7 Steps to Writing Killer Blog Posts That Actually Get Noticed
This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.
With billions of pages circulating around in cyberspace, chances are most of the content you produce is invisible and irrelevant. This isn’t a knock on your writing ability or creativity, it’s simply the truth.
The majority of bloggers write about the same topics and use the same styles, which means everything tends to blend together.
7 Tips to Writing Killer Blog Topics That Actually Get Noticed – and Read!
If you want to get noticed, you need to go against the grain, write better headlines, use compelling visuals, and master the art of promotion. If you want to know how, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s unpack these tips – and others – to show you how you can develop blog posts that actually get read.
Go Against the Grain
Want to get noticed? Then you must do something different. The concept seems pretty simple, but it’s astounding how many bloggers simply go with the flow and eventually blend in with the pack. The solution is to go against the grain.
“When you’re the same as everyone else, you’re a commodity,”writes successful entrepreneur Ramit Sethi. This means you’re left fighting for the same readers and customers as everyone else.
“Whether you’re trying to get a date or start an online business, if you’re the same as everyone, you’re doomed. This is where the concept of zigging and zagging comes in. Where others zig, you zag.”
The Zig-Zag Technique Sethi talks about is pretty simple. You find an idea that everyone is writing
about and discussing and then revise or reverse it. Take a unique or controversial approach, or even go for the “shock factor.”
What can you bring that is unique? What angle can you take that nobody else has? How can you make it stand out from the mainstream? You stand a much better chance of gaining traction this way.
Write Outstanding Titles
Think of a blog post’s title as the window display for a retailer. It doesn’t really provide much actionable advice or lasting value, but it serves the purpose of inviting people in.
However, it can also have the opposite effect. If a store window display is bland and unappealing, how many people are going to venture inside? Not many. Well, the same is true with a blog title. If the title is boring or doesn’t promise something useful in the content, few users are going to click it.
One of the keys to writing killer blog topics that actually get read is to write outstanding titles and headlines. If you need some inspiration, check out what popular websites like Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Entrepreneur are doing. Strong language, numbers, and controversial terminology are all effective.
Hook People with Opening Paragraph
A great introduction is paramount to the success of any blog post. After getting someone to click on a blog post, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. And while much of the blog post will be scanned, the opening paragraph is something that almost always gets read entirely. As such, make sure you’re focusing on this important component of the post.
The opening paragraph should contain things that will catch the reader’s attention. These things can be anything from questions and facts to controversial claims, accusations, or definitive declarations. The goal is to pique the interest of the reader and encourage them to continue reading the remainder of the article.
Use Video and Compelling Images
While it may hurt you to hear it, a blog post cannot stand alone on its own merit any longer. Regardless of how polished and engaged your writing is, it’s no longer enough in today’s marketplace. If you want to create blog posts that get noticed and shared, then you must be willing to use compelling visual elements that complement the text.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to find and embed images, videos, and infographics. Just check out this list of 17 different websites that offer high quality stock imagery. While some images have certain licenses that restrict public use, others are free for the taking. With just a few quick searches, you can find visuals that help your content stand out. You could also try your luck at these no-attribution, free image sites.
Use Personal Anecdotes
Everyone loves a personal story. Whether you’re listening to a lecture, sermon, or speech, personal stories always command more attention than pointless rambles or dry facts delivered dryly. Try to find opportunities to use personal anecdotes throughout your writing.
Also, it’s important that you write in an authentic voice that’s reflective of your personal values and expertise. If you pretend to be something you’re not, people will see right through the façade. It might get you through for a while, but it won’t last.
There are generally considered three different types of blogging voices – in terms of credibility – and it’s suggested that you identify and stick to the one that most closely relates to your current position.
Thought leader. Everyone wants to be a thought leader, but very few people actually are. By the way, referring to yourself as a thought leader doesn’t make you one. Never try to speak with more authority than you have. If you are a thought leader in your industry, as confirmed by your peers, then leverage this voice – but don’t try to squeeze your way into the mold.
Sherpa. Are you currently on your way to becoming a thought leader in your industry? If you’re on the journey to the proverbial mountaintop, but aren’t quite there yet, then you’re likely a Sherpa. When writing, your goal is to reflect personal experiences while guiding people up the mountain with you.
Beginner. Then you have the beginner. If you’re just starting out and want to pick up readers who will go along with you, then you need to clearly convey this position. This can be a powerful voice, since people like unbiased leaders who are willing to share both successes and misadventures.
Personal anecdotes are important, as is the voice you use when writing. Never try to be someone you aren’t. Even behind the guise of a computer screen, your readers will be able to tell when you’re being inauthentic.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Most bloggers don’t have the luxury of publishing a post and then waiting for organic page views and shares to accumulate. If you want your blog posts to be read and shared, you need an aggressive promotion strategy that accounts for multiple mediums.
“While awesome content is the only thing that will make you go viral, awesome content will never actually go viral if no one sees it,” writes successful blogger Kristi Hines. “So unless the world comes to your blog on a daily basis without any incentive, you’re probably going to have to go tell the world about your post through blog post promotion.”
Hines groups her posts into two categories when it comes to promotion. The first category is for “killer awesome” posts, while the second is for “averagely awesome” posts.
For averagely awesome posts, Hines tweets the post from her account between 7am and 11am and then shares on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google (but not all three). For killer awesome posts, she does these same things, plus a number of additional processes. These processes include sharing on StumbleUpon, sending out an additional tweet, putting the piece in her writing profile, and including the post in her custom RSS feed.
This is just one example of how successful bloggers promote, but should give you a pretty clear idea of how important promotion is for blogging. If you want your posts to gain traction, you can’t leave them to their own devices.
Get Structure and Word Count Right
It’s easy to intimidate readers or inadvertently undermine their intelligence. You don’t want to do either. However, if you aren’t thinking about post structure and word count, you’re likely making debilitating mistakes.
Let’s start with post structure. It’s not advisable to write a blog post with large paragraphs and massive chunks of text that aren’t broken up by visual elements. We talked about visual elements in the fourth point, but images and videos aren’t the only tactics. Something as simple as including bolded and italicized words, bullet points, or numbers can help you break up monotonous stretches of content.
Secondly, think about the word count. A brief 250-word post tells the reader that you really don’t have much to talk about, whereas a 5000-word post will probably overwhelm the average reader. Over time, you should be able to identify a target length that your readers connect with. It’ll likely fall somewhere between 800 and 2000 words.
Write Killer Blog Posts
Writing killer blog posts that get noticed and read isn’t as hard as it may seem. While the blogosphere is certainly overcrowded, you can’t let this deter you. Instead of going with the flow and using the same regurgitated styles and formats, try breaking out of the mold. Using these seven tips, you can easily get started today.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter.
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