Doctor by day … blogger by night?
You bet it’s a thing.
In 2020, 90 percent of businesses out there are blogging because it’s the single biggest thing you can do to improve your visibility in the search engine. In fact, if you don’t have a blog on your site, you’re all but invisible online.
However, as a medical professional, you can’t just fill your blog with all manner of random pieces of content and expect to win at content marketing.
You need medical blog content from an expert medical writer who actually knows what they’re talking about.
Finding good medical blog writers can be tricky, so here are a few insights on what goes into writing medical blogs and what are the best practices around writing a medical blog.
By the time you’re through, you’ll know exactly what to do – and what skills to look for in a candidate when you go to hire a writer.
Why Medical Professionals Need to Blog
If you’ve started a medical practice, a blog probably isn’t at the top of your list. Yet, it’s a powerful tool to grow your practice and reputation. Starting a medical blog helps you:
- Increase visibility. According to SEO Tribunal, companies and brands with a blog generate 97 percent more traffic than those without one. More eyeballs mean more potential patients.
- Answer common questions. Are there questions your patients seem to consistently ask? Save everyone’s time by crafting thoughtful content that answers these questions.
- Connect with your current (and potential) patients. Blogs offer one more way for you to connect with your community. Whether you’re discussing relevant events or talking about health issues that impact your patient base, your readers can connect with you by interacting with your blog.
- Become a reputable source of credible information. Way back in 2013, Pew Research found that some 77 percent of people started their search for health information online. That’s still true today, as the rush to correct pandemic misinformation in 2020 has shown. Writing a medical blog allows you to meet patients where they are – online and looking for information you can provide.
Clear, Concise, Credible: The Medical Blog Writer’s Eternal Struggle
Medical blog writing is a skill in its own right.
Unlike other industries, you aren’t simply writing to entertain. People turn to medical blogs for information that will have a direct impact on their lives. That raises the bar quite a bit regarding the quality of what you publish.
No matter what your specialty, medical blog content must be:
1. Clear: Because There’s Enough Confusion Out There
Do you know what sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is? (Try saying that five times fast, heh.)
It’s characterized by the acute onset of cephalgia resulting from referred pain when the trigeminal nerve is triggered.
I’ll bet you a whole penny you’ve never heard of that condition … and another penny that you’ve experienced it.
It’s called brain freeze.
But that wasn’t clear at all, was it?
With medical blog writing, it’s super easy to get carried away with technical jargon or complex explanations, especially when you’re a professional who already knows what these words mean. However, doing this reduces the clarity of your writing. That’s a problem because unclear content:
- Inspires panic. Which sounds more frightening: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia or brain freeze?
- May prevent or delay someone from seeking medical attention. Good medical blog writers know when to make it clear that readers should seek prompt medical attention.
- Undermines your professional authority. Through your blog, you’ll demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about – so make sure you’re clear!
Bad advice abounds. Medical blog writers must be a light in the dark. Source: XKCD
2. Concise: Because People Want Answers, Not Science Lectures
How many times have you gone searching for answers, only to spend several minutes scrolling three-quarters of the way down a page for a simple answer to a question that you still couldn’t find because it was buried in a wall of text?
(If you’ve done that more than once or twice, you’re a rarity. Most people spend 15 seconds or less on a page before they bounce.)
Think about how much more annoying that is when you’re looking for answers to a potentially serious medical problem.
Be concise. Answer the question upfront, then go into detail further down the page.
3. Credible: Because It’s Your Money or Your Life
2020 superbly illustrated the prevalence of confusing and inaccurate information. From misinformation about how to wear masks to reports of deaths from people following bad advice, unclear or confusing advice isn’t just unhelpful … it’s dangerous.
That’s why credibility matters, and why Google has special quality requirements for medical blogs, legal advice, financial articles, and similar topics that may impact a person’s health, happiness, or financial stability.
In Google’s Guidelines, Section 2.3 talks about “Your Money or Your Life Pages” and the very high quality score they must achieve to rank well in the search engine. In Section 3, you can read about exactly the metrics Google’s evaluators use to rank the quality of sites. They are:
- High E-A-T. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness. Those are three major metrics that Google uses to determine the overall quality of a site.
- Positive site reputation. Evaluators are trained to look through your – or your practice’s – reputation online. They’ll use things like Yelp reviews, industry news, and more.
- The amount of “MC.” MC stands for main content, and they expect it to be satisfying to the reader – I.E., comprehensive enough that questions and curiosity are answered.
An example from the Evaluator Guidelines showing high-quality YMYL pages.
How to Write Medical Blog Articles That Engage Readers
Feeling like the bar has been set high for you? Good, because it has. Good medical blog writers who understand all of these tightropes can be hard to find, but they’re well worth seeking out.
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and write your own medical blog articles, here are a few tips. We’ve rounded them up from our expert medical blog writers to give you the inside scoop.
1. Speak to Your Readers… in Plain English
As a medical professional, you’re probably used to the lingo. BUT…
How would you feel if you went to the mechanic to get something fixed on your car and, while he did a great job, explained exactly what he did in technical terms that went waaaay over your head?
You’d feel overwhelmed at best.
Pay attention to your target audience when you craft your medical blog articles and write to their reading level. DO:
- Use technical terms if it can’t be avoided. Make sure you define these terms, however. A link to a reputable definition will do.
- Break paragraphs into bite-sized nuggets. See how I’ve broken every paragraph in this article into two or three lines? That improves clarity and readability.
- Feel free to get conversational. Addressing the reader (using “you” instead of “one”) creates a friendlier vibe that can help readers connect with you.
Bonus tip: Pictures are worth 1,000 words. Visuals often help break down complex topics much more easily.
Need help breaking your stuffy writing habit? Learn engaging writing that’s still informative and helpful in my Unlearn Essay Writing Course.
2. Pay Special Attention to Citations for Medical Blogs
Make absolutely sure you’re only citing from the best and most reputable sources because Google will absolutely check to see if you are.
In fact, links and citations are one of the biggest ways that Google determines the quality of a page. The practice of linking to (and receiving links from – called backlinking) is known as linkbuilding. It can be a great way to build your status in the SERPs but linking to poor quality sites can easily destroy your ranking as well.
- Use pages that rank highly. At Express Writers, we use the Alexa Page Rank tool to identify sites that rank 100,000 or lower. The lower the number, the more established (and credible) the site.
- Link to major medical institutions. Link to prominent organizations in your specialty to show that you’re up to speed with the current science.
Healthline links to PubMed Central, a repository of peer-reviewed studies available online.
3. Make Your Advice Actionable
Want engagement? Make it actionable.
To many content writers, actionable blogs mean including a CTA. While you should definitely do that (CTAs increase conversions by 62 percent), medical blog content needs to take it a step further.
After all, people have questions and they’re coming to you for answers. Make sure to give them what they expect – in a format they can use.
- Use the inverted pyramid. Put the immediate answer first, followed by data and details, followed by sub-questions and finally the CTA. This helps set your entire page up for your readers to act.
- Make steps super clear. Use headings to visually highlight steps. Break down steps as simply as possible to avoid overwhelming readers.
- Include relevant contact information. Whether it’s yours or another organization’s, make sure your readers have everything they need at their fingertips to act.
Actionable medical content provides answers in a way that allows readers to act on them. Source: Moz.
4. Emphasize Your Medical Authority
You’re an expert in the medical world, so make sure your blog reflects it. Remember that Google will look at your reputation, but they’ll also look at your specific credentials.
When it comes to YMYL content, they want to know that actual experts are producing it.
There are a few ways you can demonstrate authority both to the search engine and your readers:
- Include your author bio. You can have a simple blurb with your name and credentials at the bottom of each medical blog that links to a more in-depth bio.
- Set up your LinkedIn or other professional social media. This will help boost your authority by proving to Google you’re an actual professional, not just someone with a site.
- Check if your business or site has a Google Panel. Setting your business up in Google My Business helps prove to Google that your practice really exists.
Bottom Line: Get the Right Writers for Your Medical Blog
Writing medical blogs isn’t something that just anyone can do – and not just anyone should.
With medical blog content, you need an authoritative writer at the helm who knows how to use terms correctly, break down complex topics into a readable format, and satisfy Google’s special quality requirements.
We’ve rounded up some of our best tips to help you get started writing medical blog articles, plus the special considerations that go into writing on this topic.
If you’re pressed for time or would prefer a qualified writer, check out our content shop. We’re thrilled to provide you with authoritative medical copywriting. Or, talk to us about finding an expert copywriter in your unique niche.
Publish a beautiful, comprehensive blog post 2x a week and you’re on your way to content marketing success.
It’s a myth?
Quality content isn’t enough to bring you a ton of traffic, gain you a legion of fans, and blow your content marketing ROI through the roof?
I know because I’ve been there, done that.
Two years after starting my business (2013), Express Writers was a young, promising content agency. And although I’d published 215 blogs and was getting around 500 organic visitors, I felt stuck and unable to scale higher.
All this changed when I realized I needed a strategy. I needed to STOP the cycle of creating, creating, creating content without a clear strategy and end goal for each piece.
What I’ve learned since: Our content will only work when we have clear goals, topics, and a mapped-out topical content strategy to back us up.
Let me explain.
What Is Content Strategy? 3 Reasons You Absolutely Need It for Content Marketing Success
Content strategy is the engine that enables your content marketing vehicle to run.
It’s the blueprint that guarantees you know where you’re going as you build your content house.
Here are three reasons you need it.
1. Content Strategy Allows You to Strategically Plan Your Way to the First Page of Google’s SERPs (Plus More)
Do you dream of waking up one day and seeing a random piece of content you created ranking #1 on Google?
Chances are, it’ll never happen.
To be seen on Google, you need to target high-quality keywords that match your niche perfectly. It can take months of strategic planning to finally land on that sweet page one of the SERPs.
This is what content strategy is all about. It’s a detailed blueprint including topics, keywords, and goals for each piece of content you publish.
Sounds complex, but it’s worth it.
For example, ranking #1 on Google can get you 515,640 clicks (and a CTR of 29.76%).
On the other hand, ranking #20 on Google only gets you 177 clicks and a 0.38% CTR.
And content strategy isn’t only about ranking on Google.
It’s also about engaging your audience. Gaining trust. Building authority. Increasing sales.
2. Content Strategy Gets You from Ignored to Adored by Your Audience
Have a passion for cultivating square-shaped onions?
Nobody else does.
Meaning, when you publish blog after blog of outstanding content about these never-before-seen onions, nobody will care.
To be adored by your audience, you need to give them what THEY want. It has to be about THEM.
Of course, you need to write about something you’re an expert at too. (You can’t randomly decide to write about NASA space missions if you know nothing about them.)
To find balance, follow the unique concept I call the Topic Circle Concept. Find the sweet spot between what your audience wants and what you specialize in.
Since part of building your content strategy is creating audience personas, you’ll never again have to guess who your audience is when writing any piece of content for your brand.
3. Content Strategy Gives You Direction (and Saves Time)
Initially, coming up with a content strategy is tough work.
But once you have one in place, it’ll be smooth sailing forward.
Having a content strategy means:
- No more scrambling for quality keywords to target.
- No more wasting time targeting keywords you’ll never rank for.
- No more guessing who to “talk” to when you write that blog, email, or social media post.
- No more wondering what goals you’re trying to achieve with your content.
- No more speculating where your content will have the most impact. Blog? Social media? Somewhere else?
Having a content strategy is like starting to use a map after years of wandering around in circles.
And if you ask me, it’s worth it.
Back to my story:
When I put my content strategy to work, I:
- Increased my site’s organic traffic from 500+ to 50,000+.
- Ranked for 13,000 keywords on Google (400 of which are in the top 3 positions).
- Turned Express Writers from a small business earning $29,000 a month to a thriving seven-figure brand.
Now, we at Express Writers are here to do the same for you with our updated content strategy services.
Would you rather learn to DIY? Check out my practical, actionable Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
Announcing a Major Update to Express Writers’ Content Strategy Services
I know, building a content strategy for your brand sounds like a big deal.
And it is. (It took me years to perfect my own strategy to the point where it could run like a well-oiled machine.)
But we’re here to build yours for you, so all you need to do is sit back, relax while we work, and then implement our findings to see your brand’s content marketing success soar. (Or, you can have us implement for you in one of our consistent blog plans.)
Here’s what you can expect from this year’s new and improved Content Strategy Plan service we’re now offering our clients.
First things first, though.
Why did we update our content strategy services?
It’s not because the old one didn’t work. It’s because the web is constantly evolving. And since it’s our mission to deliver the best quality on the web, we evolve with it.
Now, here’s what you can expect with our new Content Strategy Plan.
1. In-Depth Site Audit, Hot Topics, and a Full Content Strategy Plan (Deck)
Our brand new Content Strategy Plan is a detailed deck containing all the strategic steps towards content marketing success.
In the old plan, we merely gave you suggestions on the best way to take your content strategy to the next level.
Now, we give you a complete Content Strategy Plan Deck, including a complete SEMrush site audit, site health analysis, Google Trends analysis for your industry, and hot topic categories to target.
Here’s a few screenshots from the deck we recently completed for a client, Bogdan at CleanApps.org. Thanks for using our new Content Strategy Plan, Bogdan!
Everything inside our Content Strategy Plan has been customized for the client that buys this plan, by a human Content Strategist on our team that I personally mentor. We use top tools including SEMrush, Mangools, and Ahrefs to build strong data points for our clients.
Our deck is the answer if you need to build a strong content marketing foundational direction. You’ll know exactly where you are, where you want to go, and each step you need to take to get there. The deck even ends with a recommended monthly budget for content that will build traffic and results.
Ready? Consider investing in your custom Content Strategy Plan today.
2. A Recommended Keyword List
Not sure which keywords to target?
We’ll even supply you with a list of the best keywords in your industry. With the help of our paid tools, SEMrush, Mangools, and Ahrefs, our strategists will pick keywords that are the perfect blend of high competition and low search volume, so you gain exposure without wasting time trying to rank for difficult keywords.
Grow Your Brand with Our Updated Content Strategy Plan
Since we at Express Writers started offering content strategy services, it has been our mission to see our clients grow.
And our new Content Strategy Plan continues to uphold that standard. You’ll receive:
- A full-size DFY Content Strategy Plan.
- The strategic steps for knowing EXACTLY what kind of content to create, every single time.
- A full set of the right keywords to target.
- A complete site analysis, so you know how to tweak and fix problems that are preventing you from ranking.
- And more!
Check out our updated Content Strategy Plan options here.
90% of businesses are blogging in 2020. By the time you’re done reading this article, tens of thousands of posts will have been finished and pushed live. With 77% of all internet users reading blogs now, and blogs considered one of the top five most trustworthy sources of information, there’s no bones about it — your finance business needs a blog.
But there’s a lot of content already out there, which means you’re facing stiff competition.
And if you’re in a popular niche like finance, the competition is even fiercer. You need expert financial blog writers on your side.
Psst… we craft industry specialist content for brands in the finance space! See our expert finance writer rates here.
However, competition for eyeballs isn’t all talented financial blog writers have to worry about. From special quality requirements by Google to features of the industry itself, here’s why it pays to invest in a writer who knows that they’re doing in this field (plus plenty of actionable tips for you to get started writing your finance blog!).
Let’s dive in!
[bctt tweet="Financial blog articles are hard to do well and easy to mess up. Why? You need financial know-how AND engaging writing. ✍?? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses the expertise you need and how to write for this tough industry." username="ExpWriters"]
First Things First: Offering Financial Advice Is Tricky Business Even Under Normal Circumstances
Have you ever received well-meaning but inaccurate financial advice from a friend or family member?
They probably thought they knew what they were talking about. It probably sounded good. Maybe you even acted upon it. But surprise!
Things didn’t go so great. ?
Let me be the first to warn you: Google is well aware of people like your friend or family member, and they don’t have time for crappy financial content in their search engine.
You may already be an expert on finance, but if you’re thinking about starting a finance blog, make sure you do your homework. ?
Specifically, make sure you know how to convey to Google the fact that you do, in fact, know what you’re talking about.
Your Money or Your Life
Unlike writers in other industries, financial blog writers need to be aware of a small but uber-critical quality requirement: YMYL.
It stands for Your Money or Your Life.
According to Google, YMYL topics are those that can impact a person’s future happiness, health, safety, or financial stability. The Official Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines require a Very High-Quality rating for all pages that fall under YMYL. That’s because if someone follows the advice and it turns out to be poor or inaccurate, it can have serious negative consequences on their life, happiness, health, or finances.
How do you demonstrate quality under YMYL?
You make sure your readers are E-A-Ting the best content! Demonstrate:
But! Make sure you’re actually demonstrating that authority to back it up, even if you’ve got the most interesting blog in the world. 😉
[bctt tweet="‼HOT TIP: Financial blog writers need to be aware of a small but uber-critical quality requirement for ranking: YMYL (Your Money or Your Life). Learn more ➡" username="ExpWriters"]
- Identify authors and their credentials. Showcase your company’s accomplishments and dedicate yourself to never publishing low-quality content. Ever.
- Develop your brand’s authority by consistently publishing high-quality, well-researched, and cited content on specific topics.
- Be transparent about who you are and what your company is about. Have your contact information clearly listed, and make sure all other important info is easy to find.
How to Write Financial Blog Articles That Win Audiences (and Conversions!)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of dry, uninspired writing, but the best finance blog writers know just how to spice up the copy to win audiences and conversions.
Here’s a quick guide for financial bloggers and a few tips when writing a finance blog.
1. Analyze Your Target Audience, Then Speak Directly to Them
Nobody likes being talked at – on the internet, talking at your audience is a great way to scare them off.
With financial blog articles, it can be easy to sink into that. However, you should be cultivating your unique voice in a way that creates a conversation with your readers.
The best way to speak to your readers? Understand their language, their needs, goals, and desires.
You can identify those things with a target persona. You can think of a target persona as a case study of your readers. It can shed insight into what topics you should discuss, what you should avoid, and how to approach conversations for the best possible reception.
I also recommend that you:
- Define your target audience as narrowly as possible. Finance is such a big topic that it’s better for you to define the scope of your blog as narrowly as you can. That also allows you to develop your content differentiation factor.
- Identify your audience’s reading level. A finance blog written for investment specialists will sound very different from one intended for the general public.
- Embrace the human element. Finances can be a touchy, emotional subject. So, don’t be afraid to address the human element of the conversation to get in touch with your audience.
When your target audience is well-defined, it will show! Compare the Financial Samurai to the Penny Hoarder (below). Who is the target audience of each?
2. Give Your Financial Blog Readers a Reason to Read
We like to know that we’re going to get something for our efforts. So, with every financially-centric blog you post, get in the habit of putting yourself in your target audience’s shoes and asking yourself: what’s in it for me?
People (usually) don’t go looking through financial blog content unless they’re enthusiasts on the topic. If they’ve landed on one of your articles, chances are they’re looking for advice. Therefore, pay special attention to the value that you’re providing by highlighting the clear benefits of each article. Do:
- Make tips and advice as actionable as possible
- Break down concepts and leave your readers feeling more knowledgeable than they were
- Lay out the key points and benefits early (the introduction is a great place) so readers know what they’re getting and why reading this blog is worth their time
- Share your unique wisdom and perspective (content differentiation factor!)
When writing financial topics, you need to be engaging and informative, but NOT stuffy, to win readers. Learn how to take the “stuffy” out of your writing in my Unlearn Essay Writing course.
3. Use Your Blog as an Opportunity to Build Relationships
According to Bankrate, the average adult in the U.S. stays with their bank for some 16 years – five years longer than the average marriage lasts.
The best financial writers know that the industry is used to thinking in terms of (and emphasizing) relationships, so they take care to demonstrate this in the content they create.
If you’re treating each blog as a conversation with your readers, you’ve already taken the first step toward building a relationship with them.
Now, take it a step further.
In 2020, readers want to know that you’re there to provide value, and to be of service beyond simply doing what it takes to win a sale. Readers convert to customers when they not only feel good about the product, but also the company providing it.
Why? Focusing on building relationships sends the message that you care about the experience your customers have with you. According to PwC, 73 percent of customers will stay loyal if that experience is a good one.
So, take the opportunity to show your readers you care. Always remember to:
- Showcase your transparency with author bios and credentials clearly listed (remember: YMYL!)
- Use compelling CTAs to invite your readers to interact with your brand further
- Invite feedback via blog comments or other forms
- Create content that makes your readers part of your story
4. Get Catchy with Financial Headlines
Mastering the art of headline writing matters for all content writers, but it’s especially important for financial blog writers. Why?
Because when 73 percent of people are skimming your blogs, what are their eyes going to catch?
The headlines. And let’s be honest, which would you rather read…
When it comes to financial blog content, use catchy headlines that emphasize what’s in it for the reader. Consider headlines that indicate an article will:
- IRS Advice for the Self-Employed
- Self-Employed? Lower Your Tax Burden With These Lesser-Known Credits
(These are great tips right here!)
- Make life easier
- Show the reader how to do something
- Present information backed by science
- Share hard-won wisdom or personal experience
- Provide a fresh take on an overdone topic
Which headlines stand out to you, and what do they all say about who the Penny Hoarder’s target audience is?
5. Avoid Finance Jargon Jungles
Last but not least, financial articles can run on the long side. (Neil Patel once found that the average length of a finance blog article was around 2,500 words.)
That’s plenty of space to stray waaaaaay into the weeds. ??
On its own, that’s not a bad thing. There are lots of gems of wisdom to be found in the weeds. But you also run the risk of getting trapped in jargon jungles, using terminology that might prove confusing to your readers.
Remember: the average adult reads at a ninth-grade reading level. Unless you’re writing specifically for a crowd who you know will understand the terms, it’s better for your readers (and SEO) to use plain English as much as possible.
[bctt tweet="? Newsflash: The average adult reads at a 9th grade reading level. Unless you’re writing for a crowd you know will understand the terms, it’s better for your readers (and SEO) to use plain English as much as possible. ?" username="ExpWriters"]
Need Expert Financial Blog Writers? We Got ‘Em!
TL;DR: finance blog writing is its own kettle of fish bait.
From satisfying Google’s special quality requirements to crafting engaging, accessible copy, you’ve got a lot on your hands. I’ve provided a bunch of tips for you to get started writing a finance blog, but an expert financial blog writer can also help.
Check out our content shop to learn more about the finance blog content we offer, or talk to us about finding an expert copywriter in your unique niche.
Marketers love them – especially when they’re making a project or campaign look good on paper. After all, who doesn’t want glowing numbers to present to their client at the end of the week?
But savvy marketers know a secret: not all metrics equal growth. Some of them are even pure vanity.
Yep, I’m talking about vanity metrics.
What’s the definition of vanity metrics?
Well, imagine this: you’re an Instagram influencer with over two million followers – a success any way you measure it.
You decide to launch a clothing line to capitalize on your audience of millions.
You spend months planning, preparing, networking with photographers, and making everything perfect.
At long last, the day comes to launch your line!
You’re full of zeal and excitement – your promo posts get thousands of likes! Surely you’ll have hundreds of sales.
But two weeks later, you’ve sold a grand total of twenty (20) units, falling way below your goal of 500+.
Ouch! What happened?
You were tracking numbers that looked good — but told you nothing about what was actually going on. You couldn’t equate it to real growth. That’s the textbook definition of vanity metrics.
Learn more about the truth behind vanity metrics — with a real story based on what I just described above — in today’s blog.
The Definition of Vanity Metrics
According to HubSpot, vanity metrics are:
“Data … and analytics that are satisfying on paper, but don’t move the needle for your business goals. They offer positive reporting, but no context for future marketing decisions.”
We could break that down if we wanted. A simpler definition of vanity metrics from Tim Ferris:
“Good for feeling awesome; bad for action.”
Vanity metrics are data and numbers that might be interesting, fun, or look good, but they don’t actually help you accomplish anything in your business.
They are fool’s gold – if you’re chasing them, you’re going to get a pile of dirt at the end of the rainbow. Why?
At the end of the day, they’re not telling you the whole story. In fact, as we see in the case above with Instagram, vanity metrics don’t tell you anything at all. (It’s a real story, by the way.)
Can you spot the vanity metrics she used to make her decisions? Sadly, many Instagram influencers fall victim. Source: Flawless and Brown
How to Identify Whether You’re Using Vanity Metrics
Vanity metrics are all over the place. They’re the marketing equivalent of those factoid listicles. Neat, possibly inspiring. Utterly useless in most cases.
But still wickedly irresistible.
Don’t get me wrong: tracking vanity metrics alone isn’t a bad thing. At the end of the day, knowledge is power.
However, tracking vanity metrics at the exclusion of actionable metrics can lead you to disaster. The glowing halo they can create around your idea or plans can blind you to the very real red flags or problems that exist – as our Instagram influencer discovered.
So, how do we identify which KPI is a vanity metric in the many that we’re tracking? Simple…
Ask Yourself: What Business Decisions Can You Make With This Metric?
Metrics are meant to do more than tell you about your business. They’re supposed to give you insights on what actions you can take next.
By definition, vanity metrics don’t because they don’t tell you anything really useful.
Let’s circle back to the Instagram influencer above to illustrate that.
On what metrics did the influencer base her business decisions? She used several vanity metrics:
- Feedback from friends
Lots of followers and lots of likes seem like a good thing, right? Sure! And her friends were super jazzed about her new clothing line!
But what those metrics didn’t tell us? On closer inspection, a lot. For example, she probably never learned:
- Who her audience was. Some suggested that her clothing line was off-market for her mostly male audience. (She needed demographics instead of likes and followers.)
- Her true level of follower engagement. Some marketers commented that her engagement ratio was low for the number of followers she had. (That’s looking at likes per thousand followers.)
- Anything about the product itself. According to her post, people she sent out promos to didn’t even share her or promote her new line. (The promos to share ratio alone tell us something was wrong with the product.)
- Anything about the campaign itself. More than a few marketers pointed out that it was badly composed and executed. (Three posts don’t provide enough market data at all.)
There were other red flags with the product and campaign that got missed because she was focused on vanity metrics. Source: Jack Appleby.
5 Vanity Metrics in Content and How to Use Them to Your Advantage
The Instagram influencer’s experience provides a salient warning against the dangers of vanity KPIs and metrics. Marketers of all stripes can take a lesson or three from it – especially those of us in content creation and marketing.
However, figuring out which KPI is a vanity metric is arguably easier when it comes to social media than other forms of content creation or marketing. Part of that is because social media is much more straightforward in many ways.
Here are five metrics that are most likely to be a vanity metric when it comes to content, and what you can do instead to capture the most accurate view of your brand’s growth.
1. Page/Post Views
Ah, views. We like knowing when something we’ve published is landing in front of lots of eyeballs. Yet, when we think about it, what do views actually tell us? Perhaps that we got our keywords right, or that we published at the right time of day. Pageviews tell us nothing about actual interest or engagement.
When It Matters: Content creators should track page or post views. An abnormally high or low number may indicate that something’s off with the keywords or targeting – but not always.
A More Actionable Alternative: Track conversions instead to get a better sense of how interested people actually are.
2. Likes & Shares
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling when someone validates what you have to say with a reaction, like, or a share? It feels good. I like it, too. However, likes and shares don’t indicate a commitment to convert – how many neat things did you heart on Instagram last week that you’ll never buy?
When It Matters: Shares can amplify organic reach. Likes or reactions can give you an immediate sense of your content’s performance.
A More Actionable Alternative: Consider tracking referrals, even if it’s as simple as how many users are tagging friends in the comments.
25 likes from a well-targeted readership are better than 25k likes from an uninterested public. Source: RootisTabootus.
3. Time on Page
We want people to do more than just click on our page in the SERPs – we also want them to stick around and read what we’ve got to say. That’s why we spend so much time on crafting exceptional quality content. But what does it mean when people are spending long periods of time on our page? It’s a good thing. Right?
That depends. People might be staying on the page because they’re engaged. They might be staying on the page because you embedded a video there and they’re watching it. Still, that doesn’t tell you anything about their actual interest.
When It Matters: When time on page is more than a couple of minutes – and combined with conversions – then you know it’s a high-performing page.
A More Actionable Alternative: Track engagement to get the most out of time on page – that means subscriptions, signups, or other lead conversions.
4. Keyword Volume
Keyword volume refers to the number of searches for a keyword within a given period – in short, how many people are searching that keyword in Google.
If you’re sitting down to do keyword research for your content strategy, then a keyword with a large volume – a super popular one – must be a great choice, right?
Wrong. Volume doesn’t equal clicks – it also doesn’t guarantee that every click you’ll receive from that super-popular keyword will bring a qualified lead. It’s better to have less but more relevant traffic than it is to have lots of traffic from randos on the web.
When It Matters: Pay attention to volume with longtail keywords and super specific terms. A presence of relevant searches means a market opportunity for you.
A More Actionable Alternative: Lead generation and conversion. Your keywords can have low volumes, but if they’re returning qualified leads, then they’re more successful than popular keywords that aren’t.
Volume is often not the full story with keywords. The longtail keyword “best buy portable air conditioner” has the highest volume – the greatest popularity – of similar keywords. But, from November to March, almost no one searches for it. Source: WordTracker
5. Follower Count or Subscriptions
So, you set up your social media. You link your blog posts. You’ve even got an email newsletter for interested people to sign up if they want. And guess what!
You’re getting followers and subscriptions.
What’s the problem here? They’re consuming your social media and your newsletter – not your actual product or service.
When It Matters: If your email newsletter has high signups but low conversions (or vice versa), then it may indicate that something’s broken. You can also track subscriptions in a given time period to get a sense of how well your message resonated.
A More Actionable Alternative: Track active users instead. People may be happy to consume your freebies, but your product’s success is only measured in terms of sales.
Bottom Line: Actionable Metrics Create Results
A lot of marketers will tell you to avoid vanity metrics like the plague. As I’ve shown here, they can and do frequently prove dangerous – if not deadly – when used to make business decisions. From the definition of vanity metrics, we can glean that these numbers are fascinating and fun, but they aren’t meant to be helpful. Instead, they’re meant to make you feel good about what you’re doing.
That all said, you can use vanity metrics to gain a deeper insight into the success of your business, content, or campaign. But you need to be smart and look beyond the surface of the shiny metrics to learn what’s really there.
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As a writer myself and the owner of a writing agency, artificial intelligence (AI) has been after our jobs for a while.
Can it be done cheaper? By a robot? …For less money?
Time and time again, the answer has been no. I even wrote a two-part series a couple years ago for Content Marketing Institute, debunking the myth that robots can write content and replace a real, human, breathing writer.
Today, technology is growing at a faster pace than ever. From manufacturing to rote office tasks, we’re finding AI replaces human workers in practically every industry. Anyone working a rote or repetitive task is quickly seeing him or herself replaced by a machine. In fact, AI expert Kai Fu Lee believes as many as 40 percent of the world’s jobs will one day be automated.
So, as of 2020, could content writing be among them?
With the launch of GPT-3 in May 2020, many people think it’s possible.
Before you panic, however, keep reading. I’m taking a closer look at what GPT-3 is, how it’s causing us to rethink content, and why artificial intelligence will never replace certain activities – particularly those that rely on human creativity.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
What Is GPT-3?
GPT stands for “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer.” It’s a language AI created by San Francisco-based tech company OpenAI – backed by, yes, Elon Musk.
GPT-3 is the third edition of GPT, which rolled out in May 2020. In July 2020, OpenAI announced the creation of its waitlist for access. Those encouraged to sign up include entrepreneurs, academic researchers, or members of the general public interested in becoming beta testers.
Transformer-based AI language generators have already been around for a few years, first appearing in 2017. OpenAI GPT appeared in 2018, and the upgrade, GPT-2, was released in February 2019.
Compared to OpenAI GPT, GPT-2 was a sleek and sophisticated model with some 1.5 billion parameters for constructing text. At the time of its release, OpenAI noted GPT-2 was “probably too dangerous to release” but it had “seen no strong evidence of misuse so far.”
GPT-3 is two orders of magnitude more powerful than GPT-2, with 175 billion parameters. It’s better equipped than any other AI model out there to spin out realistic, convincing text.
And it does. Check out this pop song by Taylor Swift about Harry Potter…
Arram Sabeti used GPT-3 to produce numerous pieces of content, including instructional manuals, interviews, and pop songs.
How GPT-3 Works
The GPT-n series uses what’s called an autoregressive language model that makes use of the same deep learning mechanisms found in natural language processing.
(If any of those words sound familiar, it’s because I’ve talked about them briefly before. Google now deploys NLP to better understand search intent – that’s what BERT was all about.)
Let’s break down what all of that means.
An autoregressive language model is a model that attempts to identify the next best word in a string of words based on the ones that come before.
For a very simple example, consider the first line of the Taylor Swift song above.
We know in English that all sentences follow a certain structure: it’s usually something like “subject – verb – object.”
If we start with a subject – the most obvious choice being “Harry” – then we know that the next word needs to be a verb.
Sure, we could shove any verb in there. That’s not how our brains actually work when we’re writing. However, in autoregressive modeling, the algorithm will only consider the word(s) before. Right now, that’s our starting point.
So, Harry. Harry what?
That “Harry’s got glasses” ended up being the first line is random. It could have just as easily spit out “Harry’s got a scar” or “Harry’s got books.” We’ve clearly been given more data about Harry and his physical features.
As a result, the grammar and context are both correct. The lyrics feel genuine.
That’s a major step up from what AI could do just three years ago when I tested out another model. Given the subject (content marketing) and some basic data about it, the AI returned this brilliant gem of utter nonsense:
The state of AI in 2020 is a whole other level compared to what it was in 2017. Source: CMI.
In 2017, it was much easier to laugh at the idea of AI taking over things like creating news stories, wiki articles and – yes. Web content. But if you’re looking at that Taylor Swift song and getting an uneasy feeling in your stomach, you’re not alone.
Why Some Fear GPT-3 Will Make Writers Obsolete
GPT-3 was specifically built to create realistic, convincing text – and it does exactly that. In fact, some people have already attempted to use it in content writing. Will that make writers in this industry obsolete? Here’s why some people think so:
- Early creations are convincing. Early research around GPT-3 has shown it can – and does – generate news articles that human readers have difficulty distinguishing from reality. That makes it one of the most important (if not frightening) advances in AI yet.
- GPT-3 can seemingly predict the future. Want to predict the future? Maybe tell GPT-3 what’s going on and ask what’s going to happen. Actually, researchers did exactly that, updating the AI about the 2020 pandemic. It accurately predicted which industries would be most affected, and what would happen to the world economy as a result.
But really. If you’re a writer with any skill whatsoever, AI is not coming to take away your job.
5 Reasons Why Content Writers Aren’t Going Away – Even with GPT-3
In July 2020, Vox described GPT-3’s ability to churn out convincing content as “uncanny.” Arram Sabeti’s experiment likewise raised questions about whether AI could soon be good enough to eliminate the need for human content writers.
The answer? Nope.
1. News Articles and Content Writing Aren’t the Same
AI excels where there’s lots of data that needs crunching and tasks are rote – news article writing satisfies both of these requirements. If you give AI data (facts), and parameters (article structure), you’ll get a news article that reads convincingly.
Content writing isn’t quite the same.
In fact, if you’re doing content writing correctly, it won’t read like a news article. Why?
Content writing requires creativity. And…
2. AI Can’t Replicate Human Creativity
Sure, there’s an entire site dedicated to the creative fiction of GPT-3. But if you read through it, you’ll notice a few distinct things:
- It’s formulaic. Whether it’s 50 lines of Tom Swifties or horoscopes for Rick Brown, you’ll notice something if you study them: Sentence and paragraph structures are all exactly the same.
- It only sounds great because the data and parameters were great. The examples are all ridiculous because the researchers used ridiculous things to generate the output.
Is that really creativity?
Human-crafted writing varies. Flowing from one sentence to the next, it uses a wide mix of structures and lengths. So far, GPT-3 has shown that’s not super possible. At the end of the day, you can tell.
There are also multiple types of content – they can’t all sound like news articles or copypasta.
3. Robots Suck at Emotion. And Context.
Content writing isn’t just about putting buzzwords on a page where people are most likely to see them or stuffing articles full of keywords at specific intervals.
In the 2020s, content writing has leveled up. You’re now expected to care about angles, to connect with your readers. To tell stories.
Research overwhelmingly shows that emotional connections work when it comes to converting readers into paying customers. In one study, a major bank successfully improved its conversion rates by 70 percent by rebranding a credit card from an emotional angle.
Good luck getting AI to hook your readers by the heartstrings. It’s an age-old cliché – robots have no heart.
4. Content Writing Isn’t Data-Oriented
Sure, there are facts. Sure, having statistics in your content can help you demonstrate more credibility and authority.
We even have a lot of statistics showing how to do content correctly, especially blogs. But when it comes down to it?
Things that are data-oriented tend to have specific processes, procedures, and methodologies. Content writing – while certain structures might exist – doesn’t really have any of those. It’s still a process that’s unique to the people who are writing it.
Professional content writing is creative, unique, and engaging – NOT stuffy or robotic. Unlearn the bad writing habits you don’t need and absorb the amazing ones you do to stand out: Click here to learn more about the Unlearn Essay Writing course!
Speaking of which…
5. If You Could Be Replaced, You Were Already
If GPT-3 had been rolled out in 2008, content writers would probably be a quaint relic of internet history today.
That’s because in 2008, content writers were robots churning out pages upon pages of poorly written, keyword-laced gibberish designed to win positions in the SERPs.
If that was you, and you never progressed past that level, you’ve been replaced.
But if you kept pace with the industry and learned the skills content writers need today, then you have more work than you know how to handle. Content writers who can tell stories, connect with readers, and inspire conversions are as much in demand as ever.
Exceptional Content Will Always Need a Human Touch
GPT-3 is a fascinating development in the realm of artificial intelligence, and one that holds the potential to change the world. I’ve looked at what it is and why some people in the content writing industry fear that it may one day come for our jobs.
But don’t worry, content writing will always need a human touch because of the unique requirements that robots simply can’t recreate. Keep honing those content creation skills, and always remember to focus on the human – that’s what your readers want.
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