Three essential steps to great blog posts
Three essential steps to great blog posts
You’ve heard the mantra: content is king. If there’s one thing you must do to have a profitable, high-traffic blog, it’s provide excellent content. How do you ensure that you’re doing that?
1. Provide Details
Whether you’re writing a recipe or telling someone how to start a home business, give plenty of details. People want to know exactly how they can do what you’ve done, and they’ll appreciate the time and effort you put into the post.
- What tools do you need to start with? Whether software or power tools, knowing that you have everything you need before you begin is essential.
- How long does it take? If I’m starting a blogging business, I’d like to know if it’s going to take me six months or six years to get it off the ground.
- What skills does a person need to accomplish the goal? Will your readers need to be able to use a table saw, write HTML, or operate a sewing machine with some degree of skill? Tell your readers the minimum skills they’ll need.
- Tell exactly how you did it. Don’t write about increasing your traffic unless you tell how you increased it.
- Talk about what works, and what doesn’t. If you tried something and it failed miserably, write about it. Your readers may be able to avoid your mistake. At the very least, they won’t feel so foolish when they make big blunders of their own.
No matter how tempting, don’t hit the “Publish” button without first taking time to re-read and revise what you’ve written. Stephen King once said, “Only God gets things right the first time,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. If at all possible, let the post “rest” overnight or even a day or two before going back to it. The fresh perspective you get will help you spot problems.
On your first revision pass, look for problems with the overall message. Asking yourself these questions may help:
- What is the point you’re trying to make with the post? Is it clear?
- Do you provide enough examples to make your point or support your position? This is a good time to show your work to someone else and ask if they can follow it. If they have questions, you can bet your blog readers will too.
- Do you contradict yourself?
- Do you come off sounding angry, defensive, or negative? Is that how you really want to seem?
- If a new reader to your blog read this post, would they understand it?
- How is the organization? Do ideas move smoothly from one to the next in a logical progression?
- Do you have a solid opening? Remember, this is the “hook” that will keep people reading. Or not.
- Do you have an effective conclusion? Do you wind things up for the reader, point them to other sources, or provide some sense of completeness? Don’t leave your readers dangling.
Once your ideas are on paper — or, more probably, on screen — in an organized way, it’s time to get a little more serious. Begin looking at the overall structure of your post.
- Do you use headings, bold, underline, etc. to break up the text and make it easier to read?
- Are paragraphs relatively short? Remember, longer blocks of text are tough to read on the computer.
- Do you stick to one idea per paragraph?
- Look at individual sentences. Are they well thought out? Do you vary your sentence length?
- Look at your word choices. Do you repeat words a lot? Using the same words over and over (like I just did) can distract a reader.
On your last revision pass, you’ll catch any errors that you’ve missed up to this point. Although some would argue that blogging is a more relaxed form of communication and doesn’t require such careful proofreading, I disagree. Any time I read a post with grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, etc., I notice, and others do too. Don’t you owe it to yourself to put your work in the best light possible?
- Check grammar. Some typical mistakes are subject-verb agreement, incomplete sentences, and misuse of the apostrophe.
- Check spelling, and don’t trust the spell checker software to catch all your mistakes.
- Look for commonly misused words, like their/there for example. It’s and its are also commonly confused.
- Check punctuation. This is a great time to make sure you don’t overuse exclamation marks! (wink)
3. Provide Links
Link to other posts on your blog that cover the same topic. Your readers are eager for information, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you took the time to point it out to them. You’ll benefit from having readers delve deeper into your blog.
Blogging is a conversation between you and your readers, AND it’s a conversation between you and other bloggers. If someone else has written something similar, then link to it. Link to it even if their opinion differs. Your readers will appreciate the extra sources of information, and your open acknowledgment of other viewpoints.
Put it together
Learning to write top-notch blog posts doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you’re already a good blogger, or a great one, you can always improve. Look at some of your older posts and think about what you’d do differently now. Read other blogs and make note of what works well and what doesn’t. Use those as clues for what to look for — and work on — in your own posts. Better writing means a better blog and better reader experience. Both you and your readers will benefit from that.
In Novel Editing, I talk about how I go about doing a first pass revision on a piece of fiction.
Editing and Proofreading Strategies is geared more to academic writing but still offers some excellent tips that can apply to bloggers as well. Do you even remember what a thesis statement is?
Ten Tips for Effective Editing gives some more advanced pointers and is a good resource, but I disagree with her opening statement, “Great writing probably requires genius.” Unless you define “genius” as hard work and persistence, of course.
This post is a contest entry for Daily Blog Tips.