Before we dive into the actual best practices for creating content for your weblog – commonly known as "blog" -- let's first talk about why your businesses should create fresh content on a regular basis.
Hubspot®, one of the leading voices in content marketing, surveyed 7,000 businesses and found a direct correlation between the number of blog posts a business publishes and the volume of inbound traffic to their websites. The more you publish, the more people will find your content and the more users you’ll generate to your website (and, ideally, the more business you’ll generate).
Source: Hubspot’s “Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000+ Businesses”
That said, creating content for the sake of bulking up your website is never a good idea. Businesses that are new to content creation often asked what’s more important – quality or quantity? We can make arguments for both sides, but generally speaking: Quality comes first, but quantity comes in a close second.
This article will help you get started with the blogging process, beginning with "ideation," then planning your content, and wrapping it up with actual content creation.
Start with Ideation
Topic ideation is the process that will fuel your editorial content calendar for months. It’s defined as “the process of forming ideas,” but when we talk about ideation in content marketing, we expand that definition: Ideation is the process of forming ideas for content that will help us achieve our business objectives. Put simply, it’s coming up with ideas that help our digital sites show up in search, generate leads, and provide information to our audiences.
Ideation involves two basic phases: Brainstorming and research.
Topic ideas can come from multiple sources: your team’s meetings, your doctors and assistants, veterinary industry news, and patient questions that come in through your website, email, and front desk. Make this process part of the daily culture of the team, so an idea vault can be built that will inform your calendar on a consistent basis.
- Set up a spreadsheet that everyone can collaborate on and contribute content ideas (Google Drive® and SharePoint® allow such collaboration)
- Assign ownership of the spreadsheet to the person who plays the role of editor or digital manager for your business (See our "Online Marketing 101 Guide" for more on roles and workflows)
We’ll use the fictitious Springdale Veterinary Clinic’s spreadsheet, where veterinary assistant Abe, receptionist Beth, and Dr. Crane submitted ideas.
The editor or digital manager will research topic ideas to identify content gaps (or over-saturation of topics). They’ll analyze the merits of pursuing content development around those topics and ask questions about a topic's ability to be successful, based on metrics identified in research:
- Is the traffic volume high enough to be worth pursuing?
- Will we have a chance to rank if competition is too high?
- If traffic volume is low or competition is high, is this topic worth pursuing for some reason other than search results?
- Does it have high social sharing capability?
- Is this a good thought-leadership that our customers will enjoy?
- Is it branded content that will help our objective of increasing brand awareness?
For purposes of this article, we’ll focus on topic ideation for search engine optimization. We recommend following an 80/20 rule for content creation: Focus 80% of your content on non-branded, search-friendly topics and 20% on branded, thought-leadership content.
For ideation research, use a tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz® Keyword Explorer or keywordtool.io to gauge whether people are actually searching for this topic. Each platform offers tutorials that will teach your editor and/or digital manager how to use it. In our Springdale Veterinary Clinic example, we used Google’s Keyword Planner and Moz’s Keyword Explorer. Let’s take a closer look at the three suggestions from Abe, Beth and Dr. Crane.
1. new year’s resolutions for dogs
Not surprisingly, a lot of people (350,000) searched for “new year’s resolutions for dogs” in December 2015. Beth, who also serves as the clinic’s digital manager, then ran the keyword phrase through Moz to find out if there would be a lot of competition for that keyword phrase.
Beth sees that Moz’s site indicates a lot of opportunity for her clinic. The low difficulty score means her website has a chance for showing up when people search this term, and the opportunity score of 100 solidifies that, so she schedules this blog post for the first week of January.
2. zika virus
Beth sees that millions of people are searching for “Zika virus”, which concerns her because that means there’s probably a lot of competition for that word. A small local veterinary business like Springdale Veterinary Clinic isn’t likely to compete with websites that have established themselves as authorities on Zika virus, so she iterates on the phrase and uses Moz to come up with a new keyword phrase, “can my dog get zika virus.”
Beth’s research on the Moz Keyword Explorer tool reveals that, indeed, “zika virus” has high difficulty and moderate opportunity, so she explores longer search words, also known as “long-tail keywords.”
Although Springdale Veterinary Clinic has a low to moderate chance of ranking for this topic on Page 1 of search findings, she knows that this is a hot topic for the clinic’s clientele, so she schedules it. She plans to promote it through social media and the email newsletter.
3. training your puppy
Although Dr. Crane suggested “training your puppy,” Beth searched “puppy pad training” because that’s really what Dr. Crane was suggesting, based on her description.
Score! The keyword phrase “puppy pad training” shows very low difficulty and very high opportunity for Springdale Veterinary Clinic. Beth greenlights this topic.
Once your editor or digital manager has reviewed the topics, he or she will schedule the posts on your content calendar and plan the workflow for creating, editing, and publishing content.
Once you identify topics worth pursuing, begin content planning. This will entail title research and creation, category identification, audience/persona alignment, target keyword identification, scheduling and workflow.
Beth updates the ideation spreadsheet with revised topics, and she assigns writers, editors, and publication dates.
One Category Per Post
Most content management systems (CMS) allow for categorization of content. Here are typical blog categories for veterinary practices:
- Health & Wellness – symptoms, diagnoses, treatments of ailments; keeping pets healthy; grooming tips
- Behavior – pet and owner training; what is my dog trying to tell me?
- Pet Stuff – product reviews, gift ideas
- Pet Stories – patient profiles
- Events – clinic events and specials, adoption events, social events
- Just for Fun – entertaining, humorous and other content that doesn’t fall in the above categories
Sometimes posts will fall into two or more categories. Choose the one that’s most relevant. You’ll be able to use tagging (described in the next section) to cross-reference topics. Try to avoid creating new categories until you’ve got several blog posts that fall into that category; one category with one post could be a dead end for readers.
Tags are opportunities to drill down on specificity within a broader category. It also provides a simple navigation path to visitors looking for focused information. Tags would link to an archive page of all content on that sub-topic. For example:
- Possible tags within the "Health & Wellness" category:
- Specific ailments – diabetes, cancer
- Specific to body parts – eyes, skin and coat, digestion
- Possible tags within Behavior category:
- Animal type – dogs, cats, birds, horses, etc.
- Possible tags within Pet Stuff category:
- Types of stuff – toys, grooming products, food
To get an idea of how to organize your content, think about large consumer websites that do it well: Amazon®, Home Depot®, or eBay®. They allow users to drill down to specific content based on categories and sub-categories. While you might not aspire to be a big-box retailer like these companies, we can learn a lot about user experiences from them.
Category Page Introductions
With the use of authoritative categories, and if your CMS allows for it, you’ll want to create introductory content that describes the value that will be provided to your visitors, much like this example, from Copyblogger, a blog about blogging!
Copyblogger’s category pages include a short intro that explains what readers will get in this archive section of its blog, and it includes a call to action (CTA) to a section of the website called Copywriting 101.
Now that you’ve got your topics ideated and your blog posts scheduled, it’s time to create content. Here are some guidelines for creating great blog posts:
- Headline: Start with a headline that contains your target keyword. Make headlines clickable (attractive to readers) and searchable (attractive to search engines). Here are some examples from our fictitious Springdale Veterinary Clinic:
- New Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog
- Can My Dog Get Zika Virus?
- 5 Things to Know About Puppy Pad Training
- Write a strong lead: The lead paragraph is the second most important part of your blog post (the first is your clickable and searchable headline). A good lead paragraph contains at least one of the “three P’s” of a good lead paragraph):
- Perspective – How does this topic fit into the world?
- Example: According to the CDC, there have been more than 4,000 cases of Zika virus reported in the United States. Many of our pet owners have been worried that their dogs and cats are in danger of catching this deadly virus. Here’s our point of view on this topic…
- Preview – What will I learn from this article?
- Example: Every year, by Dec. 31, you list your resolutions for the coming year. Have you ever thought about helping your pet craft a list of its own? Here are 10 things you can help your pet resolve to do in the New Year.
- Poignancy – Why should I care about this topic?
- Example: Nothing can bring down the excitement of a new puppy like the frustrations of cleaning up after its mistakes on your carpets, furniture and shoes.
- Perspective – How does this topic fit into the world?
- Organize your content: What are the three to five main points you want to make in the blog post? Make sure the main points are organized in a logical manner, from smallest to greatest, from earliest to latest, from start to finish, or some other logical order. Additionally, make sure you have smooth transitions from point to point. Summarize the current main point and let it lead into the next point.
- End with a call to action: What do you want readers to do next? How will you keep them on your site? Calls to action can:
- Suggest related blog posts on the topic: Read more on this topic
- Invite readers to request more information: Want to learn more? Contact us!
- Link to web pages on your site (outside the blog post): Visit our resource center to learn more about caring for new puppies.
Learn more about online marketing for veterinary practices: NexGardClinic.com
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