Blogging is a great way to grow your audience and attract people to your website. No matter if you are marketing a product or blogging for personal interest, you don’t want to have a “Halloween site” that people see once and never again. The question is how to attract people to your site? If you are waiting for Google to tell them, you are very optimistic. Blogging is one of the ways to tell the search engines that you have new content on a static site.
Most of us are not natural born bloggers. It is something that starts out with trepidation and evolves over time. Writing an effective post requires not only motivation and creativity, but also strategy. Documenting your strategy will help you become an effective blogger and save your valuable time.
Recently I was reading an article on Content Marketing. Content Marketing strategies often overlap with blogging. This is what it said:
Most of the time, the content creation process it pretty simple. It looks like this:
- Pour a cup of coffee.
- Sit down at your computer.
- Think about a topic to write about.
- Click publish.
- Go back to what you were doing before creating content.
- Repeat next week.
What happens when the coffee is finished and the page is empty?
It’s easy to read about the steps.
Finding a topic is often a challenge.
A blog is meant to educate and excite your audience. The question is what do they want to know?
There are a few ways of finding out.
In this post, we will explore options to come up with good topics for our blog, discuss effective strategies and the structure of a blog post.
Finding a topic
I often feel a sense of despair when looking for a topic. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
1. Talk to people
In the course of your conversation listen to see what questions people have and what information they are looking for. What answers did you provide in your conversation? What should people ask you, but don’t ask?
2. Share your learning journey
Think about topics you want to learn about or wanted to learn about in your journey. Never assume that your audience are experts. They may know less that you do.
3. Controversial topics
Write down controversial opinions that excite you.
4. Use Social Media
Some bloggers look at Quora for questions that people ask. I like Reddit. The question is where are your audience spending time on social media? What questions are they asking there? Look at the threads with lots of comments.
Take notes. Keep a journal of ideas that inspire you.
A great source of topics is questions that my clients ask me.
In fact that is what led to this post.
Writing your blog post
Let us assume that you have found a topic.
The next challenge is how to begin writing your blog post?
I like to do a brain dump of ideas on my topic, then go and see what others have said or check Wikipedia in order to make sure that I haven’t left out important details that would help them.
A blog is a way of developing a relationship with your audience. Do you use academic style writing language when you talk to people? Write the way that you speak! In fact, once you know what you want to write about, create a Google Doc (free with a Google Account), press the microphone icon and just talk into the Google Doc. Your voice will be transcribed into text.
What happens if you did all of that, and your page is still empty?
You can read something that someone else wrote and write your own take on the topic. If you find something valuable, first make a note of the link so that you can refer back to it. If there is a question that you can expand upon, write about it in your own voice.
99.9% of bloggers are not awesome on day 1.
Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value they create over time.
– Darren Rowse
There is one way of become a great blogger. Write. A LOT. Writing may be compared to other creative processes: the more you do it, the better you become. Inspiration and finding your own style are only part of the equation. The other part is technique.
Abandon the critics
Starting a blog or writing process can be a little nerve wracking. We are each our own worst critic. Then, there are the external critics that comment on our posts… the ones that are not selling performance enhancing drugs…Hey, but guess what? You can approve and disapprove your comments. There is a delete button on your comments. If you don’t like them, delete. Just don’t stop what you set out to do! Don’t hide under the table! Carry on writing…
Your unique voice
The only way that your blog post can differ from a million other posts on the web on the same topic is if you find your own inner voice where you are not afraid to express your opinion. People will connect with you on a personal level and might even feel like they know you because they read your posts.
But wait! We are not ready to hit the publish button yet! We are writing in order for people to read our stuff. In order for them to find it easy to follow, we need to take care of some technical housekeeping first….
Planning Content – reader’s journey
- Who are your audience?
- What do they want to know?
- What options do they have?
- How can they evaluate their options?
- Recommend a solution.
This may be called the reader’s journey.
Who are your audience?
This is a topic that many bloggers skip and can be critical to your writing style. We don’t talk to grandma in the same way that we talk to our colleagues. In the same way that we differentiate in our daily conversation, it is important to apply the same strategy in our blog. It is important to be very specific in defining your audience persona in order to reach the right people.
What do they want to know?
Understand the Problem and Gather Information
Think about something significant that you want to purchase. Like a bike. How do you go about that? First you do some research on bikes to check what’s on the market. Then you decide what features you want for your bike. Then you look at prices and try to match the features with the budget that you have. Read up about the quality of the product that you are interested in. Learn how to judge if it is good for you. Finally you make a choice and buy the bike.
When you structure your content, think about your audience’s journey so that they can easily follow the information that you are sharing with them. Where is your audience in this journey?
Write down some headlines, sub headings and topics that you want to address in order to provide a logical solution to your audience. If you are offering a product, attempt to explain what your approach is and how it is beneficial.
Keep to a structure in your writing
Write a captivating introduction.
You have only a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention. You can tell a joke, be empathetic or surprise them with an interesting fact of statistic.
You then explain how the post will address the problem and inform the reader. Give your audience a reason to stop scrolling and read on.
Write engaging headlines
Most people skim an article before they read it. Many people only ever read headlines, lists and look at images. They never read the text of a post.
Use a tool like aminstitute to check the emotional appeal of your headline.
CoSchedule also has a tool to optimize headlines:
Use document formatting to break up the content.
Headings, subheadings (h2, h3 tags), lists, images/personal photos, bold, italicize, short paragraphs, and other formatting can help with the overall reading experience.
End with key take aways or some kind of summary.
Some people skip to the end and read that first.
CTA – Call to Action
What do you want your audience to do after they have read your post? Like? Share on Social Media? Comment?
Remember to ask them to do that. You are more likely to get a response.
Add Categories and Tags
Remember that if you publish a post without a category, it will show up as uncategorized.
I think of categories like chapters in a book, and tags may be compared to the index at the back of the book. If someone was searching your website, how would they search for your post? Help them out!
Read over your post again.
If you are posting on your website, remember to review and approve the comments that you like, and delete the unsuitable comments. Remember to close the comments on the site after a specific amount of time.
Whether you are posting on your personal blog/website or social media, please remember to respond when people post. If it is on Facebook, respond or “like” comments. On your blog, thank people for responding. It will encourage them to interact with you in the future.
Additional Content Types
Blogging is not the only way to connect with your audience. There may be additional techniques that work for as well or better for you, such as:
- How to/ Tutorials
- Vlogs – video blog
- Product reviews
- Opinion pieces
- Webinars or Podcasts
Common Best Practices
# Be Helpful First
If you motivate and educate the reader, they will want to connect and come back for more.
# Be Authentic
Write to a specific audience in your own voice.
# Create Easily Consumed Content
People are busy. If you can make it easier to understand with a video, diagram or audio file you will make it easier for them to follow you.
Don’t write a blog post with thousands of words because it will rank better if you can write the same thing in a hundred words. People will respect you for your brevity and clarity.
# Make Your Post Easy to Consume
Use Document Structure and formatting. Add images, diagrams, videos and other forms of media to keep it interesting and simple.
The purpose of this post was to offer you tips on how to start writing your blog posts, some strategies that will help you shorten the blogging process and reach a wider audience. Strategy is key to differentiating yourself from a brain-dump writer.
What techniques do you use that are effective?