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If you have something important and relevant to say, why aren’t you shouting it from the rooftops? Why aren’t you sharing your knowledge with the world? Why aren’t you blogging?
For a lot of people, blogging is a painful process of trying to drudge up some interesting topic to write about, struggling to piece together a post, publish it, and then repeat the process the next day. A 2008 Technorati survey showed that 95 percent of new blogs are abandoned.
That’s astonishing, and I’m certain a large part of that is due to the fact that it’s actually harder than people think to write interesting blog posts that not only draw a crowd, but keep a reader’s interest and make them want to come back to your site later on.
Yes, there are lots of SEO techniques and SEO tools that you can use to draw in traffic, but what good is bringing in the crowds if they just take one look at your writing and leave immediately? In this article, I’m going to draw from about a decade of blogging experiences and lessons learned and provide you with a list of 5 critical things that make up a killer blog post.
First – Focus On Your Writing
In his article on 5 reasons your site isn’t successful, James mentioned spelling and grammar at the top of the list. There’s a good reason for this, but it goes beyond bad spelling and grammar. Even the best writers out there trip over themselves and occasionally let a grammatical faux pas slip in – in fact I’m constantly emailed by grammar fanatics about mistakes in my articles from over three years ago!
Still – most of my own blog posts either here or at any site I’ve ever written at have performed well. People often assume it’s because of my experience with SEO, but the truth is that’s not the whole story. The ability to write well results in more visitors over time. To prove this, let me pick on one particular MUO author as an example.
From MUO’s list of top performing authors over the last couple of months, Chris Hoffman is 3rd on the list.
Given, many people are probably on the list in large part because of the number of articles published on the site over so many years, but I can tell you one name that is consistently on this list is Chris Hoffman. Chris hasn’t been here as long as many of us, but he still makes the list.
Why is that? There are a lot of reasons, but I believe the biggest reason in his case is quality of writing. He has a strong command of the written word, rarely submits posts with mistakes, and his writing encourages strong reader feedback. He is only one example of many high-quality writers at MUO, but the example proves how important it is for you to get your house in order with your writing skills if you want your posts to do well.
Use some of the online resources Tina provided that can really improve your writing skills. Sign up for free online college courses on writing. Sites like OpenLearn and many other sites offer courses on Creative Writing.
I am focusing on this the longest because it’s the most important. Fine-tuning your creative writing skills is like training hard before a boxing match or stretching before a marathon. If you’re going to go the distance and make a success of this blogging thing, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the skills to pay the bills. So train. Practice. Perfect your craft and then you’re ready to move on.
In the past here at MUO I’ve covered a lot of content about using SEO keyword analysis to figure out what people are searching for online. However, that should only be the beginning of your topic search, not the end. If you have a blog about web design and you’ve discovered that a huge volume of people search for “background image css” – that’s fantastic! In the “old days”, many bloggers would write a post with that phrase in the title and scattered throughout the article and call it good.
Other sites still make use of keyword stuffing, even after Google has gone through several recent updates that destroyed the pagerank of most sites that still do it.
The point here is that the motivation for doing research on what people are searching for isn’t to use those exact keywords all over your article. The point is to take a phrase like “background image css” and try to figure out the intent of the search engine user. What are they asking for?
To figure that out, do a Google Search on the topic and look for the highest quality and authority websites that cover the topic. See how their articles cover the topic. In this example, Mozilla.org is a good site to check.
This shows that the search term applies to how to use the background-image property in CSS. Using the popular search phrase in your title and excerpt is still a good thing to do, but more importantly is to focus your article more on answering the intended question of the search query.
Beyond what people are searching for, you should also strive to create a good portion of completely creative and innovative posts on topics that no one has written about. This can be hard, but that’s where reading blogs and sites within your niche may help spark new ideas. Always reach higher and never stop brainstorming.
You’re going to have your own voice. Every writer does. Sometimes it’s strictly information and fact-filled. Other times it’s edgy and humorous. Still other times it’s cutting and sarcastic. Personally, I think the sarcastic-blogger thing has been way overdone – it’s far too easy to be mean.
But you know what, if that’s your best writing voice, have at it. Jump in head first. Just be consistent. If you blog with your same voice and style all the time, people will get to know you and will grow to enjoy your voice. They’ll seek out your writing, they’ll visit your blog every day, and you’ll gain loyal readers. The secret is to grow your online persona across all spectrums. Not only on your blog, but also in your interactions on social networks and other online communities.
Your online persona becomes your biggest marketing tool and your online signature. Grow it, water it, and care for it. And of course, get verified with Google with Authorship. These days, you can’t survive without it.
You can find some of the best examples of article structure right here at MakeUseOf. I highly encourage you to check out Dave Parrack’s highly entertaining Weird & Wonderful Web column to see a very cool mix of images, YouTube videos, Twitter and Facebook posts and various other content placed throughout the post.
Unfortunately, the truth is that people still skim when they read on the web. In 2011, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) performed eye-tracking studies exploring how people read on the web. What they found was fascinating. It was that people sweep their eyes across the page and then fixate on certain things. Oddly enough, the eye-swipe pattern on the page resembles an “F”.
Web marketers have used this for years – you’ve surely heard the term “above the fold” to describe that people spend 80% of their time looking at information at the portion of the page first visible when the page loads.
What does this mean for you as a writer?
- Get to the most important content right away. Tell the reader what the article offers them, immediately. Capture their attention, immediately.
- Use headers throughout and keep them left-justified.
- Use bullet lists when you can. It breaks up the text and puts content in digestible pieces.
- Use photos that actually deliver information relevant to your content.
For other blogging help, check out Bakari’s 6 resources to become a better freelance writer, and for extra motivation, check out Yaara’s awesome post on how to overcome your fears and become a kickass blogger.
Encouraging Interactions and Final Notes
The final tip is actually a good one to close on. The key to a successful blog is establishing relationships with your readers. That means encouraging feedback through polls, surveys in the sidebar, giveaways for reader input, and of course comments. As an online writer, it’s so important to interact with readers who post on your articles. This not only encourages them to come back to your blog and get to know you better, it also encourages other people to comment too. This is an area that I always feel I need to work on.
So let me say this: offer me your absolute top tip for creating a killer blog post. What have you learned works through the years? What’s your secret to getting more reader involvement with your blog? Share your thoughts, and I promise I will respond to every single comment! Try me.
Guy getting mad via Shutterstock