When I first started blogging, I made a big mistake: I wrote about the topics that inspired me.
Before you take up arms and lecture me on how important it is to feel passionate about the topics you cover on your blog, hear me out. I think it’s fine to write about content when you are inspired. Passion is a very good thing if you want your blog to thrive. But if that’s the only way you plan your content, you’re not doing your posts justice.
The Reader “Sales” Funnel
How many posts do you have to read by someone before you’re hooked? Maybe it’s just one really awesome post…but more likely, you have to see that person’s name a few times before you start to take notice. We’re bombarded with so much content every day that it’s hard for a single author to stand out unless they consistently wow a reader. Only then, will the reader perform an action, like following on social networks, subscribing to a mailing list, subscribing to an RSS feed, etc.
In the world of sales, we talk about a “sales funnel.” This funnel exists on your blog too, even if you aren’t actually selling anything. At the top of the sales funnel, you have your widest audience of readers – people who land on your site for any reason. Next, you have a smaller number of readers – people who actually read your post instead of clicking the back button right away. Then you have a smaller number, people who read the entire post without clicking away. Then an even smaller number – people who want to read more. Then the smallest number – people who take an action that you want. That’s the red part of the diagram at right. We actually posted a really great explanation of sales funnels last week that you should check out for more information.
Your goal is to get as many people as possible taking that action, and to do that, you need to do two things:
- Increase traffic from the top
- Increase the conversion rate of people who move down the funnel at each level.
I’ll leave increasing traffic conversations for another day (check out this post for example). What I want to talk about today is moving people down the sales funnel.
If you have great content, people will automatically move from “sticking around” to “reach the end of the post.” And really, most people who actually read to the end of the post want more information. You have to hand it to them, though. If you wait for them to find it, you might be waiting a long time. People are lazy. If you want them to read related content, give them the link on a silver platter.
After you get people wanting and reading more, you can move them on to take an action.
What a-list bloggers know is that it isn’t enough to just point people to other posts on your blog. Your content has to actually work together in a way that makes sense.
If you only write when you’re passionate about a topic, it is really hard for your content to support itself because you’re just jumping from conversation to conversation.
An Analogy: A Conversation with A Friend
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’re having coffee with a friend you haven’t seen for several years. Well, don’t actually close your eyes…because then you can’t read the rest of this post! But imagine it. It’s an experience we’ve all had.
Usually, you start off talking about one topic and then three hours later you’re still chatting away, even though you’ve moved to a completely different topic.
You didn’t have a break in your conversation where you both said “Okay, we’ve talked about our kids long enough. Let’s talk about our jobs now.” No, you just naturally moved from topic to topic. That’s how a blog works when you write content in a way that supports itself (only doing this takes a little more planning than you would do during a conversation with a friend!).
Now think about saying goodbye to your friend after a conversation over coffee. No matter how long you talked, you probably had more to say, and you might even be thinking, “I wish I would have asked about…”
You don’t want this to happen on your blog. You want to provide your readers with all the content they need about your niche. That’s where planning and a content calendar come into play. Don’t allow your content to fall into the deep abyss of forgotten blog posts on the Internet!
Your Content Calendar
If you don’t have an editorial calendar, you need one. That’s the best way to plan out a natural flow of supportive content. This post is a really great introduction to planning your content with an editorial calendar.
Beyond scheduling effectively, though, what you really need to do is make sure each post has the opportunity to shine not only on the day it is published but by being linked to in other posts.
Think of your blog posts as vines. Your want those vines intertwining and growing as much as possible. This will create a maze of content for your readers – and believe me, it is a good thing when someone gets lost in your blog because they are finding so much value!
For example, let’s say that I run a pet food blog and I’m going to write about the best brands of dog food. As I write, I may realize that I don’t have any posts that talk about doggie dental health, but there’s a great opportunity to link to that. So I write that post. Then I realize I should also have a posts about shiny coats and foods that are dangerous to dogs. So I write those posts too.
So far, my post schedule might look like this, with the arrows indicating that a post links to another post.
As you keep brainstorming posts, though, look back at your calendar. Always try to find that connection so you can link to posts you’ve recently written. So in our example, I wouldn’t leave the “best dog foods” post hanging. I would think, what are some follow up posts that I could write about this topic? AND, even better, are there follow up posts that I can write to link to some of the other recent posts on the blog as well? Also, what content do I need to write that is not on the blog yet?
So, my post schedule might expand to look like this:
From there, I would keep expanding the ideas, and I would also edit older posts to link back to newer posts when appropriate. The key is to always make sure each post is linked back to at least 3-5 times from other posts. That way, you’re creating a chain reaction. See how I might expand even further:
As you can see, it starts to get a little messy, but what is important is that nothing it left “hanging” without connections to other posts. All posts include links and are linked to by others. At least, that’s what is being built. If you map out your content, you can see what holes you have to fill. In our example, I would probably what to write something that links to cat hairball control next, since nothing is linking to it.
The best bloggers out there are organizing their content this way, rather than just writing whatever they want and not tying it into their other content. For example, check out this post on Problogger:
It starts off by saying that recently they published a post about a certain topic, and this new post would be expanding on that topic. Throughout the post, there are also other links to old evergreen content.
Here’s another example, from Rich Brooks at the Flyte New Media blog:
See how the post starts with a reference to a previous post, to tell readers that this new post is an expansion on the same topic and you should go read the other one too?
You don’t have to be as blatant about it if you don’t want to. You can just simply link to other posts without actually saying “Hey, I wrote this other post…”
The point it, you need to link internally, and the top bloggers do so in a structured way, not just willy-nilly. Don’t leave anything hanging out there by itself. Don’t leave it up to your readers to find your best content. Help them along the way. Support your own content. That way, your posts will live on and readers won’t be able to leave your site.
What are you doing to support your own content? Do you link internally in a structured way? Do you cover topics according to a content schedule?