The Thomas Blog

Industrial marketing and manufacturing sales tips to help you grow your business.

By Jay Scheer |  October 10, 2017


A great blog can serve as the foundation of your industrial content marketing strategy. Unfortunately, however, many manufacturing blogs have poor foundations of their own.

If you don’t have a blog, or if the one you have isn’t up to snuff, it may be helpful to go back to the basics and make sure your blog is set up for success.

Understand The Goals Of Your Blog

Blog Best PracticesBefore you start putting together your blog posts, you need to have a solid understanding of exactly what you want those posts to accomplish.

If you want to generate leads, then the primary goal of your blog is to take traffic from search engines, social media, and email marketing campaigns and drive those visitors to landing pages.

Blog posts can also serve to strengthen your SEO programs by updating your website with fresh, new content. “Freshness” is one of the most important factors taken into consideration when search engines rank your website.

There are other goals that a solid blog can help you accomplish. For example, it can help solidify your credibility by showcasing your expertise, which can build trust with prospects and existing customers alike. It’s also a great tool for branding, as you can establish your own unique voice to distinguish yourself in the marketplace.

Get Familiar With Basic SEO Principles

Look, we’ll be honest: search engine optimization is an incredibly technical discipline with tons of nuances and constantly changing guidelines. There’s also a lot of mystery — many SEO “experts” spend their time trying to determine if Google has updated their algorithm and, if so, what the heck its impact will actually be.

We don’t expect you to keep up with all of the changes and become an SEO expert — after all, you’ve got a lot of other things to do.  However, there are some core SEO best practices that have stood the test of time and will likely have a positive impact on your blogs.

Here they are:

Word Count

If you think you can crank out a couple of quick paragraphs and publish them as blog posts, you might want to sit down.

Posts under 300 words are terrible for SEO, and may subject your site to ranking penalties for “thin content.”

So that means your posts should be 301 words long, right?

Not exactly.

To have enough “weight” to rank in search engines, blog posts should be at least 500 words in length. However, making your posts even longer is highly recommended; longer content is not only better for your rankings, it can actually be better for lead generation as well.

With that being said, a recent study of search results showed that the average word count for top-ranked pages is a whopping 2,416 words. That’s a lot of copy, and it’s not a realistic number for most manufacturing blog posts. After all, you’re in the manufacturing business, not the writing business.

That being said, you want to strike a balance between managing your resources and optimizing your content. Regular blog posts of about 1,000 words (with occasional longer posts) should help you rank without burning you out.

While the length of your post certainly does matter, the quality of your post matters even more. The time people spend on page reading the article plays a huge role in your rankings, and if your content is awful —  whether it’s 2,500 words of awful or 25 words of awful — people won’t read it.

Keywords

When your prospects sit down at their computers and begin sourcing for new suppliers, what terms do they use? Those are the keywords that you want to rank for.

Each blog post should be written with a focus on one of these terms while making use of up to three other related keywords. Tools like Google Keyword Planner (free), SEMRush ($99 a month), and Moz Keyword Explorer ($99 a month) can help you brainstorm and identify these related keywords.

When writing your posts, keep in mind that your first priority is to engage your readers. Therefore, write as naturally as possible, and work keywords in where they make sense. Don’t overdo it.

Titles And Headings

Your title is the first thing people see when landing on your blog post. It’s also the first thing search engines crawl to get an idea of what’s on the page.

Thus, the title of your post is the single most important text element for SEO purposes. Try to work your keywords into your title (without letting it get awkwardly long or distracting).

Depending on your blogging platform, your title and your first heading may be one and the same. On platforms where these differ, be sure to work keywords into your first heading as well, and utilize the proper HTML tagging (<title> and <H1>). 

Similarly, h2 and h3 tags (heading 2 and heading 3, respectively) also have some value for SEO, as well as for conversion and usability. Use these to break up the topics in your blog post to make it more readable (instead of using bold text), and, when possible, naturally work keywords into these headers as well.

Metadata

You may have heard of the term “metadata.” In addition to sounding like the name of a villainous conglomerate in a bad Sci-Fi movie, the term simply means data that describes other data. It helps search engines make sense of your web pages so that they, in turn, can help visitors make sense of them in search results.

Here are the types of metadata that your blog posts should have:

  • Title Text: Your title text should be no more than 70 characters. Try to work in a keyword in a natural way, if possible.
  • Meta Description: This is a short, focused description that should be about 156 characters. Again, write for the reader first, but try to work in keywords if you can.
  • URL: Don’t just use an auto-generated URL (www.yourblog/post7232382938 doesn’t have a great ring to it). Instead, write a brief, keyword-rich, relevant URL. 

There are many free tools that can help you write great metadata. Here’s one of them.

Links

Links serve a variety of purposes; they help guide readers through a story, provide credibility for statistics and information, tie together relevant posts, and drive potential customers to conversion pages. Links also represent a good opportunity to boost SEO.

Here are some guidelines for using links on your site:

  • Internal Links: Include links to other pieces of content — eBooks, whitepapers, videos, etc. — in every blog post. You should include links to core website pages whenever it is appropriate. Work keywords into the text that you are linking from for maximum SEO impact.
  • Other Links: It’s important to cite sources and link to other high-quality sites in order to give your blog credibility. However, do remember that these links take your visitors away from your page. So, with that in mind …
  • Set All Links To Open In A New Window: Opening links in a new browser window helps readers navigate to related content without taking their focus off your page. Add a target="_blank" tag to all links. 
  • Use Absolute Links: Content management systems such as WordPress and HubSpot give you the option to use “relative” links, which means you don’t have to enter your domain name. So "https://yoursite.com/blogpostyoushouldreadbecomes just "/blogpostyoushouldread." While relative links take less time to create and may offer some other advantages, absolute links are preferred. There is much less chance of them breaking; they are easier to bookmark; and they eliminate any issues when search engines crawl your site.

Use Images & Visual Elements

You know the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? When it comes to your blog, that’s 100% not true. You can’t just have one visual on your page, even if it is as unbelievably adorable as this one: 

Adorable_Dogs.gif

However, images and visuals play an important role in improving the amount of time users spend reading your blog and interacting with other pages. This can, in turn, improve your SEO and help you maximize traffic.

With that in mind, here is some guidance:

  • Make Content Skimmable: If a reader lands on your blog and sees nothing but long, unending blocks of text, they’re likely to get intimidated. Make your blog posts appear more approachable by breaking things up with subheads (which should be your H2s), bullets, tables, quotes, and other content elements. Also, use paragraphs of varying lengths to improve flow. 
  • Use Images: Every blog post should include at least one image. For longer posts, try to use one post for every 350 words of content. Make sure all images you use include alt text, which appears in place of images when they can’t load or are blocked. 
  • Make Your Content Shareable: A great way to break up a post, boost SEO, and increase engagement on social media is to use a Click To Tweet box. Create yours using the free share link generator tool.

"This is an example of a click to tweet box."

CLICK TO TWEETtwitter_icon

Establish A Consistent Style

Establishing a consistent style makes the writing and editing process a lot easier. This is especially important if you make use of guest bloggers or freelancers.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Capitalization: Should your title and subheadings be written in “Title Case,” (Where Every Word Is Capitalized Like This) or “Sentence case,” (Where only the first word is capitalized like this)? There are good and bad arguments for both sides, but everyone agrees that YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE EVERY LETTER CAPITALIZED. Pick one style and go with it.
  • Fonts: Choose a font that is easy to read. Don’t use Comic Sans (we warned you).
  • Colors & Treatments: Use different colors or treatments (bold, italic, underlined, etc.) for your H1s, H2s, and links. Ideally, this should be part of the style sheet for your blog (called a CSS).
  • Tone: The tone of your blog should reflect you, as a company. Are you authoritative? Casual? Sincere? Approachable? 
  • Grammar: Nothing gets people irrationally riled up like a typo. Make sure you proof your work. If you have grammar questions, the AP Stylebook is a great resource.

Get Set With Your Structure

While having a consistent style is important, your posts don’t have to look identical. Naturally, a post focusing on a video is going to need to appear different than a blog post breaking down the findings of a research study.

However, there are some core elements that all of your posts need to have:

  • Title: Make sure it can appeal to your target audience, and include a relevant keyword if possible.
  • Introduction: Set the table for the rest of your post up front, and work in relevant keywords if you can. 
  • Images: The first image you use should appear near the top of the post, but not directly below the title as this can harm your SEO. If your blog platform supports it, be sure to select a featured image, which which will be displayed when your post is shared on social media.
  • Body: This is the meat and potatoes of your post. Again, strive to keep the content skimmable and easy to digest.
  • Call-To-Action: All posts should end with a clear, direct call-to-action, along with a corresponding CTA image. Include a text-based call-to-action (e.g., give us a call, contact us today, read our eBook, etc.) along with a visual CTA.

Establish A Frequency

Starting a blog isn’t hard. Committing to a blog, however, is a different story. We see so many manufacturing blogs left abandoned on the Internet, collecting dust (instead of leads), and it’s a shame. 

Shame On Your Bad Blog

Don’t make that mistake.

Commit to updating your blog at a pace that works for you, your budget, and your resources. The more, the better, but start with a commitment of one post a week.

Create A QC Checklist

You wouldn’t push an order out the door without making sure it was up to your standards. Take the same approach before clicking “publish” on your blog.

Creating a quality control checklist will help make sure nothing is overlooked. Here’s a basic checklist you can use, but feel free to customize it for your needs, style, and blog guidelines:

1.

Is your blog post at least 500 words long?

2.

Did you run a spell check?

3.

Does the title include a targeted SEO term?

4.

Does your post include at least one image?

5.

Do all images have proper alt tags?

6.

Have you set a featured image for the post?

7.

Did you double check all your links to make sure they work?

8.

Are all links set to open in a new window?

9.

Do all subheads look correct and consistent?

10.

Does the post have both a text-based and image-based CTA?

 

What else?

Following these suggestions will help you form a solid foundation for your blog. However, building out a successful, strategic content marketing program will take a lot more time, effort and resources. If you need help, or have any questions, contact us for a free consultation.

Contact Us

Topics: Manufacturing and Industrial, Content Marketing

Jay Scheer

Jay Scheer

Jay Scheer serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for THOMASNET.com, the go-to resource for supplier discovery in North America.

http://www.thomasnet.com

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