[This post originally appeared here in August of 2010 and has held up extremely well for SEO strategy. This post has been one of the most popular and, judging from feedback, helpful I’ve ever written. So I’ve updated it a bit here for 2018 to align with recent trends]
While presenting on Social Media this week, the question about Blogger writers’ block came up again, and I realized I didn’t have a post to refer them to – so here are some quick tips if you should find yourself in that uncomfortable situation.
Start out creating a Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ.) Base the questions on what your customers ask regularly. Try to come up with 25 questions, and write short answers for each to start. You can post these in WordPress as drafts, for example. Work them over, tweak them, and generously link to others’ supporting material – it’s worth it to get the content right and avoid common mistakes at this phase. Is your FAQ list a bit thin?
Where to get Q&A Ideas:
You can get ideas quickly online also – Quora, SEMRush Keyword tool, Google Ads Search Terms Reports, Forums and Reddit can all provide inspiration, depending on your market. You should also carry a notebook for new ideas – they come at the strangest times. When you’re deciding on a writing style, think about what would be most compelling to your audience, and write your answers in that style.
Think Front of the Envelope when it comes to Titles.
Your post titles should prompt curiosity worthy of a click. Imagine the title written on an envelope – would you be tempted to look inside to see the article? If not, it needs work. Some posts will be easier than others. Sometimes if you really get stuck on a title – it’s time to rethink the whole post. Is it interesting enough to be worthy of your blog? Use tools such as Answer the Public to seed your lists.
Amplify the Curiosity with the Excerpt/Teaser.
Third, for each answer, create an excerpt that amplifies the titles’ magnetism. This is what may appear in the users’ feed readers, and they may make the decision to view the post based on this one little snipet. The goal of the excerpt should be to obtain the click. A secondary goal of the title is SEO – if you have a choice between a word that gets a lot of searches vs. one that doesn’t, choose the former.
“Playlist” Your Questions using Categories and/or Tags
Tags should group together the posts logically. When someone clicks on a tag in your tag cloud or post footer, it should cause related posts to appear in a cluster. Posts can be part of multiple clusters of course. Categories is mostly to guide the initial reader foray into your work, so be broad interest based and helpful.
Think Weekly – But Sprinkle In Some Variety
By variety, I mean that you should create timely posts about events in your industry including thoughtful responses to authoritative posts from other bloggers . This not only gives you a chance to voice your opinion, but to refer to the ever-building reservoir of content you are making.
Remember – Value is the Key.
If the post is a waste of time or re-hash of something the readers’ seen already, skip it. You want your blog to be so good that people cannot wait to see the next post. Readers will tolerate 1-2 low quality posts before they start to consider unsubscribing – so you must keep your standards high.
Revisions are okay, But Keep it Under Control. You will find that things come up in your mind in the weeks that follow that you want to add to the post. I recommend you go ahead, just don’t change the whole post. When commenters or those sharing your posts do so, they don’t expect you to change what they originally saw that much.
Use Excellent Photography – Make Sure your Photos Work Throughout the Cycle: Photographs should be easily visible in thumbnail-sizes as they will often be shared on Facebook and other social media tools where the reduced version is what people see as they make their decision to read.
Repurpose your Q/A Content
Q/A works great in short videos. You can do very digestible videos that answer a single question, a format that has been successfully used across the web for years. This also allows you to tap into the web’s 2nd largest search engine, Youtube. Slideshare and other sites are more places to repurpose these things. Don’t be tempted to cram tons of questions into a single video – keep each video true to a theme, and use good Video SEO methodology to improve its chances to rank.
Leverage the Google Knowledge Graph for Direct Answers as well as SIRI and Cortana voice command searches. Finally, and potentially most importantly, think about Google’s “direct answers” and featured snippets results. FAQ content can be well situated for Google’s knowledge graph because the search engine is quite good and understanding the structure. When blog summaries begin to show up in the search results, people may not even click through to your blog (while still reading a key point or two.) While this is not ideal, it’s better than a competitor showing up in that spot! Using Questions and Answers schema, but not QAPage, to help Google understand the posts.
How to Format a Q&A Post
A FAQ post suited to the Knowledge Graph is likely to have this format:
- A Concise question as post title – one question and one answer per post is key! Question should be an H1 tag.
- Subheading can extend the question for clarity, should be H2 tag.
- Create a concise, clear answer to post a question in 2-3 sentences. A fully satisfying answer, but short and sweet. This is for the skimmer as well as Google Direct Answers.
- Paragraph 2+ expand on this, as full answer, written in the inverted pyramid style (see below) (200 words usually reasonable max. Supporting illustrations / photos strongly suggested)
- An invitation to the reader to subscribe to future high-value answers.
- Write a re-marketing cookie for the audience as precisely as makes sense.
- A “see also” link to similar answers (to reduce bounce rate and increase dwell time)
- Tagging of question (so sets of questions can be summoned via a single URL in a “FAQ list” format later) requires a well-designed “list” and search results page on your site.
(CC) Photo by Joe Lanman
- There was a good discussion of this at SMX West 2015 and Bill Slawski offered advice in this interview.
- There was a good discussion at SMX West 2016 with
- Convince and convert have posted a good post that updates the discussion with a healthy focus on buyer’s journey and the “micro moments” concept favored by Google.
- It looks like you can do the FAQ markup using Google Tag Manager.