It's likely impossible to know the exact number of blog entries posted daily on the Internet. Most estimates put the numbers between two and three million, a pretty wide range of possibilities. With a plus or minus of about 30 percent, it doesn't do us much good to know that it could be between about 750 million and one billion blog posts a year.
The blog has come a long way since its narcissistic origins as a sort of online diary. Evolving into a credible marketing tool, it's become a critical piece of marketing campaigns. The ease of access and cost-effective nature of the publication make it an invaluable tool.
The Problem with Content Mills
With two million posts coming out each day, it's a good bet that a lot of what is getting published is junk. You may have already noticed that when you do a search for "best new computers," you're going to get a lot of titles with variations of "The 10 Computers for All Your Needs and Doing Your Laundry" or "7 Mind-Blowing Tips for Picking Your Next Computer." We've figured out that if we put a number on the title with some energetic adjectives, we can increase the open rate.
The problem is what people find when they open those posts. In many cases, each article is a slightly altered version of the next. One of the reasons for this is likely also one of the reasons for the growth of online content — so-called "content mills."
A content mill is one of the many services businesses can turn to today to generate the content they need. This isn't any sort of judgment on their existence as a concept or even as a practice. It's a great part of our capitalist system that these organizations have come into existence. Buyers can go to the service, offer a rate and a deadline — along with other criteria like keywords and expertise — and within 24-48 hours they have the content they need. They'll even have final approval over whether or not the content was what they wanted.
The Struggle for Engaging Content
It's also a part of the evolving freelance economy that writers are able to pull jobs from the board and make money — possibly a living — by completing these tasks. The writers have the ability to decide what they feel is worth their time. On most of the services, each party is able to rate the other, and a sort of meritocracy grows.
The problem with the content comes with the process. In our drive to provide constant, updated content, we often find ourselves sacrificing the "highly engaging" part just to get the "content" part. Three or five blog posts a week is demanding for a business owner, and a good rule of thumb is that any work that will take a manager more than two hours to complete should probably be delegated; however, in that delegation, a few criteria can make sure that the content stays highly engaging.
3 Steps for Effective Blogging
For a blog entry to be effective, follow three basic steps before you ever put pen to paper or finger to keyboard:
Specify the keywords. This is absolutely fundamental and will be the piece that the article is built around. The best writers will worry about keywords after the article is written so that they appear naturally, but having the keywords to start gives good writers an idea about how to structure the content. It helps the writer determine the focus, and that is how the content will get found.
Determine the offer. The blog is just the beginning. Is it going to be attached to an eBook or whitepaper that offers additional information on the same topic? Will the blog itself be a part of the conversion? Whatever the offer is, it will lead to a quality CTA.
Identify the CTAs. The last paragraph of every blog entry should have a call to action. You don't want the reader to just walk away from the post. This is where the marketing value of the blog goes back to the original purpose of the web log. It's about building a relationship, and the CTA is how you continue that relationship.
We want relationships. It's a fundamental part of being human, and it's the reason social media has become the force it has. Living in this interconnected world, it's most important that your content be highly engaging if it's going to stand out among the other two million posts people make tomorrow. Make sure every post starts with these three ideas, and the content will take care of itself.