Daily wisdom on blogging

Killer Strategies for Writing Great and Engaging Blog Posts

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Creating new and better content is a challenge for all bloggers. Some of the bloggers are prolific and can write well. But writing well does not translate into great content. It is important to learn strategies for writing great content that works for promoting the blog and earning for the blogger.

Let us look into some of the Strategies. We will start with the different components of a blog post.

1. Good Title: Titles are important. They are what people use to get to your post. Darren Rowse says titles matter because they appear in:

  • Search engine results
  • RSS feeds
  • Links from other bloggers
  • Social media sites
  • On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them)

So, what should the titles be like?

  • Interesting and Engaging: The title should attract people. One should want to read the post. Brick Marketing Blog suggests using phrases like – “Best Practices For”, “Learn How To”, and “Tips for Success” and also not be afraid to throw in words like “amazing” and “awesome”. Kristi Hines writes in Business2Community blog that people get attracted to blogs which address an issue in the industry or the subject area that you are writing about. Darren suggests have titles which: (i) address the reader directly as “you” (ii) communicate a benefit (just as Kristi suggested) (iii) Ask a Question or create a controversy or debate and (iv) Add Humor
  • Keyword Optimized: It is important that the titles are keyword optimized with best chance of making it through the searches. To have the main words which people search with most often helps your blog post come up on searches and also grab the attention of the reader. Optimized Keyword titles help both, with the Readers attention and the Search Engine optimization.
  • Be True to Content: Never write titles which are loud, bombastic and unrelated to your content. Maybe readers may come once to your blog, but once turned off, they may never return. Shallow content buoyed by bombastic titles is a sure turn off.
  • Easy Language: Unless you are writing for some deeply intellectual niche group or Nobel Prize winning scientists, please write plain English. In a language that most can understand. Titles should come easy. On an RSS feed reader, the attention can be grabbed in less than 5 seconds. If it takes longer to convey your point, then your entire blog post was a complete waste. Hence, use direct and simple language instead of circuitous and convoluted constructions using words which only appear in Spelling Bee contests!
  • Short Titles: Short and direct titles have the best chance to make it to the minds of the readers.

2. Content

Several things add upto a good content in a blog post. First the basics –

(i) Size of the post

When a blogger starts writing, s/he is confronted with the eternal question – does size matter? The opinions, like always, vary. Some want it short (250-300 words) and some want in-depth articles. While I have seen most top bloggers write shorter articles like Darren Rowse (Problogger), my latest favorite blogger is Celestine Chua, Founder and Owner of Personal Excellence. Celestine writes very long blog posts which are engaging, extremely informative, actionable, and worth bookmarking.

Now, the jury may be out on the size, but I would say that if you have something quick and interesting to share, then by all means go for shorter blog posts. But, if you can write something engaging and actionable for people to treasure, then long, informative and useful posts will be treasured by readers far more. It really depends on your skill as a writer.

(ii) Structuring the Content

No matter what you are writing, with the attention spans that people have on any blog, if they don’t get your main points in the first 20 seconds, then your post doesn’t carry far. So structure your posts well. Darren calls it “Make your posts scannable”. So, create sections and highlight the important points.

(iii) Optimize Content

Creating a Search Engine friendly content is the greatest strategy for long term success for a blogger. Why? Because irrespective of what you think of Search Engines, they are the most important drivers of your content going far – for a very long time and ensuring repeated readership. As Adam Singer explains in this very useful chart, Search Engine and Social Web are not only closely linked to each other – they support each other!
The search engines have a profound impact on the visitors to your blog posts. Adam suggests a few ways to get better search results –

  • Write Fresh content – more ways to get the searches
  • Engines like updated sites

The latest changes introduced by Google for their Search algorithm – referred to as Panda – have brought in new changes to the Blogging content creation. Cyrus Shepherd of the SEOmoz writes on the how to handle and beat the Panda! The 5 deadly content sins he discusses are:

  1. Having a heavy template footprint where two pages have less than 5% unique content. When most of your pages are template content and repeating then it is considered duplicate content by SEOmoz
  2. Pages which have no content and are existing merely to link to other pages.
  3. Create original content, not only from other website – but also internally. It is a bad strategy to have overlapping and redundant articles which are just variations of one article. Panda is severe on that.
  4. Panda punishes high Ad ratio. Don’t plaster your pages with ads all over. Panda will punish it.
  5. If you create any machine generated content, please don’t anymore. Panda will get you. This may be true of sites using affiliate links.

Also read Fat Pandas and Thin Content

(iv) Write Engaging Content

We have optimized the content and structured it well, but we also need to write it in a way that engages the readers. What are some ways to do that? Here are some lessons from some bloggers.

Darren Rowse’s secret formula:

  • Describe Experience by being attentive to your environment
  • Use lessons from personal life. People connect with personal stories.
  • Have confidence in yourself
  • Revise and polish your articles if you have any post lying around for long.
  • Try random ideas and assimilate them together to create a new thought.

Susan Bischoff’s 3 tips:

  • Have a unique voice. Write in a way only you can. People appreciate uniqueness and freshness of a “voice” (writing style).
  • Offer something of value to the reader. When a reader spends time reading your content, s/he should come off getting something of value to cherish and hopefully keep for a long time.
  • Can people relate to you – the main protagonist in the entire writing? If not, they may not stick long.

Finally, don’t just write engaging content, you should connect with the readers as well!

BloggingPro suggests three steps to go beyond writing engaging content, but also connect with the readers.

  1. Answering Questions – creates Trust in the visitors and creates new content for your site.
  2. Getting to know your readers – Engaging with the readers lets you know the type of readers coming to your site.
  3. Ask Questions – leads to more comments from the visitors.

Conclusion:

When you write and spend appreciable time in doing so, it is imperative that not only does it reward you but it should also let you express yourself. If you write just for expressing and not for rewards, then it will not be sustainable. And if you write just for rewards, not for expressing your inner self and writer, then it will be worse than a bad day job! So, have the correct mix of both for enjoying a long and sustainable blogging life.

In the end, here are some interesting stats to mull upon.

Some interesting stats on Blogs and Readership time spans

  • Average reader spends 96 seconds reading the average blog (Sitemeter Stats)
  • The top ten blogs on the list had an average length of stay of only 37 seconds where as the bottom ten averaged 83 seconds
  • Blogs with comments scored a higher average than those without
  • Blogs receiving 60 visits per day had an average visit length of 100 seconds which was almost the same as blogs averaging 2000 visits a day (ave 97 seconds)

(Image courtesy: Hiking Artist)

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