Can a blog change lives? It seems it can. And save marriages...

Award-winning author of The Transformational Consumer and expert blogger, Tara-Nichole Nelson has achieved both with blogs that are avidly read by millions of loyal readers. And there are a number of key learnings that her successful experience provides.

In the linked article below, she shares her secrets of great blogging. These are valuable for any business publishing content already, or thinking about it. Content is still king and used effectively, it's a superb means of creating a lasting and trusted nexus with your target audience.

What makes great content?

Hitting the attention-grabbing jackpot

Nelson's approach to identifying what consumers really want and what they best engage with, including her customer-mapping strategy, is simple and something that many of us could benefit from.

It's certainly influenced the way that our team is now approaching new content - both blog content and product-based content. It's even helped us to enhance several features that we're building into a new, consumer-facing online platform. I highly recommend trying this approach out for yourself, if you're looking to be or to create something competitive distinctive.

'The biggest lever we all have at our disposal is the undying human longing for transformation,' Nelson says. 'It's the most powerful motivation people have for buying products and consuming content. Their strongest desire is to live a healthier, wealthier and wiser life. That's why every New Year resolutions list looks exactly the same... Yet it's hard to make good habits and break bad habits... There's a gap between what we know we need to do...and what we actually do. That gap is a massive opportunity to provide solutions to these challenges with products and especially with content.'

Nelson's recommendations around your customers' journey, their 'stuck' and 'unstuck' factors, their micro-moments and the use of straightforward, vernacular language are really worth pause for thought.

Never engaging in 'clickbait'

Then there's 'clickbait'. One of the biggest cardinal sins of content publishing - where businesses publish content under what Nelson calls 'bombastic' headlines that never deliver and seriously damage brand reputation, rapidly.

Know your audience really well. The customer mapping approach above will give you great insights into that. Then only invest your time and efforts in generating deeply engaging and genuinely useful content for your audience. And make sure that the headline matches the substance of your piece.

Otherwise, what you're publishing is not just a waste of your time, but you're endangering reputation, sales and growth. In short, a few words in a couple of headlines could undermine all your hard work and investment in your business.

'Trust is earned in drips and lost in buckets,' Nelson points out. 'Every clickbait headline endangers customer trust.'

Not forcing it & using the right metrics

Nelson also warns against the dangers of writing content for content's sake and using 'vanity metrics' which mislead internal assessments of what's performing well.

Real engagement, the type that leads to relationships and sales, comes not from the easily measured clicks, impressions, likes and even retweets/shares of your content. These are simply a reflex and they don't lead to deep engagement with your brand or its products/services.

Instead, measure engagement success by the regular opening of your content, replies, comments, site visits, app downloads and product purchases. This 'deep engagement' is what matters.

What helps to get you there includes methods such as Nelson's 'message pillars' and the use of taboo zones. I particularly like these to keep your content on brand and always deploying coherent messaging.

Her recommendations on what are the right metrics and her examples of what worked for her are also very useful. They mirror factors that I've used (and still do) to measure content-marketing success. I agree that they provide a far more meaningful picture of how well your content is performing and your brand is perceived.

Ultimately, the only reason to publish content is to persuade someone to believe in your brand and to buy from you. If you're not getting these results in a reasonable amount of time, then your content is failing you, and you are failing your customers.

You know you're winning when the real growth-generating reactions become habitual amongst a growing, loyal audience. And this won't happen overnight, so don't expect it to.

Be prepared to play a longer game and to go deep. There are no shortcuts to building a relevant, loyal audience from whom, in time, you should be able to cultivate actual business purchases.