Writing Blog Posts
Since Zapier was founded in October 2011, we’ve been publishing blog posts. Our content has become a valuable resource for both current and prospective customers, pulling in more than 1 million readers per month.
Where and Why We Blog
This content helps us build trust with people who look to us for advice about web apps and productivity. At Zapier, our content influences: Signups, product engagement, brand awareness and affinity, SEO, partner co-marketing, partner relations, and influencer relationships.
The Zapier Blog’s MO is to provide useful information for professionals so they can get more done. We do that by teaching them about:
- The best work apps and how to better use them
- Proven productivity strategies
- Business best practices
- Success stories and workflows that include Zapier
Schedule: Typically, we publish two long-form posts (2,500+ words) per week.
Zapier’s updates blog shows customers what’s new at Zapier and how they can further automate hundreds of web apps with the product, including:
- Introductions to new integrations
- Updates and improvements for existing integrations
- Zapier feature announcements
- Roundups of recent launches
Schedule: We publish posts on the updates blog whenever we launch or upgrade an integration. Usually that means we rack up 6-10 posts per week.
On Zapier’s engineering blog, we share our knowledge of the API space through technical posts to attract a community of developers. The blog covers:
- How to use new development tools
- What has and hasn’t worked for Zapier
- API implementation tips
- Lessons learned from the Zapier development team
Schedule: One post every two weeks, typically in the range of 1-1.5k words for regular posts 5k+ words for a code tutorial.
Zapier’s app reviews let us extend the app roundups on our blog with more detailed info. The also give us an opportunity to promote our best partners. Reviews include:
- A list of app features and pricing
- Screenshots of the inside of the app
- A walkthrough of how the app works, focused on what it does best
Schedule: Two reviews per week. Posts are an average of 600 words.
General Blog Writing Guidelines
Spend time on your title, lede, and top image
These are the three most important elements of any article. The title and top image bring readers to the page. The lede—the first one or two paragraphs of the post—convinces them to keep reading. For both tight writing and SEO, try to keep the title and the lede short, with the most important keywords at the beginning.
- Ideal title length: 70 characters or fewer, including spaces
- Ideal lede length: 40 words or fewer for the first paragraph
The top image should reflect the content of the post. Try to pick something as compelling and unique as possible.
Write like you speak
Unless you speak like a robot, that is. Use conversational, everyday language rather than the kind of copy you’d find in a press release.
Aim to educate, but don’t talk down to readers
Assume our readers are smart (they are!), but don’t assume they know everything. We often cover complex, technical topics, so imagine you’re talking to a friend or family member to make sure you’re being clear.
Keep it short and simple
George Orwell’s rules for writing are a good reminder that longer isn’t always better. Never use a long word when a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, do it. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
When in doubt, link
Whether it’s a link to a Wikipedia page for an uncommon term or the source of research you cited, links usually help your reader. Also, having at least one link for each 250 words of the article is good for SEO.
Keep linked text short, and link the most active text or keywords for the referenced article. Whenever possible, link to related content published on Zapier.
Make the page scannable
Break up large blocks of text with images, quotes, or other elements, such as bullet points. Only include images that make sense—don’t add them just to add them.
- Add captions if they’ll be helpful to readers. According to KissMetrics, captions get read four times more than body copy.
- Only use images that we hold the rights to, or images that are licensed for Creative Commons and allowed for commercial usage.
- Make sure the images are sized to the dimensions they will appear on the page (660 pixels or 1000 pixels wide).
- Make sure to include an alt tag for each image.
Remember: it’s all about the reader
Heed former Guardian editor Tim Radford’s advice for journalists:
- When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader.
- You are not writing to impress the scientist you have just interviewed, nor the professor who got you through your degree, nor the editor who foolishly turned you down, or the rather dishy person you just met at a party and told you were a writer. Or even your mother. You are writing to impress someone hanging from a strap in the tube between Parson’s Green and Putney, who will stop reading in a fifth of a second, given a chance.
So have fun, engage your audience, and reserve the personal “I” for only when it’s truly relevant and instructional for the reader.
Make sure there’s a clear takeaway. The reader should click away from our content with a tip to try or an app to add to their workflow—or, better yet, to more of our content they want to read or a Zap they want to add to their productivity arsenal.