Some posts are viral-focused, geared toward the kind of topics people will share on social media. Others are geared toward SEO, and matching up content to the questions your customers are asking on Twitter. Which type of article is best depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
For most of our clients, in the first few months of inbound, our primary focus is on building website traffic. To do any lead nurturing you need leads, and to get leads you need traffic. But the "popular" opinion when it comes to blogging is, "we need thought leadership blog articles!"
I get it! You've heard that term from marketing gurus for a long time, and you want to be a leader in your industry. It sounds excellent, but for most of our clients, I disagree. Thought leadership is something that sustains an audience. SEO focused articles build that audience.
The Anatomy of a Blog Post That Builds Traffic
Thought leadership before you have an audience doesn't build website traffic very well. SEO-centric articles do increase traffic remarkably well, but they accomplish much more than that. They introduce your brand, products, and services to people who previously wouldn't have considered buying from you.
Why You Need to Write SEO-Centric Articles?
Let's be real clear what we mean by SEO-Centric articles. We're not talking about keyword stuffing, and we're not talking about any tricks of the trade. We're talking about optimizing the content to match up with search engine usage.
For instance, if you're a company that manufactures mouse traps, few people are going to be searching Google for some philosophical mouse trap engineer pushing the envelope of what is possible in "future trapdom." It may be "thought leadership," but the majority of your customers don't care.
They are using Google to find, things like "the best mouse traps that don't kill," or "what are the best places to set a mouse trap?"
If the mousetrap company were my client, I would write articles like "The 5 Best Humane Mouse Traps That Don't Kill or Hurt Mice," and "The 7 Best Places to Set Your Mouse Traps."
You need an SEO-centric blog post, to answer the questions your customers are asking. This introduces them to your brand and establishes your brand as a helpful resource. It's how you build an audience.
Once you have an audience of fans, thought leadership posts can work very well. Until then, you need great SEO articles.
5 Essential Elements of a Perfect SEO Blog Post
1. A Question-Connected Title
No matter what industry you're in, whoever is making the buying decision for your products or services has questions. For those who have no embraced online content, most of these issues are being fielded by your support and sales teams.
Figure out the questions your clients are asking on their journey toward a buying decision. Create content to answer every single one of those questions. These questions are how we strategize our publishing calendar. You can read this article on how to turn questions into over 100 blog posts to learn more.
2. An Enticing First Paragraph
Enticing, in this sense, means two things. First, it means that the first paragraph must hook the reader and make the big promise of what they will get if they read this article. It needs to set the expectations and be compelling enough to inspire the reader to keep reading.
Then, you need to both connect with the emotional state of the question you are answering, as well as solidifying yourself as the unbiased, trustworthy expert. Do this by validating the issue and the emotions behind it. Then, give them the reason you have the answer, because of your expertise.
An example of this would be:
"We understand how frustrating it is to have a mouse problem, but to always have the traps come up empty. Trap placement is vital to success, and after 20 years of making cutting-edge mouse traps, we've found several key places where your traps will have the highest chances of success."
3. An Unbiased, Trustworthy Position
The cringe-worthy articles some companies write causes my stomach to turn. Some businesses can't go a paragraph without pitching their products and services. It's blatantly obvious, and internet users have no time for silly, high-pressure sales when they are looking for answers.
You need to position your article as an unbiased opinion from an unbiased expert.
Stop Pitching Your Products and Services!
Here is how you should approach your SEO articles. Do whatever it takes to cause the reader to ask about buying from you. You can't write any pitch or offer any product or service. The ultimate goal is to get the reader to say, "so what can you do for me," or "can I buy something like this from you?"
If you approach your article as a classroom instead of a sales floor, you will have more customers raising their hand asking to speak to sales reps. You just need to be patient enough to allow them to finish their buyer's journey before forcing your mustache-wielding, super-slick, "I make used car salesmen look good" sales rep on them.
If you want an example, if someone has a rat problem, you don't want to force-feed them on your mouse traps. It's just not a good fit. You will have a much higher chance of that customer returning later, and recommending you to their friends if you tell them your product or service won't work for them. It builds trust and admiration. Plus, it's just the right thing to do.
4. Great Advice That Thoroughly Addresses the Question
Be sure you don't misunderstand the purpose of the SEO article. It's not just to build traffic to that post. It's to take the traffic that come to that post, and move them on to the buyer's journey with your company.
If all you do is check off all the required SEO items, you may rank that post well, but the traffic will come and go. If you're going to address a question, you need to make sure you give a satisfactory answer. The best way to do this is to give it the friend test.
Use the Friend Test
Imagine a close friend asks you the same question. How would you answer them and what recommendations would you give them? You need to do the same for the reader, even if your honest answer sends them away from your company. Again, you don't want to sell mouse traps to someone trying to catch a rat.
Address the Questions That Have No Answer
Some questions have no direct answer, but people are still asking them. If someone asks how much it costs to build a house, there are many more questions required before you can give an answer. But that doesn't mean you can't address the question. If your answer is, "it depends," explain why it depends and what factors go into account. That's what people want to know, so give them those answers.
5. A Good Onramp
Don't take your readers down the cul-de-sac of an article. Give them an onramp onto the buyer's journey. This needs to be done without a sales pitch.
Offer them the logical next step - if it's to learn more, offer them additional resources. If it's logically the next step to talk to a representative, offer that if they are interested. But by all means, only offer helpful next-steps.
An Example: If someone is at my article "How Much Does it Cost to Build a New House," the logical next step would be how to answer all the factors that impact cost. So my offering at the end of the article may be an eBook that shows them how to address all the major factors (like square footage, etc.) to get a better idea how much their house would cost to build.
This is the on-ramp to the buyer's journey. Now, I can walk them down all the major stops along the journey until they are ready to make a buying decision; whatever that decision is.
Bottom line: don't give anyone a dead end. Always offer the logical next-step.
Writing Articles That Build Traffic
When considering what kind of articles you need to focus on, take a good look at your monthly traffic. If it's below 1,000 visits a month to your blog, I would recommend focusing entirely on top of the funnel content, which is the prime placement of SEO articles.
If you have more than 10,000 organic visits a month to your blog, I would focus on mid-to-bottom of the funnel content. This is a great time to introduce some thought leadership style articles that your readers will love to comment on and share on social media.