Business owners and bloggers often ask me for advice about how to grow the readership of their blog. When I mention I’m a writer and content marketing strategist, the interrogation begins. Why doesn’t anyone come to my blog? Why doesn’t anyone share my content? I’m a good writer, right? I’ve written countless blog articles over the last six years, but I sometimes find myself at a loss what to tell these well-meaning business bloggers and content marketers.
It’s not that I don’t know what’s wrong with their content: it’s usually glaringly obvious. But I feel like sharing the truth is likely to be hurtful, so I keep my real opinion to myself. In this article, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve avoided saying. If you wonder why no one reads your blog, get ready for some tough love.
Minimum Viable Content
Ninety percent of the small business blogs I look at have what I call the Minimum Viable Content Problem. They publish blog articles, they are around 500 words long, the topic is relevant to their business, the grammar is passable.
It’s fine. It ticks the boxes. It doesn’t make the writer look like a fool. But that’s it, and that’s not good enough. Tens of thousands of blog articles are published every day. Why should anyone spend three minutes reading content you knocked together in an hour. This content that you “researched” with five minutes of Googling, content that contains no unique insights or interesting thoughts, content that stitches together stale ideas from other people’s blog posts, which were themselves stitched together from other posts?
Does that mean your articles should be 1,000 words or 2,000 words or 5,000 words? No. Length is not the issue here. A 200-word article can drive great traffic if it’s useful. If the article provides a concise snippet of information that isn’t repeated in a thousand different places on the web, that will help you stand out. The key is not length, but relevance to your audience and originality.
Another way to put it: don’t be boring!
Creation vs. Consumption
People who aren’t familiar with what it takes to write serious content think that if an article takes five minutes to read, it shouldn’t take a lot longer to write. In fact, great content takes hundreds or even thousands of times longer to write than it takes to read.
One of my favorite novelists manages 400 words-a-day on a good day, and that’s before exhaustive editing. Bloggers can’t get away with that sort of pace, and they don’t have to. Blogging is a different medium, but the best content demands a serious time investment. Think of any blog or magazine article you admire, and ask yourself how long it took to write.
You Don’t Understand Your Audience
If you’re a famous and respected writer, you can write pretty much whatever you want and people will read it. If you’re not, you have to find out what your audience is interested in and write about it in a style that appeals to them. This is even more important if you blog to promote a business. Content marketing research should be step number one.
To help you out, here are some things that almost no one is interested in reading on your business’s blog:
- Endless self-promotion: you might be awesome, but you have to show it, not tell people about it.
- Clickbait: you aren’t BuzzFeed. People may love clickbait, but they don’t want it from an organization they intend to buy a product or service from.
- Off-topic: There’s nothing wrong with mentioning your cat from time-to-time, even in a professional setting, but it gets old fast.
- Sales copy: the ultimate goal is to sell, but you have to approach sales obliquely on a blog. Excessive product promotion is boring and contrary to the fundamental principles of content marketing.
Get clear about your target audience and take the time to write the blog articles they deserve. Respect your readers and their time. It’s not rocket science. A little extra time spent on content creation, research, and thinking will make a huge difference to the quality of your blog article.
About the Author
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting.