Monday, September 11, 2017

Tips for Writing Blog Posts People Will Read

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson


Blogging is both a discipline and an art form.
Blogging is both a discipline and an art form. It’s not—as some have suggested—throw-away writing. However, there is a method to writing blog posts that will increase your reach, engage your audience more effectively, and spur others to action.

The foundation of good blogging is laid with the beginning and ending of each post.

The Basics of Writing for the Digital Audience

To blog effectively, we must realize that we’re writing in a different medium, for a different audience. Blogging shouldn’t be approached like writing short pieces for a print publication. Here’s why:

1. Digital readers read differently. Most of the time they’re looking for take-away. The application they’re seeking can range from how to have a healthy marriage to how to write an effective blog post. But almost always they’re seeking something to make their lives richer.

2. Digital readers are reading on very small devices. Over 66% of the readers of your posts will look at them on a mobile device—usually a phone. This means that formatting MATTERS!!!

3. Digital readers skim first, read second. Think about the way you approach reading on the internet. It’s very likely that you do several things without evening thinking about them.
  • You consider the title and whether or not the subject is something you need or are interested in
  • You read the first sentence or two.
  • You skim the piece, looking for bold headings and possible lists (numbered or bulleted)  

4. Digital readers are suspicious and skeptical. All it takes for me is for someone to claim they have the next best, biggest thing for my skeptic radar to be on high alert. If the post I’m reading can prove it has something useful to say in the first sentence—maybe the first paragraph—then I’m done and on to the next post.

5. Digital readers have lots of choices. They can find literally thousands of posts on almost any subject you may choose to write about. This means you have to make sure you’re writing in such a way they want to return. AND you must make certain it’s easy for them to return. That’s why sidebar gadgets and widgets are so important. If you don’t have a way for them to sign up for updates when a new post goes live, you’ll lose them to other sites.

Back to the Beginning

I promised you a post about beginnings and endings, so let’s get to it.

1. Start with the title of your post. Your title will make or break your post’s visibility. With a good title, the post will rank higher in the search engines, it will have context on social media, and it will give your reader a way to evaluate whether or not the post is relative to them.

Yeah, it’s that important. And I spend at least as much time and energy on composing an effective title as I do writing the entire post.
  • Make sure your post contains a phrase that is something a reader would type into a search engine to find the information within your post. Originally I had this post titled, The Importance of Beginnings and Endings for Blogging. Yes, that’s what the post is about, but that’s not something many people would be searching for. So instead I moved to Writing Blog Posts People Will Read. But even that could be improved upon. Readers love tips and takeaways, so I finally settled on Tips For Writing Blog Posts People Will Read. Not very exciting, but super effective.
  • Choose a title that will have relevance if it's read somewhere other than on your site. For example, suppose the title and link are shared on social media without an accompanying image. Does the person reading it have enough context to now what the title pertains to. Here's what I mean, let's go back to the original title I was considering, The Importance of Beginnings and Endings for Blogging. That title is okay, it at least lets people know the post is about blogging. But a lot of posts I see would just use this, The Importance of Beginnings and Endings. That title has no context. We have no way of knowing whether that refers to life, marriage, blogging or writing a novel. 
2. Front load the information contained within the post. This is just a fancy way of saying that we need to share the takeaway first. In my opening paragraphs I told you what I’d share in this post. Sum up what you’re going to share before you get into the details.

3. Write your post using bold headings, lists and lots of white space. Reading on a mobile device, or even a computer is harder on our eyes than reading a physical magazine or book. That’s why we have to format for an audience that’s using those mediums.
  • Choose a sans serif font for readability. This means something without those extra flourishes (called serifs). I recommend Ariel, Verdana, or Helvetica. NEVER Times New Roman. This blog used Verdana.
  • Use block formatting. This means no indented paragraphs and an extra blank line between paragraphs.
  • Use shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. Sentences shouldn’t be over twelve words in length. A block of text (paragraph) shouldn’t exceed six lines.
3. Choose a header image (called a feature image in WordPress) that illustrates the focus of your post. For extra click-throughs on social media, make sure you make it into a meme with the title of your post embedded in the image. (If you’re not sure how to embed text in images, here’s a screencast to walk you through it, Step-by-step Instructions for Adding Text to Images)

4. Make sure you have the correct information in your sidebar. You should have the following information in your sidebar to ensure your audience will return time and again.
  • Follow by Email
  • Follow by RSS
  • Social Media Buttons that Lead to YOUR Social Media Accounts
5. Include a Click to Tweet. This is an embedded link that makes it easier for readers to share your post. By including this one thing, your posts will be shared approximately sixty percent more on social media. Here’s a screencast on How to Install Click to Tweet on Your Site

6. Wrap it up with a call to action. No, this doesn’t mean you should try to sell them something. Instead, it’s up to you to get the conversational ball rolling. We all want to engage with those who read our posts. And we have to spell out how to do it. So end each post with:
  • An open-ended question. A yes or no question stops the conversation. Instead use something that leads to discussion or sharing of opinions.
  • A challenge. Sometimes an open-ended question just doesn’t fit (like with some devotions). Instead issue a challenge, maybe something like this: “Today I’ve decided to make a difference by looking for ways to reach out to others, will you join me?”
  • A specific set of instructions of what to do. Below you’ll see that I almost always end with something like: Now it’s your turn . . . be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
All of these tips will help you build an audience that’s loyal, engaged, and willing to share your posts with their friends and family.

Now it’s your turn. What would you add to my list? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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13 comments:

  1. Thanks for an informative and useful post. This is definitely a Keeper! :) I'd add only one point: length of post. I've discovered that today's blog reader prefers it "short and sweet" - à la Seth Godin, for example. Something I need to emulate. :)

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn
    _______________________________
    www.maryanndiorio.com

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    1. MaryAnn, excellent point. Although it depends on the type of post as to what length is best. Topics that are heavy (like suicide, divorce, etc) do better as longer posts - generally 1000 - 1200 words. Also posts like this one, that's heavy with instructions, also can push the word count. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, E

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    1. Ingmar and Angie, I'm glad you found it helpful! Blessings, E

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  3. Edie: You have caused me to think about the paragraphs in my writing. Also the sans serif fonts, I didn't realize I shouldn't use Times New Roman. Thank You.

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    1. It's a common mistake - the use of Times New Roman - since that's industry standard when we submit anything. Blessings, E

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  4. Another great post, Edie. Packed full of info and the links to the "how-to". Love that!

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    1. Debbie, I'm always happy to help! Blessings, E

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  5. Love all your details in this post, Edie. I'm upping my blog writing game this fall and have been employing many of these tactics. Joy to you!
    Kathryn Ross

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    1. Kathryn, that's awesome! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Now we'll be watching! Blessings, E

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