By: Kimberly Rotter
In 1995, an electrical engineer friend of mine who hated “writing papers” asked me to write a white paper that he needed to present to his CEO (who did not have an engineering background). The topic was highly technical and had something to do with how quickly your television finds the proper signal when you change channels (about ten nanoseconds). I ghost-wrote the report and the CEO later told my friend that it was the clearest, most understandable report he had ever read.
That experience happened when very few blogs existed. But the driving force behind the success of that paper is the same driving force behind a successful blog today. It is the ability to present valuable information in a way that an interested reader can easily absorb. Whether you plan to break down a complicated technical topic or present your latest tantalizing tofu recipe, much of the strategy is the same. Keep reading for some advice on how-to write a great blog post from start to finish.
A blog is one of the most versatile online tools a company has at its fingertips. Most anyone with an online presence today understands that a high quality blog will, over time, attract Google’s attention, nudging the site a little farther on its quest to reach the Internet’s Holy Grail – a high ranking.
Even non-commercial blogs share the goal of traffic. People write blogs so that others will read them. Whether personal or business, we want our blogs to reach as many people as possible, and to make the desired impression when they do.
The True Genius of the Blog
For a company, the blog is a means to a far more important end than a Google rank. It is the tool for building, nurturing and maintaining an ongoing relationship with the reader. The blog is where the conversation takes place – with your employee, your customer, your prospect, your student, your ally. Never mind that the conversation often seems one-sided. The tone and content you deliver will make or break the relationship you wish to nurture. The relationship can breed rankings, but a ranking cannot force a relationship.
— Fandom Marketing (@FandomMarketing) August 5, 2014
A great blog post might:
- Educate and inform the reader
- Entertain and amuse the reader
- Share experiences with which the reader might identify
- Tell a story to connect with the reader
- Keep the reader up to date with company and/or industry news and current events
- Establish expertise by sharing knowledge, opinions, tips
A post is worthless if it doesn’t convey information that is useful or interesting to the reader, is poorly written, or contains information that is old or boring or presented in a manner that is difficult to read.
8 Characteristics of a Great Blog Post
1. Intriguing Headline. Very few people who see your title will actually click on it. Many a post has been written about crafting great headlines that inspire the reader to click. Data show that Internet readers love numbers, lists, worsts, urgency and promises. Scan popular blogs and you’ll find an abundance of titles that look like this: “The 10 Worst Things to Say on a First Date,” or “How to Relieve Stress in 15 Minutes,” or “Surprising Navy SEAL Survival Tips.” These examples may sound tabloid-ish, especially for a company that enjoys a sophisticated, mature image. But the analytics don’t lie. You will garner more clicks with a cleverly crafted title than with a dull one. There is no single perfect formula for writing great headlines, but give this element of your post the attention it’s due.
Headlines that work well often have:
- 6-11 words
- Descriptive subtitle
- Negatives (worst, ugliest, unhealthiest, never)
- Compelling adjectives and adverbs (sexiest, simplest, most useful, wicked, absolutely hottest)
- Personal relevance (you, your child, your boss, your date, people who [fill in the blank])
- Rationale (reasons, tips, tricks)
- Trigger (why, how, the best times to)
- Promise (happier, more productive, win the game, improve health)
- Double-whammy (two alluring promises in a single headline)
2. Well Written. Use excellent grammar. Get to the point. Look for ways to cut the length. Proofread and edit. Shorter sentences and paragraphs improve readability. Improved readability means a greater chance that you’ll keep your reader’s attention to the end. Your writing doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer. Many sophomorically written popular blogs maintain a large readership. But errors and bad writing quickly destroy credibility, and without credibility you will lose readers.
3. Good Visual Presentation. If you are lucky enough to inspire a reader to click on your title, you have about 10 nanoseconds to capture her interest (alright, probably a little longer, but not much). You might impart life-changing ideas or write like Hemingway, but if your post is text-heavy with little white space and no headings, a large percentage of visitors will simply click away rather than spend time figuring out what your point is. Furthermore, most readers who stay are very unlikely to read the entire post. Rather, they will skim it and try to absorb the main points in a short amount of time.
Use headers unless your posts are under 300-350 words and very narrowly focused. Use the Heading tag, not your own creative font size manipulation skills. It’s easy to do in Word, WordPress and other popular blogging platforms. Learn how. In addition to helping the reader, Headings also have meaning in search engine algorithms. So you’re helping your site’s SEO when you employ them correctly.
Use bold type, bullets and numbered lists to break up text and emphasize important sections.
4. Credible. Credibility builds trust, sometimes instantly. The most credible blog posts are written by a subject matter expert or contain information directly attributable to one. Never represent an idea as your own when it isn’t. Include links or footnotes that point out sources you use. Furthermore, learn which sources in your industry are reputable and avoid the Wikipedias and other sources that are not considered authoritative.
5. Valuable. Value means different things to different people. A post must have value insomuch that the reader perceives it to be worth the amount of time and effort he invested in reading it. The value can be in any form – entertainment, information, news, insider tips, a sought-after opinion or an explanation. Of course, the ultimate show of value is when the reader shares the post with others or joins the conversation by leaving a comment. If your blog posts regularly inspire tweets, shares and comments, you’re doing it right.
Readers have demonstrated that their favorite posts are the ones that dish out secrets and usable information. Giving away expert knowledge in a meaningful way elevates your credibility and builds reader loyalty.
6. Appropriate Length. Blog posts technically have no minimum or maximum length. That said, a post should be focused on a single main point. Some news or current events can be covered in 300 words. Posts with 1,200-1,500 words are common in many niches. If you’re writing a how-to or other expert’s insight post, don’t be afraid to write 2,000 words.
If you decide to publish a very long blog post, pay special attention to the layout and visual presentation. I recently came across a blog post nearly 10,000 words long. The first 350 words consisted of an introduction and a clickable menu that allowed me to jump to the sections that looked most interesting to me. The length works because the post is formatted nicely. Few readers read every word anyway, so a friendly layout becomes more critical as length increases.
For topics that require extensive coverage, consider writing a series of posts or a single white paper or e-book. If you’re not sure what a good post length is, look at blogs you enjoy reading.
7. Intelligent Links. Use internal links to related content on your site when they make sense. In particular, look for opportunities to link to pages you want to rank. Use external links when you want to enlighten the reader to related information that appears on another site, including pointing to a source of information cited in your post (links are not required, though, to cite a source). Avoid using too many links unless you are really trying to drive a point with relevant examples. If you use affiliate links, be sure every page where they appear displays the required disclaimer (don’t bury the disclaimer on an About page).
Links are an important part of Google’s algorithm for determining a page’s value, so choose your anchor text – the text you highlight and add the hyperlink to – carefully, whether the link leads to an internal or external page.
8. Appropriate Images. Some bloggers swear that every post needs a great image or graphic. The truth is that it really depends on the industry. A well thought out online presence usually includes some combination of text, images and videos, but stock photos can be predictable and many successful blogs have chosen to streamline their designs, leaving the images off. Think about your blog content and whether images are critical to the message. If you’re blogging about food, you need high quality images. If you’re blogging about finance, perhaps not.
And the tried-and-true recipe for a great blog is…. highly complex! Now you know one writer’s perspective on how to create a great blog post. I didn’t even scratch the surface of site design or SEO, both of which are critical to the success of any blog. Great bloggers also understand keyword research and website analytics, experiment with posting at different times and on different days, and even participate as a reader on other blogs that have something in common with their own.
So, what makes a blog great to you? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Meet Guest: Kimberly Rotter
Kimberly Rotter is a regularly featured blogger on several websites. She manages content for several blogs and leads a team of freelance writers in a wide range of specialties.
Want to be featured next? Fandom is looking for social marketing rock stars to share their stories, case studies, tips and expertise. Check out our blogging guidelines and contact us or tweet us @FandomMarketing today.