In 2015, we added a new feature to our radio industry blog called The Guest List. The concept is simple: We invite a notable person in radio (or a related industry) to write a “Top 5 List” for us. We launched it in part to take some of the workload off of Fred Jacobs, who has been blogging daily for over a decade. The feature turned out to be very popular, with many of our lists going viral on social media or attract a steady stream of search engine traffic. Here's a look at why this blogging strategy worked, and why radio stations should consider seeking similar blogposts from influencers in their markets.
1. It's an easy ask for the guest authors.
You never know what kind of reaction you're going to get when you ask people to write a guest blogpost. Some people have a lot of confidence in their writing ability, others don't. If people don't know what to write about, thinking of a topic can be a big hurdle. For these reasons, I have found that people are much more receptive to being a guest on a podcast than being a guest on a blog.
Fortunately, the Guest List format makes things a lot easier on our authors. We suggest a topic (though we allow them to choose their own if they want) and spell out the simple five-item list format. For most people, this makes the process of writing a blogpost much less intimidating than starting from scratch.
2. It allows us to cover topics that we wouldn't normally cover.
With more than three decades of experience, Fred has a vast knowledge of the radio industry. Still, no one person can know everything, and inviting guests to join us on the blog allows us to talk about topics or from points of view that we might not be able to otherwise. For example, we've invited attorney David Oxenford to write about legal issues and Professor David Whitt to talk about teaching music history.
At times, we've invited guest authors to write about a subject that we see mentioned on social media. I frequently see radio production directors grumble about salespeople on Facebook, so we asked Rob Naughton to write about the pet peeves of production directors. His post went viral.
Inviting guests to write has added breadth to our blog with positive results.
3. The headlines attract readers.
Deride it as “click bait” if you want, but the truth is, the “Top 5 _______” headline is a surefire formula for drawing traffic to your website. It works for a few reasons: First, it tells you exactly what the blogpost is about without giving away so much information that you don't feel like you need to actually read it. It piques readers' curiosity by making them wonder, “What are the five ______s?” They can only get the answer by clicking on the link.
Finally, it implicitly guarantees to the reader that they can scan the blogpost before they have to commit to reading the entire thing. When I conduct website usability tests, I see that nothing scare people off like dense blocks of text on a website. The advantage of lists is that the reader can scan the subheadings and then, if they like what they see, go back to the beginning and read the post more carefully.
4. It gives our guests a reason to share our blog with their followers.
Web content goes viral when influencers — people with lots of online fans or followers — share their content with those fans. Our guest authors are usually influencers with a slightly different following than our own. For example, when Mignon Fogarty shares her guest blogpost, it reaches a lot of podcasters. When Luke Bourma shares his, it reaches a lot of cord cutters. This has enabled our blog to reach beyond just radio broadcasters and find new fans in other arenas.
5. The format is search engine friendly.
One advantage of the Top 5 List format is that it forces you to include keywords in your blogpost title and throughout the post itself. Even if you don't know anything about search engine optimization, you're likely to write a search engine-friendly post with this format. It's hard not to.
That's why we've seen consistent traffic to Sheri Lynch's guest post, “The Top 5 Radio Topics That Get Phones Ringing.” Is turns out that lots of people are asking Google for hot phone topics, and Google keeps sending them to Sheri's post.
Radio stations can use Guest Lists to enlist influencers in their market to contribute posts to their blogs the same way that we do. Find some experts in areas that interest your listeners — food, local music, sports, beer, etc. — and ask them if they would like to write a post. Many will jump at the opportunity.
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