the characteristics that you’ve seen out there? Is there a certain length, is there a certain format, does it always have to be text, could it be audio or video, is there a specific channel?
Rebekah: Well definitely we have seen a big shift from the shorter posts. I remember when 600-800 words felt like a good sized post. Today we see that 2,000 and above – once you even get over 2,400 words – you see an even bigger spike in how that post performs.
So that longer form content is really the direction that we have gone at this point and I think it’s become pretty prevalent across the web where it’s more detailed, very thorough. So instead of that high level overview of a topic, actually taking that deeper dive into how do we solve that problem and how do I pull back the curtain and show my audience what I do every single day.
I think it’s a great opportunity as a company and s brands to be able to take what we’re learning every day, what we’re doing every day, and really translate that into actionable ideas that our audience can take and use within their own business.
Rich: So that’s a good point, using these blog points to teach people to take actionable steps. How do you determine what it is that your ideal customer actually needs?
Rebekah: Well, there are several different ways. Certainly research, it’s taking a look at what type of content they’ve interacted with before, so going back to that most popular content. It’s also listening, so it’s spending time on social media and paying attention to what they’re talking about. What are your customers talking about to each other when interacting?
You can also look to your completion which is another great way to see what content is your competition creating that that similar audience is really engaged with. And then asking questions. I think this is one that a lot of people miss where we have so many different ways or channels to interact with our audience. Everything from social media to email to that blog data that we have to surveys.
So just asking your audience what is it that I haven’t talked about that you’re dying to hear from me. Or what is that one, burning question that you have around your keyword or your target. So it’s asking those questions and really being interactive, that’s the other issue I see. A lot of times brands will put out a question and then nobody is out there actually listening to the response. And that’s where you start to wonder why is my content consistently underperforming.
So as you know, it’s always changing. IT’s really a living, breathing entity, and understanding the needs and the struggles of your audience is definitely going to evolve and change over time.
Rich: So let’s assume that we know what some of the key pain points of our customers are and how we can help them, and we believe that long form content is the way to go. One of the things that I hear all the time from people who I’m trying to get to blog more often is, “I just don’t have the time.” So if I’m now telling them to forget about the 600 word post, I need you to be writing 2,000-3,000 words per post, how do people find the time to get that done?
Rebekah: That is definitely I would say one of the top concerns. I’m running my business and where in the world am I supposed to fit in this extra time? I don’t know about you, but writing a 2,000-3,000 word post takes a little bit of time. You’ve got to be able to separate yourself, take off that business hat, and put yourself into creative mode to write a great piece that’s really going to speak to your audience.
So first and foremost I would say you do have the time, you just have to schedule it. Just schedule it like everything else. So think about this as maybe a breakfast meeting, or coffee, or a networking event that you go to. You’re putting all of that in to your calendar because it’s important to you. So just like anything else that’s important to you, I would strongly recommend that you pick a time and a day that is really going to allow you to be most creative.
Let me give you an example. My team is a diverse team, we’re in 9 different countries, and so when I come with someone in the Pacific Time zone, they’ve been on for maybe 8-10 hours wrapping up their day. And I get bombarded with, “I need this, I need that. Can you do right now?” So you have to think about when is the time of day when you can step away from all of that conversation and interaction that’s happening everywhere else. Get yourself into a very peaceful state where you can think about and really ideate around your blog topic.
So think about what that best time is, but also think about where your best space is. If we all have those areas within our office or within our homes that we feel very comfortable reading a book or sitting down and writing. So make sure you completely immerse yourself into the zone where you’re going to be able to feel very creative.
And I would also really strongly recommend that on those days where you just cannot get yourself into that right frame of mind, don’t force it, really listen to yourself. And while you want to have it in your calendar so you stick with it and commit, you also don’t want to create a situation where you’re forcing yourself into it because then it becomes really difficult and heavy and overwhelming. And when those things start to happen then we push back and it’s not fun and we don’t want to do it anymore.
Rich: Yeah, we definitely want to find the time when we can be most effective. Now I know that you use a blog framework. Can you talk a little bit about it and how you use it?
Rebekah: Yeah, this is another area of productivity when it comes to blogging where it allows you to create this framework around your blog so that you don’t feel as if every time you sit down you’re reinventing the wheel. And that can be the challenge, too, is just getting started sometimes you come up with this great topic or title, but sitting down and just writing can be a struggle on some days. And that’s where this framework comes in to play.
The blogpost framework that I use – and that we use at Post Planner – is beginning with the intent. And this goes back to your first question about what is the struggle of your audience. So begin with intent of your readers. Sit down and think about what would they actually type into Google or ask Siri when they were looking for a solution that you are going to provide the answer to with your blog post.
So to do that you really need to speak in your tone of voice – so not using industry jargon – but just asking that question in a very organic way and is something that would come out of their mouth if they were talking to a friend or they’ would ask you if they just happened to be on the phone with you. So then you take that and you translate that into your topic or your keywords. And this is where you can really start to do your keyword research and this is where a lot of people get lost.
There are just so many different answers to keyword research. But when you start with that intent it just flows naturally into your keyword research. So you’re taking those terms that people are looking for. An example I used in my blog post, if somebody was typing in, “What is social media marketing?”, I could look at what is somebody actually wanting to know around social media marketing. Is it what can social media marketing do for their business, I sit how to use social media as a startup, what does it take to get started with social media? So really start to brainstorm what they’re actually looking for, and then let that work for keyword research.
From there, you’re really looking to solve that struggle. So what is it in particular that comes to their search. So, “what is social media marketing?”, what’s that struggle that you’re trying to solve for them? And then all of that is going to get incorporated into a headline – I do two different – a SEO headline and a social headline. And the SEO, obviously, for search engine traffic for optimization. And then social is a little bit more marketing, trying to capture attention. But both of them I’m using to test and really try to get a better understanding of what my audience is responding to.
Rich: I want to pause you right there because I think this is brilliant. And I do the same thing, which is probably why I think it’s brilliant. There is a title that you want to write because it is keyword rich, you’re leading with your best keywords and it’s more likely to come up on the first page of Google.
And then there’s the title that appears right above the blog post and that’s the headline that gets shared. When somebody clicks on the ‘share’ buttons, that’s what somebody is going to see on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, and you want something that’s a little bit more sensational and you’re less worried about the keyword research at that point. Correct?
Rich: And I personally use – I’m a WordPress guy – I use Yoast. But almost any type of SEO plugin will give you the ability to call the page something, and that will be your SEO title, and then call your blog post something else, and that would be your social headline.
Rebekah: There is also a plug in which you might use called Social Warfare, and that allows you to put in a different headline for every social network ad well as a different description.
Rich: That’s very cool. I keep hearing about Social Warfare, I have not played around with it myself.
Rebekah: It’s kind of nice, very compatible with Yoast – I use both – but if you’re looking to leverage both digital marketing as well as social headlines, that’s what social warfare is for. Or you could create variations of your visuals and attach those to a different title
Rich: Excellent, alright. Well I interrupted you so keep on going with your blogpost framework.
Rebekah: Yeah well really taking it from those headlines, that’s going to take it down to your Meta description where you’re working those keywords into your Meta. I think what happens – at least for me – is merging the SEO and the social headlines gets me into that creative space where I can have some fun with that Meta and use it to create intrigue, to really draw in both human beings as well as search engines. And then from there it’s looking at keyword variations, so I’m sprinkling in different variations of that keyword throughout the blog post.
Obviously we know keyword stuffing, those days are long behind us, thank goodness, and now it’s all about speaking authentically in that way that really speaks to that problem that you’re solving for your audience. So as you’re doing your research, I think I mentioned three different variations of what they might be asking when they’re looking for the answer to their problem. So come up with those variations and then figure out how you can work those into your blog post. Because obviously they’re all really focused on the same problem but to come at it from a little bit different angle.
Rich: Sure. So if you’re writing a post on “The Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine”, you also might work in some phrases around romantic dinners, places that take reservations, places that are family friendly, just of kind of cast a wider net perhaps.
Rich: Alright. It sounds like so far Rebekah you haven’t actually done much writing – and I’m not insulting you at all – but this seems to be a lot of awesome prep work. Have you started writing yet or is this about now that you’ve done this piece you’re about to sit down and do some writing? And if so, what are some of the steps that you take when you’re creating this high performing content?
Rebekah: Well I typically split this up so I will do all the keyword research – what I call “blog planning” – in one day, and I will do writing another day. I feel they use two different sides of my brain. Keyword research as we all know is very left brain and very detailed analytical, whereas I want to be more on that right side of my brain being in that creative space when I sit down to write. And keyword research can also take a little bit of time depending on exactly what you’re going after.
So I tend to split that up and once I sit down I work in one hour chunks where I force myself to get up, walk around, take my dogs out, because otherwise I will spend too much time overthinking the post. So what I want to first do is do that first draft within an hour, do as best I can to get all of my ideas out of my head so every point I want to speak to within that post, I just want to lay it down.
I’m not editing at this point for grammatical errors, I don’t care, I’m just throwing it down. And for me I speak this a lot, so I do use Siri a lot to dictate, they also have a feature right in Mac you can do it, within Google Docs you can do that. So if sitting down and typing is a challenge, just talk it out. It actually helps me to hear the words as well as I’m talking them out. So that’s kind of my process is to get that out of my head and down onto paper.
Rich: Ok. And then I assume you go through some sort of editing process and then you polish the post to the point where it’s all nice & shiny and you’re ready to launch it. Are there any other steps, like, how do you work images into the posts that you create or is that not important to you?
Rebekah: Oh yeah, absolutely it’s very important. So images would come as soon as that headline is determined, and then getting all those images taken care of. And from there there’s a whole promotional schedule around that, too. So usually from beginning to end as far as keyword research, writing that post, getting that post, it goes through 2-3 different faces of editing. And then getting all of those images into the post, getting images prepared for the post that will be a part of the promotion, it usually takes a week from beginning to end.
Rich: Can you just talk to me a little bit about your promotional? You mentioned you use Social Warfare, you said they allow you when people are sharing the content that there is images and a headline that’s appropriate for each different platform, which is awesome. But do you have a [process or what is your editorial calendar look like – or promotional calendar, rather – in terms of getting this in front of as many people as possible?
Rebekah: You know, that could be a whole other podcast. I think I’m up to 100 point checklist. So for me – and I’m absolutely 100% certain you’re the same exact way – when you hit “publish” that’s just the beginning of really getting your post out there. So that begins a whole series of promotion across social media, using email, and then working that in a 5-7 day span I have all kinds of places that I’m putting that content, especially dependent on the focus of that content to make sure I’m getting in front of as large an audience as possible.
So if you’re thinking that you hit “publish” and then woo-hoo you’re all done, it’s really just the beginning of doing all the outreach that’s involved and it could be even more substantial. I tend to not even go as far as a lot of people do with influencer outreach and so many other pieces that could become a part of that.
So I think for a lot of people what they need to understand is begin where you can and don’t’ feel as if you’ve got to take all of this on at once. Build this setup over time, pick your top sources – maybe it’s Facebook, maybe it’s Twitter – where you’re getting the most interaction and it’s going to give you the biggest bang for your buck, for lack of a better phrase, when it comes to promoting.
Rich: So once we’ve done all that work – and it sounds like a lot – it sounds like you might have a team and you certainly have a system, we put it out there in the best way possible, but how often and do you go back and measure to see if a post is high performing? And is there ever a time when you say, “I feel like it could have done better”, and then you maybe make some changes before you promote it? Do you ever do any of that or is it once you’ve published it you don’t make any changes?
Rebekah: Yes, yes, and yes. So yes I do track all of the content that I’m creating whether it’s on my blog or I guest post. I think it’s incredibly important that we’re not just putting something out there in the world but we’re actually paying attention to is this something that’s beneficial to our audience, is it driving traffic back to us, is it bringing those leads back to our website?
So I’m looking at that, I’m definitely with the first week or two consistently going back to look at all of my content and look at those posts, and I have a certain process – that I really need to write about – that we use every single day. I do have a team, as you mentioned, that helps me with this particular piece especially because it can be a fairly substantial piece to go back and update content that did ok. Where I’ll go in and I’ll see that maybe it’s on page 2 and I could have done a lot better job optimizing that particular piece of content.
So we take a look, we go into Google console, we look at where we’re sitting – page 2 or beyond that – is this a great blog post, is it a relevant topic, is it something that when we look at it could we have written a longer piece of content, could we have done a lot better job explaining, giving more detail. One big piece that’s working really well for us right now is, I’ll go back in and take the top 5 points out of that blog post and I’ll do a video around that. A short little video that I call “5 in 5’s” – 5 points in 5 minutes – and I’ll just actually show what they’re going to learn within that blog post.
So we’ll go back in and we’ll optimize that video and we’ll get that video into the content and just update that based on how old it is. Maybe some new images, maybe samples, maybe updated dates like statistics. So there’s a lot of different ways you can improve upon content and I think that’s another missed opportunity that we don’t often think about even though you post that content and a year goes by and you forget about it. When in reality we can get a pretty nice boost in traffic just by making some updates.
Rich: That’s awesome. And I found some of the same success as well in repurposing or updating a lot of our posts. This has been great, I feel like you have so much more to offer, where can we find you online?
Rebekah: You can find me at my website which is rebekahradice.com. And of course my parents didn’t make it easy, the spelling of my name is not traditional. But if you spell it wrong that’s ok, you’ll still get there. And then you can find me @rebekahradice on any social network and I’d love to connect with you.
Rich: Awesome, we’ll of course have all those links in the show notes in case you can’t spell correctly. Rebekah, thank you so much for your time today.
Rebekah: Oh, thank you so much, my pleasure.
Rebekah Radice knows how to give good long form content. If you’d like to hear more of her advice and expertise on the subject, get yourself over to her website, or follow her on just about every social network including Twitter.
Plugins discussed in this episode:
Yoast – SEO plugin
Social Warfare – WordPress plugin
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, creator of the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, and author of a new book, The Lead Machine. He loves helping business’s fine tune their strategies for digital marketing in the areas of search, social and mobile.