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11 Quick Tips for Writing Compelling Posts On Your Blog

Yesterday I ran a workshop for a small group of bloggers here in Australia. One of the sessions I covered was on writing compelling content.

Here’s a brief look at a few of the recurring themes in what I shared:

  1. Be Useful – if your post isn’t informing, inspiring, entertaining or making someone’s life better – don’t publish it until it does.
  2. Share your Opinionopinions are often what sets bloggers apart from the pack.
  3. Cut out the Fluff – before you hit publish, revise your post and remove anything that doesn’t add value.
  4. Visualise Your Reader – writing with a reader in mind personalises your writing.
  5. Make Your Posts Scannable – only 16% of people read every word online. Format your posts so that your main points stand out.
  6. Work and Rework You Headlines – a good headline can be the difference between a blog post being read, or ignored.
  7. Write with Passion – when you show you care about what you’re writing, your readers are more likely to care too.
  8. Give your Readers something to do Nextask your readers to DO something once they finish reading. It could be to read something else, comment, apply a lesson, share the post etc.
  9. Tell Storiesstories are powerful ways of connecting with, inspiring and teaching your readers – they also create memories
  10. Give Your Posts Visual Appeal – the inclusion of an eye-catching image or a well designed diagram can take your post to the next level.
  11. Practise – the best way to improve your writing is to write. Practise Makes Perfect.

On Hamburgers and Hooks: How to Effortlessly FIND (Not Write) Your Compelling First Line

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Diels-Rostant.

Hamburger

Image courtesy of Suat Eman FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Where’s The Beef?” asked the lil’ ol’ lady and in so doing launched her late-blooming acting career.

It was 1984. Clare Peller was eighty-four years old. It was her first acting gig and it was a hit. Her Wendy’s spot spawned a series of follow-up commercials, launched a slew of licensing and merchandising deals (t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, oh my!), and became an instant cultural catch-phrase.

It may even have turned the tide of a presidential primary. In a televised debate, listening to presidential hopeful Gary Hart talk about his “new ideas”, rival Walter F. Mondale leaned forward and said, “When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of that ad, ‘Where’s the beef?’”.

Mondale, not Hart, won the democratic nomination. That’s the power of a pithy, provocative phrase. A hook. The beef. And your blog post has got to have it.

So let me tell you where your blog post beef is: it’s the best, most quotable line of your piece, and I promise you it’s already there.

Really, it’s there. You already wrote it. It’s just in the wrong place.

But first, a little background.

The most quotable line of your blog post could – and should – be the first line. The hook. Hook your readers.

In conventional newspaper journalism, the first line of the piece is the entire piece: Who. What. When. Were. Maybe even how and why. All in one line. The way if the reader stops reading right there after the first line (bad reader! lazy reader!), she still got everything she needed to know.

Which means she can stop reading, yes?

NO.

Is that what you want your blog readers to do? Stop reading after the first line?

So that’s instructive. To write effective, compelling, must-read blog posts, accept the dramatic imperative of classical journalism and hook your reader with the first sentence. Then abandon the methodology – do NOT spill the who, what, where, when or how. At least not yet.

Write hooks, instead, which means don’t give it all away the first line. In fact, don’t lead with any context at all. Context can come later, in the second pararaph, or even later, in the second section of your post.

Because the more provocative, mysterious and insensible the first line, the better the hook. Your reader has to keep reading to figure it out.

Mwahahaha.

That was my evil bloggess laugh. It’s genetic. For example, remarking upon my progeny – one of whom is the incomparable, six year old Lola whose first viewing of 101 Dalmatians provoked her to confide, I really like that evil girl [Cruella DeVille], I like her style Amanda Farough once said, “She’s only one bad science experiment away from becoming an evil genius.”

True dat.

I digress. Sort of. But like any good villainess/bloggess, I do have a signature, sneaky trick in reserve.

It’s a guide to finding your blog post hook in one step.

Notice I said hook finding, not hook writing.

IMPORTANT: I want you to avoid performance anxiety – I mean writer’s block – because so far, there’s no little blue pill for that. Alas. Because if I sit down and try to write The Best First Line Ever, a hot-and-sexy hook, I won’t be able to get my writerly mojo up…so lo, the page will remain blank. Unloved.

But.

If I just write and write and write until I’m finished (I call this Draft Zero because it’s the utterly unselfconscious and necessary blathering that precedes what writer Anne Lamott calls The Shitty First Draft) and then go back and ask,

Where’s The Beef?

AKA

Where’s the Quote?

Then and only then can I get it on. That’s when I’ll find it: the great line I’ve already written. The hook.

And you can, too.

So, when you’re hook-finding, ask yourself this:

Where’s the beef? If you were a reader, what line would tickle, stroke or slap you? Where’s the leap-frogging, cart-wheeling, caterwauling sentence that demands to be known? Where’s the wisdom? Where’s the beef? The quote? Doncha wanna give good quote?

Yes, you do – and if you can’t find a few foundational, architectural phrases that transform your piece from sentences laid end-to-end into “arcades and domes”, then your Draft Zero work is not done.

But if you seek, you will find them: arcadian, majestic, domestic lines of genius already embedded in your blog post. They’re there because you let yourself write them.

Yep, it’s true: there are gorgeous phrases and stunning sentences already in your blog post just waiting to be relocated to where they really belong.

And one of them is your hook. It’s already there, you already wrote it, you just have to find it.

That’s why this exercise is called Hook Finding, not Hook Writing.

So that’s all you have to do.

Flow, write, finish, realize you’re not finished (editing is 90% of real writing), ask yourself, where’s the quote?, and voila! there’s your hook. Cut ‘n paste to the first line -

        which will, inevitably suggest a new narrative arc and the direction for subsequent editing, hallelujah!

 - then revise your piece to support and amplify your new hook, answer the hook in the last line…

…and just like that, you’ll have a hook AND a cohesive, compelling, must-read blog post.

So that’s how you find your blog post’s hook and then use your hook to tie it all together. Tie it up.

Some people like it like that.

Like, your reader.

The one who was hooked. The one who read your piece right through to the end.

And like the hamburger-eating public. Asking Where’s the Beef? increased Wendy’s annual revenue by 31%. One stunning phrase in the right place – a television commercial, a presidential campaign, the first line of a blog post – can change everything.

So please sally forth right now and find your hook. Yum.

—————

The Moral of the Story in Four Short Tweetables*:

  1. Asking yourself “Where’s The Beef?” works for burgers AND blog posts. (click to tweet)

  2. The more provocative, mysterious and insensible the first line, the better the hook. (click to tweet)

  3. “She’s only one bad science experiment away from becoming an evil genius.” (click to tweet)

  4. Hook Finding 101: Write; reread your work; ask yourself, “Where’s The Quote?”; and voila! Hook, found. (click to tweet)

*Wanna know how I wrote these tweets? I didn’t. I found them already written in my post. Yup, hook-finding works for crafting Tweetables, too.

Kelly Diels-Rostant is the evil villainess/writer-for-hire responsible for Cleavage.

7 Steps to Proofreading Like a Pro

This is a guest contribution by Charles Cuninghame, website copywriter and owner of Text-Centric.

I’m sure we can all agree that proofreading is the least fun part of blogging. But while it may be tedious, it’s well worth the effort.

Typos are not only embarrassing, they can also cost you money.

In a widely reported study in 2011, British entrepreneur Charles Duncombe found a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half! If you don’t have a product, then you could be missing out a blog subscriber or repeat visitor!

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

Here’s a tried and tested proofreading process that I’ve taught to many novice writers with great success. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to thoroughly proofread an average length blog post in 5-10 minutes.

What you’ll need:

  1. A printer
  2. A red pen
  3. A highlighter pen

Step 1: Set it aside

Time permitting, set your blog post aside for a while before you proofread it. An hour is good, a day is better. The more time you put between the writing and proofreading, the more refreshed you’ll be and better able to spot any typos.

Step 2: Print it out

Research has shown that proofreading on-screen is not as effective as proofreading a printout. So do yourself a favour and print your post out. But run it through the spell checker first, to fix any obvious spelling mistakes.

Step 3: Mark up your changes

Get ready by minimising distractions. Proofreading requires your undivided attention. So turn off your phone, close your email and switch off the music.

Read through your post marking up typos and rough spots with your red pen as you go. Force yourself to slow down and concentrate. Focus on each word and character as you read.

Make your mark-ups obvious so you don’t overlook them at the corrections stage. Punctuation marks (commas, apostrophes, full-stops/periods, etc.) are particularly easy to miss. So it’s a good idea to circle the mark-up for extra emphasis.

It’s also a good idea to put a cross in the margin next to a line that contains a correction.

Step 4: Read out loud

Once you’re been through your blog post once, read it aloud. Reading aloud helps in two ways. Firstly, your ears will often catch mistakes that your eyes miss. Reading aloud forces a higher level of concentration than silent reading.

And secondly, reading out loud helps you to write conversationally. If your post sounds clunky when you speak it, you need to revise it until it sounds confidently conversational.

Step 5: Double-check details

There are some details that are particularly embarrassing or troublesome to get wrong. So you should double-check the following:

  • The spelling of people’s names e.g. is it Janine or Jenean? Stuart or Stewart?
  • Ditto brand names e.g. is it Word press, WordPress or Word Press?
  • Telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Prices
  • Click links to make sure they go where you want them to.

Step 6: Make corrections

Make all your corrections in one go, not as you find them. Be very careful as you make changes. You don’t want to add in errors at this stage. Be especially careful with any sections you’ve rewritten. If you’ve rewritten a significant portion of your post it’s best to print it out and proof it again.

A common mistake is missing corrections you’ve marked up on your printout. So as you make each change mark it off your printout with your highlighter. When you’ve finished making changes, go over your printout to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Step 7: Final check

As a final check, run the spell checker over your corrected post. Read it on-screen to make sure it looks OK. Break up any paragraphs that are longer than 5 lines. Now you’re good to hit the publish button!

Charles Cuninghame is a website copywriter and the author of the Website Content Cheat-Sheet. For important documents he usually hires a proofreader.

How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?

I recently had the opportunity to sit with a small group of Pre-Bloggers – people about to start their first blogs.

One of the questions I was about how much content should be written before launching a new blog.

My answer came in two parts:

  1. The Ideal Scenario
  2. What I actually have done

The reality is that what I ‘preach’ isn’t always what I ‘do’ – so let me tell you about both!

Note: we give a lot of teaching and some great exercises on this topic in ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

The Ideal Scenario

OK – here’s what I’d do if I was creating a strategy to launch a new blog. Following this strategy would leave you with around a month of content and content ideas ready to go!

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

1. Have At Least 3-5 Posts Already Published

My ideal scenario for launching a new blog is to have at least a few posts already live on the blog.

The benefit of this approach is that when you launch the blog, people arrive and see more posts than just your ‘I started a blog’ post!

These early posts should cover a range of topics within your niche and give your first readers a taste of what is to come in terms of topics, a sense of who you are and an idea about the voice that you’re writing in.

2. Have 5-10 Posts Ready to Publish in Drafts

When launching a new blog, it’s also GREAT to have a few blog posts written and saved as drafts.

The reason for this is that often, when launching a blog, you can easily get distracted by other aspects of the launch. Design tweaks, getting a server set up right, promoting the blog, setting up social media accounts etc.

While you might have a lot of this done before launch, there’s a good chance something will go wrong (it’s Murphy’s Law). If you have at least a few blog posts already written and ready to go, you’ve got a great backup.

Having posts in reserve also takes a bit of pressure off and won’t leave you with that stressed ‘what am I going to write about today’ feeling!

3. Have 20 Blog Post Ideas Brainstormed

One of the hardest parts of creating regular blog posts – particularly in the early days – is coming up with ideas of topics to write about.

As a result I highly recommend doing some brainstorming before you launch, when the pressure is off. Put aside time to come up with as many blog post ideas as possible by what ever means suits you.

I personally like to use Mind Mapping to come up with blog post ideas (I’ve written about mind mapping here and here).

Keep your post ideas handy and add to them regularly, and you’ll find you are never stuck for something to write about!

What I’ve Actually Done

OK – so the ideal theory I’ve outlined above is all good and well – but the reality is that I don’t know a whole heap of bloggers who have always stuck to their launch strategy, including myself.

My own experience is that often, when starting a new blog, excitement and adrenaline kicks in. When you’re passionate about your new project, it’s easy to be more impulsive!

Here’s the brief launch story of my two main blogs:

ProBlogger – I launched ProBlogger in September 2004 after writing about blogging tips and making money blogging on my personal blog, in a category dedicated to the topic.

When I launched ProBlogger.net, I brought all of those posts that I’d previously written so when I launched there was already 60+ posts live.

I remember doing some brainstorming of post titles but I didn’t have any posts saved as drafts. Instead, I was so excited about starting ProBlogger that I published 40 posts in the first 10 or so days!

In hindsight – that was too many. I was naive, but I was so excited!

Digital Photography School – when I launched dPS back in April 2006, I set out with a year and a half of extra experience and so I decided to take things slower.

The dPS blog was something of an experiment and I didn’t know if it was going to be much more than a hobby. But I decided to create more content before launching and went through the brainstorming exercise, with mind maps that I linked to above.

I had 20 or so post ideas mapped out and even wrote a couple of posts that I’d published before launching – but didn’t have too many posts written as drafts on launch.

My plan at launch was to only post 3 posts per week while I got going but again I got a little excited and in the first week I published 6 posts and from then on it was pretty much daily!

Can you see a theme here? I tend to get very excited with new projects and holding back and being measured isn’t always easy for me!

How About You?

I’d love to hear about your blog launching strategies? Do you publish many posts before launching or have posts ready to go? Any other tips for new bloggers?

And if you are looking to launch a new blog – check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for more tips and exercises to help you get your blog launched with the right foundations!

Blog This! Sometimes Going Back to Basics Leads to the Best Posts

Today, I’m preparing some slides for a keynote I’m doing tomorrow. I included this diagram – something that Chris Garrett came up with years ago as a way to show new bloggers what they should blog about.

blog-this.png

The idea – obviously – is to find the connecting point between what YOU know (lessons you’ve learned, problems you’ve overcome, experiences that you’ve had etc) and what your readers (or potential readers) want (or need) to know.

The intersecting point is GOLD!

The problem with this diagram is when I show it to people they sometimes respond saying, ‘I don’t know anything‘!

I understand this feeling. However, I would encourage anyone thinking that to think again. In many cases, you simply overlook what you know because you think it is too basic to share!

As I was preparing for my keynote, I was reminded of a post that I wrote on dPS back in 2007 that illustrates this pretty well.

The post was How to Hold a Digital Camera.

This post came about when I was looking through submitted reader photos to select some to critique in our forum. Many of  the photos I was looking at were blurry and I realised that a common mistake was ‘camera shake’ (or the camera moving while the shot was being taken).

One of the most common and obvious reasons for camera shake is that the photographer is not holding their camera still.

There was an obvious need among some of our readers to learn how to hold their camera to keep it still while shooting.

I knew the theory of how to do this after being taught it in a school photography class but I remember thinking it was simply too basic to write a blog post about.

But I wrote the post anyway.

I hesitated for several days before publishing it, second guessing myself the whole time. I envisaged being laughed down.

The post was a hit. It got a lot of traffic early on, quite a few comments (in which many suggestions were made of other techniques) and it has been shared many hundreds of times around the web on social media.

Today, as I prepared for my keynote, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see how many times the post has been viewed since 2007.

The answer surprised me…

The post has had over 560,000 unique views!

Over half a million people have viewed that post over the last 6 years and still gets an average of 150 visitors per day to it (mainly search traffic).

Sometimes even the most basic advice – things you take for granted – is the advice your readers really need to hear.

Will Your Content Marketing Last The Distance?

This is a guest contribution by Ruchi Pardal of ResultFirst.

Some people believe that content marketing means multichannel, and seemingly mechanical, publishing of anything, anywhere. Their goal is to gain links and rank well (of course, momentarily) using thin content, spinned content, keyword-rich content or unnecessary press releases. That’s the kind of content marketing that brings very short lived benefits (if any). True content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s Content Marketing?

Content marketing creates valuable, sharable content published on multiple channels to attract readers and hopefully customers. Content marketing builds a community. Content marketing gains exposure. And, of course, content marketing markets your brand. But true content marketing taps into people’s desires and grabs their attention by wowing them. Bewitching them. Making them learn something they didn’t already know or were seeking. It hooks them in not just once, but time and time again.

Your Content Marketing Weapons

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Podcasts
  • Comics
  • Video content
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Open discussions
  • And counting…

Questions for Long Distance Content Marketing

Content marketing, if used smartly, can help you gain things you never even knew you could get your hands on. Kissmetrics skyrocketed its traffic and got 3500+ unique domain links using by creating 47 infographics. In fact, it’s one of the greatest examples of content marketing done right. Even Mashable believes that.

So, here are the questions you should (and must) ask yourself if you want your content marketing to work for you in the long term:

Is there any meaning to the content I’m creating? Content marketing with an ambiguous objective is the worst of them all. So, first off, think about what you want to achieve and how that impacts your different audiences. Then track back to how content marketing can bridge the gap. Choose the right content marketing weapons for your audience and your objectives and before jumping in feet first, work out how your content can stand out.

Is it relevant to what my audience wants? Anything that gives your audience, or their network, real value is relevant. Instead of wasting time thinking about how to convert them as a subscriber, think what they need to learn and what they’d love to learn.

Is it mostly about myself, my company, my team? That’s okay – but only sometimes and it’s important that content that’s just about you, with no value to your audience, is in the minority

Does it add any value to or challenge traditional wisdom? Nobody loves rehashed content but yes, if you can give an old topic a new angle or your take then it can feel like a brand new idea.

Does it sound robot-generated? Try to make your content interactive as hell. If it sounds robot-generated, it’s drab, irritating and repelling, your readers won’t read beyond the first paragraph.

Will my audience link to it and share it socially? One of the qualities of content marketing that lasts the distance is its ability to resonate with large audiences and that means making it sharable! Sharable content also helps you in your SEO efforts, too.

Am I just adding to the sea of crap content that’s already on the Web? Please don’t! It’s our Web and it’s up to us whether we make it all the more exciting or filled with full, lifeless, boring content

Have I chosen the right channel for publishing my content? The right channel leads to the right audience so it’s quite an important decision. If you’ve been doing content marketing just to get links, well, that won’t help you now. Google values not just hard-earned but relevant links from trusted sites. Moreover, this I-want-that-link behaviour is disturbing and somewhere undermines what we put into getting one. Time to get over this, right?

Last and the most important: Is my content marketing based on a content strategy? Solid content marketing needs a solid content strategy, one that must answer how you’ll take care of creating, marketing and governing content over time.

A footnote about SEO

“If your content is the best thing since sliced bread, you’re going to rank well. We are focused on what searchers are engaging and how we can deliver them better results.” Bing’s Duane Forrester

“Don’t think about link building, think about compelling content and marketing.” Google’s Matt Cutts

If you still think that SEO is all about rankings and traffic, don’t do content marketing for SEO, at all. However, if you understand that content marketing is about creating and sharing value that helps you build great communities, well the SEO benefits will come as a result.

In summary, I’d reiterate that you can’t win the marathon and gain loyal followers with short sprints of content. You need a content strategy and consistent effort.

So, how do you make sure that your content marketing lasts the distance? What is your favorite content marketing weapon and why? Shout out below.

Ruchi Pardal is Director of ResultFirst, a firm that works on pay-for-performance model, helping businesses get found across search engines and give an optimal experience to their audience. She’s been into digital marketing for well over 10 years. When she’s not busy with her work, Ruchi loves to spend every moment with her awesome family.

The Walking Dead Guide to Writing a Killer Blog Opening

This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, SEO copywriter behind The Copy Detective.

A sheriff’s car rolls up to an intersection, where several cars are burnt out and overturned. The occupant, a police officer, gets out, slowly walks to the back of the car and pulls out a gas can while cautiously looking around.

He walks. He walks past more cars, all clearly abandoned. We watch him peek in to one car to see a decomposing body. He looks sad but not surprised.

He hears a shuffling noise nearby and is instantly alert. It’s a girl. A young girl shuffling away from him (and us). He calls to her. Eventually she turns, revealing a decomposing face dripping with blood. She stares then begins to walk towards him, building speed as she goes.

The danger is clear and our policeman quickly shifts into position, his gun raised. He fires BANG! and we see the little girl fall back onto an impressive blood spatter.

The screen goes black and opening credits begin.

I’ve just described the first 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the TV series, ‘The Walking Dead’. Before the credits had finished, I was hooked. Three series in, I’m still hooked.

That’s the power of a good opening. It can make you stop whatever else you’re doing and sit, in a state of rapt attention. It can bring you back week after week.

How often are you doing two to three other things while reading a blog post? You might be watching TV, listening to the radio, on social media, cooking dinner, talking to your partner …multi-tasking with media is more common today and if you want to get someone’s attention you need to do it from the get-go.

It starts with a great blog title

When readers are looking for the next blog post to read they generally start by scanning a bunch of blog titles (or headlines). It might be titles in their blog reader of choice, or email subject lines from blogs they subscribe to.

As Darren once said, Titles change the destiny of your posts. Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wildfire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.”

It’s important to write a blog title that gets your blog opened. There are plenty of great Problogger posts about writing titles, starting with this one.

Assuming you make it past the first hurdle, your blog post is opened and the first few paragraphs are read… if you’re lucky. It might be just the first few sentences. All the while your reader is inching their cursor closer to the back button and the next blog.

Every sentence is ‘Last Chance Saloon’

Every word matters and each sentence that’s read brings you closer to a new subscriber.

There are lots of different ways to open a blog post but here are some ways to write a killer opening. The kind of blog introductions that let dinner burn while they’re read.

Zombie opener #1: Intrigue the reader

‘The Walking Dead’ set the scene. There were no rolling credits explaining that a virus has swept the earth and only a small percentage of the population remained un-zombified.

No. It did set a dramatic scene that made you question what you expected. The mystery unfolded until the big picture was revealed. In this case that big picture was a little zombie.

Tip: Don’t take too long about setting the scene. You don’t want your reader to get bored or impatient as they figure out when your blog’s going to get relevant.

Zombie opener #2: Make it personal

As our policeman cautiously tiptoes through a trail of devastation, it’s clear he is alone. We instinctively know that this will be his story. The way the series opens lets us share that story in an intimate way. We feel his caution, his shock and his sadness. We instantly wonder how we would react, which puts us in the story.

The opening of your blog post can draw in your readers in the same way.

You see, every blog reader wants understanding. They want to know that someone else feels the way they do. The best way to get a reader hooked is acknowledge a challenge they’re facing. The more secret the challenge, the better.

Tip: Repeat people’s thoughts back to them so your reader feels like you understand them. Weave your personal story into the shared challenge you are solving so you’re talking with your readers, not at them.

Zombie opener #3: Startle your reader

Reading blogs online can draw most readers into a bit of a stupor. The opening few scenes of ‘The Walking Dead’ are quiet. They’re suspenseful and a little bit weird. But then…. BANG! A little zombie girl gets shot down!

If the opening few lines of your blog can jolt your readers out of a stupor, well, you’ve got their attention.

Tip: Try using one-word openings. Or one-sentence paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and break a few old-school writing rules.

Remember that the first paragraph or two of your blog is competing with other blog posts, the TV, the radio, the children and dinner. The faster you can get your reader hooked, the more likely it is they will keep on reading. If the rest of your blog post is as good as the opening, they’ll read all the way to the bottom and hit Subscribe.

So, how far into a blog do you decide it’s worth reading?

Belinda is a professional copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting and make sure you’re the first to hear about her next copywriting master class.

Stop. Don’t post that post! 7 questions to ask before you hit publish

This is a guest contribution by Kate Toon, an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter.

You have a blog post.

Who cares whether you wrote it yourself or paid someone to create it? It’s the right length.

You’ve shoe-horned your chosen keyword phrase ‘Pink llama-wool pyjamas’ into it five times. You’ve downloaded a cool image and even managed to code it into WordPress.

It’s time to press upload, right? Wrong.

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself these seven critical questions.

Does your blog post target your audience?

Have you written a generic ‘appeals to everyone’ (read ‘no one’) vanilla article? Or are you targeting a particular niche? Try to get inside the mind of your audience, then read your blog post again. Does it address a particular need or concern? Or is it all blah yawn blah?

Is the blog post credible?

An especially important question to ask if the blog post has been written by a third party. Even more so if you used a $5-a-post copy shop. Very few writers will care about your business as much as you do, or write with true passion about your subject matter. True heart in writing shines through.

So be sure not only that the facts are checked but also that the blog rings true and doesn’t sound like marketing fluff.

Is the blog post unique?

This sounds impossible, right? With so many articles being posted in your niche, how can you write something unique? But even the most well-trodden ground can be given new life. Your tone of voice. Your viewpoint. Your inside knowledge can add a certain something to your blog.

It’s very important to write with a strong voice if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Is the blog post useful? (Or at least entertaining?)

A great place to start with useful content is by addressing the customer enquiries and questions you’ve received. Each one is potential post. But when these are all covered it’s important to keep your finger on your audience’s collective pulse. What are the market trends? What’s in the news? What are they talking about on Twitter?

If all else fails, at least try to be entertaining, interesting and funny. 

Is the blog post easy to understand?

Now I could direct you to some snazzy readability tool, but how about we just use common sense? Check your writing for:

  • Long rambling sentences.
  • Long complicated words.
  • Poorly phrased sentences.

Pay extra attention to those first 100 words. If a reader can’t get through those as easily as a knife through warm butter, your post is in trouble.

Would you share this blog post?

If the blog didn’t have your name on it, would you forward it to a friend? What would you say in the email that accompanied it?  ‘Check out this awesome history of llama wool production in Peru’?

If you wouldn’t share it, why would others?

Does the post address a your goals?

All the other points have been about your readers and rightly so. But this one is all about you. Why are you posting the article? Is it just to add some fresh content? To give you a boost for a certain keyword? To cover off a reader enquiry? To launch a new product or idea? To attract a new audience? To give your opinion on a news event? Or all of the above?

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging. Be clear what your blogging objectives are.

If you can’t answer each question with a confident ‘YES’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This might seem like tough love, but it can just take one crappy post to put a potential customer off your blog.

When it comes to blogging, ask yourself the tough questions and don’t settle for second best.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and CremeEgg-lover based in Sydney, Australia.

5 Keys to Writing Excellent Blog Posts

Today in a radio interview I was asked to give 4-5 quick tips on how to write great blog posts.

Quick isn’t my forte when giving tips (I have a lot to say) and I can think of many more than 5 tips for writing great blog posts – but here’s a brief overview of the things I mentioned:

1. Be Useful

When I start writing a blog post, I always identify how useful the post will be to my readers.

Will it solve a problem? Will it make people think? Will it start a conversation? Will it entertain? Will it make readers feel like they’re not alone? Will it teach them something?

Unless a blog post is useful on some level I don’t think it’s worth publishing.

More on Useful Blogging: Usefuless: Principles of Successful Blogging #3.

2. Write Conversationally

This one partly comes down to my own style, so it may not be for everyone, but I find my most effective blog posts are written as if I’m sharing the topic with a friend.

As a result, my posts are fairly informal and written with a lot of ‘I’ and ‘You’ language.

For me, this is partly because I find it a lot easier and more natural to write in this tone of voice – but I also find it connects with readers in a pretty powerful way.

Read more on conversational blog writing at 23 Top Tips to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

3. Write Great Headlines

I think about my headline before, during and after writing and it often will change numerous times before I settle on the final version.

Headlines, or blog titles, are often the deciding factor on whether someone reads a post or not – so they have a lot of impact.

Read more about writing headlines at – How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog (with 8 great tips) and Titles that Work on ProBlogger – And Why.

4. Build Anticipation and Momentum

Having somebody read one of my blog posts is something I value very highly – it is a real honour – however I have a higher goal.

I want them to read more posts – both immediately and in the future.

As a result, I’ve discovered that if you write blog posts that build momentum in some way you’re much more likely to keep readers hanging around.

One simple way to do build momentum is to link back to old posts you’ve already written, both during and at the end of a blog post. You can see an example of this a few paragraphs above when I gave you links to read more on writing great headlines.

Linking back to old blog posts drives readers into your archives which makes them more likely to engage and become loyal readers.

I’ve found that writing in a way that builds ‘anticipation’ in your readers is particularly powerful. If you can get your readers to look forward to posts you’re yet to write, you give them a reason to subscribe and connect with you in the future.

I wrote a series on building anticipation that I highly recommend you check out.

The key is to look beyond the blog post you’re writing and draw your readers (particularly new ones) into the story (both past and future) of your blog.

If you can get them to see that your blog is much more than the post they’re reading, you might just find you have a reader that engages with you for years to come.

One more bonus link: How to Keep Momentum Going By Building on Previous Posts.

5. Build Engagement

The last thing I mentioned in the interview was to try to build some level of engagement into the blog posts that you write.

This can start with writing in a conversational style (see above) but it goes a lot further. The benefit of getting your readers to engage with you and your content is that they’re much more likely to stick around and become a regular reader.

It also builds social proof, making your blog more useful and relevant to a wider audience.

I won’t go on a great deal about building community because it has only been a couple of weeks since I wrote this mega-series on the topic:

How Would You Answer the Question?

If you had to give 4-5 tips on writing great blog posts – what would you say?

Looking forward to your responses in comments below.