Is your blog writing working for you?

Do you wonder when you’ve edited your post if it’s good enough?  Are there proven formats and blog writing guidelines that can make your posts meaningful every time?

Yes, there are.

A good blog post is like a good story: both meet human psychological needs.  Ignore those needs and you can wind up with boring writing.

We all enjoy a bit of suspense, a puzzle to solve, having our curiosity stirred up. We also appreciate a piece of writing that promises to help with a problem we are having, calm our fears, or, on a more positive note, help us improve a skill.

So what are the ingredients of an effective blog post?

1.  A catchy title.

    • A title that isn’t too long.  Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics advocates using the breath test. If you can say the title of your post without needing a second breath, it’s length is probably okay.
    • A title that asks a question zeroing in on a need or worry or interest you figure your reader has. Or, wording that stirs your reader’s curiosity.
    • A title that also hints at the topic of the post.
    • And, remember, the job of a title is to motivate your reader to keep reading, to move to that next sentence.

2.  Content focused on your reader, not you all the time–a suggested outline.

    • A potential reader has stopped by your blog. She has read past the title because she senses there’s something potentially helpful to be gained.  She has come with a problem that calls for relief, a desire for improvement, a hunger for knowledge.  In your first paragraph let her know you are aware of her need.
    • Next give some evidence you are going to provide that help. In other words, announce the content.
    • Now provide the help.  Here is your core content, your points,  your message, your advice—the value you are providing. Spell it out briefly but enough so that it is clear and useful.
    • If you have authoritative indicators that what you are advising works, add those in too.
    • Then end with a call to action.  What’s the biggest problem with a lot of business letters?  Too many letter writers end without asking the reader to do something.  So the reader is left with a question? “What does he want me to do?” This can be a weakness in a blog post too. So, what can your reader do to take your advice and take action?

3.  A reader-friendly format.

    • Keep those words, and sentences and paragraphs short for the most part.  But include some variety too. Don’t have a lot of one-sentence  paragraphs, for example.  Put white space between your paragraphs. Make it easily scannable.
    • Keep your content focused on you main idea. Don’t meander. Stay on target.
    • Suspense is a great idea throughout your post, not just in the title.  Constantly ask yourself what will keep your reader intrigued enough to want to keep reading. “What question can I ask at this point?” Make it suspenseful—a key aspect that works well with nonfiction and not just fiction. “Am I keeping my reader wondering?”
    • Use bullets and numbering for your points.
    • Keep it informal, conversational, and make sure you are saying what you mean to say, that it’s clear.
    • Make it personal. Include some of your experience with the content. If you have a brief anecdote or illustration fit it in.

Your turn: Do you have any points to add for effective blog posts?



8 thoughts on “Is your blog writing working for you?

  1. Priska

    Hello Bill
    I have been deeply immersed in creating my first blog posts for my website. This information has been extremely helpful and timely.
    Thank you.

    1. admin Post author

      Thank you, Priska. Great to be able to help. I’m glad to see you are moving out into blogging.

  2. Sandra Madeira

    Great post Bill – Lots of useful tips for readers. I like the idea of ” Then end with a call to action….” as you did.
    Maybe another tip would be suggested length of post – say maximum 500 words.
    Take care

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the post.
      Congratulations on almost arriving at soon-to-come post 365, or is it 366 your aiming for?
      I hope you can work in a well-deserved holiday

  3. Amy Deardon

    Hi Bill,

    As always, succinct and well-written. I find blogging hones writing and is good for warming up and staying limber. Shorter rather than longer posts are helpful — you can break up a long essay into two or more entries. Moving to a broader scope, I’ve heard it’s good to post regularly and fairly frequently (2-3 times per week) and focus. I have two blogs, one in which I write about whatever I want, but the other on writing techniques gets more hits. I’d love to hear what you think of marketing?

    And BTW… I just noticed you featured quotes from my book last month! Thank you so much, and I apologize for not seeing this earlier. It’s a busy time, and I usually just read through blogs when I have a breathing space. What a wonderful surprise. How is your book coming?

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks Amy,
      Never a problem with how fast you respond, of course. I’m always delighted to hear from you. We’re all busy. I constantly work at slowing down. I don’t think life is meant to be lived at a stressful rush.

      In my reading of expert bloggers and listening to podcasts in the past few weeks or so, I understand the latest advise from at least several top notched bloggers and successful is to write less frequently and to focus on guest blogging as well as quality content consistently. For example, Jon Morrow, editor at Copyblogger and obviously brilliant (in case you don’t know him: he suffers from muscular dystrophy (spelling?), moves his mouse with his lips and can only write via a Dragon Naturally Speaking program) spends an average of 10 hours writing each blog post. And his posts are quite long. He aims at having each one go viral, and they do. His reasoning, backed by his research on what works, is that blogging too often tends to overfeed readers/followers, most of whom are probably overfeed already anyway, and so doesn’t really work to build a blog’s readership. What does work is awesomely (I’m using the latest buzz words here!) valuable content. So his posts tend to be rather long–I think I recall correctly, 1000 to 2000 words or so. I’ve heard this strategy from at least three top bloggers. Me? I have saved way more than I can get to of good information on blogging, marketing, copywriting, ebook writing and promoting, freelancing and so on (not to mention Christian reading material).

      But I do appreciate short blog posts–easier to read, easier to find time for. I don’t have a set length myself. I try to let the content decide the length. But I am easing up a bit on the frequency of my posts. Even though I am retired, I stay quite busy with 3 blogs, an ebook/ecourse in progress, and the novel, but also my watercolor painting, now that Summer is approaching with a lot of sunshine in rainy Oregon.

      The internet and blogging seems to be changing at a rate equal to or faster than technology.

      I plan to respond more at length to you via email on my take on marketing (I don’t want to make a post out of this reply). First, though, a personal reaction. Part of me is sorry to see blogging so predominantly commercial rather than a mutual sharing of information. The current advice on how to write a blog that’s read is to make it, in essence, a sales pitch, copywriting in other words, or to use the current term: content marketing. But blogging, to me, is becoming more and more like walking onto a used car lot. Be wary!

      Now I do not mean to sound anti-free-market. I most certainly am not. And the current long-term recession as well as people seeing an opportunity to escape an unrewarding day job probably explain much of the trend. And I’m all for such moves. Actually, I find the entrepreneurial (I had to look that up to get the spelling right!) movement among young adults especially fascinating and exciting. I guess it’s just that I’ve heard so much hype in commercials on TV (while catching the latest bad news on CNN) that I’m turned off by most of it.

      Time to switch off the negativity–actually I have positive things to say about marketing, although I am no expert in that area.

      My novel is on hiatus for a month while I complete an ecourse on writing ecourses. I’m currently trying to decide between writing an ebook on writing improvement or doing an ecourse or both. But the novel is going well, I think. I jumped into re-writing and forgot that I wanted to follow Donald Maass’s Breakthrough Novel Workbook and consider his points carefully as I work my way scene by scene. My need is to inject more conflict into my too-nice dialogue–I have a tendency in that direction, everyone sitting around amiably discussing things. Nice in life, not good in fiction.

      Thanks again.

  4. Glori

    This is a very informative post. I just started blogging and I’m trying to learn all I can about it. I’ll make sure to keep these points in mind.

    1. admin Post author

      Thank you Glori,
      Blogging is a fun and worthwhile thing to do. It is a learning process that can help you grow as a writer, as well as in other ways. It is often rewarding too, like hearing from people you’ve helped.
      I’m still learning too, but feel free to ask questions any time.
      I’m indeed glad you found my words meaningful to you.


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