Whatever kind of business you’re in, a blog can be an incredibly useful tool for engaging with your target audience. It’s a chance to add real value for your customers and clients while showing off your expertise and driving traffic to your website.

But if you’re just starting out with your blog, it can be hard to know, well, how to start. There are just so many things to think about. Here are a few questions our clients ask us all the time…

How long should my blog posts be?

I’ve always hated it when people respond with, “How long’s a piece of string?” That’s no help at all. But the truth is that the length of your blog post will depend on several things, such as what type of content you’re sharing (e.g. are you tackling a complex issue or showing off images of your latest products) and who you’re targeting.

There are some general rules. For example, a post should be a minimum of 300 words to satisfy search engines. Google actual prefers posts of 1,000 words or more… but then you risk losing your reader’s interest (unless you’re a very good writer), which means they won’t reach the ‘call to action’ at the end, and are less likely to share the post via social media. 500-800 words is a good compromise.

Top tip: Use your site’s analytic tools and experiment with different post lengths to see which ones get the best engagement. Remember, you need to set goals for your blog so you know exactly what to track!

How often should I blog?

As often as you can! Numerous studies have found that the more a business blogs, the better the effect on their inbound traffic. Which makes sense. Except not everyone has the time or budget to put posts out on a daily basis. And that’s ok.

Posting less than once a month is pretty much pointless. The impact of such infrequent blogging will be so minimal that you’re likely to give up well before you see positive results. Fortnightly is better, weekly is great and if you can get a good, relevant post out twice a week, you’re onto a winner.

The key is to be realistic and make sure you have a plan in place. Spending a day or two writing lots of blog posts in advance is a really efficient way of doing things. You can also get people to write guests posts for you, to save time.

Top tip: If you know you won’t be able to blog consistently, why not create a ‘resources’ page of evergreen* content with no date attached to each article. That way you can add to it when you’re able to but it never feels out of date. (*This just means it’s always relevant rather than linked to a particular current event).

How often should I mention my keyword phrase?

Now here’s the thing - are you writing for Google or for your target audience? I’m going to give you a hint here: Google isn’t buying your products or services.

Yes, of course you need your posts to rank well if you want to drive search engine traffic. But if you’re doing your content marketing right, that’s not the only way people will find your blog. Hopefully you’ll be pushing links out on social media, and through an email newsletter. Plus you’ll have regular readers who enjoy your blog so much they come back again and again to see if there’s anything new out.

Stuffing a post full of keyword phrases will make it sound false, and if you lose your readers’ trust it’s very hard to get it back. This is one reason why longer posts are more successful - it’s easier to fit your keyword phrase in often without ruining the style and flow of the piece.

It’s worth noting that Google considers synonyms and synonym phrases when looking at how genuine and helpful a post is. So if you’re writing about nutrition, you can - and should - also be writing about healthy eating, diet, nourishment and so on.

Top tip: Google has produced a really handy download explaining the basics of SEO, including how to optimise your content (ie make your blog posts rank better) and lots of other useful tips.

Do I need to use lots of images in my blog?

No, not really. This post only has a header image, and you’ve read this far, haven’t you? If your content is good, it will stand on its own, without the need for eye candy.

And sourcing good images - from sites like Shutterstock or Getty Images - can be expensive, especially if you’re planning on blogging regularly. Plus they’ll most likely be pretty generic and may not fit your brand style.

That said, visual content is a great way to add interest to a post. It’s also an advantage when it comes to social media, as posts that include images tend to get better engagement. Pictures may even be essential to your content, for example if you’re talking about new fashion trends.

Images can also be used to improve SEO, by giving you another place to use keywords (namely the image file name, title, alt and description text - check that Google download for more information).

The main thing to be wary of is using poor quality images or stealing them off the internet. There are strict copyright laws when it comes to using images that aren’t yours, so if in doubt, don’t use it.

Top tip: There are sites where you can get free images, such as Unsplash and Pexels.

Did you enjoy this article? Share it with your colleagues now on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+.

What other questions do you have about blogging? Email them to us and we’ll do our best to answer them in a future post.

PS In case you’re interested, this post runs to exactly 1,000 words. How did it feel to you? About right? Too long? Too short? Let us know!

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