This post will share ten specific things you can do to imrpove your blog posts.
- Make sure your post is worth reading
- Use a summary sentence
- Use lists to summarize content of long posts
- Use screenshots and pictures
- Complement your post with video
- Include hyperlinks
- Open links in a separate tab or window
- Let your personality come through
- It’s all in the title
- Go back and edit your post
1. Make sure your post is worth reading
Abandon the philosophy “I blog therefore I am”. Writing a blog post can be a selfish act, you may be really happy about something, or really angry about something or maybe you just figured something out and you want to show the world ‘look what I figured out”.
Ask yourself – What will the reader get out of reading this post?
There is too much “stuff’ on the internt. When you add to that collection of stuff, make sure it’s worth someone’s time to read it. Are there successful blogs that rant constantly? Yes, but the successful ones are deliberately written to entertain or inform. Make sure you have a take away for your reader in mind. What will I learn from your post? ‘how to install node.js’ ‘how to make a healthy snack your kids will actually eat’ or ‘how to avoid overspending on a laptop’
Here’s an example, this Imagine Cup post is a first person story by a student who won first place in a competition. What’s notable is the content helps a student understand the value of participating in the competition. It’s not just a brag about winning.
2. Use a summary sentence
When you search online for ‘what laptop should I buy?’, you get two thousand matches. How do you decide which search results is worth clicking?
The average user spends about 5 seconds glancing at a page before they decide whether it’s worth staying to read that page. Remember point #1 make sure your post is worth reading! The user wlil take about 5 seconds to decide if your post is worth reading. So, provide a single sentence to tell me what I learn if I take the time to read your post.
It helps to make your summary sentence stand out visually by using italics or a different colour.
Another advantage to the summary sentence: Your summary will appear in the details of the search results soI know what I wil learn from the search results page as well. I wrote this post two years ago and it still gets hits (Mental note: go update this post so people aren’t finding out of date information…)
3. Use lists to summarize content of long posts
Sadly some of the best blog posts are the least read.
Why? Because when someone takes the time to write out all the details to explain something, the end result can be a very long blog post.
Your reader may be looking for something very specific. You may provide that information half way through your post, but they are unlikely to read through 4 pages to see if you cover that one topic. If you break your post into sections, you can provide a list at the top listing all the sections. If you really want to make the user happy, add hyperlinks so your reader can click on a topic and go straight to the section of interest to them.
4. Use screenshots and pictures
A picture is worth a thousand words!
If you are going to try and show me how to use a piece of software, or how to bake a cake, please include pictures and screenshots. It is visually appealing and can be more effective than describing with text. Pictures also break up the endless text in a longer blog post. If I see a really long post with nothing but text I am less likely to read it.
If you are going to share screenshots, invest in software that will let you capture delayed screenshots so you can show pop-up menus. It helps to have an editor so you can add boxes, arrows, and highlights to your screenshots.
All the screenshots in this post are captured and edited with Snagit.
5. Complement your post with video
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video can be worth a million!
Whether you are showing me how to apply a compression bandage, how to cook an omelet or how to deploy an Azure website, video can be a great complement to your blog post. But keep it short. If you embed a 57 minute video in your blog post, chances are your video will go to the ‘when I have time’ list along with a number of other excellent recordings that I really want to watch when I have the chance. I find somewhere in the 4-9 minute range is about the longest video I will watch when it is embedded in a blog post. You are better off creating 4×5 minute videos than one 20 mintute video if you can find a way to break up the content.
As with screenshots, take the time to invest in some software for recording your video and a microphone to improve the audio quality of your recordings. The other advantage to short recordings is they take less time to redo when you make a mistake. If you are doing a software demo, increase the font sizes and consider a tool like Zoomit to help highlight and zoom in on the important parts of the screen during your demo.
Watch the video below and try to imagine writing a blog post to explain how to use this feature instead of using video. FYI, I used Zoomit to zoom in and draw a few arrows. (my Zoomit skills pale in comparison to @GeekTrainer who uses it really effectively in his Microsoft Virtual Academy videos). FYI, I used my headset instead of my Snowball Microphone for this recording and I did get feedback from a viewer saying the audio was hard to hear.
6. Include links!
When you recommend a tool or resource, please provide a hyperlink!
I LOVE bloggers who include links to related resources. If you are showing me a recipe for a cocktail and the recipe calls has an ingredient of “ginger simple syrup” please give me the link to a recipe for ginger simple syrup, that’s not somethig I can just pick up at the store! If you are writing a technical post and you start tell me I need to have a Microsoft account and Visual Studio installed, give me links on where to create a Microsoft account and where I go to install Visual Studio! Please!
I suspect one of the people who read this post has already clicked on a link in this post. If not here’s one for you to click now.
7. Open links in a separate tab or window
Don’t lose your reader!
You’ve added links to your blog post, but what happens when your reader clicks on them? Do they leave your post? Will they ever come back?
If you don’t open links in a new window or tab, I may click on that link in and never return. You put time and effort into the post, you convinced me to start reading it. Increase your chances of me reading the whole thing by opening links in a new tab or window.
8. Let your personality come through
This is your blog post! You have a personal style, let it come through in your post.
Whether it’s a tradition of including a picture of your cat in each blog post, links to random silly videos, song parodies, or a tendancy to write run on sentences, something I have been accused of doing from time to time even though that goes against best practices when writing blog posts.
9. It’s all in the title!
You may have written the best explanation of how to change a tire ever! But if you gave it the title “I figured it out and so can you” Chances are I will never find your post when I am searching for tips on how to change a tire.
Your title needs to give me an indication of what I will learn or at least catch my attention so I am curious enough to visit your post and read your summary sentence.
Personally I despise titles with hyperbole such as “The most amazing unbelievably scrumptions chocolate sauce ever” I find them too much and they actually turn me away. So do be careful with adjectives in your title. I prefer a simple descriptive title “An easy dark chocolate sauce recipe” is more likely to get my attention especially when you add a nice photo of a slice of chocolate cake draped in your velvety sauce… hmmm hungry now.
When in doubt, a popular title is Top Ten <fill in the blank>, people often search for top laptops, top video games, top new features, top attractions, so it’s a good fallback title, of course it does force you to come up with 5 – 10 good points to cover in your post!
10. Go back and edit your post!
Edit and then edit again!
Re-read your post and look for spelling mistakes. Spell check won’t catch everything! I recommend reading the post from bottom to top to look for spelling mistakes. After all their mite bee some words that spell check says are syntactically valid but inn you’re post are used inn the wrong context.
A good friend of mine writes short stories and has had several published. She told me when you finish a store or chapter, you should go back and edit it with the goal of removing sentences and words that do not add to the story. When you are finished your edit, your story should be about one third shorter! The result is a cleaner, faster paced story. You would be amazed how much you can remove while still delivering the same message sharper and cleaner!
Go forth and write!
There are many other ways to write great blog posts, but hopefully this helps! Apologies to all my readers for all the posts I have written where I didn’t folllow my own rules!