From Pillar to Post: 7 Ways to Vary Your Blog

September 10, 2015

We’ve previously written about developing themes as part of a content strategy, but the topic of a blog post is not the only dimension. When planning out your blog with a writer, you should think about the structure of the blogs, and what kind of response you want from them.

For small businesses, there are seven content types that we are asked to provide on a regular basis. To vary your blog content, and keep your readers engaged, cycle through these seven content types as you plan out your topics and approach.

Content Type 1: Pillar Posts

Pillar posts get their name from their purpose: they prop the website up over time. While your static service pages tell people what you do, the pillar posts should prove how well you do it. They are the shareable, detailed, high quality blogs that will help your blog gain traction, and are absolutely essential in your content strategy.

When formulating ideas for pillar posts, remember the golden rules:

  • Pillar posts should not go out of date, ever. Look for evergreen topics that will stand the test of time.
  • Attract your most valuable, high-spending customers and give them a call to action in the post.
  • Write high quality content that earns high quality links.
  • Publish pillar posts that will be shared, time and time again.

If you have a set budget, plan to allocate at least half of it to developing excellent pillar posts. It’s never too late to add them, and once you do, they will bring in traffic effortlessly for months.

Content Type 2: PR and Case Study Articles

A couple of years ago, news articles were a very trendy way to get daily hits. These short, sharp news articles were useful a way to keep your blog updated frequently, and a way to attract traffic in short bursts, without spending money on longer articles.

However, despite being inexpensive, news posts are rarely a great investment. They date quicklyChat Bubbles on Social Technology and Internet Set and competition is fierce. In fact, they are the opposite to pillar posts: the offer very little long-term appeal.

If you want to post news to keep the blog fresh, write news about your own business instead. The blogs you publish can reinforce your PR campaign and act as useful case studies, without necessarily chasing the same traffic as everyone else. Use press releases to inform the blogs, or write about recent achievements. Case studies are a great way to promote your own work, and publish photos of what you’ve achieved to date.

Content Type 3: Lists (With a Caveat)

The list post, or (cringe) ‘listicle,’ is a favored format of many bloggers and businesses. A list a really easy way to give the reader a compact, fun reading experience with a predictable time for consumption, and the list title also sounds snappy in a headline, making it great for social sharing.

The main problem with list posts is that the sections are too short to offer anything new in the content. If your list contains 5 items (or more), and the blogger is writing to 500 words, there simply isn’t space for detail, and that’s where the value is lost.

If you like lists, go the extra mile. Aim for a top 19 list, instead of a top 5 list. Or a top 101 list. Make your top 5 list 2,000 words long instead of 400 words long. Break it up: post your top 5 list as five serialized blogs over the course of a week.

To be clear: we’re not against list posts. We supply lots of them! But we’ve seen thousands of blogs on the same topics, all crammed into 500 words. Do something different: give your list longevity.

Content Type 4: Commentaries and Controversies

Many entrepreneurs have built their business on being their own person, and doing things their own way. Look at Lingscars: Ling Valentine is furiously independent, and has broken every rule in the PR handbook. This is her strength, and her USP. On a smaller scale, I’ve written some personal opinion pieces for the Huffington Post – and some opinions were certainly more popular than others.

Everyone should be true to themselves in life, and in business. That applies to blogging as well. Any opinion or commentary content should be:

  • Directly relevant to your business and industry
  • True to your own beliefs
  • Unlikely to offend your customers
  • Published with genuine intentions – not simply as clickbait

Commentary and opinion blogs can build bridges to customers, but they can also burn bridges if you’re not careful. Don’t post anything you don’t stand by 100 per cent, and think carefully before hiring a ghost writer for these posts unless you’re willing to check and edit every word.

You can always run a separate Tumblr or Medium blog for your personal rants, if you’re not sure about putting them straight onto your business website.

Content Type 5: Frequently Answered Questions

Running a business is about building relationships, and a successful relationship often requires you to answer the same questions 16 times a day. If you’re a sole trader, you know this already. Have you thought about using these questions to drive your blog?

If there’s something you’re repeatedly being asked, and you’re tired of explaining it via email, it’s a clue that your website isn’t giving people the detail they need. It’s also a golden opportunity for getting some long-tail keywords onto your website, helping to boost highly targeted traffic.

You don’t have to label these posts as FAQs, necessarily; you can just put a spin on the content by posting them in a question format. This gives them a list-like appearance, which can help to break up other posts.

Content Type 6: Trade Secrets

During blogger outreach, many companies seek out credible influencers. Influencers are people that know their stuff and have authority in their niche. These people have built traffic, and gained trust, because they know how to inform an audience.

Information is incredibly valuable, and some of the most successful bloggers in the world have become celebrities by proving their expertise on their blog. It’s important to have a laser-sharp focus on the type of audience you want to attract, so you can offer solutions that are relevant to the reader.

Giving away information for free is risky – sure. But insider information proves that you know your stuff, and you’re sincere in your intentions and professionalism. The key is to write for your customers, and avoid writing posts for your peers.

Content Type 7: Questions and Surveys

Most people who read your blog posts will never post a comment. We’re so used to skim reading, we often miss the call to action. And we can be so fatigued by poor quality, we expect little from blogs, and barely engage with the content.

Rather than asking for comments, open your blog up for opinions. It sounds the same, but there is a difference: instead of asking them to respond to your opinion, let them give their opinion freely.

Blog comments, surveys and question posts can inform your next phase of a content strategy, as well as giving you a chance to find out who your readers are. If you’re finding it difficult to gain traction, a contest for an incentive – like a gift card – can encourage people to feed back.

Don’t Forget: Continual Improvement

Managing a blog is extremely time consuming, and maintaining constant effort is sometimes difficult. Not everyone is a natural writer, and it can be difficult to find the time. Despite that, it’s important to maintain quality, keep publishing regularly, and vary the type of content you post.

If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your competitors, there are people out there who can partner with you and help with:

  • Content strategy
  • Topic and title ideas
  • Content frameworks and templates
  • Writing, editing, and proofreading
  • Keyword research
  • Scheduling and layout
  • Sourcing images
  • Reviewing and refreshing old content
  • Developing a complete inbound marketing plan

According to HubSpot, 92 percent of customers that blog multiple times a day attract customers through those blog posts. Inbound marketing works. Content is its cornerstone. Investing in your blog is a failsafe way to increase website traffic, and including a variety of styles and topics will keep people interested in what you say.

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