The Blog Behind the Blog: 7 Lessons Learned for Writing Great Blog Posts

blog_behind_blogAwhile back my boss asked me to lead up creating a blog program for our company. Having only written a few posts in my time, I immediately realized I had a lot to learn. After-all, if I was going to be advising other people at my company on how to write great blog posts, then I better damn-sure know what I'm talking about. So I went out and started my research. I read countless articles and pulled only what I considered to be the most essential best practices for success. I wound up with seven; and the information I'm sharing with you is the same information I sent out to our entire company. I call it "The Blog Behind the Blog." I hope it helps.

1. Choosing the Proper Length
In writing a blog post, generally speaking you don't need to make your blog posts too long. In fact, most of the time 300-500 words is often plenty; sometimes even less if the content is good. When constructing your paragraphs, you ought to consider keeping them short - in the 3-4 sentence range, utilizing bullet points, and using simple language that your audience can understand. In the age of Twitter, and with so many people reading information on their mobile devices, small chunks of content is what most people are accustom to. That's not to say there's not a place for longer blog posts too, but in either case you need find a way that people can easily digest it.

2. Selecting the Right Format
When formatting a blog post it's often best to utilize sub headings to segment your blog post so that it's split up in a way that people can easily process it. In fact, many readers are likely to only skim your blog before deciding whether they want to actually read it. So be certain to use bold headers to help indicated whether your article contains content that's of interest to them.

Some popular but effective ways to do this are creating a "how to" guide or a tutorial. Popular formats include Top 10 tips. The fewer points you make, the more content you should probably use to support each point. Be sure to use good sub headings that summarize these points and add a paragraph or two to support each one. Another option might be to make a longer list, e.g. “50 ways to….” This format will only require minimal content to support each point; perhaps just a sentence or two.

What if you have a lot to say? In that case, a multi-post series might be the way to go. If you elect to write multiple posts, be sure to link them together for the ease of the reader. Lastly, as you're writing, ask yourself, "Is what I'm writing meant to be a blog post?" Perhaps instead you are writing content that the reader should be downloading in addition to reading your post, to get more details on the subject - like a white paper or case study.

3. Creating a Good Title
The title of a blog post can have significant impact on whether or not people want to read your post. Good titles will set the reader's expectations from the start. A common best practice is to utilize a title that suggests that your post will provide some kind of value to the reader. You can convey this be utilizing a title that promises to teach or educate the reader to become more knowledgeable of a subject they are already interested in. A good blog title will also sometimes let the reader know that it contains something useful or that they shouldn't ignore. For example let's say your audience was interested in running a Marathon. Some examples of good titles might be:

  • 6 Lessons Learned from Running the Marathon.
  • 25 Ways to Become Better at Running Long Distances.
  • How to Become an Expert at Long Distance Running.
  • 10 Things You Can't Ignore if You Want to Finish a Marathon.

4. Engaging your Audience
The start of your blog post is where you'll want to set the tone early by making a strong impression in that first paragraph. Set the readers expectations so that they know what they are getting into, and don't be afraid to have an opinion. In fact, adding personal stories can help earn you credibility with the audience and to truly engage them. Short stories are often very effective if you can tie them back to the point you're trying to make. You can also provide real life or theoretical examples for the reader to consider. Additional considerations should also be how you can best enhance and support your post visually: pictures, diagrams, charts, graphics, videos, quotes, statistics, etc. No matter what images you choose, try to make certain it's both relevant and useful, or at the very least funny.

5. Selecting a Topic
So how do you come up with a topic? Well a great place to start is by asking questions. What questions need to be answered? What are people asking about? Odds are if one person wants to know it, there are likely others. A question and answer format may even be an appropriate way to present the content you have. If you're the content expert, you could position yourself as the one answering the questions; perhaps via an interview.

6. Creating Calls to Action
An important aspect to try and incorporate into any post is the call to action. You want your post to try and elicit a response from your audience if you can. Getting the audience to answer a question or comment and discuss your post is great way to engage them. Starting dialogues is what can help lead to sales and further boost your credibility as a thought leader on the subject.

7. Conducting Good Research
One thing that many great blog posts having in common is good research. Don't be afraid to go do additional research for your post. Statistics can be a great source of interest for many readers. Creating and administering a survey to analyze might result in some interesting findings for you to share with your readers. There are always resources available to help you out, but be sure to check out what other blogs in your industry are writing for inspiration as well. Lastly, be sure to enroll other people in your writing process. Talking out your ideas and sharing drafts with others is a great way build and shape your blog post into something better.

When you first start writing blog posts, it can be intimidating. But remember, you're the content expert and you have knowledge to share, and if you don't have that knowledge, then go out and find it and then share it. Finally, realize that writing good blog posts can take time, but in the end good content is worth it. One good post will trump a dozen of lesser, mediocre value and go a long ways towards increasing your credibility as an author.