Today we’ll look at how to write a thought leadership blog post, which are longer, better, and harder to write than a 400-word post an intern could write.
As a reminder, there are two types of blog posts:
- Blog posts that take more than 30 minutes to read, contain 2,000+ words, custom graphics, step-by-step instructions, tons of outbound links, and advanced formatting.
- Blog posts that transfer information quickly and efficiently.
Well, I’m sure there are others, like photo-heavy travel blogs, step-by-step recipe posts, etc., but for general business purposes, there are two. Today we’re going to talk about the first type of post, sometimes referred to as a thought leadership blog post.
Not easy to write, but worth it. Here we go.
What Is A Thought Leadership Blog Post?
When you read a thought leadership blog post in its entirety, it will usually change your worldview on a niche topic.
Thought leadership blog posts are long (2,000+ words) and take a topic from start to finish while combing through every detail. To keep all that organized, they need to be organized with lots of section headers. Occasionally, you’ll see a nifty table of contents with anchor links to those sections throughout the post.
They contain multimedia—photos, screenshots, gifs, videos.
They link to a few of your own website pages, but more importantly, a few outside websites with high domain authority.
You probably don’t read a thought leadership post every day. These are the posts you save to Pocket and read on a Saturday morning or the next car ride—well, if you’re a geek like me, that’s what you do.
Here are a couple of recent examples from the marketing world (they’re long, but sooo worth it).
Note: I used examples from the SEO industry for a reason—if you’re going to spend 10+ hours on a writing project, you better make sure you’ve selected a keyword that makes sense for you business, used on-page SEO best practices, etc. Too much to get into for this post, but lots of resources like this one and that one to guide you.
Writing a thought leadership piece is difficult for several reasons:
- You need to be a great writer, or be willing to exert maximum effort
- You need to be an expert in your topic
- You need resources like custom graphics, videos, etc.
- You need to feel very at home on the Internet, comfortable with promotion techniques, etc.
Thought leadership posts are as close to a work of art that a content marketer is capable of delivering. At this point, since I’ve made it sound so scary, you might be wondering:
Why should I even bother writing a thought leadership post?
The Internet is flooded with content every day—more today than yesterday, and more will be uploaded tomorrow than was today.
Google has to index all these pages, and since its job is to try and show you the best result possible for your search query, it’s no surprise that content that’s thorough rises to the top.
People tend to link more often to thought leadership content, and we all know how important backlinks are to SEO.
As user experience factors like dwell time and CTR become more important ranking signals for Google, and they are, thought leadership content will become necessary for publishers to cut through the noise.
In short, if you want to rank for a competitive search term, thought leadership is your only option. And you’re still going to need to promote it like crazy and get lucky to rank well.
The upside, which should be obvious by now, is that you or your company is now the published thought leader for that topic. Neat.
Sold? OK then.
How Do I Write A Thought Leadership Post
We’ve covered most of this already and you’ve already seen several examples, so I’ll just re-cap quickly:
Find a topic you’re an expert in
And I mean it. You should be steeped in your topic enough to know the pros and cons, the big picture, the nuances, and everything in between.
If you haven’t ever raised your voice while debating this topic, you might want to do some more research.
Do the keyword research
Understand the competition around your keyword before you start writing. Look for opportunities.
Write the SOB!
Nobody will stick around for 2,000+ words of fluff—make it good. You’re on your own here, kid 😉
Format your content
You should have section headers every 200 words or so. If you’re feeling especially fancy, make a table of contents with anchor links to each section, like this.
Break up the wall of text with photos, gifs, and video, if applicable. This is not an optional step, but it doesn’t have to be super fancy—annotated screenshots work great.
Promote your post like crazy
So many promotion techniques, so little time. Brian Dean recommends at least 2 hours of promotion for every 1 hour of writing, and he even has a neat trick to reach out to influencers before you’ve published. Hey, you’ve spent this much time writing a thought leadership post, might as well get all you can from it.
That about covers it. On a personal note, thought leadership blog posts I write for clients typically take between 6-10 hours, not including promotion or graphic design. This is due to the volume of research, depth of formatting, etc. Don’t skimp on the quality.