If you have a blog or intend to start one, you likely know that it can be tough work. This is true whether its focus is more creative or more SEO oriented. Writing content that readers will not only like, but also want to come back for more of is no easy task. However, writing, like any other skill, is something that can be developed with practice and effort. Below you will find tips in order to improve your blog content.
Know Your Audience
Before you ever set fingers to a keyboard, it is vital that you understand who you are writing for. Only then can you effectively choose blog post topics that will cater to their interests. You have to ask yourself: who is your target audience? What are their interests? Where are they likely at in life? What do they want out of life? What are you trying to say that will speak to them?
If you are writing a cooking blog and your intended readers are young women or moms who are beginner cooks, then writing a how-to on Boeuf Bourguinon, soufflés, or Paella is probably not a good idea. If you were a professional chef writing for other professionals or more advanced cooks, however, then this would be the perfect topic.
Once you have identified your audience and have chosen a topic, think carefully about what separates you from others who are writing in that space, or may have already had their say on the matter. What do you bring to the table that other bloggers do not? What makes you unique? What new information are you presenting your audience?
Picking A Title
Now that you know to whom you are writing and have selected what you will be writing about, begin with a working title that can act as a guidepost of sorts for what you want to convey. Upon completion of the article, play with alternate titles. Maybe it still fits, but perhaps, during the writing, you strayed further from the guidepost as you sunk into the rhythm and purpose of the content. It may not seem all that important, but the title of an article should attract or entice readers. It is the very first thing a reader will see. A bad title could result in your audience scrolling past your article, while a good one could result in a curious click.
Pique your audience’s interest. Tantalize them, but do not mislead them. Avoid buzzfeedy, click-baity titles at all costs. They are clichéd and end up leaving the audience feeling cheated or manipulated.
For example, let’s pretend you are writing about a road trip you took last summer from Connecticut down to Palm Beach Florida. You want to share this experience with your readers. They have to know about the wonderful restaurants you ate at, cities you toured, or sites you saw.
Don’t Write Hieroglyphics
Make your blogs easy to read. Our eyes need variance, a means of mental relaxation. A gigantic wall of text can turn off many potential readers. Some tips to make your writing easier to navigate and easier on the eyes includes:
- Lists – Lists allow you to break up text. It is much easier to read sequences or remember points when listed out. When possible, try to not use paragraphs when a simple list will do.
- Images – Images can complement whatever it is you are writing. They can add visual support, improve the readers understanding of the topic, or reinforce an idea or concept. Once more, images serve to break up text.
- Feature Image – Pick a cover image for the content, this increases its visual allure and means it is more likely to be shared via social networks.
- Categories and tags. Mark your content with one or more categories and tags to make content easier to find.
- Excerpt. Make an enticing summary of your blog entry and include it in the excerpt that Word Press provides.
- Internal and external links. You should always include references to other posts, either from your site or from other websites. Hyperlink these when possible.
- Additional meta-information. If you are using plugins (SEO or social media) that need more information about your post, be sure to fill in that information as well.
- Focus on your writing – This may seem obvious, but our life is full of constant interruptions. Do what you can to reduce them in order to avoid distraction. Turn off your phone or social media. Isolate yourself. Free yourself from constraints or excuses to do something other than writing. Simply write and focus 100% on that. Writing is rhythmic. It sucks you in. Distraction free writing allows you to continue down the mental pathways without losing track of your intended thoughts.
- Vary your sentence structure – Gary Provost in his book, ‘Make Every Word Count,’ had this to say on varying sentence length to create rhythm and flow to his writing: “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” Do you hear that? The musicality possible by simply changing how we write is amazing. Avoid using stilted prose or dull language. This is an extremely simple fix and the more you pay attention, the more you will see it littered in the works of great writers.”
- Revise your work – The first draft is only the first step. It is the husk of your post. Now that you have got it all out, step away from it for a day or so. Come back to it with fresh eyes. Then begin to cut. Cut, cut, cut, cut. Don Ruff writes, “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living crap out of it.” Learn the art of revision. Identify what is important, what the crux of the argument is. Look for ways to enforce that or supplement it. As you write and rewrite, what emerges from the fifth draft will be a completely superior piece to what you churned out with the rough draft.
- Proofread – If you write something and do not go over it multiple times, you will miss a ton of typos, misspellings, grammar errors or weak sentences. ! Print it out and read the the entire thing out loud. *Note: Go back to that previous sentence. Did you notice the second “the” or did you just skim over it? When we read we tend to to skip certain obvious words, so that we can focus more on on the less common words. We recognize them and skip over them so quickly that we don’t always notice when there are two of of them. * Note: Go back to the previous two sentences… you fell for it again. You will be amazed how many mistakes your eyes miss, but your ears pick up. Mark changes or issues with a colored pen. Double-check your work. After this, make the changes, rinse and repeat. It also is very important to have someone else read your work. Another pair of eyes is invaluable. Every single professional writer has others who read their work for mistakes and to identify places where it could be strengthened or needs to be clarified or focused.
- Respect your audience – Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” If you do not have something worthwhile to say, or a blog post to be proud of, do not put it out until it is ready. Your audience does not owe you anything. They give you their time and their attention (many times only half of that attention). It is your job to entice them, capture them and then reward them for that.