Writing Blog Posts That Captivate – Interview with Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston -SEO ExpertRecently I had the pleasure of chatting with Karon Thackston, a copywriting and SEO (search engine optimization) expert. After attending her presentations on keyword research at a Niche Affiliate Marketing System Workshop (NAMS), I wanted to get share some of her expertise with my community. Karon is straight-forward, down to earth and has very deep knowledge about how to write for the web – and that includes blog posts. You can listen to the 23 minute audio interview and read the complete transcript below. Please post your questions for Karon in the comments and I'll invite her to swing by and respond.

Writing Blog Posts That Captivate – Interview with Karon Thackston

Denise: If there are only a couple of things you learn from me, the first is if your business can’t be found on the web, then it’s like you don’t exist. 
Second, a business blog is one of the best ways to create a presence on the web so you can be found by your ideal customer or client.
Today I’m talking with an expert in copywriting and search engine optimization, both of which are critical elements to achieve findability on the web. My colleague, Karon Thackston, has owned her full time copywriting agency since 1999. She has published 5 books including The Step by Step Copywriting Course, Writing With Keywords, Effective Websites for Small Businesses, Ecommerce Copywriting, and Article Marketing: The Right Way to Build More Links.
Karon also teaches courses on copywriting and SEO. I’ve attended a couple of the presentations on keyword research. Believe me, this woman knows her stuff. You can find Karon on the web at www.marketingwords.com.
Today it’s my pleasure to spend a few minutes with Karon to get some of her secrets about how to create blog posts that captivate and convert. Thanks for joining me Karon. 
Karon: Hey, it’s my pleasure. I have to say, you are one of my mentors and it’s always great hanging out with you at the NAMS event, when we get some time. I’m constantly following your trail online because you’re everywhere.
Denise: That’s my mantra. I want to be seen everywhere. That’s how you captivate and convert people, right?
Karon: That’s exactly right. 
Denise: Let’s just jump in. When it comes to blogging, creating content, the blog post, is really the most essential part. Otherwise, without the content you don’t really have a blog, right?
Karon: Yes. Exactly.
Denise: It doesn’t really matter how pretty your design is, if the content is not great, people don’t stick around. Of course, in my experience, that’s where a lot of professionals run into a challenge-around the content. How do you create content? What should be in the content? How do I get people to read my content? 
What are the first steps you recommend for getting started with a content plan for a blog?

Karon: The very first thing I usually talk with people about is-I get a lot of funny looks for this-taking focus off you and putting it on your readers. Especially people that have just started a blog and maybe they haven’t had any “training” in how to create or operate a blog. Their first reaction is to put up blog posts that are all about the company or all about the products or things of this nature but not necessarily all about the reader or the blog visitor. That’s who you’ve created the blog for to begin with. 
One of the primary goals is bringing in more traffic to your site. When people come to a blog, they’ve got certain questions in mind. They’ve got goals. They want to find information and tips and recommendations that will help them. They don’t want to read all about your awards or your latest industry news or things of that nature every time. There’s a place for that. The majority of it should be focused on your reader. 
Getting to know your target audience and writing to them is the very first thing I encourage people to do. 
Denise: Excellent. I often say people go online for two things: 1) To solve a problem or to find a solution to a problem, and 2) To be entertained. 
Karon: Yes, pretty much. 
Denise: That’s the only reason. You’ve got to be able to provide the solution and do it in a way they enjoy getting that solution. 
Karon: Exactly. They don’t want to come to a blog that’s a big, giant, brag-fest and it’s all about us. There has to be something there specifically created for your readers.
Denise: The word “you” is pretty important in this. 
Karon: Oh yes. Definitely so. 
Denise: I know you recommend-you just have-delivering the content that our audience wants (I recommend that too). What’s your process for discovering that?
Karon: One of the easiest ways I have ever found to do this was simply to go about making a list of all the different types of people, the different professions that might visit a blog. For instance, just off the top of your head, give me three types of people that are in three types of professions that would come to your blog Denise. 
Denise: I would say coaches, consultants, and service professionals like a chiropractor, dentist, lawyer. 
Karon: Medical types of people. 
Denise: Yes. 
Karon: Then we go one step further and we say, “Why are they coming? What do they want?” So, what would coaches want to learn from you?
Denise: They want to know how to get more clients. 
Karon: Okay. If we were actually doing this together you would jot down “coaches-how to get more clients.” What about someone operating a dental office?
Denise: Probably a similar thing. How to get the word out about their practice and attract more patients.
Karon: Okay, how to attract more patients. Do you see what’s happening here? We’re actually writing down a list of blog post topics. You can go back when you list every type of segment-sort of a marketing term there-your entire target audience is made up of smaller groups of people that have similar interests, but like coaches and dentists, they are different. Each one of those segments, when you jot down a list of specific things that they would be looking for that dealt with their professions when they came to your blog, you are creating practically an endless list of topic ideas that are specific to your readers. Just what we were talking about a minute ago. 
Then you go through and pick a topic from this long list that we’ve created and you’re set for a while. 
Denise: I love that. I love how you demonstrated that. It makes it so simple. It doesn’t have to be a complex process to figure out what to write. 
Karon: That’s the easiest way I have ever found to do it. You get list after list after list of new types of topics that you can write about. As you get comments on blog posts and you find out that there are different people coming in now from a new segment, a new industry then you start another column in your chart and you create even more topics. It’s really very simple. 
Denise: That’s fantastic. That’s pure gold. We could just stop right there but there’s more…
I know you have 4 Steps to Creating Captivating Posts. I love that-captivating posts. You’ve got your topics, how do you create those captivating posts? If you could, give a brief overview. I know that’s probably a longer question.
Karon: No problem. The first thing is what we just did. Write about what interests them. Your first step in creating a captivating blog post is going to be deciding which of those topics off the long list we just created you want to use. 
We go into the very first step which is developing an enticing title. I say enticing because the title of anything is the make or break point, a title of a book, a title of an article you write, the name of a TV show. Anything like that is going to be a stopping point for people. If you can’t capture them, so to speak, with the title of your blog post, they’ll never read the rest of it. We have to engage them and use a little bit of creative language. Some super verbs and some other types of descriptive verbage that will bring people in and make them want to read your blog post. 
One little ebook that I have-we’ll talk about it in a minute-is entitled How to Write Blog Posts That Captivate and Convert. I could have easily named that little ebook, Learn How to Write a Blog Post. It really wouldn’t have been as enticing as the other title. Give it some thought when you’re going through and getting ready to create it. Think of things that your target audience wants to accomplish or wants to learn or wants to do. Put some of that magic into the title. You want to make sure that it’s something that grabs the reader. 
Denise: Right. Because that’s-like you said, that’s the first step. That’s what makes them click that link to read the actual content. As I point out to my clients, that title is usually the only thing people see not only in search results but on tweets, on Facebook status updates, on LinkedIn updates. Whatever it is, that’s the first thing people see. They don’t see the first paragraph or any of the rest of it. It’s the only thing you’ve got. 
Karon: You’re absolutely right. It’s got to have a lot of pop to it. Once you do that, then you go on to create a valuable blog post. I emphasize valuable because there’s a lot of shallow stuff out there that really-there’s a lot of words on the page but it doesn’t say anything. 
I found-when I was doing some research on Panda, the Panda update by Google-I saw on one of Google’s blogs where they had a checklist of things to do and not to do. One of them made this statement, “Does the article go beyond the obvious?” 
That’s my new mantra when I’m talking about writing blog posts or articles. Go beyond the obvious. Your readers can go to 10,000 other blogs across the globe surfing the internet and find blog posts that state the obvious. There’s no magic to that. You’ve got to go deeper. 
If you read your blog post and you look at it and think, “Okay, that’s valuable.” I have an action step or two or three. I have maybe some brand new news that just hit that maybe nobody else knows about yet and I’m giving my commentary on that. 
Make sure there is some sense of value to the post and that you’re not just rambling on unless of course it’s entertainment. Then you can feel free to ramble all you want.
Denise: You’ve got to be pretty entertaining if you’re going to do that. Go beyond the obvious. That’s excellent. 
Karon: I love that. Go beyond the obvious. Our last step here, if you have a blog where you’re looking for participation and I would venture to say 90% of them are, you want to encourage comments for that particular blog post. A lot of times people have just gotten very comfortable with you as the blog operator and they know you so they just communicate and you chat back and forth in the comment section. 
If you find that’s not happening, you can ask questions at the end of your blog post that might encourage people to make a comment. Sometimes people don’t want to-they’re a little shy. It’s sort of like public speaking but not really and they would rather not. If you invite them to do something with like, “Is this information new to you? Did you realize you could give x, y, z in so many different ways?” Maybe you can ask even after this expose on such and such a topic, are you still having questions? Are you still having issues using at home dental whitening products or whatever the topic may be. Something to get them to say, “Ah, here’s my invitation to communicate with the person who wrote the blog post.”
Denise: That’s another thing that often people say to me. “Nobody ever comments.” Well, you have to ask them to comment. You have to tell them what to do, ask them a question, and tell them how to do it. 
Karon: A lot of times you do. Most of the time people won’t take the initiative unless they’re extremely comfortable with you and have been following you for a long time. 
Denise: Most people are lurkers. That’s the bottom line.
Karon: They are. That’s the four, the four things I look for most when I’m creating a blog post. 
Denise: Perfect. As I mentioned, you’re not only a copywriting expert, but you’re also an SEO expert. Can you give us a couple of tips for optimizing blog posts for the search engines?
Karon: Absolutely. There are basically-I say basically because there’s more than this-if you are looking for a good framework of what to do to optimize, there are about 9 things you can watch for in a blog post. 
The first is keywords. As a matter of fact, SEO is all about text, period. Search engines are text machines that can’t watch a video, that can’t listen to an mp3 download. It’s all about words. You need to choose your keywords that you’re going to optimize your blog post for. Then you want to put those in some very strategic places including the title field-when you open up WordPress-up at the top it says, “Enter title here,” you’re going to try to put it in there. If it sounds funny, if you just can’t work the title so that the keyword fits in there, don’t worry about it. You have other places to put it. That’s a significant one. If you can get it in the title of the post, that would be great. 
You also have-down toward the bottom usually-an excerpt field. If you have an SEO plug-in, you may also have a title and description and keyword field down there that you can plug them into. Those will work great too. Throw all of those in. Usually, if I’m going to do the SEO, I might not worry about the excerpt field that WordPress has because most of the time the description you put in the SEO pack is going to be pulled out into the same places your excerpt would. It certainly won’t hurt anything to do them both. 
Then, if for some reason, you are using a different headline for your blog postings or a title, you can put it in the headline as well. Most of the time, I’d say 99% of the time, whatever you put in that top title field is also going to be your headline. You usually would do it once. 
You want to work it into the actual body copy of your blog post, the meat of what you’re putting up. Maybe you want to put a key phrase; a good guideline would be maybe once per paragraph. If it starts to sound odd, if it starts to sound like you’re repeating yourself too much, take some of them out. There’s not a hard and fast rule but it’s much more important that it sound natural than you get x% of keyword density when you’re writing a post. 
Denise: I’ve heard people say you’ve got to write for the reader, not for the search engines. Reader first, search engines second. 
Karon: Absolutely. 
Denise: I think I heard that from you. 
Karon: You may have. I say that. If you put images into your blog post, you can use the fields that WordPress, Blogger I imagine would give you the same thing-it would pull up for you. Most of the time you’re going to have maybe an image title or a caption. Maybe it would give you alternate text or something like that. All of those. There are three different fields right there that you can make keyword rich statements for. 
Denise: Okay, wow. 
Karon: Your call to action-if you happen to have one in the blog post “click here to register for the webinar” or, “join me on Facebook,” etc. Of course you want to put keywords in your tag cloud as well when you make that out. 
There are lots of places in a blog post that you can put these little keywords that will help you out. 
Denise: Is it possible to overdo it on the keywords if you’re putting them in all these different places? Or does each one have different weight and looked at as being important?
Karon: They’re all important. I would make sure that when you put them in they’re relevant for where you put them. I would not stuff the tags, for example, if you’re going to do a caption underneath a photo on a blog post, I wouldn’t put keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword. I would make a statement, readable by human beings. If it were your picture, we would put Denise Wakeman-if business blogging were the key phrase have business blogging expert-something like that would make perfect sense. 
Don’t get spammy on it. Use it legitimately and you’ll be fine. 
Denise: Great. I know that you’ve written a book and focused a lot on article marketing. I’m just curious, how do you define or is there a difference between article marketing and blogging?
Karon: There is a difference. Blogging has more flexibility I guess you’d say, than article marketing does because you can put articles on a blog but everything you find on a blog would not be an article. 
Denise: Good point. 
Karon: You can put in videos, you can put mp3, you can put photographic journal type things, a slide show or something to that effect. Article marketing would be something that can be used with blogging but not vice versa. 
Denise: Okay, excellent distinction. If a blogger is only going to implement one thing-you know a lot of people feel like there are just too many things I have to remember, there are too many pieces to this so I’m just not going to do it. Instead of moving that direction, if they’re only going to implement one thing to improve their blog post, what would you recommend that they do.
Karon: Absolutely, without hesitation, get to know your audience intimately. When you do, you will write better posts that are more specific to them. You will engage them. They will reward you with higher levels of loyalty. They’ll spread the word about you on social media networks into their list. Even if you flub on the SEO part, you’re still going to have a great source of traffic from all the word of mouth that’s going on and all the social media that’s going on. You absolutely-if you try to operate a blog and you don’t have a good connection with your audience, you’re not going to do so well. 
Denise: Okay. That is perfect. That’s a great place to wrap it up. Where can people find out more about you? I mentioned your website but you have a blog too, right?
Karon: Well of course I do. It’s www.marketingwords.com/blog. If they want to sign up to receive email updates which is usually about once a week, every now and then twice a week (I don’t bombard you with stuff), there are-it says on the form there are two ebooks they’ll get. Demystifying Keyword Research and also "Copywriting Makeovers" that shows some before and afters that’s really helpful. But, I tucked in a third one, sort of an unannounced bonus that they get if they are actually a copywriter I’ve included a new ebook that I’ve written, it’s completely free, called "5 Newbie Mistakes I Made When I Started My Copywriting Business and How You Can Avoid Them." 
Denise: Excellent. That’s a lot of value just for subscribing to your blog. Not only do you get the great blog updates, you get three great ebooks. I highly recommend it folks. 
Karon: Thanks very much. 
Denise: Karon? I know we could probably talk for about 3 more hours on this subject. 
Karon: Probably.
Denise: Maybe we should do a class together some time. 
Karon: That would be great. 
Denise: I want to thank you for joining me today. I really appreciate it. I think you’ve given some great nuggets for people that are listening to this. I hope they’ll go check out your blog. I highly recommend it. It’s www.marketingwords.com/blog
If you have questions or comments you are most welcome to post them on my Facebook wall or connect with me on Twitter @denisewakeman. Karon, what’s your Twitter ID?
Karon: It’s @karonthackston
Denise: Follow Karon. Connect with her if you have questions. I’m sure she would be more than happy to answer them. That’s all for now. Blog on!
Karon Thackston has published a short, thorough guide for bloggers called "Writing Blog Posts that Captivate and Convert." This info-packed ebook takes you through all the steps and offers terrific tips on writing a blog post that engages your visitors and converts them into customers… and ranks high with the search engines. And you can't beat the price — only $9! Click here to get it now.
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  1. says

    If you haven’t picked up a copy of @KaronThackson:twitter ‘s ebook on writing blog posts that captivate and convert, I recommend doing so soon. The price doubles form $9 to $19 on September 1.  http://www.buildabetterblog.com/2011/08/writing-blog-posts-that-captivate-and-convert.html 

  2. says

    Love the specific ideas. Also love the audio and transcript format.

    Question: Can you put too many tags on a post and get penalized by SEO?

    The reason I ask is I am still trying to find the right keywords for my blog. I have a small, tiny, almost invisible niche and typical keyword research shows zip.

    My strategy is to watch my blog’s Google Analytics to see what people are searching and how they find my blog, but it all seems pretty hopeless.

    I’m sure I overload the “tags,” hoping to get lucky and find matches. Just wonder if I am sabotaging my efforts.

    • Karon Thackston says

      Thanks Mary.  No, I’ve never heard of any page being penalized for too many keywords in tags.  Just make sure they are relevant. 

  3. says

    Quick question, Denise…

    How did you go about transcribing the interview?  I’m debating on how to go about preparing ours.

    Thanks for your help.

  4. says

    Many thanks to @KaronThackston:twitter for sharing her expertise on SEO and writing great blog posts. There’s so much more than we could cover in 20 minutes so grab a copy of her manual – heck it’s only $9 and it is jam-packed with great information you can apply immediately to your blog posts.  http://goo.gl/laZsZ