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How To Write Excellent Blog Content – What We Wish We Knew

Writing-ContentThis post is part of the ‘What we wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. Below I’ll share readers comments on the topic of Writing Good Blog Content as well as some of my own thoughts.

One of the most key aspects of any successful blog is the ability to create content that keeps drawing people back to your blog. I’ve written so many posts on this topic and know that ‘excellent blog content’ means something different on every blog – as a result I won’t pretend that what I write in this post will be a definitive guide to writing great blog content.

However I can tell you five things that I wish I knew in my early days of blogging about writing content (with a few links for further reading).

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier about Writing Content for a Blog

  1. The Power of Titles – the title has the ability make or break a blog post. It impacts how (and if) it’s found in search engines and social bookmarking sites, it influences whether people visit your blog in News Readers, it affects whether people leave a comment and is vital in whether people actually read what you have to say. Read more about using Titles Effectively on Blogs.
  2. The Viral Nature of Lists – a single well written list post can launch a blog to great heights in the blogosphere. While the prolific nature of lists in the blogosphere can also mean your lists get ignored, I find that when writing the same content as a list that you write as an essay like article the list will almost always get more attention. Read more about why lists are great for getting traffic to your blog.
  3. The Importance of Being Original - perhaps the best lesson that I ever learned as a bloggers was that people are drawn to others who speak their mind, who have something unique to say and who say it in a creative and fresh way. Say what everyone else is saying in the same way that everyone else is saying it and you’re almost guaranteed of being largely ignored. Read more about how to avoid joining the echo chamber and saying something original.
  4. The Value of Well Formated Content – people don’t read content on line in the same way that they read content in other mediums. Online readers tend to scan content. As a result if you place visual cues in your posts that draw the eye to important points you’ll find people stick with you longer into your posts. Read more on How to make your content Scannable
  5. The Impact of a Good Image - another simple technique for providing an additional point of interest in your posts is to provide something visual. I don’t use images in every post on this blog but find that when I do that those clicking through on the post in my feed reader increases. Images have the power to communicate in ways that words cannot – use them. Read more on Using images to make your posts POP in RSS feeds.

Reader Comments on Writing Excellent Blog Content

There are plenty of other lessons I could talk about – but I think my readers have even better insights. Here’s some of their comments on the topic of writing content and what they wish they’d know in the early days of their blogging:

D writes – “Understood the true importance of titles before writing the first post.”

Crazykinux writes – “Great content attracts visitors. Post, post, post!…. Having enough great content takes awhile; we’re talking in months people here, not days.”

NetBusinessBlogger writes – “Posting original content! I started blogging to make money. I created around 30 blogs (i don’t hesitate calling them spam blogs)…. At some point, you start realizing that this method of earning money is not life long as the traffic never grows. Once the visitor comes to know that the content is plagiarized, he is never going to come back! Today I’m happy that I’ve deleted all those spam blogs and currently I’m working on just 2-3 blogs which have genuine original content written by me. Its a great feeling to see your blog grow!”

Deb writes – “There is room for ‘my style’ within the general acceptable practices of blogging.”

SEO Expert Blog writes – “I wish I knew that it is much better to write 1 or 2 high quality posts a week than 1 or 2 medium quality posts a day.”

Arjun writes – “I think the single most important thing I learned over time was that I needed to write content that had value. I know it sounds obvious and stupid, but initially I wrote a lot of long articles that were more for me than anyone else.”

alam writes – “Using draft and future posting effectively.”

Lisa writes – “Keep the posts short!”

Tara writes – “I wish I would have known that it’s really OK to get raw and blog from the heart.”

Principles of Marketing writes – “Being a lot better at keeping on target is the one thing I wish I could have learned when I first started”

Bret writes – “I wished I had just focused more on producing content on a regular predictable basis. I’ve gone through a week here and there where I just didn’t have time to post. If I had a reserve of posts to draw from I could have filled those low stops with something ready to do. I feel that the dry spells had a negative impact on my slowly growing readership. I would highly recommend to all new bloggers to create a stock pile of posts ready to fill the dry spells and to just focus on establishing a good routine for creating content. Once you have that, go ahead and start to focus on other aspects of your blog.”

Margie writes – “Just because someone else has written about it does not mean you should not write about it too, because your post may offer information or insights that the reader has not encountered before.” and “Also, I wish I would have known that creating a blog post can be like an appellate brief, sometimes you just have to wade in. Start with an idea or a link and research and let it grow as you find more info, edit out earlier stuff, etc. Just wading in is more productive than staring at your blank screen in fear! And when you get done, after a bunch of ‘drafts’ you usually have something decent.”

Danielle writes – “Read blogs. I wrote my first month’s worth of posts without reading another blog. Once I started reading blogs, I learned about the importance of layout and text formatting from my own reading experiences…..Less is more. Concise and clear writing captures a larger audience. Too much flashiness in blog design take any from the content. Catergory tags should be kept to the minimum keeping the ‘feel’ of a blog more focused especially true for personal blogs….. Memes increase your audience. The weekly memes such as Wordless Wednesday, Thursday Thirteen and Manic Monday can be consciously utilized for your own niche and bring a wider range of readers to your blog. I have gained a fair amount of ‘regular’ readers through utilizing memes.”

Tanya writes – “I wish I knew that it takes so much time. It’s different when youre in school – you have that time, but with a full time job and two blogs at which I ‘should’ post daily – I’m tired all the time.”

BenQ writes – “Not to ever worry what friends and family think! I wish I would’ve known straight from the beginning not to be scared to blog about certain subjects.”

What do you wish you knew about writing good content on a blog when you first started blogging?

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. Finding a way to deliver the same content in a simpler, smaller package has always been something I need to work on. Learning to do that from the start would have helped a lot.

  2. ross gordon says:

    I really think that when i read blogs the most common thing that turns me off is poorly formatted contnet. I hate going to a blog and seeing one or two HUGE, long, rambling paragraphs. No matter how good the post is i rarely make it all the way through.

    The key is breaking up the content and using subheads. As a former copywriter and a current project manager at a large website design company (Arc Worldwide) I can attest to the fact that readers SCAN for content. So you need to make your points jump out with subheads.

    Thanks for the post Darren!

  3. Great article! I am slowly learning all of the above to be very true. *=)

  4. Matt Jones says:

    Darren I couldn’t agree with you more about using images, I wrote a post about it yesterday, they really are very important.

  5. Stacy says:

    I find that my best posts come after I step away from the computer and stop trying to force the writing. Ideas come from all over, especially when I get outside and relax or talk to other people.

  6. Chris says:

    I know lists work, but I’m honestly getting sick of seeing them so often.

    They have a tendency to make everything seem very generic and same-y. They also tend to discourage in-depth information in favor of a few shallow sentences per point.

    Oh yeah, sometimes those list posts slap you in the face with the blogger’s naked desire to get more traffic. Not all the time, but sometimes it’s very transparent why they made a certain post a list.

  7. Erin Fogarty says:

    What an excellent post! I agree with you completely, all of these topics are so important. I especially agree with the one about being original. It is SO crucial to building your reputation. You have to be different and interesting, otherwise nobody cares what you say, because you’re essentially just repeating someone else. It’s tough to be original because some people may develop negative opinions of you, but you have to stick it out and your blog will succeed!

    Keep up the “What We Wish We Knew” series. I love it!

  8. Danielle says:

    What an honor to be linked here at the Problogger!!!

    Even though I don’t make money with my blog, I do try to produce quality. My major resources for achieving this is You and Lorelle at WordPress.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge in easy terms and so including your readers in the process.

    I am participating in the 2007 Blogathon and the added spotlight is so appreciated.

    Be well and enjoy the day.

    Danielle

    For more of my Modern Musings
    Support Progressive Change

  9. Veronique says:

    I’d like to add sincerity to the list.

    I’ve found in reading other blogs and in my own writing that being honest, with yourself and your audience, makes a huge difference. When I write about things that I *think* I should be posting about, but don’t really get or care about, that it shows through and I end up with a crappy post that no one will ever want to read or share with others. Hopefully, I’m writing fewer of those over time.

  10. Great article!

    No really, this is great stuff. The most important lesson to me is to stay on subject. Yes, get distracted every now and again, write something on the light side, but stay on topic in most of your blogs.

    Enjoy it! I enjoy writing very very much, lucky for me. But great advice is to write relaxed, I like to feel that the writer is talking to me.

    This article is going into my gold-nuggets bin.

  11. BeingParents says:

    We have started our blog 2 months and have not gotten plenty of traffic.
    Our goal was to offer original and helpful information. We enjoy writing but what can we do to improve our traffic. We believe that we have information that every parent could use to make their lived better.
    We have tried Digg and Stumble. Any suggestions. THANKS

  12. Brian Heys says:

    When I first started blogging, I wish I had known how difficult it would be to maintain focus, and stick to one niche. As it stands, my blog is pretty focused, with a leaning towards Web 2.0/Internet technologies and blogging.

    I’m constantly wishing I could expand into other areas, but that’s for another blog!

  13. Brevity is the soul of wit!

    I’m also fond of lots of hyperlinks. I like to think of my web presence as a gateway to the material that is influencing me, not an endgame in itself.

    Beyond that I try to keep 4 out of 5 posts quite brief and be focused as to when I write an involved post.

  14. jhay says:

    Lists, I really need to work on creating good lists. Most of my posts are like op-ed columns! ;)

  15. CatherineL says:

    Great tips – and the way you used the orange links in your post really helped make it more readable.

  16. Russ says:

    I think the title section is the most important. I still havn’t fully understood what makes a title outstanding, but I’m definetly learning. Some titles are just more interesting than others and that can lead to a major difference in traffic.

  17. I wish I started 5 years ago!

    I agree with the point about using images. I’ve tried to use images in most of my posts. I’m using a standard WP format which is not great for my purposes (I’m going to customize soon, any day now, I promise.) and find the images really add a visual appeal and draw, for me anyway. I think it will do the same for visitors if I ever get any.

    I’ve actually gone one further and started creating cartoon images, when time permits, to represent the topic of the post. I think over time this will add an extra dimension to my blog; not like a space-time dimension, just something a little different.

    I usually fall foul to writing too much, as I have done here.
    Peter.

  18. Deb says:

    It’s such an honor to be noted among this esteemed company. I was amazed at my stats and wondered what was going on over at Darren’s that all this traffic was linking in. I will have to step up to the plate and work harder to implement what I’m learning.

    I do identify with Greg J. Smith “a gateway to the material that is influencing me…” I don’t think I can be quite as brief as he is suggesting, but I get the best feedback when I share what’s on my personal front page and then links to more places to read about it. If I’m connected to the material reader’s sense it’s real.

    Have a great day!

  19. Jason says:

    Darren, it’s funny that I have already learned these things by noticing how you write ProBlogger the last couple years and other top blogs. It’s nice to see it on paper. Thanks for sharing some exact insight into your strategy lately. I dig.

  20. chris says:

    Darren,

    Once again, thank you for all of the great advice. I’m still growing my blog and this is all useful information. I’ve really been trying to nail the title aspect of my posts. Besides, any time you can use douche bag and boss in the same sentence is good.

    http://www.40hourstogo.com

  21. Shine says:

    Thank you Darren for the great tips, again! And, you definitely walk the talk and I learn a lot by reading what you wrote and observing how you write them…

  22. Argo Wibowo says:

    Thanks Darren for great articles. I have to print it out and read it myself a couple of times. Valuable for all bloggers.

    Argo Wibowo

  23. ciken says:

    Good articles for newbie like me…thanks

  24. Samir says:

    I’ll agree to everything said here and simply say this:

    Write something original.
    Write something truly useful.
    Write something with sincerity and conviction.
    Write something with good typography and information design.

    I can’t claim to succeed in this regard all the time, far from it. But cover all those and you can’t really write a bad post.

  25. Fable says:

    Great article, Darren. Even though I’m still the new kid on the block – so to speak – it’s good to have some helpful tips pointed out.

    Steve

  26. JB says:

    Thank you for dropping by my site Darren, we are neophites- new bloggers, just trying hard to learn yet. But your tips are amazing I cant believe we can do it – I cant believe theres a way to make money out there. I will be your constant reader because the contents are worth the time surfing. My best wishes…..http://www.pinoynetwork.org/beautifullife/

  27. Marcos Reis says:

    A good text and original being are basic. It is the best form of being located in the sites of search well.(Um bom texto e ser original é fundamental. É a melhor forma de ser bem posicionado nos sites de busca.)

  28. Bret says:

    Thanks so much Darren for including my past comment in the list of comments for this post. Also, thanks for publishing this post as again, I managed to pick up a few more tips. I especially like the tip about well formatted content. I’m trying to focus on this a little more these day — since I think I have a handle on my previous problem with posting consistency.

    Lately I’ve been trying to break up my posts, which tend to run long, into smaller meaningful segments with appropriate subtitles. I try to scan just the subtitles of my posts prior to hitting the “publish” button just to see if I can make heads or tails out of the post from just that level. It’s tough but I’m getting a little better at it.

    One final suggestion in line with this topic: Before you hit the “publish” button, sleep on it. Next day come back, and proof read one more time. It’s easier to catch little typos when you’ve been away from your post for at least a day or two.

  29. Susan Payton says:

    As usual, spot-on. The shift in blogging has gone from it being what the blogger wants to the classic marketing question, “what’s in it for me (the reader).” these are important tips for giving the reader a reason to read your blog, and to spread the word about it. It’s amazing how formatting can improve even the worst writing!

    Susan Payton
    Egg Marketing’s Small Business Marketing Blog
    http://www.eggmarketingblog.com

  30. Sam says:

    content, content, content. It’s easier said to create quality content than done. ;-)

  31. Great stuff here at Problogger. I’m all about promoting quality Blogs and quality Blogging, and doing it effectively like you’ve talked about above…hence why I decided to start http://www.qualityblogger.com to walk my talk and promote quality. Darren thank you for making Problogger into one of those quality and value Blogs I now link to, since it exemplifies the quality Blogging I am all about.

    – Michael Erik
    Quality Blog Critic
    http://www.qualityblogger.com
    “The Best Things In Life Are Free”

  32. Great article yet again. Really enjoyed this one as I’m always struggling to come up with original content. Thanks!

  33. david says:

    I’m a newbie to the bloggers world but these tips are great! I’ll def make sure to pass this along to my site visitors with a link back!

  34. Maher Saleh says:

    Nice article Darren i enjoyed reading it check out my post here it is the 5 guidelines of writing great content http://www.moneymakerboy.com/2007/12/5-guidelines-for-writing-great-content.html

  35. Ryan Tani says:

    Very nicely written post! You’ve obviously learned your lessons.

    Let me add one thing I’ve learned: everything you plan to post will probably take longer than you planned.

    Stuff that I thought would take only 5 minutes can take me upto an hour to write.

  36. As bloggers, we’re our own editors. Nobody’s going to tell us to stop revising a post. At a certain point, you have to say “enough’s enough,” hit the Publish button and move on.

    It took time and a lot of entries until I developed a sense of self-confidence. As you learn to trust your judgment, you’ll become a more efficient writer. I was fortunate enough to work with a more experienced blogger whose most encouraging advice was “Just blog it.”

  37. garima says:

    very often while reading paper we get to see a catchy headline and happen to read the article below, so its truely said that title is very important

  38. sandy says:

    I have written for blogs without realizing the viral nature of a list. Some aspects of it also applies for web article writing. Thanks for the excellent advice.