How to Make a Successful Blog That Helps You Win Customers

Hubstaff - How to make a successful blog

The Hubstaff blog is an essential part of how we reach our customers and we spend a lot of time and effort on coming up with and writing on topics that are helpful to our readers. Today, we want to go a step further on our commitment to transparency and to take you behind the curtains on how we run our blog.

This guide covers the technical side of how to make a successful blog, how we format each post and configure for search engine optimization. You’ll also read about how we select a keyword, get our title ideas and manage our scheduling.

Keep in mind that what works for us may not be a perfect fit for your blog. This article shares our process and the tools we use and we hope you’ll find some of these useful and adopt them in your own workflow.

  1. Adding a New Post
  2. Discovering a keyword
  3. Setting up a title
  4. Formatting the blog
  5. Search Engine Optimizing
  6. Scheduling

1. Adding a New Post

Step 1 of creating a new post is actually creating it. We use WordPress as our content management system and blogging platform.

Add new post | WordPress tutorial on setting up a blog post

There are various tools that can help you write a new post, such as the WordPress distraction-free mode. If you collaborate with many team members on a post you may prefer to create a post completely in Google Docs beforehand, then import the Google Doc into a WordPress post.

Track the time you spend writing blog posts

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2. Discovering a keyword

You know what you want to write about, but do you know what the best keyword to use is? Typically, you want a keyword that a lot of people are searching for, but that hasn’t been written about a whole lot already.

Research your keywords with the Google Keyword Planner Click To Tweet

You can use the Google Keyword Planner tool shown below to research how many searches a particular keyword gets a month, and how high the competition for that keyword ranking is. Just type in your keyword and go to “Keyword ideas” to get the statistics along with a set of similar keyword recommendations.

Research your keywords | Content review checklist

For example, we like to write about “time tracking,” but that isn’t always the best keyword to use. It has about 5,500 people searching the term every month, but it’s also a high competition keyword. That means there are already a lot of blog articles and web pages out there that talk about the topic. On the other hand, “time tracking tool” only has about 400 people searching the term every month, but it’s a medium competition keyword.

We are more likely to rank well for “time tracking tool” because there isn’t as much competition for this term. Additionally, the people searching with this term are more likely to be looking for a solution such as Hubstaff, so our content will be more likely to help them.

“Time tracking tool” is the kind of term we would write about because it is:

  • Something we know about
  • Topic a lot of people are interested in
  • One of the essential features of Hubstaff
  • A Keyword that not a lot of businesses are targeting

The key here is to keep your information useful. Only select key phrases if your article will actually add something valuable to the pool of information.

3. Setting up a title

Keep the length of your title tags below 55 characters. If your title is too long, it will get cut off in search engine results and people will be less likely to click on it since they can’t see the full title. The title in your actual blog post can be longer than the title tags.

Keep your blog post titles under 55 characters for #SEO Click To Tweet

For example, one of our blog posts will show “How Hubstaff’s 100% Virtual Team Excels by Working Remotely” in the blog itself, but in search results page it shows as “How Working Remotely Made Our Team Super-Efficient.”

We use Yoast SEO as our overall optimization tool. You can install the plugin into your WordPress account and edit the meta description, SEO title and focus keyword from there.

The image below shows how Google cuts out titles that are too long. Ironically, these are the search results for “useful SEO tips”:

Examples of too-long titles | WordPress tutorial on setting up a blog post

If you’re having trouble discovering a title, you can visit Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Just type in your keyword and generate titles until you find one you like. You can also type your keyword or phrase into Buzzsumo to see what kind of articles about your topic are the most socially shared, then draw inspiration from there.

Buzzsumo | Content review checklist to ensure quality blogs

4. Formatting the blog

Formatting your post | WordPress tutorial on setting up posts

The next step is to format your blog post. At Hubstaff, we use Heading 2 for main sections and Heading 3 for sub-sections of our posts. Breaking up your blog post, especially long ones, makes it easier for readers to digest the content.

One of our longest pieces of content is a blog post on The Ultimate Cheatsheet for Selecting the Perfect Time Tracking Software. At more than 2,000 words, the list would be overwhelming if we didn’t break up the sections with formatting and images.

5. Search Engine Optimizing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a series of steps you take to help your content show up at the top of search results for people who are searching for your focus keyword. SEO is important because it determines how much your content is seen.

A Hubstaff article ranks as the #2 result when searching for VA companies in the Philippines

You set yourself up for success by choosing a good keyword to write about, now it’s time to bring it home. Here’s how we optimize.

  • URL – we use custom URLs with our keyword. Take a look at the URL of this article. If we didn’t optimize, it would show up as blog.hubstaff.com/?p=6593 and no one would know what the article was about just by looking at the URL.
  • Keyword density – we make sure our keyword appears more than once in the body of the article. There are different arguments about how often it should appear, but for us the most important thing is for it to make sure it doesn’t make the text feel unnatural when we use it. Again, the Yoast SEO plugin will help with this.
  • We use internal and external links to send readers to more information they might find useful. External links are links that take the reader away from our site (be sure to have those links open in a new tab or window). Internal links send users to a different, relevant section on our website. We always try to have at least one link to our Growth Series, the main Hubstaff site, and a few other blog posts. Sometimes we also like to link to our support site.
  • Alt text – this refers to the alternative text that appears when your images fail to show up. Using alt text vastly improves the accessibility of your site and it’s also beneficial for your SEO.
  • Keep your meta descriptions short and sweet, under 115 characters. This image from SwellPath shows how your webpage descriptions get cut off if they are too long.

Meta descriptions | WordPress tutorial on setting up blog posts

6. Scheduling

Buffer did an interesting experiment where they stopped publishing new blog posts for one month and their unique visits fell by five percent even though they were re-purposing and re-sharing their old posts. This is a fairly low drop, but typically it’s important to post regularly and publish a consistent flow of new content.

Post regularly and publish a consistent flow of content Click To Tweet

At Hubstaff, we like to have blog posts go out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m. EST. These posts are pre-scheduled in WordPress.

Schedule a blog post | Content review checklist

We tend to publish high value content on Mondays and Wednesdays (growth, tools and roundup posts) and useful tips or “just for fun” articles on Fridays.

Here are some examples of our posts.

Monday Posts – highly valuable, useful content

Wednesday Posts – informative posts, usually roundup

Friday Posts – interesting and educational

What about you?

What techniques and processes do you use when publishing posts? Do you have any other questions or comments about how to make a successful blog? Let us know in the comments below, we are always looking for ways to improve our content!

Hubstaff time tracking
  • Ben Marley

    I’m blown away by the amount of useful information in such a relatively short post. I love the keyword planner and content idea generator. Nicely done.