5 tips for great blog posts

When you take it down to brass tacks, a blog post really needs to do two, simple things:

  1. It must give your reader the information they came looking for; and
  2. It must make your reader want to read more of your content.

If your blog post or article is falling short on these two points, then you have largely wasted your own time and, worse, your readers’ time.

So with that piece of advice in mind, here are 5 tips for creating blog posts that are relevant, that are punchy, that resonate with your audience, and that makes them want to check out what else you have to offer.

Audience:

This is the question you need to be asking: who are I writing for? Years back, I worked for a guy who was not particularly great at getting his point across, and no matter how much I would try to steer changes through, it got blocked every time. Why use one simple word when ten complicated words would do? This was the general line of thinking. He worked on the assumption that more was better, that populating a piece – be it an advert or a web page – with over-inflated jargon and technical language would sound impressive. Just because it was aimed at board level did not mean that everyone on the board would grasp it. And I was right.

Knowing your target audience is Marketing 101: no one will dispute that. So then why do so many people choose to write content that the target audience won’t understand? If your business is surf boards, write for surfers. If your business is board-level strategy, write for strategists. Make sure your language matches the language of those who will be doing the reading. And while you’re doing that, be aware that some phrases may mean one thing in the US, and another entirely in Australia. So when you are tempted to throw clever local colloquialism (a word here which means “slang”) into your text…don’t. You cannot be sure that the nuances will be understood by everyone. Slang terms are used only when the market is local. If you’re looking to a wider, cross-border audience…then no.

Technical vs. Narrative:

Ah, now this is one that trips a writer up more often than not. When you’re trying to get something technical across, say for example a piece on conflict resolution in the workplace, but you also want to tell a story – and use a character – to make your piece more relatable and less stale, you’re going to have to make some concessions. On average, you’re looking at 500-750 words. 1000 words is still acceptable, but when it gets to more than that…well, in this day and age, when the words “3-minute read” are tacked onto the article title, you can rest assured that people are not going to bother with long articles, unless you’re clever and you’re absolutely giving them the info they came for.

It is difficult, when you start, to weave information and narrative into an article. You are going to have to sacrifice something. More narrative – i.e. more story, more character – means less information. More information means less story. Weighing up which side you wish to err on is going to come down to the intent of the piece. When I wrote the Fundaba articles for FNB, over a year and a half, I did 12 12500-word articles and over a 100 500-word articles. The 12500-word guys were mostly to get a feel for the character we were developing, whose story would be told across the 100-plus shorter articles. We chose story over information, but still needed the information, so we split the articles. If you can’t contain everything you want in one, then split it into two, or three, or four, and create a series. Make sure to leave a cliff hanger at the end and TELL your reader that more is to come.

Simple:

Your blog post will be easier to understand if you aim for the least amount of complexity. Is every word you have used necessary? Are there words you could have done without? Is there anything in your text that could be seen as long-winded? The more complexity you add, the less your reader is going to understand and the harder they will have to work to read it. Official, contract-type language is heavy; strip it out. You don’t need it. The more complex you make it, the less punchy it is, and all you succeed in doing is slowing it down and creating distraction. Your reader needs to get your message with the least amount of effort or resistance.

Clear:

This is absolutely fundamental. If your article is focused on the outcome, you have won first prize. Enhancing your writing through dressing it up in fancy clothing is useless if the meaning is unclear. Your concepts and ideas must be portrayed as crisply as possible. Your reader must understand exactly what you are saying without having to question anything. Terminology must not be confusing and, at any stage your reader’s mind goes blank, well then you haven’t quite gotten this right. You know how it goes, you’ve seen it before: you’re reading something and you say to yourself: “wait, what? Best I go back and read that again”. If you’re doing that, then what you’re reading has failed the clarity test. Be so clear that there can be no doubt, whatsoever, about what your message is.

Resonant:

Now and again you read something that resonates with you. It vibrates with meaning. You relate to it. In the same way, you may read a book that someone else has raved about but that does nothing for you at all. Was the book over-hyped? No, not necessarily. Perhaps you just couldn’t relate to it, maybe the set of circumstances in the book meant very little to you, in terms of who you are and what your experiences have been. Creating an article that will make a person read it to the end is all about being resonant, and relevant, to that person. And deciding on whether or not something will tick another person’s boxes is all about asking a simple question: what need does that person have that I can fulfil? This is the point in which you bring emotion into your language, where you trigger a reaction. Are you writing about a travel destination? Well then, what benefit would your reader get from going to that destination? You’re not going to talk about the 5-star service, or the facilities, nearly as much as you are going to talk about the need that is being fulfilled: getting away from everything, finding time for yourself, recharging, refocusing. Those are emotive and they speak volumes.

Getting a good mix of these 5 tips means creating a blog post that is easy to read, simple to understand, speaks your own language and brings you into the story.

Imagine defining your writing success as knowing that you’ve struck a chord with someone else?

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