Many good writers get stuck when they decide to start blogging, mostly because they aren’t sure what they’re shooting for in a blog post.
I’ll write another post about how to choose a post topic in the near future, but regardless of the specific topic, there are some common characteristics of good posts. You’ll come across plenty of exceptions, but it’s one of those “know the rules before you break them” things.
GOOD BLOG POSTS ARE LASER-FOCUSED.
A good blog post has one (and only one) “big goal”—one key point to drive home, action to provoke, or concept to unpack. Sometimes a post, particularly a “list” post, will have many small points, but they should all lead back to the big goal.
Sometimes it’s tempting to throw more than one topic in a post, particularly if they’re related. However, this can hurt you in two ways:
- Your readers have a set of expectations before they even start reading your post based on its title. If you add in other goals, you’re effectively asking readers to change their expectations, making them feel vaguely uncomfortable without knowing why.
- It’s almost always the focused posts that search engines and other bloggers will send visitors to. They’re more likely to see focused posts as valuable resources on a specific topic, so don’t muddy the waters by adding unrelated (or even loosely-related) info.
Remember, this is blogging; you can always write a second post!
GOOD BLOG POSTS ARE RELEVANT TO THE TARGET AUDIENCE.
This is more than just staying on topic—done well, it’s anticipating questions and needs and addressing them from an angle that makes sense to your ideal reader. This can sometimes be a gray area; for instance, if you’re an author, how much should you talk about the actual process of writing a book, and how much should you stick to the topic of your book (presumably the one your readers are interested in)?
If you can frame the writing process so that it helps your readers understand something better or consider a helpful concept, then I’d say go for it. Along the same lines, if you learned something really interesting as part of the research you did, then share it, with the writing process as context. If you find, though, that there’s no specific relevance, leave it out.
GOOD BLOG POSTS ARE PERSONABLE.
This doesn’t mean you have to be extremely casual if that’s not your style, but you want to let your humanity shine through. You’re more likely to garner long-term readers if you reveal a little personality in your posts. This is as simple as using relevant personal anecdotes, offering an opinion, and writing “I” instead of “we.”
Posts without these small personal touches tend to read like textbooks and don’t seem to do very well with readers or with search engines.
GOOD BLOG POSTS HAVE ORIGINAL CONTENT.
There are a few notable blogs that are successfully “recycling” information and have loyal followings. However, they are definitely the exception. Most blog posts on successful blogs have either completely new information or existing information with a new twist.
This doesn’t mean you can’t report relevant industry news, for example, but if you do, you should interpret it and add your own valuable insight rather than simply repeating it. If you don’t have anything significant to add, just let people read it elsewhere (and if it’s news, it will be elsewhere, probably on a blog that’s less interesting than yours!).
GOOD BLOG POSTS ARE READABLE.
This means not only having a readable writing style, but paying attention to your structure to make it easier for readers. For instance, long posts (like this one!) can be broken up into sections with sub-headings that tell the reader what to expect. You can use lists to make information easily “scanable” and break up long, intimidating blocks of text into smaller paragraphs.
Consider using pictures to make your posts more interesting to look at and give your readers one more clue about the content. You can find tons of photos on Flickr that are available for use on your blog (just link back to the original). Photos or illustrations can both add a little punch and break up a text-heavy post.
GOOD BLOG POSTS LINK TO OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION.
Even though good posts are usually original writing, they often provide thoughtful links to other blogs or articles. Many new bloggers are a little wary of sending their hard-won readers to other sites, but more experienced bloggers will tell you that generosity is definitely the way to go.
The idea is that you’re providing a useful service to your readers, helping them dig deeper if they so desire, saving them time and effort and again, making your blog a valuable resource. And it doesn’t have to be entirely altruistic: most bloggers will notice if you’re sending readers their way and check you out, potentially launching a mutually beneficial relationship.
GOOD BLOG POSTS HAVE ACCURATE, INTRIGUING TITLES.
I’ve written previously about good titles, but to summarize here, you should always aim for a title that clearly communicates the point of the post and compels visitors to jump in and read the first paragraph.