A successful blog requires two simple steps: Creating compelling content and generating traffic. Each part of that two-step process can be broken down into individual tactics. If you consistently perform one (or more) of these tactics for both steps of the success formula every day, within 4-6 months, your blog will likely be one of the top blogs in your niche. The key is to follow the formula and follow it consistently.
Ready to get started?
Because it’s Thursday is Words Day, today we’re going to focus on the first part of that formula — how to create compelling content. On the next Marketing Monday, we’ll go over the tactics of generating traffic. If you can’t wait until Monday to hear about the promotion portion, listen to Friday’s podcast — The 3-Pronged Approach to Successful Blogging, as we’ll discuss the entire formula in that post.
When a blogger writes a post that brings in a rush of new readers, remains popular even though it’s tucked away in the archives, increases search engine traffic — that post is referred to as a “pillar post.” These posts stand tall and support your blog. Pillar posts are timeless, directly applicable to your niche audience, and are always relevant and popular. To propel your blog quickly to success, simply publish one pillar post per day, every day. Period. Don’t panic — it’s not that hard, because most pillar posts are created from one of six basic formulas, and I’m about to share them with you.
The How-To Article
Readers love how-to articles because they’re “meaty” and your audience can refer back to them time and time again. How-to articles often rank high in a blog’s popular list. In fact, check my right sidebar for a list of the most popular posts from On Blogging Well thus far. The most popular article is the “Blog Launch Countdown” — an article about how to successfully launch your blog. (Actually, that post uses more than one pillar post tactic, which you’ll notice as you continue reading.)
Think about your blog’s topic. If it’s a blog about a hobby or skill, what do people often ask you about the most? If you’re a novelist, perhaps it’s about how to construct a scene. Graphic designer? Explain a cool Photoshop procedure. Keep your article focused on the steps necessary to achieve one result related to your niche topic. This article is a how-to article: “How to Create Pillar Posts.”
The Definition Article
Definition articles are helpful to readers who are new to your field of expertise. Sometimes these posts are nothing more than a glossary list sprinkled with a bit of your personality. Don’t fool yourself by thinking “everybody knows this!” and bypassing this pillar post formula. Definition articles are very popular, and they’re often filled with answers to questions newbies are afraid to ask. For an example of a definition article, read “Touring the WordPress Dashboard.”
The Argument Article
Argument articles present your unique thought/theory about or argument against a popular mindset in either your industry or perhaps a political stance. Political blogs are some of the most passionate and popular niches in the entire blogosphere. In fact, the most traffic and comments I’ve ever received in my years of blogging came from a series of pre-election posts I wrote in 2008 on my personal blog.
I don’t want to become a political blogger. but I can present my opinion (derived through experience and research) about a topic within my niche. Note that the “argument” should not take an antagonistic tone, but one of instruction and persuasion. When I published the post “Choosing the Best Blogging Platform for You,” I was well aware that a large percentage of my friends use free blogging platforms. I don’t think those are best in the long run, but I don’t wish to alienate them as friends or readers, so I went through the pros and cons of various platforms.
Free Report, White Paper or eCourse Articles
These articles can be presented in various methods. A popular way among top bloggers is to spend a week or so creating a lengthy report, perhaps up to 50 pages, and giving it away as a free eBook. Then, they often divide the book into short segments and turn those into a mini-eCourse. These mini-eCourses are a popular way to gain opt-ins for your newsletter list. We’ll talk about newsletters soon.
I try to include a sort of white paperish article each Friday through the “Freebie Friday” category. The most popular post I’ve written thus far using this formula is “Taming the TwitterBeast in 20 Minutes Per Day.” The free report formula posts are often delivered in .pdf (portable document file) format to increase their perceived value.
The List Article
List articles remain some of the most popular among blog readers and writers. The tried-and-true list formula is this:
- Keep the post between 300-700 words
- Use dot-point bullets or numbers (See? I’m following the formula!)
- Include compelling headlines (Another subject we’ll discuss soon)
- Make the list directly applicable to your target audience
I’ve used the List Article formula many times in On Blogging Well. Here are (so far) my three most popular list-styled articles:
- 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Facebook Page
- My Top Ten Blogging Tools
- Five Things Your Mother Never Told You about Twitter
Technical Blueprint Articles
These articles are in actuality, how-to pieces that includ graphs, spreadsheets, images, and screenshots to support the article text. They are extremely popular among more Geeky blogs. Because the purpose of my blog is to help “normies” (i.e. non-Geeks) learn to blog better, I don’t use this format. However, I do have one post that included a graph: “Choosing the Best Blogging Platform for You”
It’s not so hard, right?
You may not have even realized many of the posts you’ve read at On Blogging Well were pillar posts, but a large percentage of them are. Hey, if I can write pillar posts — so can you! The real “secret” here is to write a pillar post every day consistently for at least four months. That’s when the real magic will begin — we’ll talk about that magic actually is more on Monday.