How do you write a great blog post?
I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t know the answer. Or would I …
1. The Headline (also known as the title)
A while ago I wrote a novella about a painter who used to first sign his paintings, give them titles, and then paint the damn things.
Under no circumstance do you write a post before writing a headline. How can you hit a target you do not see? How can you reach a place you’ve never been to without consulting a map (or a GPS because it’s the 21st century after all)?
A lot of posts are a bit about everything, and the title seems to be something that does not mean anything to anyone, especially to the person who wrote the post. It’s quite confusing to click on a blog post and have no idea what to expect.
If you want to write a blog post that is concise and offers clarity and conviction, spend some time crafting a great headline that sets a clear destination, lures readers in, and leaves them eager for your advice.
Your headline is your foundation. Everything you do after typing it depends on how good your headline is.
Rules to writing a great headline:
- Choose an Interesting Topic
Your headline must promise readers answers to the questions that keep them up at night. Or at least make them interested enough to open your post. Clickbaiting is a practice older than the ability to click on something, but it’s still alive and well.Try to figure out what it is that your readers like to read more from you. And if you can’t do that, then you could always ask them.
Your primary responsibility is towards your audience, and thus it is crucial to know what they want.
Of course, there are some topics that seem to garner a lot of attention. “How to do this or that,” or “How I did this or that.” I also like to title some of my posts with, “What I learned from…” List posts perform quite well: 12 books that will make you cry, Ten movies that were better than the book.
- Make the Title as Engaging as Possible
If your headline is too vague, or lacks soul, then your readers will be indifferent to it. The title should make them feel, not only understand what the post is all about.
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Engage the senses. Make them feel that this post means something, that it offers the kind of insight they’ve been longing for. This post is going to accurately describe the way they felt and could not put into words. It’s the kind of magic that turns a casual reader into an avid fan.
- Don’t Give It All Away
A common mistake is to give away too much in your headlines. They should lure your readers in like the song of a mermaid, they should catch their attention and make them curious, not offer them a condensed version of your blog post; if you do this, then they won’t feel the need to read past the headline.
- Don’t Cheat Your Readers
When it comes to headlines, this is the one rule you must never, ever forget about. Do not deceive your readers.
This may seem like common sense, but a lot of bloggers do this by promising one thing and delivering something else. They over-promise and fall short.
You must deliver what you promise. Let’s say you write a post titled 8 Best Ways To Gain Followers For Your Blog. Nothing wrong with that, except the fact that your eighth way contains but a link to a page that sells people something.
In other words: don’t tell people it’s raining when you know it’s sunny.
2. The Introduction
Even though that killer headline of yours lured your readers in, don’t celebrate just yet. You’ve got to keep them, and in this age of short attention spans, that’s no an easy task.
When so many things are clamoring for your readers’ attention, you must fight to keep them glued to their screens, reading your post.
How do you do that?
By crafting the best possible introduction.
Captivate your readers by following these rules:
- Show a Bit of Empathy
Writing from your reader’s perspective. That’s some powerful, powerful stuff.
Show them you understand them, because, after all, you went through the same struggles, but overcame them.
This builds trust. You’re just like them, you are fighting the same fight as they are and you are offering them valuable insight because you are effectively teaching what you once wanted so desperately to know.
Some of my most popular posts are the ones in which I give advice, yes, but also offer my story, how I used that advice to overcome certain obstacles, and what I learned by doing so. Granted, there are a lot of posts on this blog that do not follow this rule, but hey, no one’s perfect.
- Make Them Feel
I’ll quote Banksy on this one, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” The same rule applies to blogging.
Make your readers feel something. Tell them a story, trigger their emotions. When you sit down to write, think of the feelings you’d like them to experience.
Robert Frost said it better than I ever could, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
This rule applies to every word you write, but it’s in your opening paragraph that you must make your readers feel something.
Add a bit of fear into the mixture: is this post truly going to answer their most ardent questions? Maybe not. Who knows?
In the end, you should just hint at offering them the answer. Tease them a bit about it.
- Make Them Want to Read More
Do you want your readers to commit to reading your post? All of it? Here are some tips on how to do so:
- USE A SHORT SENTENCE OR QUESTION. Just read the introduction to this post once again.
- MAKE YOUR INTRODUCTION AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE.
- SET A QUICK RHYTHM. Short sentences, short paragraphs, accelerate things.
3. Offer your readers content that is impossible to ignore
Remember all that you promised in your headline and intro? Well, now it’s time to deliver.
If you’d like your readers to come back for more, then you’ll do your best to over-deliver. Give them more than they were hoping for. Make it impossible for them to go about doing anything else but read your post.
Deliver valuable and easy-to-consume content by following these rules:
- Break Your Post Down
There’s nothing more straining on the eyes than a massive chunk of text. And it’s white on a black background. Oh, the horror.
Use subheads, break down your paragraphs. Why? Because readers aren’t the most patient of creatures, so using subheads is your chance to offer value at a glance.
- Try To Be Consistent in Terms of Format
If your post is a list of various “ways,” “steps,” “methods,” etc., to achieve what the headline promises, keep the format consistent, otherwise it will come across as sloppy and careless.
- Offer Them a Bit of an Emotional Rollercoaster
There’s so much information readily available nowadays, that simply offering people that isn’t enough. You must provide content that is unique, bold, and creative.
Add a unique perspective, experience, or twist to your posts. Ask yourself what makes you unique? What sets you apart? I bet there’s something about you that readers would never guess, which makes it perfect.
Of course, there’s got to be a balance. You don’t want to mentally scar your readers for the sake of appearing original, you just want to offer them a different perspective. Your perspective.
- Don’t Be Scarce
Guilty as charged for breaking this one way too many times, so yeah, forgive me?
The thing is that a lot of bloggers worry about giving too much away. For various reasons: one of them being that they have certain paid products they’d like to sell, another being that they do not believe the time they spend working on a post will be worth it in terms of what they get back. In other words, their hard work will go more or less unnoticed.
And thus they hold back, offering lukewarm advice that doesn’t help anyone too much.
If you don’t offer your readers some valuable content in your posts, then there’s no chance of you growing your audience, or even selling your products.
You must give your readers an experience they will never forget. Offer them valid solutions, powerful advice, the kind of story that makes them feel alive, hopeful, empowered. Offer them more than you’d ever hope to receive back, and you’ll be amazed by the results.
4. It’s all about the ending
You did it! You wrote the best possible post you could, did the best you could to offer some unforgettable information, and now it’s time to wrap it up.
Sometimes I like to end with a bang. Something that offers readers hope, that shows that I genuinely believe in them, believe that they can do it.
I often use the ending as a means to motivate my readers, to offer them that final nudge so they can implement the advice I have shared with them.
It’s time to act. Now.
Now or never.
No matter what is going on in their lives, now it’s the time to act.
A few rules about endings:
- Do Not Offer New Information
As an afterthought, many bloggers suddenly decide to insert some new information or tips in their conclusions.
It’s like introducing a new character in the last few pages of a book.
- Keep It Nice And Short
Remember how Lord of the Rings took forty five minutes to end?
Yeah, don’t do that.
- Empathy. Again.
When writing the ending to your post it’s a good idea to think about what your readers would like to know and feel. What is the conclusion they’re hoping for?
5. Edit the damn thing. All of it
What comes after writing?
Well, come think of it, maybe it’s a good idea to take a break – a day or two – before returning to your post to do the edits.
When it comes to editing, here are some of the most important elements:
- Do not be afraid to delete anything that is not essential to conveying your message. You can be as ruthless as you want. Don’t believe me? Try it.
- Add (more) soul. Add a bit more passion, energy, enthusiasm. The text should read as if you punched the damn keys until you broke your keyboard.
- Break up large paragraphs.
- Simplify. I mean delete the fancy words and complicated phrases.
- Check for contradictions and repetitive statements.
- Each sentence, paragraph, and section should drive your post forward.
- Edit out the parts where you don’t sound like yourself (it happens to everyone once in a while, when they stop writing like themselves and start writing like other people. Usually famous people.)
- Use bold and italics to show readers what’s important.
- Use bullet points to group certain ideas.
- Be mindful of the rhythm and pace of your writing. Speed things up or add some punch with crisp, short sentences. Slow things down with longer explanations. Make proper use of both in order to deliver your message.
- Fix spelling and grammar errors.
One great way to edit your post is to read it aloud. Or backwards. Or aloud and backwards. Like really loud. Late at night.
Listen up – there’s no war that will end all wars. – Haruki Murakami
Maybe that’s not the most pertinent of quotes to use for this guide’s conclusion, but the point is that the war for readers is not going to be won. It’s not one great post and then it’s all over. It’s not finding an audience and then you can relax while people will read anything you write.
Trust me, been there, done that.
There are a lot of small battles that have to be fought. The battle with fear, with procrastination, with the lack of feedback. A lot of battles you’ll have to fight with feeling uninspired, inhibited, bored…
It’s all up to you. To write. To keep on writing. To do your best.
And always remember, everyone else who’s punching keys on a computer with the hopes of forming something that makes sense is afraid.
They just choose to keep writing in spite of their fear.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t choose to do so too.