Every business blogger struggles to create consistency; we get stuck wondering things like “what should I write about?” and “how long should my blog posts be?” rather than doing what we really should be doing: writing blog posts. The key to bringing order to this chaos is to create a content mix.
A content mix is a strategy for knowing exactly what types of blog posts to write in order to be helpful to your audience and inspire Google to trust you too. A perfect mix includes short posts that answer a specific question your audience has, bread-and-butter posts that go into more detail on a broader topic, and pillar posts which are comprehensive deep dives into a subject and link back out to your smaller posts.
These are three basic types of blog posts I’ve found to be a perfect content mix both for SEO benefits, to win over your audience, and to create that consistency in your writing too.
Ideally, 1/3 of your content should come from each of the following blog post types.
1. Answer Posts
This answer post answers a specific question your target audience has. The post you’re reading right now is an answer post because I’m focused on one question: “What is the perfect blog content mix?”
The answer post is something you should be able to create in an hour or two and should be between 1000-1500 words. (Nowadays, I consider this post length to be “short-form content” because anything less than that and Google is going to consider it “flimsy” content and we really do want to always be building trust with Google.)
The key to firing off posts like this quickly like it’s no big deal is to do your topic research first. Do that in batches and store your ideas in a spreadsheet or Trello.
A really useful tool to use to brainstorm questions your audience has is Answer the Public. Just type in a topic you’re interested in writing about and it will show you all of the questions people search for answers to.
You can also go right to the Google SERP (search engine result page) and start typing in topic ideas and use their autosuggest to see what people are searching for. Often times as you click on those suggestions you’ll see what’s there and you might get a “People also ask” section. Start observing this little box and taking notes because it’s filled with great ideas for creating answer posts!
The formula I’m using for this post is to…
- Answer the question at the top of the page (this tells Google what it’s about and helps kick off a great user experience by getting right to the point)
- Then I create subheadings (the outline)
- Then, in order to hit the word count I’m shooting for, all I need to do is write three mini-blog posts under each subhead.
Since I have three in this post, I’m shooting for around 300-350 words under each subhead. (Keep WordCounter.net handy.)
If you have a new blog, focus on writing lots and lots of answer posts. This will inform Google what you’re all about (it takes a while, expect traffic to be a bit quiet the first few months) and it will start ranking you for “long-tail keywords.”
Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that are longer and more specific and therefore less competitive. For example, if I created a post titled “How to write a blog post” I wouldn’t have a shot. By getting more specific and discussing how to create a content mix for blog posts, I have a much better chance.
You can also use a tool like SEMScoop to research long-tail keywords. It’s the best tool I’ve found to do keyword research that doesn’t cost a fortune, and you can search a certain number of queries free every day. (I gave up on that free thing because I like to do this efficiently and find a whole bunch of keywords in one sitting.) I have a tab open to this tool every day… every time I have a topic idea I run it through to see how competitive it is to rank for.
Further reading: Check out my 4 Cheap & Free Keyword Research Tools & How I Use Them to find out how to find questions your audience wants answers to.
Update: WordTracker tells me I’m at 518 words — time flies when you’re having fun! — so time to move on…
2. Bread & Butter Posts
Bread & butter posts allow you to go into more detail and depth on a subject. While you’ll want to keep your topic focused so Google understands what it’s about and your reader doesn’t lose the thread, you can address related topics. These posts will be more substantial at around 2k-3k words.
Fun fact: Backlinko did a massive study and looked at a million websites ranking on page #1 of Google and found that long-form content outperformed short-form content. The average is 1,890 words. Looking at this graph, keep in mind that the top spike is the average — that means many top-ranking posts were much, much longer.
For example, I write a lot about branding service-based businesses and I might want to write about oh, say brand guides. I might outline it like this:
- What is a brand guide?
- What are the benefits of having a brand guide?
- What information should be included in a brand guide?
- How do you create a brand guide?
Including an introduction, summary, and discussion within each of these topics, I’ll easily have 2,500+ words to say about it.
Here, too, I use SEMScoop quite a lot because it tells me exactly how many words my competitors have used to rank their content #1 in Google and how many words I’ll need to write to have a shot. I always take that suggested number and go WAY beyond it.
By searching the broad topic “brand guide” first, I see that the search volume is pretty sweet (22,000/month) and the competition is moderate. Because I rank for a lot of “moderately difficult” keywords relating to the subject of branding, I’m not worried… I’m ready to get in the game. (I didn’t plan this at all this was all just top-of-my-head, but holy crap – I’m totally putting this in my editorial calendar!)
Ranking #1 right now for this keyword is Hubspot, which is a huge authority blog with a domain authority of 91. That’s tough. But, I often beat sites like this because Google also factors in relevancy. I’m a branding agency, Hubspot is not. Google trusts me to rank me for certain topics because it now understands where my expertise lies.
Now, if your domain authority is lower or you don’t have a whole lot of blog posts ranking in Google, it doesn’t matter how many words you write — you could write a million (don’t do that) — you aren’t going to rank for competitive keywords.
This is why you want to build up your answer posts first. If I were just starting out and were viewing this report, I would use SEMScoops “longtail keyword suggestion” tool and find something more in my lane.
As you build up your bank of content on relevant subjects, Google will start trusting you with broader Bread & Butter topics.
Update: WordTracker says I’m at 474 words for this “mini blog post” under this subheading and I’m already at 1,134 words overall and I’ve been writing for under an hour. Easy peasy! Now it’s time to wrap things up with the Mac Daddy of blog posts…
3. Pillar Posts
Pillar posts are large, meatier posts that are really more like e-books or “ultimate guides” on a subject. They range from 3,500 words and up. Many substantial pillar posts that rank high on google are 6k-8k words!
Here, you can really show off your expertise and dig deep into a topic. You might even do primary research, create infographics, videos and illustrations to go with the post.
Of course, when you’re running a business it’s not going to be possible to crank out pillar posts with frequency. When I talk about 1/3 of your content coming from pillar posts, consider the word count. One pillar post is potentially “worth” 5-7 answer posts.
You’ll want to start creating pillar posts once you have a pretty substantial bank of content, maybe 30-50 posts in the can. By then, Google should have a pretty good idea what you’re about.
Since you have a mixture of answer posts and bread and butter posts at this point, you’ll use your pillar content to link back out to your smaller topic-specific posts to allow your readers to go into more detail.
This internal linking that happens in pillar posts really fires up the old Google engine too, and tells it that you’re staking your claim as a go-to expert on this broad subject.
Here’s how I tackle my pillar content just to give you some ideas of how you can manage it with a busy schedule…
- I plan it out and work on it bit by bit as I have time
- Once a bread & butter post is ranking in Google, if it makes sense, I go in and spend more time adding detail and fleshing it out in order to make it a pillar post
- If I’ve created a free opt-in that isn’t performing well (a small ebook, for example), sometimes I’ll pull those out and use them as blog posts and rather than collecting dust behind some gated opt-in, I get tons of traffic instead
Well, guess what? I’m at 1545 words and it’s taken me just over an hour to write this post. Not bad at all! It’s much, much less stressful to have a content mix plan and when you’re struggling to create longer content, just pop in and write an answer post like this.
I hope you found this helpful! Will you be using any of these techniques for your blog? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear, and let me know if you have questions too!
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.