We've all heard the stories about viral blog posts that propel a minor blogger instantly into the limelight. And while every blogger dreams of being "discovered" in this manner, the likelihood is akin to a supermodel being discovered while walking through the mall. Instead of chasing the viral dream, a better long-term strategy is to focus on high-quality content that helps you build an audience while improving your personal online brand. Use these tips to write standout blogs every time you sit down at your computer.
Put some thought into your blog title. The title of your blog is your reader's first exposure to your piece. Devote some thought to it - you want to draw a reader in. If you're writing an article on how to write a blog post, you could call it, "A Six Step Process to Writing a Blog Post," but the title lacks action. Rephrase the same title to "Write a Standout Blog Post in Six Easy Steps" to make it both interesting and actionable. Aim for titles that are brief, direct, and promise to deliver.
Write a thought-provoking intro. Your title sparked the reader's interest, but the first few sentences are your chance to hook the reader. One strategy is to use questions relevant to your readership, as in "Have you ever…" or "When's the last time you…" If possible, cite statistics that excite or alarm, and finish your intro with a promise that the issue you address will be resolved by the end of your post. This provides motivation to continue reading.
Keep your body succinct and on-topic. Keep text brief and to the point. People are busy and want to access information without the distraction of superfluous words or a lack of organization. For example, if you're working with a list-based post or a how-to guide, number your sub-points to make the article scannable and reader-friendly. Also, pare back sentences and avoid words like "you should" or "consider," as such phrases often dilute your message. If you don't provide what readers want, they're likely to seek another blogger who will.
Don't blow off the closing. Use your closing to present the larger picture or broach another point worth considering. For example, if you've written on how to make extra income, you could remind readers that it's equally important to save their money. The closing is the place to address any tangents you didn't cover in the body of your article. Just be sure that whatever you include is relevant to your main topic and brief.
Use images wisely. Images are essential components of standout blog posts, and can truly keep readers engaged. But don't just grab the first image you find on Flickr. Instead, look for high-quality images (or use some of your own) and place them strategically throughout your piece. If you do use pictures from other sources, gain permission from the photographer and provide appropriate credit. Creative Commons images are a great place to start.
Add credible statistics. Cite relevant statistics throughout your post to back up your argument and lend credibility. Make sure the stats come from reliable resources, and always cite or quote them. The last thing you want is to spread misinformation or be accused of plagiarism.
Once you've finished writing, take time to review and edit your post. It's a good idea to step away from your work, returning to it later with fresh eyes. When possible, have a fellow writer or editor review it as well. Every section of a blog post is important, so make sure to review each one in detail.
Do you have any additional tips for writing stellar blog posts?
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David Bakke is an Atlanta-based social media strategist and contributing member of the MoneyCrashers.com team. He is the author of the personal finance book, "Don't Be a Mule" and writes about small business marketing tactics, money management - including banking and credit cards, careers, and methods for people to get out of debt.