Whether you blog about internet marketing, parenthood, karate or ballpoint pens, there are certain things you can do to make each post better. This week, I want to share several strategies you can use to make your posts more gripping — regardless of their length or topic.
A simple rule for every post
Omit any sentences or paragraphs in your post that don’t fall under the following two categories:
1. Words that persuade visitors to read the article.
2. Words that visitors will want to read.
Your posts should, ideally, flow from one category to the other. The aim of your introduction is to hook visitors in: to give them a reason to read on. The rest of your post should be dedicated to delivering on your earlier promises.
A common mistake I see bloggers make is to forget persuasion: to start with a long anecdote or rambling detail without a hook. If visitors can’t see what they stand to gain from reading your content, they’ll skip it. While their visit will add +1 to your site stats, it won’t grow your blog.
A useful habit — When settling down to write the first paragraph of your post, don’t launch into the content straight away. Instead, dedicate the first paragraph to words that will persuade the visitor to read. While you could achieve this with an intriguing anecdote, a controversial statement, or a knock-out opening sentence, the “tell them what you’re going to tell them” approach has worked well for me. It won’t win the Pulitzer Prize, but being able to say “this article will do this, this and this” is easy and effective. Sometimes the most simple and obvious option is the best one.
Deliver on your promises
Your introduction will have raised certain expectations about what your post is going to deliver. Resist the temptation to provide extensive background detail or otherwise include too much preamble to the real value in your post. Once your introduction is finished, get started with a bang.
A useful habit — Start with your best point first. A reader who was gripped by your introduction may soon lose interest if your content doesn’t make an immediate impact.
Remember to link out
Once you’ve finished your post, go over it and try to spot opportunities to link out to other websites and blogs. It will add more depth and value to what you write. Even top bloggers will follow up a trackback with an interesting title, so linking out can be beneficial from a ‘getting noticed’ perspective, too.
Help longer posts get read
If your post is longish, sign-post your logic with sub-headings. Ideally, a visitor who reads your sub-headings alone should be able to come away with a rough sketch of the ideas in your article.
Readers are excellent at extracting ideas in a minimum amount of time. Even if a reader isn’t interested in your first idea, they might see a sub-heading further into your article that sign-posts an idea or topic they have a lot of interest in. Sub-headings don’t encourage scanning — they encourage reading. If you saw a sub-heading you had intense interest in, it would be silly to pass it by and move on to the next thing. Sub-headings represent extra doorways into your post.
Photo by SuperFantastic
Add visual interest
By adding images, color and formatting to your post, you’re making them more enjoyable to read. A text-only post might excite our mind but if it bores our eyes too much, it will never be as effective as it could have been. Emphasizing key sentences in bold is a simple yet powerful way to make your posts more gripping.
A useful habit — Make a pact with yourself to add at least one image to each post you write, even if the post is short (and even if the image is very small). By adding align=”left” or align=”right” to the HTML tags for your image, you can push your image to the left or right of surrounding text. You can use stock photography, take your own photos or, my favorite option, find and use great Flickr images.
Put the ‘I’ in Write
Unless you’re a personal blogger, it’s hard to be unique. Most of us blog in crowded niches and most topics have been covered before (in some form or another). The only unique part of the equation is you. By blogging conversationally, sharing aspects of your personality and presenting ideas in your own way, you’ll differentiate your content with every post.
A useful habit — If you’re writing about news in your niche, ask yourself the following questions: does this affect me or someone I know? What do I think the implications of the news will be?
If you’re sharing advice or tips, ask yourself the following questions: how has this advice helped me, personally? What made me decide to start using these tips or methods? What kind of mistakes was I making beforehand?
When writing any type of post, ask yourself: could I work my own experiences into this, in a relevant way?
Points to review
- Start your posts with words that help persuade visitors to read them.
- Once you’ve done that, start delivering on the value you’ve promised.
- Go over finished posts and add relevant links.
- Add sub-headings to provide multiple entry points into your posts.
- Add at least one image or graphic to every post you write.
- Inject your personality and experiences into your posts to help differentiate your content.