Some content creation experts consider blog posts and informational articles to be two separate forms of content. They technically are, but I have combined them into a single form for the purposes of this article because their differences are so subtle that they often overlap.
Blog posts and informational articles are great tools for SEO purposes. They can be used to improve search performance based on keywords and phrases, and they are great for generating outbound and inbound links. They should be first on your list of content to master if you are new to the concept of content marketing.
What are Blog Posts and Informational Articles?
Blog posts and informational articles tend to be casual articles written by staff members or contracted professionals writing on behalf of an organisation. The key operative word here is ‘casual’. Neither form of writing is intended to be highly technical, excessively long, or so challenging that a person has to read it multiple times to understand what is being expressed.
As for the subtle differences between the two, let me start with the blog post. Let us assume that you are writing a post that you intend to publish on your organisation’s website. You might choose to write about a particular topic that caught your attention over the last couple of days. You are going to present your opinion on that topic in the hope of soliciting a response from your readers.
Next week you might write a new blog post expressing your appreciation for a group of people who did something in your community. Again, you are expressing your opinion about a particular topic. This is what defines a blog post. Blog posts are largely opinion pieces even though they may be backed up by hard data.
Now let’s say you need to write an informational article detailing the benefits of one of your organisation’s products or services. In order to present your company in an authoritative manner, you would be careful to write the article based on verifiable facts. You would tend to stay away from superlatives like ‘best’, ‘greatest’, or ‘most effective’.
You would also be careful to present the information in a way that provides clarity on the topic at hand. That means presenting ideas in the form of absolutes. It means providing enough information to help readers thoroughly understand the topic based on genuine information rather than just opinion.
To recap, blog posts tend to be:
- Less formal
- Written to evoke a reaction.
Informational articles tend to be:
- More formal
- Written to provide specific information on a specific topic.
As previously mentioned, blog posts and informational articles do overlap quite frequently. You might write a blog post that starts out as your opinion on a given topic before morphing into a fact-based justification of your opinion. In such a case, both goals would be served.
On the other hand, you might write an informational article that is heavy on facts but still presented in a casual style that is better suited to a company blog than anything else. Overlapping is okay. The differences between blog posts and informational articles are not so serious as to make a discernible difference in terms of your content marketing efforts.
What is Purpose of Blog Posts and Informational Articles?
Blog posts and informational articles serve numerous purposes. First is the goal of connecting with your target audience by providing them with regular information they can consume. Think of it in terms of a relationship. A relationship requires a certain amount of contact between the parties involved if it is to flourish. As a content marketer, you have a relationship with your target audience – one that you want to flourish.
Experts recommend writing blog posts and informational articles on a regular basis. How often is regular? That depends on your needs and goals. The general rule at the moment seems to be that a company blog should be updated at least once per week. This tells your audience that you are investing time in the relationship by providing new, fresh content that they can consume.
The second purpose goes hand-in-hand with the first: maximising SEO productivity. Bear in mind that at the time of writing, Google and the other search engines appear to give higher priority to websites that are frequently updated. By posting a new blog or an informational article on a regular schedule, you are demonstrating to search engine algorithms that you are interested in fresh content. Your rankings will be rewarded accordingly.
Beyond these two major purposes, there are six additional purposes for blog posts and informational articles:
- Starting Conversations – Posts of both kinds are great for starting conversations. Perhaps you want to know what your target audience thinks about a particular topic. You could conduct a survey, or you could simply address it in the next blog post or informational article. Write, post, and then just pay attention to the comments.
- Social Linking – Social media has proven to be an excellent outlet for marketing content. I often recommend blog posts and informational articles because they can so easily be shared on social media. If a piece of content does well in social media, it is likely to produce good results.
- Official Positions – There are times when organisations have to make their position on a topic publicly known. In situations not calling for a more formal setting, a blog post or informational article can be appropriate.
- Necessary Explanations – There are other times when an organisation’s official position bears further explanation. For example, when Google rolled out the Panda update a few years back, they also published a series of blog posts explaining the need for the update and the impetus behind the changes they made.
- Link Generation – Though generating inbound and outbound links is technically an SEO issue, it doesn’t always have to be. You might write a piece simply because you want to follow-up on another piece written on the same topic. Or you may want to generate links to help an organisation that would benefit from any attention given by your target audience.
- Audience Entertainment – From time to time, an organisation may choose to use a blog post solely for the purposes of entertaining the audience. Not everything has to be so serious all the time; people appreciate a little bit of light content every now and again.
The purpose behind blog posts and informational articles can be summed up this way: to present information in a casual and informal way while still garnering the respect and attention of your target audience. This leads me to the final point of this article, which is style.
The Style of Blog Posts and Informational Articles
‘Casual’ and ‘informal’ are the two primary descriptors for blog posts and informational articles. A blog post is not a hard news story. An informational article is not a white paper. These are other forms of content that are longer, more formal, and more in-depth than blog posts and informational articles. I cover these elsewhere on this site.
For the time being, note the following characteristics of good blogging and informational writing:
- Relevance – Good writing is relevant to the readers who consume it at the time at which it is presented.
- Understandable – Good writing is easy to understand without being simplistic in style. Do not write to impress; write to explain.
- Entertaining – To some degree, all blog posts and informational articles should be entertaining. In other words, they should be pleasant to read.
- Concise – Good blog posts and informational articles are concise, non-rambling. They make a point, justify that point, and conclude in short order. Brevity is the soul of wit, right? It is also the soul of good blog writing.
Good blogging and article writing is also a visual exercise. By this I mean you need to consider what readers will see when they first glance at a page. Readers usually skim-read to decide if a piece is worth reading. This is where your visual presentation comes into play.
Large blocks of text are a non-starter for online content. Paragraphs should be short, different thoughts should be broken up into different sections separated by a subheading, and where bullet points and numbered lists are appropriate, they are always good visual tools to entice people to read.
Here is what you need to know about visual presentation: readers should be able to skim through a blog post or informational article and, by reading the title, subheadings, and any included lists, decide whether full consumption of the piece is warranted. You will attract more readers by making your writing more visually appealing.