More on Writing Content for your Blog

Much more could be written about writing effective blog posts – but rather than keep this series going for a month or two I’ll break my ‘granular post’ advice and make a few brief miscellaneous comments on writing content to help fill out the topic (with links for most to places I’ve written more on the topics):

  • Interactive Blogging – While occasionally I come across a blogger that doesn’t want too much interaction with their readers I get a lot of questions from bloggers asking how to get MORE interaction – particularly around how to have a more interactive comments section. While a major impact upon comments is the number of visitors you have on your blog there are definitely strategies for getting more comments (also check out this post on The Secret to Interactive Blogging). The main tip I’d give on this is to be interactive with the readers you have. Start with what you’ve got and build from there rather than complaining about what you don’t yet have.

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Scannable Content

Make Posts Scannable – One of lessons that I would advise all bloggers to get their minds about is that in addition to fact that the average web user doesn’t usually stay long on a web pagethey also don’t read much of it As a result, scannable content is a userful strategy to use in your blogging.

One study found that only 16% of people read word for word when they are online and another found that the average person only comprehends about 60% of what they read.

Rather than read word for word – web users ‘Scan’ pages for information – looking for key words, phrases and visual cues.

Here are a few tips and techniques you can use for working with your scanning readers and not against them:

  • Lists – This will be no surprise to ProBlogger readers – I’m pretty big on lists and my stats show me its my posts with bullet point lists in them that get linked to ALOT more than similar length posts written in of an essay style. Read more on lists in posts at this list on why lists are good.
  • Formatting – Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard as you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
  • Headings and Sub Headings – Using headings midway through posts helps with post structure (and many believe with SEO if you use <h> tags) but they also are great for drawing your readers eyes down the page and helping them find the parts of your article that will interest them most..
  • Pictures – clever use of pictures in your posts can grab attention, emphasize points and draw people down into your post. I’ve played around with pictures pretty extensively on a couple of my blogs and find they add a real air of professionalism and interest to posts – there’s nothing worse than long chunks of text on a page – break it up!
  • Borders/Blockquotes – boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
  • Space – don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen – rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed and again tend to draw readers eyes to what is inside such space.
  • Short Paragraphs – Web users tend to get lost in large blocks of text – break it into smaller bites and you’ll stick with it for longer.
  • Don’t Bury your Points – Make your main points as clear as you can. One technique to ensure this is to get your main point across in the first few sentences rather than burying it in your conclusion.

Using Titles Effectively on Blogs

My Mum drilled into me at a young age that first impressions are important.

Outside of the design of your blog (that’s a whole other post) perhaps the best way of creating that impression is though your post’s title.

Titles are so important on many fronts – including:

  • Grabbing Attention in Search Engines – Head over to Google and type in virtually any word you can think of and you’ll often find millions of results. The interesting thing is that for most search results in Google (and other SE’s) there is very little for readers to go by in deciding which result to click on. There is a title, a short excerpt and a URL. The most highlighted of these is the title and I believe it is key in getting SE referral clicks.

Picture 2-1

  • Getting RSS Readers Attention – in a very similar way titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS in news aggregators. Even if your feeds are full post feeds rather than excerpts it’s likely that most news aggregator readers scan the titles of posts for things that interest them rather than reading full text. The same principle is true in other indexes and directories like Technorati,, digg etc

Picture 1-4 [Read more…]

Granular (One Topic) Posts

One topic per post – We’ve already spoken in this series about choosing a niche topic for your blog, but another strategy of many successful blogs is that in addition to having an over arching niche topic they tend to have each post focus upon a more tightly targetted topic.

On some levels this is a fairly natural and logical thing that most bloggers naturally do – but occasionally I come across a blog post that seems to want to answer every question known to humankind in a single post. The result can be a long, unfocused, rambling post that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Instead of feeling you need to stuff everything into one post – a strategy that often works better is to be more ‘granular’ in the way you post (ie break it down into grains).

In effect you end up with a blog that can be visually show like this (click to enlarge):


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Post Length – How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

We might as well continue exploring the topic of writing good content with a topic that has been debated by bloggers rather hotly over the years, the length of the optimum post. There are a number of ways of looking at it:

  • Reader Attention Span – It is pretty well documented that the typical web reader has a short attention span when it comes to reading content online. My own little investigation into length of stay on blogs found that average blog readers stay 96 seconds per blog (I’ve seen other more scientific tests that show similar results). What ever the number – it’s generally not long. As a result many web-masters purposely keep their content length down to a level that is readable in short grabs.
  • SEO – There is a fairly strong opinion among those considered experts in Search Engine Optimization that both extremely short and extremely long web pages are not ranked as highly as pages that are of a reasonable length. Of course no one really knows how many words are ideal – but the general opinion seems to be that a page of at least 250 words are probably a reasonable length. Similarly, many advise keeping pages under 1000 words.
  • Quantity of Posts – One theory that goes around is that shorter posts allow you to write more posts and that more posts are better for generating readership with RSS and in Search Engines. While I don’t know their strategy personally, some believe this is what sites like Engadget and Gizmodo do with their high number of short posts which make up the majority of their content.
  • Topic/Genre – The type of post that you’re writing will often determine it’s length. For example when writing a review of a product you’ll generally write a longer post than when you write a news related post where you link to something someone else has written.
  • Comprehensive Coverage of the Topic – Ultimately this has to be the main criteria that bloggers go with. I can’t remember who advised this but at some point in the last year I read someone saying that you should write enough to comprehensively cover your topic and then stop. Long posts for the sake of them are not a wise move – but so are short ones that don’t cover the topic well.

In the end you need to find your own way on this. Here at ProBlogger I tend to mix it up a fair bit. I try to write at least one longer post per day that gives readers a bit of meat to chew on (whether it be a tips post, a review post, a rant etc) but I also throw in ‘newsy’ posts throughout the day.

Writing Good Content

I’d now like to swing the blogging for beginners series onto the topic of writing content with a series of posts exploring different elements of quality content. By the way – Peter mentioned in the last post in this series that his part 2 piece on blog design would be posted today – unfortunately he’s been unwell and the post will be delayed.

List after list have been compiled by bloggers on the things that make blogs successful – but on every one that I’ve ever seen has been a statement about content being the ultimate key. ‘Content is King’ is a catch cry that has echoed through the blogosphere for years and while at times I think it’s been used to the point of ignoring other aspects of what makes a successful blog – it really is what a good blog boils down to.

What is Good Content?

Ultimately defining what is ‘good content’ is a subjective exercise (perhaps in a similar way to defining what is a ‘good book’ or a ‘good movie’) and so a post like this one is likely to cause a little debate as each person will define it differently depending upon their personality, their needs, the topic that they are talking about and perhaps even their ethics. Not only will bloggers themselves each have a different view on what is ‘good’ content – but readers tend to also. I know that every time I ask for feedback on ProBlogger and what I write more about I get a real spectrum of responses.

Future posts in this series is an attempt to unpack some of the elements of content that might go towards making it good – or not. At most points along the way there will be debate but hopefully out of it readers will be able to mix and match the elements and identify what works for them.

So without any more introductory remarks, lets get into it with the first element of writing quality content:

Usefulness and Uniqueness – As this post is a part of a series of posts that get back to the basics of blogging and so I will start unpacking the topic of ‘writing good content’ with perhaps the most basic and obvious point of all:

‘for a blog to be successful your content needs to be useful and unique to your readers’

As I say – it’s not rocket science but it’s a factor that I think bloggers need to continually be asking themselves about as they review their blogging. Is your blog useful?

Back in the days when I studied marketing I remember sitting in lecture after lecture getting more and more frustrated as I heard my lecturers drum into us the same thing time after time. Although they said it in different ways, the lessons that they communicated was largely the same in every instance and boiled down to this: [Read more…]

When Not Posting is a Good Thing for your Blog

Wayne’s hit the nail on the head with his post Posting desperation: When anything won’t do where he examines a good strategy for beating bloggers block…. Posting Nothing at all.

‘Instead of letting some slipshod meaningless post fill that taunting empty posting box, it would be better for you and you blog to skip a day. I know, I know, that is probably blasphemy to the ears of many. Not posting at all is also a solid blogging technique that is rarely discussed.’

Wayne goes on to talk about some of the consequences of feeling you have to post about something and as a result posting substandard content. The crux of his argument is that your blog is your brand everything that you present on it to readers becomes part of this.

In a sense, every post you write has the potential to add to your brand or take from it. Substandard posts written just for the sake of posting something might give you temporary relief from the feeling of having a slightly out of date blog – but they could also do you serious damage, especially if it becomes a regular thing.

Of course if bloggers block settles in for the long term you there are always strategies for combatting it – but one to consider is as Wayne suggests – ‘do nothing’.

Writing Integrity Day

Andy Wibbels is having a writing integrity day.

What is it?

It’s pretty simple really – it’s an attempt to get all that writing you’ve been putting off done by being a little accountable to others. He’s done it before – it goes something like this:

  1. We all get on the phone at 10am Eastern/New York time.
  2. Everyone takes 10 seconds (no more!) to say what they are going to work on for the next hour.
  3. Hang up.
  4. Write like hell.
  5. Get back on the phone the next hour and do it again.
  6. Rinse and repeat until 5pm.

It’s a fun idea to help make the day as productive as possible and which will get us bloggers who sit alone all day staring at the computer interacting with ‘real’ people for once.

Of course it doesn’t quite work for us non US types – I’ll be well and truly asleep for most of the time everyone else is writing with integrity.

Interestingly the date Andy’s chosen is 14 February – Valentines day – the perfect day to connect with other bloggers :-)

Why I don’t use Free Articles on my Blogs

A common question that finds itself into my inbox from readers is with regards to the practice of using ‘Free Articles’ to put on your blog. I quite often talk about how building the quantity of content on your blog is one strategy for building traffic over time but the temptation for those unable to write large quantities of content is to look at other places for it.

Free Article sites like ezine articles (there are many many others) are places where writers submit articles to be used freely by other webmasters in return for the links usually contained in a footer at the end of the article. Such articles can be picked up by thousands of sites which can be good for the writer (see below for another take on this) as a result of the incoming links that the articles bring to their sites.

Long time readers of ProBlogger (and I mean LONG time) will remember that ‘free articles’ were actually something I once used on this blog on occasion. It was only on a handful of times but without really thinking of the implications of them I had posted a number of them.

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