What’s Beyond the Blog?
In digital marketing the focus for search and content marketing is changing with Google’s attention shifting to mobile and voice. So what are the implications for the blog?
When it comes to producing content online, site engine optimisation (SEO), or being found is essential. And now SEO is shifting with Google’s ‘mobile-first ranking system’ where algorithms will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages. And this has implications for the type of content that bloggers produce[i] In addition to this move, Google and others such as Twitter have also backed a mobile-exclusive function, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) (https://www.ampproject.org/) allowing users access content in super-quick time and preview app content even when they don’t have the app.
Any decent blogger will have already checked that their site is mobile-friendly – in other words the content is easy to read and digest. “With 91 per cent of mobile users saying that access to content is very important, optimising blogs for mobile has never been more crucial, and could set you apart from your competitors,” says James Dempster, MD of Brighton based agency, Cobb Digital (cobb.agency/digital).
4 Ways To Make Mobile Work
For a blogger to optimise their content on mobile there are some simple things they can do:
- Keep it short and snappy
One eye-tracking study revealed that a reader foucusses 86 per cent of their attention to the upper two-thirds of the screen, missing most of the lower content. There’s a lot less real estate on a mobile screen. The space available for grabbing the user’s attention is limited, so after the headline you’ll need just a couple of lines of well-written straplines which will make the reader want to read on, below the fold. [ii]
- … But longer blogs work too
“For many of our clients we see that blogs of around 800 words tend to keep users on the page and often navigate to other pages within the site,” says James Dempster. “The best blogs have a mixture of content (i.e. images, videos, infographics) that supports the company’s wider messaging but importantly, offers valuable insight for its users. Content ultimately needs to answer a question,” he adds. And longer blogs can work on mobile too, just keep the screen in mind and make sure that headlines, the Calls to Action, and straplines work (see above). Always preview what your blog looks like in mobile before you publish.
- Be clever with images
When thinking about mobile, it’s still vital to use images, but opt for less complex infographics, and make sure the image you use has a function. You have less room for manoeuvre on mobile. On desktop or mobile, it’s vital to always remember who you’re talking to. “Infographics, video and imagery play a large part in marketing, these need to be incorporated with the user in mind,” says James Dempster.
The importance of Voice Search
Another change to tune into when writing blogs is the rise of voice search on both mobile and desktop. According to researchers at Emory University (who worked alongside Google on the eye tracking study mentioned above), “Web Search has seen two big changes recently: rapid growth in mobile search traffic, and an increasing trend towards providing answer-like results for relatively simple information needs (e.g., [weather today]).”[iii] Voice search is set to grow, with Google Home (Alexa), Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana already proving to be very popular, and some enterprising individuals trying to introduce the technology in children’s toys (they ask a question and the toy answers). Therefore, bloggers who want to stay ahead of the game need think about the strategies for optimising their content for voice queries, by first and foremost optimising for mobile, as above, but also thinking about other things such as how to use key words and to write how a user speaks using natural language.
Words that matter
Use long tail key words, which are three or four words that are very specific to what you’re selling, for example, swimming aids for performance, is more important when a user is voice searching, as questions are naturally longer when we’re not writing computer speak. Brainstorm to work out what sort of questions might be asked about your subject/brand/product or service. A clever tool that helps you do this is, http://answerthepublic.com/. Typing in the swimming aids example, questions such as What are swimming aids? How to use swimming aids? and Where to buy children’s swimming aids? pop up helping to generate ideas for blog posts and other content.
Local? Make sure you mention it
If you’re a local business, voice search matters. Shoppers will use voice search to ask questions such as ‘what’s the best running shop near the high street in Watford?’ especially when they’re about and about searching with their mobile phone in their hand. Make sure your content has the locality covered – or if you’re using a blogger to help promote your brand, guide them to include detail about the area, in this example, the high street. And of course, it’s vital to think beyond the blog and ensure you are on listing pages such as Google maps, or Yelp – and all the information is up to date.[iv]
Voice search is an area that will certainly drive change for shoppers and the type of content you produce. A report in The SEM Post (http://www.thesempost.com/google-working-on-conversational-shopping-in-search/) discusses Google’s plans for ‘conversational shopping’ – something all sports retailers should be keeping a close eye on.
LEARN FROM THE BEST
Mobile driven and engages the user
Although not strictly a blog, more of a platform, the Pool which is staffed by digitally native millennials (and professional journalists) and aimed at 30 plus, metropolitan women who are ‘too busy to browse’ is a great example of clever mobile content. It broadcasts relevant content straight to a device at a time that suits the user via a unique approach called ‘Appointment Digital’. A daily schedule of 15 to 20 bits of content a day, places an emphasis on audiences’ engagement rather than flooding them with content. Content is produced on a two-pronged plan – long term schedule for longer reads and a daily plan for breaking news stories. Comments are not allowed on the site as they don’t want it to be a “conversation in a locked room.”[v]
Professional content producer and community
In contrast number one Sporting Blog F1 Fanatic (http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/)[vi], has a lively community. This is a blog and like the Pool it is run by someone who writes, and broadcasts professionally, emphasising the importance and growing trend for quality. Blogger Keith Collantine previously worked for Auto Trader as Expert Guide Editor and, prior to that, Assistant Trade Editor and he’s also appeared on television and radio commenting on Formula 1. Regular updates keep this blog alive, with posts appearing several times in a day. Each post always attracts a high number of user comments, and has a strong community feel about it.
So…is the blog dead?
With multi-media platforms and blog hosting sites such as Medium and Huff Post turning brands and individuals into publishers, and the ever-growing popularity of video, podcasts and images, is the blog as we know it dead? The written word is still thriving online but the writers must now not only consider who they’re talking to but how the user is reading the written word and what the platform looks like. Quality is more important than ever and brands and bedroom bloggers alike need to prioritise it over quantity. To stay ahead of the game the blogger with aspirations should keep one eye on the professional online publishers and keep up to date with SEO trends and search engine (Google) changes.
Big brands and enthusiastic bloggers need to remember that the foundations of what we once called journalism remain core when it comes to engaging the user with great content: a good story must always answer, what, how, when, why, where. Snappy headlines, and clever calls to action in clear, easy to read formats are the winners. “Content strategies will adapt and evolve,” says James Dempster, “but blogging is not dead.”
[v] source: Gorkana media database