Writing Great PPC Blogs

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Writing Great PPC Blogs.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: How do you define a great PPC blog post?

  • It either teaches me something new, or makes me think about something differently (or both!) – Jonathan Maltz (@MaltzPPC)
  • For me, “great” is typically given to posts that have amazing in depth analysis or a new, out of the box strategy. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • One where valuable info is shared/received. Everyone learns, the person writing and the person reading. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • If I even learn one new tip I consider the blog post great. – Matt Umbro
  • Takes a viewpoint on an issue, shares info/details, and is fun to read. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • 1st & foremost accuracy and then if it teaches me something new or makes me think differently about a topic. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Solid data & insights. Includes a perspective on conversions. And has visual elements (images) and not just text copy. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • When I learn a new way to examine the same old data. – Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
  • Actionable insights. – Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
  • I’ll tell you what isn’t great – reading about a topic that has been written about 50 million times with the same view point! ie: Why negative keywords are good for your account. – Matt Umbro
    • Most definitely, I now scan read articles to see if it’s new or insightful before reading in detail for this reason. – Josh Devlin
  • Well-written, informative (data and out-of-the box insight), w/ actionable steps for the reader to take home and implement! – Margo da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
  • To expand, quality posts about basic PPC are important too, just not for pros. – Julie Bacchini
  • The devils advocate to his is of course that you might want to produce content for people at all levels or that you can write a better post on the topic than has been posted previously. – Josh Devlin
  • Interesting to read, doesn’t make a meal out of a snack of information. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

Q2: Do you write for different blog audiences? If so, how does your approach change?

  • It can be hard to write about really advanced stuff when you can’t use actual client data. – Julie Bacchini
  • A little. Depends on what I know about the audience: skill level, vertical, etc. Need to give each audience what’s relevant to them. – Michelle Morgan
  • I do, basic posts speak more to lists and clearly highlight acronyms and defintions. My advanced posts generally contain more data and assume the reader knows the basic concepts. – Matt Umbro
  • I write for different audiences based on where I’m writing: SEW, Web Marketing Today, or my blog. My blog tends to be intermediate to advanced / experienced readers so I tailor to that audience. – Melissa Mackey
    • It’s kind of fun writing for different audiences…makes you analyze your work from different knowledge angles. – Matt Umbro
  • I don’t necessarily write to a specific audience, more to solve a specific problem I’ve seen. Could be advanced or basic. – Luke Alley
    • Good point, though, based upon the topic I know which blog I’ll be posting on. – Matt Umbro
    • Definitely, not so much thinking of an audience but just focusing on interesting topics/issues as they come up. – ScriptiLabs (@scriptilabs)
      • And that the data/test is sound, and not just theory. Good point. Should take things with a grain of salt. Still, data > no data. – Luke Alley
  • I would like to see the bigger blogs tag their articles with [easy/moderate/advanced] – Josh Devlin
  • Sometimes. Frequently a different approach means defining/not defining terms. Or adding context. – Theresa Zook
  • Blogs supported by data and case studies will always appeal larger audiences. Give us more tests! – Disruptive (@DiscruptiveAds)
    • Also shows that the author has invested more time in writing the blog. – Matt Umbro
    • Well said! Data rich posts always tend to perform better because there is research to back-up insight. – Marhgot da Cunha
  • We certainly do! For beginner geared posts we try not use terms that would require the reader to head over to Google. – WhatRunsWhere (@WhatRunsWhere)
    • Just spitballing ideas, but maybe you could have hover-over definitions for jargon terms in beginner articles? – Josh Devlin
  • I try…but usually ending up nerding out more towards advanced/PPC practitioners. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • We must be careful not to dumb down the information. The blog should dictate the audience, not the other way around, surely. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
    • That depends. You can’t teach someone calculus if they don’t know algebra. – Jonathan Maltz
      • But there are some who need advanced calculus & can’t read through addition & subtraction every time. Horses for courses. – Steve Cameron
        • Of course – the basic posts should stick to basic topics, and advanced posts should assume knowledge. – Jonathan Maltz
  • And data-rich posts tend to be very popular – get shared / read a lot. But they’re hard to write. – Melissa Mackey

Q3: How do you determine what topics are worth writing about?

  • I have an editorial calendar where I keep ideas/thoughts. But I try to write about what’s hot in the PPCChat community. You guys are usually the inspiration for the posts I write! – Melissa Mackey
  • Identify a need that hasn’t been addressed yet. Those are the best. – Luke Alley
  • If I want to learn more about it, then it’s probably worth reading to others as well. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • Has the topic been written 1,000+ times already? 2. Do I have something new to add? 3. Will it be good enough for. – James Svoboda
  • Whatever is most interesting that other people haven’t already covered… getting the scoop is always fun. – Paolo Vidali (@PaoloRobot)
  • Providing insightful answers to common prospect or customer questions. – Margot da Cunha
  • I tend to write about issues I’m seeing or clients are asking about – I like to help solve problems or shed light. – Julie Bacchini
  • Depends on how much time I have…cough…don’t have. Though stuff I’m excited about goes fast and writes itself. – Elizabeth Marsten
  • A good indication for me is if I haven’t found it satisfactorily covered somewhere else. – Amy Middleton (@amyxmiddleton)
  • My posts originate from client successes/issues and tests I’m running – if I’m seeing it I’m sure the community is as well. – Matthew Umbro
  • Ask your audience! We commonly leave CTA’s at the end of our posts asking readers to suggest topics. – WhatRunsWhere
  • I think “Have I seen blog posts on this topic a million times before? Am I adding anything new?” – Tamsin Mehew (@TamsinMehew)
  • Always try to write posts that are interesting for someone to read even if they aren’t involved with online marketing. – Disruptive
  • It really depends on who/what you’re writing for. PPC Community/prospective clients etc. – Josh Devlin
  • Google provide me a lot of inspiration with their whacked out policies & gen craziness in support calls. – Julie Bacchini
    • I know where to go when Google makes business decisions! – Matt Umbro
  • My best posts come to me quickly from a convo on Twitter/IRL, and I write them then and there. Easier for me that way. – Luke Alley
  • When looking at data in posts be weary of how it came to be – in other words, ask if brand terms were included, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • For basic articles “What would I have wanted to know when I started? What do beginners’ guides always miss out?” – Tamsin Mehew
  • ideas come from client convos or from posts that I want to respond to that I’ve got more than 140 chars to say. – Stephanie Cockerl (@StephCockerl)

Q4: How do you weed out the irrelevant or poorly written PPC blog posts?

  • Usually my own experience, or if it totally contradicts what other trusted PPC friends are saying. – Melissa Mackey
  • I always scan initially, and look for errors and at what level the article is written. By errors, I mean fundamental things that are objectively wrong, rather than things I disagree with. – Josh Devlin
  • Generally most posts I read are accurate, but 75% of them aren’t teaching me anything new. – Matt Umbro
  • Skim the subheadings. Usually can get an idea of the post from those. If new, unique, or interesting then I’ll read further. – Michelle Morgan
  • Experience & testing. You’ll quickly learn what resonates with your audience. – WhatRunsWhere
  • I will say that a great headline will draw me in, even if I read the post and it’s crap. – Matt Umbro
  • 1) Who is the author? 2) What’s the topic/is it another rehash? 3) Skim the content/length of post. – Luke Alley
  • Mostly gut feeling – if contains info that is just wrong, I leave. Or if too basic, not for me either. – Julie Bacchini
  • It’s funny because the most BS posts are generally written by the most reputable names, ie: New York Times, ebay, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • Author is important for me. – Steve Cameron
  • There’s definitely an art to marketing the post though… adding a pic w/ Twitter link, a compelling headline, good intro, etc. – Luke Alley
  • Perfect example, the post earlier this year from the New York Times that said AdWords didn’t work for a particular business. – Matt Umbro
  • Follow the blogs creating quality content consistently. Don’t waste your time with the ones spitting out fodder. – Disruptive
  • Increasing my blog reading in the last few months I’ve discovered that I find posts with (illustrative) images are more engaging. – Josh Devlin
  • For me, smaller, focused entities are generally better. Big guys are usually just wrong or off in too many ways. – Julie Bacchini
    • Agreed, also find those PPC newbies who are passionate about PPC and are looking to make a name! – Matt Umbro
  • I weed out almost everything. I bookmark / save the few that I can use to test or share with others. – Amy Middleton
  • Posts from big players can provide opps to get your blog more traffic if you write about their wrongness. – Julie Bacchini
  • I think we should even add the word “consistently.” If they’re not always up-to-date, how can they ever really keep up?

Q5: What do you believe is the most common misconception about PPC blogging, either writing a post or reading one?

  • That PPC is boring (mostly a perception from outside the industry). – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • That PPC strategy or tactics are somehow universal. We all love “it depends” for a reason! – Julie Bacchini
  • Probably that it’s going to be boring and/or not very useful. – ScriptiLabs
  • Everything needs to work for everyone. Posts saying “Do this to increase sales 100%” are hard to read & write for everyone. – Michelle Morgan
  • For writing: that regurgitating a google announcement with no insight or application is valuable. – Amy Middleton
  • That it takes a ton of time. I can write a post in 15-20 minutes. Some take longer, but you just have to write! – Melissa Mackey
  • Hard to find posts relevant to you but also hard to write for a wide audience that also doesn’t exclude too many. – Michelle Morgan
  • Anyone can set up a WordPress blog and start posting. It will help you in so many ways! – Melissa Mackey
  • That every post has to be a home run! If we only posted what we thought was ground breaking stuff, we’d miss out on good info. – Luke Alley
  • For writing, that blogging is a burden more than a passion – I’ve said it before, great PPCers are also great writers! – Matt Umbro
  • That the ability to type and stick in a few acronyms makes you an expert worth listening to? – Theresa Zook
    • My CTR is amazing and CPA and ROI are great FTW. – Matt Umbro
  • That it needs to be boring. Throw new insight and a little bit of your personality into a post! It can go a long way. – Disruptive
  • that people who write a lot necessarily know what they’re talking about. – Michael Medew (@IntelligentPPC)
  • That link bait headlines are the only way to acquire readers. – Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
  • Side question – when you read a post you like, do you comment and/or tweet about it or share some other way? – Julie Bacchini
    • Most of the time I tweet it out – I generally don’t write comments, but I would like to make it more of a priority. – Matt Umbro
    • Usually tweet and share on LinkedIn. I’m not much of a commenter, even though I probably should work on that. – Michelle Morgan
    • Almost always tweet; will comment if I have a lot to say. – Melissa Mackey
    • If it’s good content, I’ll share. Commenting is good for 1) adding to convo or 2) connecting with the author. – Luke Alley
    • Mostly just tweet great PPC posts. Comment now as often. – Margot da Cunha
    • Usually I retweet (as I’ve probably come across it via Twitter). – Tamsin Mehew
    • Commenting can be a great way to get your name out there in the industry, as long as you add value to the convo. – Luke Alley
    • I find it so interesting how commenting has gen decreased as Twitter use has increased. – Julie Bacchini

Q6: Aesthetically, how should the ideal blog post be laid out?

  • If you are talking stats, graphs & charts will really help. Images help too – I need to use them more! – Melissa Mackey
  • Headline, leading pic, intro paragraph, subheadings with supporting paragraphs, pics where relevant. – Michelle Morgan
  • I know people love images, but I just don’t often have time to great them AND write quality stuff! – Julie Bacchini
  • IMO, like a research article. Abstract (summary of what you’ll see if you continue reading), Specifics, Conclusion. – Leo Sussan
  • Anything but poorly made movie reference memes. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
  • Start at the end–lay out your conclusion, then lay out your “proofs.” I know the world is picture-mad, but images only if they’re relevant. – Theresa Zook
  • Never go more than 2 paragraphs without a headline or image – break up the text! – Matt Umbro
  • I have a pet peeve about not having well defined subheadings. Makes it really hard to read otherwise. – Michelle Morgan
    • I totally agree about subheads. Aids in easy skimming which is critical for web copy in general. – Julie Bacchini
  • Compelling headlines, relevant images that add further context. Bullets and lists also make content more readable. – Margot da Cunha
  • I find that for more novice audiences, list posts are good, ie: 5 Tips for Google Shopping. – Matt Umbro
  • Diagrams (as opposide to photographs/screenshots/charts) are underutilised IMO. – Josh Devlin
  • Yes. Number posts are very popular. My 26 Free Tools post was thru the roof in both SEW and my blog. People love it! – Melissa Mackey
  • Screenshots are helpful, esp when talking about specific tactics or examples. – Julie Bacchini
  • Images are powerful and boost social sharing and credibility to posts. Always consider them important, if not necessary. – James Svoboda

Q7: What should be someone’s immediate thought(s) after reading a great PPC blog post?

  • I gotta go try/look at that now! – Theresa Zook
  • Ermahgerd! Why am I not doing this already?! – Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
  • Can’t wait to try this! – ScriptiLabs
  • “I can’t wait to try that” or “I never thought of it like that”. – Julie Bacchini
  • Where can I apply this? How can I take advantage? – Michelle Morgan
  • I can’t wait to get back to work! – Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
  • I never thought of that! Or, God, that’s a great rant! – Melissa Mackey

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Amy Middleton (@amyxmiddleton)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Jonathan Maltz (@MaltzPPC)
• Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Margo da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
• Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Medew (@IntelligentPPC)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Paolo Vidali (@PaoloRobot)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
• ScriptiLabs (@scriptilabs)
• Stephanie Cockerl (@StephCockerl)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Tamsin Mehew (@TamsinMehew)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• WhatRunsWhere (@WhatRunsWhere)

Writing Great Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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