We’ve been blogging at Econsultancy for the past six years and it has been great for our company. I have long held the view that all businesses should have a blog.
Our blog now accounts for two thirds of site traffic and has claimed lots of valuable search placements on Google, which we’d otherwise have to buy. It also provides our social media manager with a bunch of fresh content to feed into the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
Furthermore, it has helped to grow awareness and perceptions of our brand, while establishing a warmer tone of voice than might otherwise be expected of a consultancy (we’re actually a learning-based business, as opposed to an outright consultancy!).
When new writers start at Econsultancy I give them a handy cut out and keep list of blog post templates, which they can use for inspiration. Everybody gets writer’s block from time to time, and my checklist helps to provide a framework for the blog.
I have adapted these 34 ideas to make them less Econsultancy-centric, so that you can use them. I hope they prove helpful, whether you’re a writer, editor or content strategist.
I learned so much by interviewing people at the sharp end of e-commerce and digital marketing, something we started to do in 2004. The key is to ask the right kind of questions (in our case we were looking for practical insight). Ask the hard ones at the end of the interview!
2. ‘Ask the experts’
Asking a few questions to a bunch of experts is one way of covering a news story in a little more detail, to find out what the news actually means. Set up and maintain an ‘experts’ spreadsheet, sorted by topic / sector, to make it easy to produce these posts.
We do a strong line in website reviews, and also cover mobile (apps, sites) and tablets. Reviews allow you to showcase your own insight, and can be template driven (“does it do X, does it do Y, does it do Z?”).
4. Answer a question
Sometimes I don’t know the answer to something, so I’ll try to figure it out by way of a blog post. Readers’ comments can be a good source of questions, which you can use as the basis for new posts.
5. How-to posts / walkthroughs
These can prove very popular when they’re of a decent quality, because they’re useful (as all good content should be), instructive and potentially timesaving. They are also great for search, as people often type into Google ‘how to…’.
6. Timesaver posts
This follows on from the above point. Business people will love you if you help them make money, save money, or save time. The latter can be achieved by producing compilation posts, among other things. Content curators FTW!
Few things are shared around on Twitter as much as infographics, seemingly regardless of the quality. It is important to try to avoid the rubbish ones, if you’re using one (or more) in a blog post. It is even more important to avoid creating a bad one, if you’re creating your own. You can create your own infographics via tools such as Piktochart.
Aggregate 10 (top notch) videos from YouTube. What could be easier?
9. Slides / presentations
As per the above, only this time you aggregate 10 presentations from Slideshare (or similar).
10. Crowdsourced posts
Make the most of the hivemind: “We asked Twitter for ideas on X. Here’s what they came up with…”
Some posts are outright linkbait, and let is be said that there is nothing wrong with linkbait. There’s also statbait. And there’s hatebait if you don’t mind trolling the web at large (certain newspapers excel at this). When compiling ‘bait’ posts, think about the kind of words you can use in that all-important headline, and be sure to throw in an adjective.
12. Best practice
We’re in the business of highlighting best – and worst – practice. Our reports offer a comprehensive overview of a particular topic, e.g. checkout optimisation. Our blog offers us the chance to dig into the detail, to go niche, and to explore new topics that may ultimately lead to the production of a best practice guide.
This might be covered above in the ‘timesaving’ tip. Compile a bunch of good things, or bad things, and write about what makes them so special, or so sucky.
14. Friday fun
Hey, it’s Friday: people don’t want their brains to hurt. Lighten up!
15. Marginally leftfield but relevant
Econsultancy is known for its focus on digital marketing, e-commerce, and integrated marketing, but there are broader topics to explore too, which our readers will find useful. For example, we might write about the most common typos, or the kind of evocative verbs you can use to boost advertising response rates.
16. Experiment-based posts
I did this and that and then this expected / unexpected thing happened.
17. The nitty gritty
I’m a sucker for detailed posts on niche subjects. One post I have in the works is about button design. In it I have really dived into the detail, by looking at the psychology of why people prefer rounder corners to right angles. Dive, dive, dive!
18. Productivity posts
These are always popular, when done right. Help people to become more efficient.
19. Definition posts
Make sense of a subject, or a term. This works best when when a topic is fairly new. Create mental models, or visualisations to help people understand the ins and outs of something.
Create a compilation post that links to a bunch of new tools. Avoid the obvious and mine the gold.
21. Case studies
The theory is one thing, but what about the practical results? People love to see the facts and figures that support a certain course of action. Case studies are a great way of sharing the results from a particular campaign or strategy. If you receive a third party case study from a PR then be sure to narrow your eyes and remove any vendor-led guff before you start writing.
22. Stats-based posts
Most journalists are all about the path of least resistance, something smart PRs know only too well. Press releases anchored around new stat-filled surveys can generate a lot of coverage. Why? Well partly because they’re very easy to write up, but also because they allow writers to spin the numbers any way they please. You can do this too!
23. Event roundups
Go to an event, make notes, filter out the good stuff and sum things up. Alternatively you can tune in to the hashtag on Twitter and make sense of things in a blog post.
Example: 60 takeaways and soundbites from JUMP 2011
24. Pick of the week / month
You need to commit to producing this sort of thing on a regular basis, but it can be a useful way of attracting regular visitors (who in turn may become new Twitter followers).
They’re easy to sneer at if average, but people love good lists. Last year the majority of Econsultancy’s top 25 posts were based around a list of some sort. Try to be unique, rather than me-too, when assembling lists.
We’ve talked about a blog posts being based around a question, but debates are a little more inclusive. Questions can act as headlines: kick off a discussion. You can sit in the middle and play referee, or take a position as you see fit. These kinds of posts can be great for attracting comments, which is always a sign that you’re doing it right.
27. Beginner’s guides
Useful for newbies, and if you help somebody learn they’ll remember you. Beginner’s guides are also useful for search listings, especially if the article is based around an exact match search query.
28. Trends-based posts
PFSK and Trendspotting do this very well. Spot a trend, highlight it, join up the dots.
29. Posts about your own data
We’re usually happy to share our Google Analytics data. Why not investigate something or put a theory to the test? Use Imgur to quickly capture screenshots of those lovely charts. You will always receive more brownie points for revealing real numbers.
30. Posts about your own products
In our case this primarily means our reports. We aim for a minimum of three blog posts per report, to help drive interest and to push these pages up the Google ladder (via internal linking, and by using related keywords in your post and – importantly – your headline). Rather than providing a top-level overview of the whole product we can instead focus on the detail contained within, by picking one small part of the report and expanding upon it.
31. Follow up posts
A no brainer, especially when a previous post has been popular.
32. Investigative posts
What do you want to learn more about? Why not go away and figure something out for yourself, and document your progress in one or more blog posts?
33. Think out loud posts
There are known knowns, and unknown unknowns, or something. Occasionally your readers will forgive you for scratching your chin and gazing into the future.
Why not create a Twitpoll and share the results in a blog post? I did this recently and it was a surprise hit.
That’s the long and short of it. Do let me know in the comments if there are other ideas that I have missed (I’m sure there are some rather obvious ones!).