Why Your Charity Should Start Blogging (And How to Do It)
Blogging has been around since the 1990s. And, perhaps inevitably, grand claims are periodically made about ‘the death of the blog’. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their death are premature.
Blogs continue to play an important role in charities’ digital marketing activities. They are a great storytelling tool. As human beings, we respond naturally to stories, and blogs are a powerful way of setting out your stall and engaging with your audience.
They allow you to add depth to your online presence, building trust and demonstrating that you are an organisation to be taken seriously, while informing your audience about the positive impact you make in the community.
Blogs provide opportunities to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate thought leadership, cover topics in greater detail than possible elsewhere on your website, and position yourself as the ‘go-to’ place for accurate information on a particular subject.
They generate extra traffic to your website and, because search engines love fresh content, will help boost your Google rankings.
So how do you go about setting up a new blog on your website? Or even refreshing a blog that has become stale?
First off, you need to consider your goals. These will probably stem from the benefits outlined above. Or you might have others. But clarifying what you are you trying to achieve with the blog will help drive the content creation process. It will also help you measure the success of your blog.
This links to the need to identify your audience. Where there may be more than one. You might want to influence policymakers, attract donors or provide practical advice to local users and volunteers.
Once you’ve identified your audience you can work out what they’re interested in and what they might want to know.
This leads you to development of a content strategy. This doesn’t have to be complicated. And brainstorming a few ideas with colleagues can be a useful first step.
In a nutshell, it boils down to identifying the hot topics, new developments and changes in the policy environment that you need to address. Whilst also covering the evergreen problems that you can solve for people.
If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas, try the following suggestions:
Each blog post should focus on one or two key messages and tell a story about some element of what you do. Underpinning everything is the commitment to the publication of high-quality content that provides practical value to your audience.
If possible, consider enriching the text by including photos, infographics or video/audio clips.
And finish posts with a call to action, encouraging the reader to make a donation, join a campaign or find out more about your work.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) experts will tell you that it’s essential to deploy the right keywords for your blog posts. For sure, writing great content is only part of the battle. Using the right keywords – the words and phrases that people use when looking for something online – will help move you up search engine rankings.
They work because phrases get picked up by Google algorithms which then know what your post is about. And the idea is to use them in the main title and subtitles, the first sentence, elsewhere in the text and the metadata to increase your visibility. There are a variety of free online tools available to help you find the right keywords.
But don’t go overboard. It takes a lot of research to find the right ones. And overdoing it will be treated by search engines as ‘keyword stuffing’. They may then penalise the offending page by demoting it on search engine results pages.
It can also give your posts an artificial feel, steering you away from a natural approach to creating and telling your story.
It’s far better to write about what you know, in a way that suits the topic. Focusing on posts that meet your readers’ needs.
Ultimately, search engines reward good user experience and keywords are no substitute for good quality content.
There’s a lot of advice online about the optimum length for a blog post. But this is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions. Certainly, typical blog posts have got longer since blogging was first invented. When around 300 to 500 words was the norm. These days it’s not uncommon to see posts running to 3,000 or 4,000 words or even longer.
The ideal length really depends on the type and purpose of the post. As well as the industry you’re writing about. Some sectors, such as finance, seem to have a preference for longer posts. Others, for example fashion, keep them much shorter.
In general, longer posts tend to perform better on Google than shorter posts. This is because long-form writing lends itself to the modern-day habit of scanning content as our attention spans get shorter.
Research suggests that, overall, the sweet spot lies somewhere in the 1,800 to 2,500-word range. A quick trawl through charity blogs suggests, however, that posts in this sector are often shorter than this generic average. And many fall into the 800 to 1,500-word range.
But that's not to say that every single post you publish has to conform to this spread. If you feel you've covered your topic well enough in 500 or 700 words, then so be it. And if you want to go longer than the standard range, your efforts are likely to be rewarded by increased uptake.
Unsurprisingly, in the final analysis, the quality of the content is of more importance than the length.
There are no hard and fast rules here, but research shows that organisations that blog regularly receive significantly more web traffic than those that don’t. Similarly, once you have a good set of posts under your belt, you can also expect to see numbers of web visitors increase significantly.
Posting frequency relates to your goals. And larger charities are likely to have greater resources to devote to the process than smaller ones. But aiming to post at least monthly – and preferably weekly – is a good place to start.
If this feels like a tall order, remember, it’s better to go for quality over quantity. A smaller number of posts that really hit the spot, rather than a lot of posts that simply don’t make the grade.
And, don’t forget, once you’ve published your posts, promote them via Twitter and Facebook.
Finally, you need to measure the impact of your blogging. Find out what your readers like (or don’t like). Identify a simple set of metrics based on the numbers of visits to your posts and what visitors do once they’re on the website. And use the data to inform future content decisions and decide upon any changes of direction that might be required.
There you have it. A well-crafted blog will help your charity engage better with both current and future audiences.
Drop me a line if you would like to discuss how I can help get you started.