What do you see when you look at this image?
Image by Lord V
OK – so it’s two flies right? Yes it is…. but look a little harder.
Have you ever used one of those crazy eye cross eye 3D multidimensional pictures? This is one of them. Relax, cross your eyes a little and stare (for a more details version of how to see the 3D impact read here). Do it right and the the ‘flies’ become one very 3 dimensional ‘fly’. If you like the effect I’ll show you some more in a link at the bottom of this post.
What does a 3D image have to do with Blogging?
In this post I want to share 13 ways to make your blogs go deeper and become more multi dimensional.
- How deep do your blog posts go?
- Do you bang out a post that covers the basics of your topic and then hit publish?
- What would happen if you just took a few extra minutes once your next post was finished to ask yourself – how could I make this post more useful to readers?
Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring 10 points in the writing of a blog post where it is important to ‘pause’ and take a little extra time in crafting the blog post.
Today I want to explore a question that you can ask yourself after writing a blog post (and before hitting publish) that I have found can exponentially increase the impact and effectiveness of a the post.
It is a question that I think can help good posts great and help it to stand out from the clutter of millions of posts going around the blogosphere at any given time.
The question is simple:
“How can I add more depth to this post?”
A theme that I continually go on about here at ProBlogger is ‘creating useful content‘ for readers. The question about ‘adding depth’ is all about making your post more useful. An alternative way of asking it would be:
“How can I make this post more useful?”
13 Ways to Add Depth to Your Next Blog Post
Following are 13 of simple techniques that can add a new dimension to your post – techniques to make good posts great:
1. Use Examples
Too many bloggers simply talk in theoretical terms and don’t ground what they are talking about in reality. There’s nothing wrong with ‘theory’ but you can do your reader a real service with two simple words – ‘for example’. Show how the theory can be applied in an actual situation and you’ll make your post much more effective. Readers will not only come away with an idea of how to do something – they’ll have seen it in action – something which takes them a step closer to actually implementing it in their own lives.
Adding examples to posts is something I’ve been doing for years without really thinking about it. I just searched on Google for “for example” on ProBlogger and found it used over 1000 times.
For example (I had to add one here didn’t I) – check out my post on how to find new RSS subscribers to a blog where I give give examples on every 2nd point that I make.
2. Add an Analogy, Story or Metaphor
An example need not just be a ‘link’ – it can be some kind of story or analogy that helps readers to unpack what you’re writing about.
As I’ve discussed earlier in this series – stories are particularly effective ways of opening blog posts – however they are also useful within and at the end of posts. They engage the imaginations of readers, help to reinforce what you’re saying and can be very persuasive tools.
As Brian Clark of CopyBlogger writes – “Stories allow people to persuade themselves, and that’s what it’s really all about.”
Personal stories can also be very effective at establishing common ground between you and your readers – something that makes people be able to relate to you.
Read more on using different types of stories on a blog.
3. Add Your Opinion
If you’re writing about ‘news’ or linking up to something another blogger is saying – don’t just report the news or tell your readers to go read something because ‘it’s good’ – tell your readers what YOU think about what you’re linking to.
Giving your opinion takes your post to a new depth, it stimulates readers to think about their reaction to what they are reading, creates conversation, adds value and helps to make your post unique. Don’t just echo the news around the blogosphere – inject something of yourself into it.
4. Suggest Further Reading
One of the simplest ways to add value to a blog post is to recommend other reading that a reader could do on your topic. This can be done formally at the end of a post with a ‘recommended reading’ type list of links – or informally during a post when you hyperlink relevant articles on key ideas that you write about.
Further reading can be both internal links to other things you’ve written on your topic and/or external links to what others have written previously on the topic you’ve covered. Only do either of these if they do add value and are on topic.
5. Add Quotes
An effective way of adding authority to a blog post is to add the voice of another person using a short quote. Most students know the power of using quotes in the writing of essays (they show you’ve researched and read widely and grasp a topic) – the same thing is try with blog posts.
There are two main ways of using quotes in blog posts:
- quote someone talking about your topic (I did this above in the ‘stories’ point with a quote from Brian Clark).
- quote someone talking about something unrelated, but still relevant to your topic (something I did in my post – What Thomas Edison Can Teach You about Blogging).
6. Interview Someone
If you can’t find an existing quote to use from someone – create one by approaching them for a quick comment or interview on your topic.
Identify another person who has expertise on the topic you’re covering and then asking them a specific question (or more than one) on that topic so that you can use their answers within your post. Effectively this is what journalists do when they’re working up a story.
While this might sound like a long process – with instant messaging, skype and email it can actually be very quick to get comment from others.
7. Add Reader Comments/Tweets
Another way of adding other ‘voices’ to your blog posts is to actually use the words of those reading your blog by elevating their comments into the post itself.
I’ll share some ways to do this below but first let me say how powerful this is as a technique as it shows your readers that you notice what they say, that you care about them and gives them a moment in the spotlight which can make a lasting impression. It all comes down to making your readers famous.
- Use Comments from Previous Posts - if you’ve written on the topic you are blogging about before check out the comments section on that post. Hidden away there you might find gems of wisdom that you can pull out an include in future posts.
- Ask Readers in a Post - this takes a little thinking ahead but if you know you’re going to be writing on a topic a day or two ahead of time – post a question on your blog asking for readers to give feedback on that topic. Then use some of their comments in your next post. For example – I asked readers about how they’d promote a blog here and then used their responses as a post later in the week here.
- Do a Call for Comments on Social Messaging Sites – I do this regularly on Twitter and Plurk. All it involves is to ask your followers/friends a question as you write your post and then to include some of the best ones within your post. To see this in action – I did this recently in my review of the iPhone as a blogging tool and when I wrote about the benefits of Twitter.
- LinkedIn Q&A – LinkedIn has a great Question and Answer feature that is fantastic for gathering the opinions and ideas of those within your network. I’ve used it on occasions to generate some great discussions which could then be used to add depth to blog posts.
- Email readers – if you don’t have enough Twitter followers or LinkedIn contacts – why not email a few of your most loyal readers and ask them if they have any thoughts on a topic you’re writing about.
I can’t express to you how much of an impact that using readers comments in blog posts can have. When I do it I get a lot of emails of thanks from those that I use the comments of and also find that it adds a lot of wisdom to my posts.
8. Set Homework
If your post is a ‘teaching’ or ‘how to’ type blog post an effective way of adding depth to your post is to actually set your readers homework or some kind of ‘assignment’.
By finishing a post with a task to go away and do you help your readers to immediately apply what they’ve just learned (most of us learn better by ‘doing’ than just consuming information) and you increase the ‘participation’ levels on your blog (it takes readers out of ‘lurking’ mode).
I discovered the power of homework on my photography site a couple of years back. Our readers there loved the idea so much that we now have a weekly assignment in the forum. Heaven forbid if we miss a week – our readers love it so much that if we do miss one they certainly let us know! Read more on setting readers homework
9. Offer Points of Participation
I’ve touched on this earlier in this series also but it is amazing how much value can be added to a blog post simply by inviting readers to respond and participate in the post. Ask for comments, add a poll, invite readers to blog about the topic on their own blog…. again this is about giving readers an opportunity to bed down what they’re learning and reinforce it in their minds by ‘doing’ something.
Many readers learn best not just by listening to others but by putting their thoughts into their own words.
10. Add Illustrations or Charts
I will talk more about this in the next post in this series of ‘crafting blog posts’ – but it is amazing what a simple image or chart can do to illustrate a point. I’m not just talking about eye catching title images – but those that actually add value to your posts.
This will of course relate more to some types of posts than others but when you do it it is like adding a visual example to your posts. I find this is most effective either when doing a ‘how to’ or tutorial type post (I do it on photoshop tutorials on DPS) or any posts that you quote any kind of statistics in).
11. Look at the Flip Side
A simple technique to add depth to any kind of post that shares an opinion is to explore not only one side of an argument but two. I find it quite amazing how many bloggers write posts that are one dimensional and that argue strongly for one perspective but fail to show that there might be another point of view.
You don’t need to sit on the fence with your posts and can still express your preference strongly for your argument – but at least show that you’re aware of other arguments as it’ll show your readers that you have thought through an issue fully in coming to your point of view. You’ll also find that it doesn’t alienate as many readers who don’t share your opinion and gives a better foundation for constructive dialogue.
12. Look Forward and Create Momentum
One very effective way of adding depth to your post is by telling readers that you’re not done yet and are going to write a followup post in the coming days.
While this doesn’t actually give immediate extra value to a post it creates a sense of momentum and signals to readers that the topic you’re writing about means something to you and is worthy of further exploration.
So before you hit publish on a post consider whether there is any areas within it still not explored that could be the subject of a followup post. A great way to do this is to use mindmapping to plan your next blog posts.
13. Make an Honest Appraisal of Your Post
Before hitting publish on your post ask yourself again – does this post matter?
Is your post useful to readers in some way? Does it inform, entertain, inspire, educate, provide community, motivate or do something else that will enhance the lives of your reader?
Not every post you write will set the world on fire (and that’s ok) but every post should add value to your reader and take you closer to your blogging goals.
If it doesn’t – don’t publish it. Go back to your post and keep adding value.
9 More Thoughts on Adding Depth to Posts from my Twitter Friends
As I was writing this post I decided to put my advice into action by asking my Twitter followers for their experiences on the topic. Here’s just a few of the responses (you’ll see a few new ideas and recurring themese):
- @ruraldoctoring – add personal experiences, quotes, open up possibilities for opposing views–>depth. I hope.
- @Jonathan_Gunson – How? Try reading your draft posts out loud to someone who cares. Their reaction can produce deep insights you never imagined.
- @mark_hayward – give the post some thought while running, write a rough post or outline, do research, and continue to refine over several days.
- @ashishmohta – adding some real time example, case studies about 1 hour ago
- @DanBlank – To add depth, I add images, and take time between writing sessions, often using ideas that germinated in my head for days.
- @johnwroachiii – I have my wife read it and give me her unanwered questions.
- @tynansanger – leave it until the morning then look over it again. see if any new news has added to or taken away from the story
- @cornerscribe – I let a post “rest” for a while. That helps me see where I need to add detail and depth.
- @Arbenting – I usually let a post sit for a day or so before going back to it. Once I re-read it I’ll usually find things that need expanded.
How Have You Added Depth to Your Blog Posts?
There’s lots to digest in this post I know – but I’m certain that among the ProBlogger readership there’s a lot of wisdom and experience that could be added – so what have you tried to add depth and new dimensions to your blog posts?
PS: If you want to see some more 3D Crazy Cross Eye Images – check out 9 more here.
Read the Full Series
This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.