Writing a great blog post has more to do with planning and editing, and less to do with punching out a fantastic idea. When I began blogging several years ago, many of my pots fell flat -- bam, boom, dead. They had maybe one reader. Why? The idea was solid, but the execution was poor.
Writing a blog serves to inform and intrigue readers. At least, for me it is. Some blog posts are purely informative; others seek to twist the reader -- fuel passion, or insight creativity in my readers. A careful balance is required to succeed. Blog posts require several planning points to succeed:
Develop a Readable Idea
What does this mean? Don't fly off the typewriter with some lavish, phenomenal idea that cannot be cultivated into words. As writers, we do have thrilling ideas, but not all thrilling ideas can be written (performed maybe; or written into fiction). Before writing a blog post, you need to develop an idea that can be written. If you want to write about a parenting style or provide an opinion on writing fiction, you need to develop a process that includes research, writing, revision, and then evaluate the need and purpose.
What does your blog post do? Once you know what you want the post to function as, then you can develop the writing. A how-to will need steps; an opinion piece should follow journalism principles; a piece on parenting should include an intro, several headings, the body, and short conclusion.
The idea must intrigue your audience. Who reads your post? Is it Tammy, 43, working professional/mother who looks for new ideas or essays that let her think? Or is it Molly, 24, single, a woman who works, goes to school, and whittles wood by night? Figure it out. And then find your idea.
Choosing a Title
Yup. This title business is serious. Did you know that most journals, newspapers, and major magazines hire folks just to write headlines? Headlines make your post. It is how Google Bot picks you up in a search (or Bing, Yahoo...whatever). Say you are writing about "training your Siberian Husky" and you title your piece "Sit Pup." A Google search will bring links to teaching your dog to sit. Okay, that's okay, but you eliminate thousands of users from finding you.
A better headline would be, "Dog Training: Methods for Teaching Your Siberian Husky to Sit"
Users are not going to search for your headline. Users are going to search these keywords: "training ; dog; Siberian husky; sit; methods"
Including dogs and Siberian Husky in the headline gives you double the users potentially looking for an article on dog training. Omit one word and you've lost potential.
A title needs to include the guts of your article and appease the general mass. Sure, you specialize in husky training, but can't a person training a Labrador use your article too? Definitely.
Open Your Blog with Pizzazz
I love that word: pizzazz. It's a weird combination of "piss" and "ass" that somehow translate to glamour. Awesome. See that right there is an example of an "awesome" idea that doesn't convey meaning. Just wanted to point that out. In fact, that may offend some of my readers. Readers: note, unfiltered sometimes must occur to prove a point.
Five Great Ways to Open Your Blog Post:
1. Use the first line to prove to need to your readers. Readers need a reason to read the post. What does it give them? Are they wasting time, or are they learning something new.
2. Ask a question that leads to "yes" as the answer. Getting your reader to answer yes to your question involves them in the post. And they may "buy" into reading the rest to discover what intrigued them about the question.
3. My favorite: Start with something fascinating. The first line of your blog post should be outstanding. Surprise your readers. Make sure that it appeals to your topic at the same time. This can be a story, something controversial, or a bold statement about the topic.
4. Make a promise you intend to keep. Open your blog post with the guarantee to learn something. This is bold, but it can work if you know the reader will earn something.
5. Paint a picture. Begin your post with a brief moment that led you to write this post.
Make Your Points
Most importantly, your post must have a purpose. Prior to writing the post, jot down them down and execute them beautifully. For example, this post has a point: teaching you how to create a great blog post. The points of this post are idea, title, opening line, points, a call to action, revision, promotion, and conversation.
The post will not stray from those points. Sure, a tangent may be inserted, but it will deal with blog posting. When you write a post, the ideas need to flow from one point to the next. Each point must give the reader something. Your dog training article could be set up with three points (separated by headers).
Avoid making too many points. Many fresh bloggers go off and write a 9,000-word blog post on a topic, when they could break it up into 4-5 blog posts (a series) and gain readers who actually read the words.
Get Your Readers to DO Something
Anything. A Blog post that engages readers to do a task or try something is a successful blog post. A call to action can be to read another blog post, to make a craft, to buy an eBook...get the point? Or it could be as simple as asking your readers to leave a comment after reading the post.
Being an active contributor invites your readers to be active too.
Simple Call to Action Methods:
Revise Your Blog Post -- Or Look Like an Idiot
We've all done it. Written something, even spell-checked it, only to get an email from a dedicated reader pointing out an atrocious error. Eww. After you have written the post, you need to do these steps to revise and polish your blog post:
1. Do a spell check that evaluates spelling, grammar, and style!
2. Read every single line to find mistakes commonly missed by spell checking programs.
3. Use the Hemingway program to evaluate for active/passive sentences.
4. Read and decide if the order is the best choice. If not, rearrange until it reads best.
5. Check that all links within the post work.
Promotion and Conversation
These two points work together, thus they belong under the same heading. After the post goes live, you are not done working. Not yet, at least. To get your blog off on the right foot (hahaha cliché), you will need to promote the piece. There are several, hard fast ways to promote your blog:
Once you have begun your marketing plan, it is important to get involved in the dialogue of your post. Your post can foster a community for your readers. If a reader posts a comment, aim to respond within 24 hours. It tells your reader that you are engaged in their thoughts --- and that your blog isn't a one-way mirror.
Ask questions to generate a conversation. If a comment is lingering on your post, ask a provoking question to get the reader (or other readers) to make another comment.
Promoting and conversation work together to give your post a life. Don't forget how important it is to talk to your post and the readers who take the time to read your work.
Do you have any methods for developing a great blog post?