Seems that everyone’s churning out content these days – but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to write a really good blog post that piques interest and keeps it. Here are just a few tips that might just help your blog writing stand out from the crowd.
1. Write an attention-grabbing title. I usually have a basic title that states what my post is about while I write it, but then when I am done, I’ll spend a decent amount of time thinking about different versions of the title that grab attention in some way. After all, in this age of information overload, your boring title may be the reason your blog post gets ignored – even if the post itself is deep and wonderful.
2. Have an opinion. This is not the news. We already have plenty of sources for getting objective facts and luke-warm, non-committal analysis. Blogs give us the opportunity to learn more than that–by giving us access to the unique insight and intelligence that YOU are bringing to the table. Don’t waste that opportunity. Are you worried that you’ll be wrong, or that someone will disagree with you? Don’t. Because sometimes you ARE wrong, and pretty much every time there is someone who disagrees with you, and in the blogosphere, that is all welcomed and expected. In fact, it is through those conversations and disagreements that we all learn, and that makes us all better. Don’t rob us all of that opportunity just so you can play it safe.
3. Have personality. I suppose that is strange advice, because we all by default have personality, don’t we? Yet in all our years of schooling, we have learned to remove that personality from our writing. It has been considered “unprofessional.” Well, not so in blogging. This is not about being silly our outrageous or even overly serious just for the sake of being so. This is about being you. If you’re pensive and take a good amount of time to get to your point, then so be it. If you’re snarky and feel the need to include subtle emoticons, then do that. Be true to yourself, and your readers will appreciate it, even, to be honest, if it rubs them the wrong way. Be authentic in your writing. Write like you talk.
4. Write for yourself. Blogging is ultimately a personal art. The life and experience of the blogger is typically the source of inspiration and insight. So listen to yourself. Pay attention to what matters to you in your work and write about that. If you find yourself shaking your head at what you just read in Harvard Business Review because it seems contradictory to the really cool experience you had at your company retreat, then take a few minutes and write up your thoughts. Tapping into what matters to you typically generates good blog posts.
5. Write for your audience. In the digital age, the user is the center of the universe. So for blogging, that’s the reader. This can be a challenge, since readers are often an eclectic group, but this means you need to be paying attention to the comments and to which posts are getting the most traffic and shares on social media. Stay in tune with what the readers care about, and make sure you give them enough of what they are looking for. Sometimes this means writing posts that you might feel are basic or introductory, but that is still meeting an important need.
6. Ask for others’ opinions. Many of us are still wary of writing down thoughts that feel unformed or incomplete – but those moments of opening up your ideas to the feedback of others create really great blog posts sometimes. Tell your readers that you’re working your ideas out as you write them. Ask specific people, if you can, directly in the post or indirectly afterwards, to share their comments in response. Bloggers love to talk to other bloggers. We used to do a lot more of that, in fact, in the early days. I’d love to be asked publicly in someone’s blog post to comment on something related to the things I write about – and it doesn’t matter at all if I know the other blogger or not, as long as the post is relevant and the topic is worth discussing.
7. Think curation, not just creation. We often get stuck staring at that blank page, thinking “I need to write something about x” – but your blog feeds (the sources you read) are FULL of industry content you might be able to report on, refer to, disagree with, or otherwise mention for some useful reason. Collect stories that interest you–every once in a while, you’ll see a theme emerge that you can write about and link to multiple other articles. But don’t just aggregate by listing a bunch of articles – provide context and your own specific perspective as to why you are grouping things.
8. Mix up your media. Include videos, slide decks, embeddable infographics – and always use good images. Visual content attracts the eye and images can be used metaphorically as well as literally to underline the point you are making. And for pete’s sake, if you’re still using stock images, please stop. Search Flickr for photos with a Creative Commons license. Think real, not fake.
9. Be generous. If you are lucky enough to have a decent-sized audience for your blog, share it with others who have good content (even promotional content) to share. If a colleague needs help promoting a relevant webinar, write about it. If you’re asked to be part of a nonprofit blog campaign, do it. If someone is doing something super cool in your industry, interview them. Karma is important when it comes to building loyalty among your readers and only writing about your own stuff is boring – even if you’re super smart and expert at what you do.
10. Think like a blogger. This means that every experience *could* be something worth sharing on your blog. That great article you read, that debate you had with a colleague, that vacation break that made you reconsider a business decision, that conference you went to… This is something that may be partly innate, that those of us who have blogging in our blood just do naturally. But I think it’s a skill that can be easily learned – and you start by keeping a bunch of ideas in draft somewhere. Keep a list, or draft posts in your blog platform, or notes in a moleskine, or clippings in a folder, or snippets in Evernote… Good bloggers are always thinking about things they could blog about. They always have an eye out for topics or stories or happenings that might interest their readers. It’s not about having any clue what exactly they will write – but having some place to file away ideas until they should come to fruition. And specifically thinking about what readers might want, what might resonate.
Blogging is a collaborative experience – opening yourself up to that in large and small ways is ultimately the key to every great blog post.