Writing blog posts is a breeze. You smile as you add the final touches and lean back. There. All done.
Confident that this post is The Post That Makes You Famous, you look it over one more time. And fear takes over. You shrug it off—you’ve been writing blog posts for a while now. This one’s good. It’s great! But your fingers shake as you click “publish.”
And there’s no turning back.
Strobe lights and laser beams scorch your eyes as blank faces in the audience stare. You tweet the post and share it on Facebook. You check stats, and pulsating zeros flash across the screen. You stare as the crowd rises from their seats. Rotten tomatoes and raw eggs splatter as the entire blogosphere laughs at your post.
Your screen goes dark, but one word lights up, over and over: Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. It blinks furiously, faster and faster.
You rip the blog post out of the site like a napkin from a dispenser, and you run with it. You run, but your feet won’t move. You look back, and the blog post still glows on the screen.
Tears soak your cheeks as you collapse, clutching your blog post tightly to your chest.
I thought it was a good post. I thought it would rock the world! What did I do wronggggg?
Are you skipping these 5 essentials?
Writing blog posts doesn’t have to feel like a bad dream. We all succeed and we all fail—everyone does, especially when we’re learning something new like writing and blogging. It happens.
But no applause for a blog post you thought was good—tweets, shares, comments, page views—can feel almost as bad as your worst nightmare, especially when you’re a new blogger.
If you’re just starting out, your “theater” is probably pretty empty. You won’t get much applause at first. Maybe a few shares, hardly any tweets, no comments. Nada. That’s just the way it is.
And maybe a few readers loved your post, but they just didn’t have time to comment or share. They might not even have Twitter or Facebook or other social media accounts. Plus, you need a lot of readers before you start seeing any indication of popularity other than behind-the-scenes stats.
But as your audience grows, you can excel at writing blog posts and have sweet dreams instead of nightmares by following these tips.
1. Make sure your readers care about the subject.
You can’t get people excited about something they’re not interested in. It doesn’t matter how awesome you think it is or whether you think they should care about it. If readers don’t need the information you offer, they won’t pay attention to your blog posts.
Let’s say you have a passion for helicopter skiing—or heli-skiing, for short. It’s a very narrow topic with limited appeal, and you’ll have a hard time generating interest if you’re only writing blog posts about recent trips.
But if you broaden your subject into something uber-popular like personal development or small business, your post is more likely to keep the crowd in their seats.
What does heli-skiing have to do with personal development or business?
If jumping out of a helicopter on a snowy mountain is your idea of heaven, what else do you know about adventure and adrenaline? Can you connect it with developing self-confidence or overcoming fears in general? What about enjoying nature or stepping out of your comfort zone?
As for business, if you own or work for a company that organizes adventure sports like heli-skiing, you could help readers start and run their own small businesses. And that could mean all sorts of business activities, products, and services.
You could even expand into general skiing topics or winter sports. Throw in warm weather cross-training, and you might have a hit.
If you think your topic might be too limited, too broad, or too something else, figure out what readers need. You can read more here. (The post is a few years old, but it’s still applicable.)
2. Your post must solve problems.
Let’s say you’re the owner of a heli-skiing adventure company, and you have a website. You want more blog traffic and subscribers so you can sell more products and services.
If you’re just telling stories (fascinating though they might be), interest will quickly wane even among your best customers. And even if you’ve broadened your topics (see tip #1) you’ll soon run out of things to write about.
If, on the other hand, your posts target specific challenges that readers have, everything suddenly shifts.
What problems do heli-skiing adventurers have? What challenges or obstacles do they face? How can you solve them? What should skeptical beginners know?
Hey, I’ve never done it. I’ve never even been in a helicopter. What should I know before considering such madness? What skiing skills or fitness level should I have? What about clothing, safety, and avalanches? Should I pack food or water?
No matter your topic, you need to write for your readers. Not for yourself. Not to earn praise from other bloggers. It’s for your readers.
What do your readers need to know? How can you help?
3. Keep your international audience in mind.
Unless you’re writing blog posts for your friends, your mom, and a few blogger buddies, think of this:
Who are your readers?
Any blogger who tracks stats knows that visitors, subscribers, and customers come from all around the world. And that means your writing has to be internationally inclusive. That means writing for readers of any nation, any political persuasion, any religion, and any race.
You can assume, as a writer of English, that your visitors can read English. But don’t assume they get the joke about local politics. Don’t assume they have the same belief system. Don’t assume they’ve watched the same movies or read the same books—no matter how popular. Don’t assume they eat at Taco Bell, shop at Debenhams, or know that Coles is a supermarket chain in Australia.
And don’t assume your readers share the same seasons, either.
But sure, you can use standard, written English as it’s known in your country. You can use some slang if that’s your style. You can be personal and authentic. It’s not a big deal if some reader doesn’t know a particular word or two. Hey, there’s this thing called Google if they’re curious, ya know?
But don’t hinge important meanings on concepts others might not understand.
Everyone knows what a nightmare is, right? Of course. But comparing a failed blog post to “a fish kill in a gator swamp” just won’t work anywhere except for a few southern states in the US. And maybe only in rural areas at that.
But don’t worry too much. A few uncommon words won’t hurt a post; in fact, they might liven it up or add to its appeal. Just don’t overdo it. Here are two lists of specific British and American terms you might want to keep in mind.
4. Organization is essential.
A good blog post contains at least three elements:
- An introduction (intro) that describes the problem or challenge and empathizes with readers (shows you understand).
- Clear points, ideas, or recommendations that solve the problem. Numbered list posts (like this one) make organization a snap. Your main points don’t need to be numbered, however.
- A conclusion (outro, summary, or call to action) that sums up the main ideas, reiterates key steps, and/or encourages readers to go out and get ‘er done.
A call to action (CTA) can also occur separately at the end of the conclusion. You’ve probably seen one of these common CTAs: “Your turn! Share your thoughts in the comments” or “Get started by downloading my free ebook that shows you in detail how to [do the stuff in the post].”
You can get more info on basic outline format here.
You’ll want to work with other elements, too. If your main ideas aren’t numbered, for example, you’ll want to add subheadings, as in this post. Good headlines are important, too.
But let’s keep things simple for now. If organization is your main writing challenge, improving it will make a world of difference. And it can even banish those nightmares and get your readers cheering.
5. Your paragraphs should be short.
A tell-tale sign of a new or uninformed blogger is the length of the paragraphs. A “wall of text”—super-long paragraphs with little white space in between—will make even your best friend cringe.
Now it’s true that some online publications like Vogue or The New Yorker feature long paragraphs. That’s because, well, it’s because they’re Vogue and The New Yorker. Their readers are looking for in-depth analysis, not quick bits of information, and they’re prepared to take the time to sit back, relax, and read.
But your readers are probably scanning for quick help and information. Online readers might not have attention deficit issues as some experts believe, but they’re usually not kicked back on a sofa sipping a latte or a glass of wine, either.
Studies and tests, like this one, have shown that paragraphs of no more than 3-4 lines work best. It’s just easier on readers’ eyes and easier to find what they want.
But the number of lines can depend on the device. It can also depend on the width of your blog’s content area and the browser. Right now, Firefox fills most of my 21” monitor. But if I shrink it down to the width of a tablet or mobile device, one-liners become two-liners, and 2-sentence paragraphs of 3 lines become 6-8 lines, and so on.
So don’t depend on line counts too much, but do count sentences: shoot for 2-4 sentences per paragraph. And vary them: super short, medium, long. Simple or more complicated.
And let some sentences stand alone for impact.
Don’t go to extremes.
Too many single sentences results in choppiness, and it’s just as hard to read as a post with long paragraphs.
Wondering where to separate paragraphs? The break occurs whenever you start a new idea, even when the new idea is just a subtle shift within the topic section (like right now).
Try it. If you have a blog post with long paragraphs, copy and paste it into a word processing program and rework it. You might need to slash unnecessary information or wordiness, or you might need to add more. And you’ll probably need to add transitions, as well. But it’s a skill you need as a writer and blogger.
Practice all these tips and write blog posts better. The improvements—and the applause—will be worth the effort. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to develop new skills and implement them consistently to see results.