Blogging can be a difficult process. Instead of simply churning out content, you need to find blog posts that actually engage your readers and encourage social shares. Especially if you have been blogging for a while without gaining significant reader traction, it’s easy to give up.
(Photo via Unsplash)
Here’s a tip: don’t. The benefits of business blogging are real, and range from significantly increased web traffic to higher conversion rates and brand credibility. You can only achieve these benchmarks, of course, if you get your topics and formats just right.
Here are nine unique content types to stop boring your readers and start seeing tangible results.
1. Step-By-Step Guides
Consider this an extended “how-to” post. Regardless of your industry, your audience loves free content that enables them to follow along for actionable advice.
Step-by-step guides allow you to create blog posts that are actually beneficial for your audience, which should be a core goal of your content marketing strategy. They also establish your credibility and expertise in a subject relevant to your brand.
These guides, of course, have to be appealing in order to be successful. Include the details of each step, but don’t just write long paragraphs; instead, include visuals such as screenshots, gifs, and videos, which will keep your audience engaged. The more you break up your content, the more easily readers will be able follow each step.
Explaining how your company works is especially beneficial if your offer is not necessarily straightforward. Other options include explaining the topic that your product hopes to solve in detail. Perhaps the best examples of this type of blog post come from marketing expert Neil Patel, who loves publishing in-depth explainers on anything from improving your LinkedIn presence to maximizing your e-commerce success using email.
2. Product Test Drives
Many businesses now use their blog to point out relevant industry tools and products. But rather than simply listing them, why not give these tools a test drive and share your results?
When visiting your website and blog, your audience is looking for helpful, relevant information. Giving them a list of products is a good first step, but they will benefit much more from an actual review of that product. Honest and relevant product reviews tend to get traction with your audience as a valuable social proof mechanism.
That’s the approach we took this summer when we reviewed three individual social media management tools for our own marketing efforts. We had no stake in the result; instead, we wanted to find out whether HubSpot, Buffer, or SproutSocial worked best for our social media marketing needs.
Sharing the results of our test drives with our audience came with a number of advantages. We shared content relevant to an audience of business owners and marketers looking to optimize their digital efforts. But it also allowed us to add plenty of outbound links to the tools themselves, adding to the reach of our link network.
3. Regular Content Round-Ups
Not all content on your blog has to come from you. Content curation has become immensely popular among marketers, allowing you to tap into other sources’ expertise while simultaneously showcasing your industry connectivity. Today, 85% of content curators believe in its power to establish thought leadership.
Curating your materials from other sources also presents you as a brand that understands relevant and high-quality content when you see it. If you properly attribute it to its original source, especially by tagging the creator/s on social media, you can even gain social traction and reciprocal behavior in the future.
On your blog, content creation most likely will take the form of a regular round-up of relevant industry stories. Tools like Storify and Nuzzel can help in that regard, allowing you to create a knowledge base that your audience will come back to regularly.
Our Weekly Social Fetch, which highlights the best items we found on social media in a given week, is a perfect example of this type of post. MarketingLand’s Marketing Day, a daily round-up of the most recent industry news, is another.
4. An Honest Review Of A Problem
They may even empathize with your problem, as long as you explain both its nature and your struggle with it. Check out this Buffer blog post, in which the brand tried to optimize its Medium marketing strategies with mixed results. At the time of writing, the post had more than 1,100 social shares.
The seemingly neverending discussion around cold lead generation is another compelling topic. Many marketers struggle with reconciling the tactic’s benefits (fast!) and its drawbacks (spam!) Our own Patrick Armitage tackled the issue in his well-balanced piece on the issue for MarketingLand.
5. Cage Matches
Everyone loves a good fight. If you can make the fight substantive, everyone wins.
The core principle is simple: pit two viewpoints against each other. Offer passionate defenses of each side, along with the opportunity to respond to each other’s counterpoints. If you can get an individual author on each side, these types of posts can be immensely successful.
The more passionate you are, the more you implicitly encourage your readers to take sides and add their own points to the argument and join the conversation—either in the blog’s comments or on social media. You can use controversy to your advantage, as long as you back up each point with reason and facts.
The potential list of topics are almost endless. For a quick taster of what good ones look like, check out two of Verblio’s (formerly BlogMutt) passionately argued past cage matches and their respective sides:
- “They” & “Their” Are Not A Replacement For “His” Or “Hers” vs. Singular “They” Is A-Okay
- 2 Reasons To Support Writing Blog Titles Using AP Style vs. Keep Title Capitalization Simple, Avoid AP/News-Style Headlines
Keep it relevant to your value proposition and audience interest, and engagement will follow.
6. The Extensive FAQ
Many brands now include answers to frequently asked questions either implicitly on their website, or explicitly on an FAQ page. But both solutions come with one major disadvantage: they’re relatively short, and static.
Blog posts, on the other hand, allow you to create more dynamic and in-depth answers to the questions that bug your audience the most. If you keep receiving the same types of questions in social media comments and during sales calls, why not answer them proactively?
Blog posts that are focused on FAQ allow you to move your audience along in their buyer’s journey. We often receive questions on how to outsource blog writing, so we decided to write a blog post about it. And the effectiveness of this type of content doesn’t end with prospective customers, either; in fact, the same concept works just as well for your current customers.
7. Format Remix
Who said that every blog post had to consist of just a few paragraphs with some subheaders? Experimenting with your post formatting may be all your blog needs to increase its appeal to your audience.
For example, try to insert more visuals into your post. Given that visuals significantly enhance the chances that your audience will actually read your content, even including one image or gif per point can increase your engagement.
Of course, visuals aren’t your only available variable. Experiment with different headers and header sizes, which can help make your content more skimmable. Keep your paragraphs short, and take advantage of A/B testing to experiment with your CTA buttons.
8. Brand Plays
Your brand’s identity may just be its most important feature. When your audience thinks about your industry, your business should occupy a unique space, highlighted by your brand’s personality. Your blog can be your playground in creating and reinforcing that personality.
Consider our past MuttLine feature, which highlighted the formulaic and arbitrary nature of popular blog headlines by mashing them together. How Marketing Executives Use Twitter to Explain Snapchat to Parents is just one example of the result, which subtly reinforces the need for more thoughtful and strategic content marketing.
Another option is to highlight a key individual within your company who can help to reinforce your identity. For us, that was Scott, our co-founder and former CEO. Regularly, he would share personal stories that connected his life to blogging, bringing a personal touch.
The search engine experts at Moz have long been experts in turning their blog into a regular stream of thought leadership and personality. In his weekly Whiteboard Friday feature, founder Rand Fishkin (the self-proclaimed Wizard of Moz) offers incredibly in-depth explanations of complex concepts with his own brand of humor.
9. A Series Of Posts
Especially if you struggle to fill up your content calendar, planning with a series of posts rather than a plethora of isolated one-off topics can be a game-changer.
A series, of course, requires careful planning in its own right. It should be centered around a central theme, and end with a compelling CTA for long-form content. The good news is that you have to do this initial brainstorming and planning only once, as it will be the thread that weaves your series of recurring posts together.
You’ll notice that we already highlighted some of these series above. Whiteboard Friday and Marketing Day are perfect examples of how a regular set of posts can both set audience expectations and alleviate your burden of constantly having to think of new topics. Verblio’s own “How to Start a Blog Challenge” follows a similar pattern.
Using these nine types of unique content, you can fill and spice your blog up with material that your audience will increasingly love to read. In fact, we’re willing to bet your daily blog subscribers will shoot up as a result. 🙂