The Importance of Home Run Posts
Most of you are probably familiar with the Pareto Principal, also known as the 80/20 rule. The rule states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. In blogging this rule is even more extreme (probably 95/5) because of social media. A great post that goes viral, makes the front page of Digg, and is picked up by a top blogger, will easily receive 20 times more traffic, back links, and RSS subscribers than a post that’s merely very good.
Home run posts grow your blog rapidly so it’s important to do everything you can to take a post from good to great. This goes against the popular opinion that short frequent posts are the best strategy. This might work well for blogs that already have a sizable readership, but if you’re just starting out you’ll need to do more to make an impact. This means providing significant value.
What Makes a Home Run Post?
Home run posts come in all shapes and sizes but they tend to share a few important qualities.
- Length – All the posts I’ve written that have made the front page of Digg, Reddit, or del.icio.us have been substantial, usually from 700-1000 words. People extract more value from longer articles. Maybe fewer people will read the whole post but the ones that do are more likely to vote it up and subscribe to your RSS feed. Go into detail and share everything you know.
- Useful Information – The more value you provide, especially in a practical sense, the more incentive people have to share your article with others and bookmark it for themselves. This is why ‘how to’ posts and lists of tips are so successful. Focus on serving the reader.
- Originality – It’s highly unlikely that you’ll write a great post by linking to someone else’s content and talking about it. These types of posts are good for meeting your weekly posting schedule, but they don’t add enough value to become popular. Aim to create stand alone, original content.
- Well Written – This might be the most important factor. No matter how detailed and useful your post is it won’t spread if you mangle the message with bad writing. This is especially important in the headline and opening paragraph because that’s where readers are drawn in. This also includes good formatting and organization — no one likes to read huge blocks of text. You need to make your message as clear and concise as possible.
Hit More Home Runs by Writing in Multiple Sessions
Hitting home runs is difficult. It’s nearly impossible to predict what will take off, and it’s going to require great ideas and a lot of effort. The most important part is not rushing. Unless your post is breaking news, it doesn’t matter when it’s published. Taking the time to perfect it can make the difference between a few dozen and several thousand visitors.
My most successful posts are always written in more than one session. I usually get inspired and churn out most of the writing in the first session. Then I take some time off, at least a few hours, and let the ideas sort themselves out in my subconscious. A few hours later I write the conclusion and cut out or clarify poorly written sentences. I’m able to improve sections that had troubled me earlier and spot weaknesses that I hadn’t noticed. Before publishing I always do a final review and ruthlessly cut everything that doesn’t add meaning.
It might not seem important, but writing in multiple sessions and carefully editing will improve your writing dramatically. If you’re going to put the effort into creating a great piece of content, it makes sense to do everything in your power to increase the chance it becomes popular. Putting in the extra work will help you attract readers and take advantage of the 80/20 rule.