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How to Write Home Run Posts

HomerunThe following guest post was submitted by John Wesley who blogs at PicktheBrain.com (feed) about motivation, productivity, and self improvement.

The Importance of Home Run Posts

Most of you are probably familiar with the Pareto Principal, also known as the 80/20 rule. The rule states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. In blogging this rule is even more extreme (probably 95/5) because of social media. A great post that goes viral, makes the front page of Digg, and is picked up by a top blogger, will easily receive 20 times more traffic, back links, and RSS subscribers than a post that’s merely very good.

Home run posts grow your blog rapidly so it’s important to do everything you can to take a post from good to great. This goes against the popular opinion that short frequent posts are the best strategy. This might work well for blogs that already have a sizable readership, but if you’re just starting out you’ll need to do more to make an impact. This means providing significant value.

What Makes a Home Run Post?

Home run posts come in all shapes and sizes but they tend to share a few important qualities.

  1. Length – All the posts I’ve written that have made the front page of Digg, Reddit, or del.icio.us have been substantial, usually from 700-1000 words. People extract more value from longer articles. Maybe fewer people will read the whole post but the ones that do are more likely to vote it up and subscribe to your RSS feed. Go into detail and share everything you know.
  2. Useful Information – The more value you provide, especially in a practical sense, the more incentive people have to share your article with others and bookmark it for themselves. This is why ‘how to’ posts and lists of tips are so successful. Focus on serving the reader.
  3. Originality – It’s highly unlikely that you’ll write a great post by linking to someone else’s content and talking about it. These types of posts are good for meeting your weekly posting schedule, but they don’t add enough value to become popular. Aim to create stand alone, original content.
  4. Well Written – This might be the most important factor. No matter how detailed and useful your post is it won’t spread if you mangle the message with bad writing. This is especially important in the headline and opening paragraph because that’s where readers are drawn in. This also includes good formatting and organization — no one likes to read huge blocks of text. You need to make your message as clear and concise as possible.

Hit More Home Runs by Writing in Multiple Sessions

Hitting home runs is difficult. It’s nearly impossible to predict what will take off, and it’s going to require great ideas and a lot of effort. The most important part is not rushing. Unless your post is breaking news, it doesn’t matter when it’s published. Taking the time to perfect it can make the difference between a few dozen and several thousand visitors.

My most successful posts are always written in more than one session. I usually get inspired and churn out most of the writing in the first session. Then I take some time off, at least a few hours, and let the ideas sort themselves out in my subconscious. A few hours later I write the conclusion and cut out or clarify poorly written sentences. I’m able to improve sections that had troubled me earlier and spot weaknesses that I hadn’t noticed. Before publishing I always do a final review and ruthlessly cut everything that doesn’t add meaning.

It might not seem important, but writing in multiple sessions and carefully editing will improve your writing dramatically. If you’re going to put the effort into creating a great piece of content, it makes sense to do everything in your power to increase the chance it becomes popular. Putting in the extra work will help you attract readers and take advantage of the 80/20 rule.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Matt Jones says:

    That’s very true, writing a post and coming back to it again later rather than hitting ‘publish’ can be a hard thing to do but it can make all the difference.

  2. Brian Free says:

    That is something I need to get better at. In my head I know I should slow down and re-read it and edit a few times before I post … but then I get so trigger happy and I just have to press publish. I know it would benefit my blog to slow down some

  3. Pua says:

    that was a great post with top recommendations for a home run post. i just did a few ‘how to have a great hawaii vacation and save money’ posts for the individual islands. hope they will find the readers who looks for that kind of information.

    definitely need to work on taking the time to perfect my posts by reviewing and editing them! great advice!!! aloha, pua

  4. Good post, John. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote and have had the same experiences. Some especially important points to me are that the articles are pretty long, often 1000-2000 words and contains a lot of useful and practical content and that they written well and in an easy to understand kind of way. I´m having a problem with writing in multiple sessions though. Instead of editing and moving around stuff at a second pass I tend to do too many sessions and finish articles later than necessary. I think I need to become a bit more ruthless.

  5. It’s hard to estimate home run posts when your life as a blogger is new. Because even if you write a really great post, no one knows who you are. Do posts from the past ever resurrect and bring back tons of traffic and readership?

  6. George says:

    John,

    Nice to see you writing a guest post over here.

    Your blog is one of the many blogs that I have seen recently take off because of the great posts you have written from the very start. Excellent advice.

  7. D says:

    Do people really just hit the publish button without editing? Guys, slow down! I find that even after multiple editing runs, a useful step is to print off the post, stand up, and read it aloud while walking around the room. This is a fool proof way to identify awkward prose or weak or incomplete arguments.

    If it sounds bad, it IS bad.

  8. John Wesley says:

    @ A Tentative PFB – I have seen some older posts get significant traffic surges. It’s pretty common for StumbleUpon to send a few visitors out of blue.

  9. Busted! You got me, John! I’m one of those single draft bloggers. Guess it all goes back to my days of single draft college research papers.

    I realize that I miss out on some valuable opportunities by not revising, but I don’t have the time to spend on blogging right now. If you would visit CultureFeast.com and shoot me a couple suggestions as to why the content isn’t up to snuff, I’ll consider writing fewer posts so I can devote more time to the content.

    Thanks again!

  10. I have to agree with this post. I’ve been blogging for 4 weeks now, and I am glad to say that I hit my first home run post.

    I posted it in the user generated content section of Seomoz, called Youmoz. That section only has 266 RSS subscribers.

    The thing is that if they really like your post, they promote it to the main blog, where close to 13,000 subscribers read it. My post was promoted :-)

    This was just my second post to that section and I was totally unknown 4 weeks ago.

    Seomoz is one of the most respected sites in my niche (SEO).

    In my case, I chose a very bad title/headline but I was lucky enough that a reader point that out and I requested a title change.

    I would add to Darren’s list: 5) Provide authoritative references that support your claims. This is especially useful if you topics are technical.

  11. Brad says:

    Great tips! My first goal as a blogger is to write quality posts. Although I must say that I usually don’t save a post, then go back to edit before publishing. Maybe I will now. After losing a lengthy post because I pushed a wrong button, I’m doing more and more of my writing on MS Word so I don’t lose anything again. But that’s besides the point.

    Thanks for the good post!!!!

  12. Teft says:

    Definitely useful tips. I’m new to blogging, so I’ll be trying the “multi-session” post next and see what happens. I can already attest to content being king … when I make a post that strikes a user who’s popular on stumbleupon, traffic spike!

  13. Jason says:

    Solid advice. I find that long posts do well at social sites as well. But it’s kind of balanced with the medium to short sized posts in that you’ll still get search engine traffic from them and they don’t take as long to write. I think all sizes of posts are good.

  14. nika says:

    Been thinking about social networking and how it impacts my site. I have never been dug but I have been stumbled … my traffic went from 1k/day to 6k that day. BUT, and this is my point here, it wasnt just one day, that stumble led to another stumble and before I knew it, like 10 different posts were stumbled AND, most germane to this comment, they CONTINUE to be hit on a daily basis.

    So, thanks to stumbleupon, I have certain pages that I know get a lot of hits and that they will in the future. What I have not done is capitalize on it after those few early days. I had not thought too much about it really. At the time of the stumble I put up ads but even with 6k actual hits VERY few ads were hit (maybe 3?) so I took them down.

    Ads (banner and text) simply do not pay on my site, even in the face of massive hits. They were context/related ads too.

    I continue to scratch the brain for ideas on how to make those stumbled pages work for me but it will have to be beyond the ad concept.

  15. The biggest problem with content management systems (ie blogging software) is that they work. In other words it is all to easy to actually publish something. Anything. But words are extremely powerful. Words have caused wars. Most people take language; words for granted. The other challenge people face is they hate being edited. Asking a writer what they think of an editor is like asking a fire hydrant what they think of a dog. But I thank our blog editor Robert Gorell anyway ;-)

    The point: get at least one other person to read your post before you hit the publish button.

  16. Alex Ion says:

    Man I can find you in hundreds and hundreds of bloggers.

    What a great article if you ask me. It’s so different than the guest posts I’ve seen around lately.

    As related with the home run posts, it’s the viral in them that actually makes them airborne. It may not be a top-blogger to write about you, but those little ones as well. It only matters to be of interest …

  17. Wild Bill says:

    I’ve hit a few home runs in my time, but lately I’ve been doing many of the tips you suggested and I truly believe my content is getting much better. I’m hitting some base hits, however I have a feeling it won’t be long before I am hitting Home Runs on a more regular basis. Great tips thanks.

  18. Michelle says:

    This makes sense, but lately I am seeing more and more “very good” posts show up in del.icio.us as opposed to the home runs. It appears that blogs that already have zillions of readers can relax a bit when it comes to truly outstanding writing.

  19. Bowrag says:

    Great advise. I am trying desperately to get my blog off the ground and I frequently catch myself listening to the advice you share.

  20. K says:

    Question:
    If the home run post is 700-1000 words long,
    and your regular posts are shorter,
    won’t there be a disconnect between the home run post reader
    and your regular readers?

    How would a blogger handle that?

  21. I’m not hitting any home runs. I’m mostly getting hit by pitch.

  22. Oliver says:

    Thanks for the great advise. Especially the added value one is very important to me. I’m in a niche with many passionate bloggers, so to be a good pure-news blog I have to be really fast and dedicate a lot of time to organising and finding good stories before they break out. But for big news I can only be “6 hours better” or so because the big ones will receive the news eventually.

    Today I wrote my first – more or less – personal experience related to this niche (sustainability) and I haven’t had this many diggs in any of my previous news posts (well, I’ve only been blogging for about 10 days). So in the future I will add more added value and personal experiences to my posts. It works!

  23. Think homerun posts must really happen at the right time and at the right moment. Sometimes, even the best written article with lots of content and value may not even get a sniff of frontpage if the buzz does not happen at the right time. While we know that all these factors will help increase your chances, I can’t help but feel that there is an element of luck and personal hardwork involved in getting friends to spread the news of your article via digging and stumbling. Without the manual effort part, I noticed that most of the articles do not see the light of day especially from non-established blogs.

  24. Dana says:

    I think it is also important to recognize its potential, if possible. Twice now I have written a post that for whatever reason got a lot of attention. They were posted in forums, linked on several blogs and emailed around. It is interesting to get your own post forwarded to you on an e-list! But both times, I had little idea of what potential those posts might have had, and followed them with several days of nothing special. That probably lost a few potential readers!

  25. Dan says:

    Did you proof read your post before hitting the “Publish worthless BS to the web for mindless zombies to flutter over like daft drugged up butterflies” button? Are you sure? You better check again. You better use a blog without the ability to publish just to make sure and run it on your home network for your family to pretend to read and tell you “yes its great honey”. Then after ten years of hard deliberation you can finally throw it away without ever publishing it and no one will care less because there are billions of people and billions of articles to read and you are just one ant standing in front of an ant eater thinking about pressing a button when in reality you are milliseconds away from being sucked up into its stomach where you will die a painful death in burning stomach acid and no one will ever remember your name.

  26. Ron Patiro says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to read more of your posts!

  27. Dhane says:

    Writing in sessions is definite a good thing to do. I am new to blogging and I will write somethings, and then come back to it later and see something totally different. Write, read, review, read and revise.

  28. Glen says:

    This was a really great post. I am new to blogging an coming to blogs like yours is really helping me become a better blogger. I am already taking your advice about the points system. This is my first comment on a blog. If you get a chance please checkout my blog and if you see some errors please let me know http://www.thegnrgroup.com/blog .
    P.S I don’t usually allow comments on my blog but will start.