Corporate blogs are no longer the bugaboos that most CEOs tried to avoid, when it came to content marketing. Even smaller companies have begun to embrace blogging and regular posting of articles (or was that a blog? an essay? a column even?) on blogs.
However, blogging being an almost-informal method of writing, most companies and content managers wonder what really they need to be writing & what they have already written and published anyway. Most content writers, even the ones who claim to have years of experience, use terms like blog posts, articles, analysis, essays and articles interchangeably. Only, these words are not interchangeable. Each of these names is literally different content formats that you and I need to take very seriously.
Whether you are a CEO or have been writing for a company’s blog, understanding the nuances and differences between each of the major content formats will help you to achieve what you really want – a good readership that values what you write or probably spend a small fortune on getting written. In this article, let us take a look at the major content formats and try to understand a few basic principles about them before you start writing a piece of content.
Ideally, we need to be calling them blog posts, which are published on a ‘blog’. However, people tend to use the words “blogs” and “blog posts” interchangeably & I will not argue against that. A blog is typically an informal piece of content, for which, academic level of research is not necessary.
An opinionated and well-thought piece of content, which tells the reader how you feel about a certain topic or issue, can be called a blog. A blog can be informative too but only it is not an authoritative piece of content. It works well for SEO and also for people who do not want to invest time in reading lengthier & more difficult kinds of content pieces.
Usually, we recommend that blog posts need to have somewhere between 400 and 700 words so that people are not bored & that your opinionated piece does not sound like a lengthy monologue. Blogs need to be funny, attention grabbing, honest and opinionated. If you have something to say and if that does not need a lot of references & citations, you need to be blogging about it.
A column is a slightly longer and a little more structured blog. Columns are often found in newspapers and magazines & they range between 700 to 1,400 words. It is a good idea to pay more attention to grammar, style and punctuation when it comes to writing columns. The very fact that it is lengthier ensures that more people arrive at your page to read it. You need to make sure that a column at least tries to use AP Style guide.
Columns, usually, tell a story or discuss something of importance. They might also be lengthier blogs that are just as opinionated. They might argue against or for an idea and ask the reader to take an action. In fact, they can be a lot of other things except they are not very academic or really well-researched.
They are subjective in nature though objectivity is always welcomed in any kind of writing. An introduction, a body and conclusion are central to the idea of a column. This is a well-respected format and companies need to employ this more often than they, usually, do. While blogs are easier to read and shorter in length, columns attract the more serious type of readers who might also be the ones who are more interested in your products and services.
Loosely used, blogs, columns, features and just about anything that is published for consumption on websites in the form of an ‘article’ is an article. However, it is nice to specify what an article could be. Though there are no hard and fast rules, it is good to think of a article as a well-researched piece of content that cites sources & mentions other specific data that supports an argument or a piece of information.
With that in mind, an article is significantly more difficult to write. We speak about articles in the same breath as an article that would be published by an academic journal. Yet, online articles published on company websites can be well-researched pieces of content that are not very opinionated and are instead, informative.
They could be anywhere between 1,000 to 4,000 words. The shorter the better, as people simply do not have the patience to read very lengthy articles online. People ask us if a blog can be an article and an article a column. The answer to that question is it depends. If you wrote a blog post that cites a number of references and is more informative than entertaining, yes, a blog post can be an article.
An essay, on the other hand, is similar to articles and columns in length but they do not have stipulated rules of citing, though it is preferable to do so. It is uncommon to publish essays on company websites though not necessarily a bad idea. Essays, like articles, require considerable thought and there has to be a profound reason to write one.
Whether it is an argumentative essay or a persuasive essay, a writer will need to spend more time in structuring it and adding style. An essay often is a piece of literature and thus, has to consider rules that are related to non-fiction writing. For example, an essay needs to be stylish and informative at the same time.
It needs to be a work of literature that is looked up to and not just referred to for the sake of information, like one would refer to a well-referenced article. That way, we believe writing an essay is even more difficult than writing an article. Nevertheless, it will earn you more respect from readers, if you occasionally publish well-written and well-edited essays on company websites.
Features and analysis
Feature articles or feature stories are, usually, entertaining and explain a topic, trend or issue. Often confused with an ‘article’, what companies post in the name of articles or blogs are, usually, features. If we write about the benefits of HTML 5 when it comes to iOS devices, it is a feature story on HTML 5’s benefits. It is not necessarily an article unless it cites a number of other published articles.
Moreover, a feature is, usually, entertaining to read and it starts with an introduction & later builds up. On the other hand, an analysis is similar to a news analysis, when we speak of it in the context of web content writing.
We could write an analysis about the way HTML5 has impacted modern browsing. We could cite a number of sources and write a well-researched analysis. The difference between a feature and an analysis is often blurred but a feature is, usually, more reader-oriented in nature. Neither the feature nor the analysis is like a blog or a column because the latter are, usually, opinionated.
What you need to post on your company website?
When you decide to have a website for your company and update it with regular content, you have already made the right decision. By knowing the different types of content that you could publish and by making sure that you know what you are writing, from a structure point of view, you will be able to optimize your content better.
In our opinion, a fine balance between all the types of content listed above and adding a few interviews once in a while can be a great way to crystallize your content strategy.
If you are unable to write all the content yourself, you could always outsource some of your burden to professional writers who not only will be able to help you but will also be able to write what is required for your target audience. Do not limit yourselves to writing blog posts of 250 words as that has often been done repeatedly.
Instead, choose to include all types of content with varied word lengths and chances are, your readers will remain interested for a long time too. Posting similar content all the time can lead to monotony and your readers will probably not like it much. Maintain a balance and utilize the different formats of content that are available to you.