Starting a blog is an ideal way to promote yourself and your business. It can also be remarkably rewarding on a personal, and financial level. In the first part of this series about starting a blog, we looked at the ways to get started blogging, how to choose your platform, and to set things up. Now that you’ve got the basics down and mastered, it’s time to start growing your blog into something big. It’s time for writing a blog post.
The first thing to change is your way of thinking.
When someone asks you what you do, don’t shrug your shoulders and say ‘yeah, I run a little blog.” Hold your head up with pride and declare yourself a blogger. But even more importantly, begin to think of yourself as more than just a blogger, you’re a voice of authority on your chosen topic. You are providing key insights and information on your subject. There may be others out there writing on similar themes, but they can’t offer your unique point of view, shaped by your knowledge and experiences. You have to believe in your message. If you don’t believe in your ‘voice,’ no one else will believe in it either.
Writing a Blog Post: Define Your Niche
When starting a blog, it’s fine to start with a broad idea of what you want to blog about, but your blog will blossom if you narrow your writing niche. Generalized topics (such as ‘mobile apps’) are harder to sell. You’ll have to put in more effort if you want to attract new readers to your blog. Writing on broad topics puts you in direct competition with already well-established blogs and websites; competing for the same readers.
So narrowing your niche when you’re starting a blog is good. Narrowing it too much, however, can be just as dangerous.
You don’t want to have a niche so specific that you quickly run out of things to write about! Ideally, aim for creating a blog that is part of a broader subject or issue.
Remember our too generalized ‘mobile apps’ example above? You can narrow that nicely with a unique approach or angle. Think ‘mobile apps for senior adults’ or ‘mobile apps for new iPhone users.” Now you have a narrower subject field to specialize in, but broad enough to keep readers returning for news and updates.
But perhaps the most important thing to remember when starting a blog and choosing your niche is to write about something that captures your imagination and inspires you.
You’ll be spending countless hours developing compelling content for your new blog. If you don’t enjoy the subject, you’ll quickly lose interest and grow bored with your site. And if you’re bored with your blog, your readers will know.
Still having difficulty narrowing it down? Try this exercise:
Imagine yourself at a friendly dinner party. You’re comfortable in the environment, and the conversation is easy. You begin talking about something, and soon you’re telling anecdotes and sharing insight about something – something you could talk about for hours. Write about THAT, and you’ll never run out of things to put on your blog.
Writing a Blog Post: The Commitment
Once you’ve decided on starting a blog and have settled on your blog’s subject, stick with it. If something happens outside your niche that you can’t ignore, something you just HAVE to write about, consider venting on Medium, Facebook, or write a letter to your local newspaper. Heck, you could even write a book about it – just don’t put it on your blog! Your blog is only for niche-related posts.
Readers are coming to your blog to hear what you have to say about your niche. If you fill your site with ramblings on other issues, you’ll turn them away.
Consistency is essential to attracting and keeping a loyal readership that is consistently growing.
Writing a Blog Post: Choosing Compelling Content
Sounds easy enough, right? It is easy, once you know what makes a blog post ‘compelling.’ Compelling posts are those that get shared, often. And readers will be more inclined to share your blog post if it
solves a problem your reader is experiencing;
answers a question your reader might have;
evokes an emotion from your readers (can you make them laugh? Cry? Blogs that trigger emotional responses often ‘go viral’).
Formatting also contributes to making a blog post compelling. Looks matter when you’re reading online, and a visually appealing article or blog post will get more attention from your audience. You can make your post more reader-friendly by using:
Numbered or bulleted lists (like this one!);
Sub-headings or sections;
You want to break up big chunks of text. Readers like ‘white space’ – screen space free from words, it gives your reader’s eyes a break and helps eliminate eye-strain encouraging them to stay on your page longer and read more.
Another way to create compelling blog posts is self-evident, but too often, it’s one we overlook. Keep your blog content fresh. We’d all love to be able to put up a new blog post daily, but chances are you won’t have the time. And that’s okay. Updating your blog weekly is perfect to keep readers checking in for all the latest news and updates. By keeping your blog fresh, you’ll attract and retain readers, growing your audience with each new post.
In the land of internet content, snappy headlines are king.
Your headline is your opening appeal to new readers, so remember this when you’re starting a blog. The majority of potential readers will decide to visit your blog based solely on your headline. So you want to keep it snappy. To get an idea of what makes a snappy headline, scroll through your social media feed. Facebook and Twitter are great resources to gain insight into what readers like and what they don’t.
Here are some headline hacks to help you get started writing your own snappy headlines
Never lie in a headline.
Truth builds authority and integrity. If your blog is about dogs, don’t give it a headline implying it’s about Kim Kardashian, no matter how strong she might be trending. That’s clickbait, and it’s a blog’s worst enemy. You might get readers on your blog but they’ll never return, and they’ll spread the word to their friends.
What is your blog post about?
Give your reader an idea or two about what they’ll be reading. Is your dog post about dog training techniques? Dog food recipes? The best neighborhoods to walk your dog? Share a little insight with your potential reader to draw them in, making them want to read your full post.
You’re unique, and your blog post needs to be unique too.
Trust your point of view and build on your instinct. If you believe that off-leash parks are a must-do for dog owners, then provide a well-thought out argument stating that. Think they’re the worst thing ever? Spell it out. Be logical and make sure your blog contains a personal point of reference. If your reader can see themselves in the situation you’re describing they’ll be more inclined to read you blog all the way to the end, and share it on their social media platforms.
Deliver on all your promises.
This comes back to clickbait, again. Have you ever seen a headline that promised to tell you ten great ways to do something you really wanted to know? Did you click on the headline only to find it was a post telling you about someone else’s top ten list? Frustrating isn’t it!? Be sure to deliver on the promise in your headline. If you have 5 Tips for Attracting New Readers, great! But if you can’t follow through on your topic, you’ll be better off finding a different subject to write about.
Writing a Blog Post: Be Yourself
This is so important. Especially when it comes to growing your blog. Sure, everyone reads Neal Patel’s blog, but that doesn’t mean you should be copying his style.
You might feel a little intimidated about putting your voice out there, but it’s really your best tool for growing your blog. No one else can tell the story the exact way you can. That’s why it’s so important to write like you, not like your favorite author or blogger. By being your authentic self when starting a blog, you’ll establish your brand, attracting like-minded people who will come to value and trust what you have to say.
The most successful blogs on the next have readership in the millions because of their unique voice and perspective. By letting your personality shine through your writing, you’ll be setting your blog apart from others that might be writing on the same topic.
Share things you find funny with your readers, let them in on tips or other hacks. Over time they’ll come to know who you are and what your blog stands for. Most importantly, they’ll look forward to reading the way that only you can tell them.
Writing a Blog Post: Content
A successful blog will need a combination of evergreen, timely, and breaking content.
If it’s happening now, it’s considered breaking. Any sudden or deadline-driven news item would fall into this group. It’s often the smallest portion of your website, but it can bring in readers if you can get a ‘scoop,’ getting the story out before the competition.
Think of it this way, if you’re attending a tradeshow and the president of a prominent company announced she/he was stepping down, that would be breaking news. Write up a short article with details and pop it onto your blog. Then head to social media and share it. You’ll pick up readers who want to know more about this item, and because you’re one of the few people writing about it readers will flock to your site.
And once they’ve read the breaking article, they’ll likely take a look around at other timely blog posts.
This is where you can cover a trend or recent news item in more detail. In the example above, timely content might look at recent changes in the company’s board or directors or the release of a new version of an online program. Timely stories are relevant for a longer than breaking news but do eventually expire. Sometimes timely content is called seasonal content. Christmas stories are good to have on your blog from November to early January, but you wouldn’t want them featuring on your site in July.
This type of content is the backbone of your blog. These are the articles that aren’t time sensitive and will be just as relevant to readers in July as they will be in December. These types of articles are often general in their scope, with information that readers would find interesting at any time.
Long Posts vs. Short Posts
Short posts are fine now and then, but if you’re counting on search engines to deliver new readers to your site, you’ll need to work up to writing ‘long-form’ posts, of at least 2,000 words. Longer articles are better for reader retention – keeping readers on your site for a longer amount of time – and helps to build your authority. Long posts also rank better than short posts, and that’s important because Google and other search engines share high-ranking articles.
A picture really is worth a thousand words.
Blogging. Plain text on a white background can get boring, no matter how passionate you are about your subject. But by using a combination of text, images, graphics, or other multimedia components such as charts, infographics, or videos will have readers flocking to your site. Eye-catching graphics make your blog more visually appealing and attract readers.
But it doesn’t stop there. A high-resolution image can
reinforce your overall message or underlying theme;
decrease bounce rate (how fast readers leave your site);
pull in traffic from image search engines.
And the best thing is, you don’t need to be a photographer to find great shots. There are plenty of royalty free sites that will allow you to use their images. Sites like Wikicommons, Flickr, Creative Commons, Unsplash or Pexels are great no-cost resource for high-resolution images to compliment just about any blog topic.
Writing a Blog Post: Moving Forward
Even the most prolific writer can run out of ideas now and then. You carve out an hour to write; you sit down at the computer, and nothing. The words just don’t come.
Don’t despair; you just need a little inspiration to get things moving. Take a few minutes to review websites and social media platforms in your industry or niche, and check out the latest products or news. Do you like the new product? Do you think it’s a step forward? Step backward? Will it outperform last year’s model? Or should your readers heed your recommendation to buy it today?
Now that your blog is live, and you’re adding content on a regular basis, you might feel like you can sit back and wait. But hold on – you’re not done yet. You’ll typically need to commit to blogging for at least a year before you see hard results. So don’t get discouraged if you aren’t logging new readers by the thousands with each new post. It takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the best blogs.
Don’t get discouraged. Instead, treat yourself to a little pick-me-up. Take a blogging vacation – go offline for a couple of days. Consider brushing up on some inspiring words. I like On Writing by Stephen King, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R Covey – they always get my creative juices flowing and before I know it I can’t wait to get back to the keyboard.
Write for Your Readers
When you’re blog writing, it’s so easy to slip into a steady stream of I’s and me’s but resist the urge to put everything in the first person. Always remember you’re writing for an audience. So unless you’re specifically writing about your own personal exploits, you’ll want to steer clear of blogs that read like a Dear Diary entry.
At the end of the day, you’re writing for all those hardworking folks to go to your blog for entertainment or information, food for thought, or insight. Respect their time and make their visit to your blog worth the trip.
Don’t Stop Blogging
Yes, there are a million little things you can do that will help your blog grow. But the simplest, most effective thing you can do to be successful is to keep blogging. The more you write the easier it becomes. Embrace your passions and don’t be afraid to really talk, one-on-one to your readers. The best, most successful blogs, connect with the readers. And that only happens with time. So, don’t stop blogging. Even when you’re tired, don’t stop blogging. Even when it’s late at night, don’t stop blogging. Even when it’s hard, don’t stop blogging. Because if running a successful blog was easy everyone would do it. But you’re not everyone, you’re you, and you’ve got something important to say.
Now, what are you waiting for. Don’t you have a blog to write?