How to Write an Engaging Blog Post (That Your Readers and Google Love)
It’s a delicate balancing act.
On the one hand, you want to provide as much relevant information as possible. On the other, you don’t want to bore your readers silly. So how do you keep everyone happy, including Google?
Figuring out what works and what doesn't can be a little tricky.
So in this post, I’m going to take you behind the scenes to show you how I wrote a detailed comparison post for one of my clients.
And then we're going to examine the results to see what impact it made on the readers and the ranking position in Google.
But first I want to explain why it’s important to write engaging content.
Part 1 - Why You Should Write Engaging Content
Some people say you should write for your audience. Others say you should write for the search engines.
I say: It shouldn’t matter who you write for because they both want the same thing.
They both want engaging, comprehensive content.
Google has matured. Its algorithms have become more human-like as they focus on reader intent rather than keywords. That’s not to say keywords and links don’t count anymore. It’s just that their emphasis has changed.
Perhaps, you don’t believe me.
Take a look at these two examples...
Have you read this tremendous article by Neil Patel?
As you might have gleaned from the title, it is a data-driven article that sheds light on how Google’s Hummingbird algorithm works.
The conclusion is eye-opening:
That’s quite something:
- - In-depth, comprehensive, and authoritative content is a significant factor in ranking articles in search results.
Let’s see what another top SEO expert has to say on the matter.
Enter Mr. Rand Fishkin from Moz.
Do you watch Whiteboard Friday? I confess that I just started watching them. But they are entertaining and educational...and engaging…
Anyway, a while back Rand spoke about RankBrain - another Google algorithm.
RankBrain is there to interpret what users are searching for (search intent). And then using many ranking signals it will serve up what it believes are the best results.
As you can see, one of the things that Google is looking for within its RankBrain algorithm is Content Depth. What that means is that Google wants a topic to be covered thoroughly.
For instance, there would be little point in writing a blog post called ‘The Top 3 Email Marketing Tools’ that contained a short paragraph on each one.
That wouldn’t help your readers, would it?
Instead, you should look to provide valuable content for your readers. It’s what Moz calls 10x Content:
You can learn more about how to create 10x Content in another Whiteboard Friday, but the key points are that your content:
- Provides a positive user experience via the user interface, layout, fonts, and images.
- Is high-quality, trustworthy, useful, interesting, and remarkable.
- Solves a problem or answers a question by providing comprehensive, accurate, exceptional information or resources.
So, putting these two examples together you can see that Google wants content that is:
- Hummingbird: deep, comprehensive and authoritative.
- RankBrain: easy-to-read, helpful and comprehensive.
Why do you think Google has created algorithms that look for this type of content?
Because it wants to serve the best search results to those exploring the topic. And those searchers, including you and me, want some tasty content to get stuck into.
Part 2 - Case Study: How to Write a Detailed Comparison Review
We’ve talked about the Why. Now let’s talk about the How.
When I was thinking about writing this blog post, I did my due diligence. I researched what was out there already. One of the things that I noticed was that quite a few posts just listed the things you need to make a blog post engaging.
So, I mulled it over for a few days, and decided that it would be better to show you how I did it rather than telling you how to do it.
Hopefully, this case study will help put things into perspective for you.
It’s based on a blog post that I wrote for Blogging Wizard:
Here you go...
1. Start With Your Planning
It all started with an email request from Adam:
Here’s how the message breaks down:
- The original post was a comparison of AWeber and GetResponse. (No need to check because it redirects to the new one).
- Take a trial of each tool
- Write an updated version in the same style...more on that in a moment
After a few emails back and forth with Adam, we decided to extend the scope of the post to cover MailChimp, as well as Aweber and GetResponse.
One of the best points of writing for Adam is that he never supplies me with a list of keywords and asks me to include them.
I always receive a topic (as above) with an outline.
I could second guess the keywords, but in truth, I’m not interested.
My aim is to write the best possible content on the topic within the constraints of the brief.
2. Build a Framework
Coming back to the style of the post …
There's an outline that Adam and I have used for several posts on WP Superstars.
Some have been published. Others are waiting in the wings.
Here is a sample of the framework (with heading tags for your reference) that we use for the comparison posts:
Quite boring, right?
But remember, this is the framework. When you add more detailed subheadings and other formatting, then it starts to take shape.
This framework enables you to write the Pros and Cons of each product and then wrap everything up in a final comparison.
We’ll come back to this later.
But first I research what to write.
3. Perform Your Research
I read too much.
Is that possible? Perhaps not?
I’m always reading articles and blog posts on marketing and writing. I save the articles I think will be useful. I’ll even share them on social media too.
But all the time I’m educating myself and saving useful background information.
How does that help this post, I hear you ask?
In a detailed comparison review like this, it’s clear that I need to research each tool (as suggested by Adam in the brief). Plus, I also need some credible data to back up my points.
For example, I’d already read some articles on email marketing that I’d saved and tagged for the future. In the post, I referred to an article by Meera Kothand. It’s one that I’d read, liked and saved for later. It's relevant background information.
I don’t want to create the wrong impression here. I’m not a walking library. I still needed to research other points.
For instance, the examples I used in the introduction of the post:
4. Gather Product Knowledge
When you’re writing a detailed comparison post, you need to make it as informative as possible.
Without boring the pants off your readers.
For this assignment, I signed up for the free trial for each email marketing service. Even though I’d previously used AWeber and GetResponse, before moving onto MailChimp, I needed access to the latest version of each product.
When you get your hands on a product:
- You get a feel for the product
- You can test various scenarios
- You find its good and bad points
With that level of knowledge, you can provide more in-depth content for your readers.
5. Begin Writing
Here’s a question for you: How would you write a detailed comparison review?
- Would you spend a day researching each product and then a few days writing the post?
- Or, would you take one product at a time testing and writing before moving onto the next product?
Both scenarios would work. But I prefer the second one.
I find it easier to focus on one product at a time. I test various scenarios and make a note of the outcomes.
- I’m writing the first draft, so things don’t need to be polished yet.
- I take screenshots as I work so that I don’t have to go back and repeat the process afterward.
What do you write?
A while back I heard Kristi Hines speaking at a virtual summit. The interviewer asked Kristi what her writing process was. He was fishing for some secret recipe. Some juicy gem. But Kristi, cool as you like, replied, “I put myself in the shoes of the reader. What do they want to know? How can I show them.”
Simple. And that’s the stance I take. I want to inform the audience about each product and let them make an informed decision:
How do you write?
Let’s take the AWeber section from this post as an example.
When you read the blog post, you can see that I take the reader on a journey from the signup process to how individual features work.
These are divided into the ‘what we love’ and ‘what we don’t love’ sections.
The original framework is expanded to include more subheadings.
And within each of those subheadings, I break into further details with numbered sections and bullet points.
Let’s dive deeper into the ‘Creating Messages’ section, and I’ll show you what I mean.
I’ve divided the section into five parts and annotated each example:
- Is a high-level statement
- Is a bullet-list of the three types of message
- Promises more details if the reader chooses to carry on
DRAG AND DROP EMAIL BUILDER
- Explains what you can do with this method
- Shows an example of how Brent Jones creates an email message using this method
PLAIN TEXT MESSAGE
- Explains why you don’t need a pre-designed template. And gets the reader to imagine.
- Uses a credible reference from another source to back up the argument
- Shows an example of what the plain text message looks like
- Shows what the HTML WYSIWYG editor screen looks like
- Shows what the message looks like in the inbox
- A brief summary of this section and why I like this part of the product.
Here's how I've made it engaging:
- Provided a quick, high-level intro
- Used subheadings and bullet points to direct the reader
- Used bucket brigades to lead the reader into the next paragraph
- Used screenshots to illustrate working with the product and the possible results
- Used credible references and examples from other sources to back up my points
- Given a quick recap at the end of the section
Remember, this is just one section. You have to maintain this standard throughout the whole blog post.
Your job as a writer is to make all of your blog post engaging. To keep your readers hooked and wanting more.
6. Create Your Images
As you can see above, images play an important role when you’re writing a detailed comparison post. You probably know that visual content will help you get more page views and shares.
But a comparison post needs screenshots to demonstrate the points you are making. It gives the reader a taste of what the product looks like. And it helps make the post scannable, too.
When you’re creating an in-depth post like this, it makes sense to have an image creation process. I find it easier to take a screenshot, including any annotations, as I work and save it to my project folder. I put a placeholder in the writing, like <image here> so I know to come back and insert the image later.
- Before I add the image/screenshot to the post, I’ll resize it so that it fits in a maximum width. For Adam, that’s 500px wide. Your blog might be different.
- Next, I make sure the image file name makes sense.
- And finally, I add a label so that Adam’s editor knows exactly which image fits where.
7. Start Editing
Editing is not a quick task. This is the stage where you can mold your blog post into shape. And that involves running the post through a few checks.
Here’s what I do:
#1 Leave it a day
Always review your post the following day when possible. If you have a tight deadline, then give yourself at least a couple of hours break after writing.
In this example, as I’m writing a detailed post covering three products I can run some first edits each morning. For instance, if I wrote the first draft of my AWeber section on Monday, then I could spend a few minutes first thing Tuesday morning to read it through and make initial tweaks.
Then leave it again. And move onto Tuesday’s task of writing on GetResponse.
Look at how your content is formatted. Is there a logical structure with Headings and Subheadings.
One of the best features in Google Docs is the Outline panel on the left. This gives you a quick idea if everything looks in place.
For longer posts, I prefer to create a Table Of Contents. This helps paint a clearer picture of the structure.
Basically, you’re asking yourself: Is everything clearly signposted?
#2 Use Grammarly
I use Grammarly after I’ve completed the whole article. Each section has had some initial mini reviews. Now I copy the entire post from Google Docs into Grammarly, and let it highlight potential issues.
My spelling and grammar are good, but not perfect. My fingers may get tangled while typing and Google Docs quickly highlights the typos. But on the whole, I’m ready to go on that front.
Using the premium version of Grammarly highlights a few issues. As an editor, you have to decide if the software is right or wrong. If I accepted all the suggested changes from Grammarly, then I would lose my natural writing style. So, remember to use your own judgment.
That said, there are a few common errors that Grammarly helps me with.
#3 Use the Hemingway Editor
I don’t always use the Hemingway Editor, but it can be a useful tool to help cut the fluff from your writing.
The Hemingway Editor is focused on making your writing simple and direct. It highlights passages of writing that might be difficult to read:
Recommended Reading: Why Adverbs Stink (and the Magic of Editing)
Again, I have to add a note of caution:
Use your editing skills to decide if the Hemingway suggestions are valid or if you should stick to your original text.
Forget the fluff. Craft your copy so that it's easy to read and understand.
#4 Make Your Final Cut
After using Grammarly and Hemingway, your article should be almost complete.
- Make sure your version in Google Docs has been updated with the suggestions you’ve accepted from the apps.
- Make sure all the images are labeled correctly in the document so that you or your client can add them to WordPress (or other CMS) without any hassle.
- Make sure the images are correctly sized and compressed.
It’s not a bad idea at this stage to walk away from your blog post. Give your brain a rest from analyzing and editing.
Come back to it later so you can read through with fresh eyes. You can even try reading the post out loud.
Scan your document, and evaluate all your headings, subheadings, and bullet points.
Part 3 - The Benefits of Writing an Engaging Blog Post
So far, you’ve learned why you should write engaging content, and I’ve shown you how I wrote a detailed comparison post.
But the true test of writing an engaging blog post is to see how well it performed:
- Shareable: Did readers like it and share it?
- Clickable: Did other sites link back to it?
- Searchable: Did it rank well in search results?
Let's take a look and see if the readers and Google liked the content...
- Did readers find this post informative? Was it in-depth, comprehensive and authoritative?
Here are some of the positive comments left on the blog:
- Thanks for the amazingly detailed breakdown!
- Great post David packed with lots of good information.
- Thanks for the terrific 3-way comparison.
- Thanks for your great comparison.
- Great breakdown! I appreciate all the details you offer in your article.
- I've seen a number of these autoresponder comparison posts before, and this has got to be one of the most detailed yet!
- Did any writers like it enough to reference it in their own blogs?
One of the highest accolades you can receive is to have your content cited as an example by a fellow writer. Here's what Elna Cain said about my comprehensive post:
"The title alone should help you realize that this is a monster of a post and highly comprehensive. David goes into detail about each email service provider and tells you how each one works and is different from the others."
- Did Google like the content? Did they think this blog post was comprehensive enough to answer the search queries?
When you check a few of the primary keywords for each of the email marketing services, you can see they are ranking on page one of Google:
Rank Position #2 for "AWeber vs GetResponse"
Rank Position #3 for "GetResponse vs MailChimp"
Rank Position #4 for "AWeber vs GetResponse vs MailChimp"
Rank Position #6 for "AWeber vs MailChimp"
- Has the number of backlinks increased as a result of the fresh content?
The screenshots below don't tell the full story about the backlinks because the URL was changed. Even though the new URL technically has zero links, Google will count all of the links from the previous URL since it's got a 301 redirect in place.
Moz doesn't seem to factor this in, but Ahrefs and Majestic do.
Here's a screenshot from Ahrefs that shows the increase in backlinks:
- Has there been an increase in traffic? Have more people wanted to read the fresh content?
The biggest improvement is in traffic:
Comparing September (the last full month of the old version) to November (the most recent complete month) there is a 174% increase in unique page views.
That's a significant increase in traffic.
The new version now includes MailChimp so there is a 3-way comparison and the post is fresher. In-depth plus Freshness mean Google ranks the content higher and you have more chance of increasing page views.
Part 4 - Wrapping It All Up
Time for a quick recap. Here’s what you've learned:
- Google’s algorithms are looking for fresh content that provides in-depth, informative, comprehensive and useful information to searchers.
- Your readers want content that is easy-to-follow and answers their queries in one place. They don’t want to continually search for tidbits of information across several sites and pages.
- Your readers want substantive and informative content that flows naturally.
- When you write engaging content you'll find that it ranks well in Google, searchers will click through, and your readers will share it.
- That's because your readers and Google both want engaging, comprehensive content.
Over To You
I'm not going to lie to you. Writing this type of content takes time and effort. Here's how Aaron Orendorff, Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus and Forbes Top 10 B2B Content Marketer, describes it:
Crafting readable, engaging, SEO-friendly content is hard, time-consuming work. ~ @iconiContent
- Are you prepared to invest the time and effort required to make your content ten times better?
- Are you writing engaging blog posts that your readers and Google will both love?
- Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.