How To Write A Blog Post That’s Going To Attract Visitors And Keep Them Reading
Looking at my last blog post, it seemed like it helped a lot of writers and I want to hopefully do that again today.
It might seem like something that’s particularly simple, straightforward and / or obvious to some, but I want to give an insight into how to write a great blog post. One that’s not only going to get people interested in what you’re talking about so that they feel they should click on your links to find out more, but one where they’ll want to read the whole post, want to share it on social media and then return time and time again to read more of your content.
Even if you’re not necessarily trying to utilise your own blog for a purpose where returning, satisfied customers are needed, chances are you’re going to have to produce such content for a client throughout your career. In my experience, this type of content has proven to be the staple of my work over the last few years, particularly as more and more organisations realise the importance of high quality and unique content published regularly on their own blog.
Although most of you will no doubt have the basics of writing a great blog post down, it’s often the little things that can take it to the next level – and it’s these things I’m going to elaborate more on today.
Give the reader a clear understanding of what to expect in the title
A blog post’s title is arguably its most important aspect. It’s often the only thing people will see on Twitter or when they land on your blog’s home page. As the writer, you will obviously know what’s to come from the rest of the content, but the reader has to base their entire decision on whether to click through and read more on the couple of words used as the title.
Therefore, what you need to do is ensure the reader is able to understand exactly what the rest of the content is going to deliver purely from the title – and the best way to do this is to make it as obvious as you possibly can.
Numbers always work well (‘5 Ways To…’ or ‘7 Steps To…’), as do titles that tell the reader what they’ll achieve after reading the piece (‘How To…’ or ‘Find Out How You Can…’), but the most important point is not to be long-winded. Sometimes this can be beneficial, but generally speaking you want to keep your titles down to around a dozen words – a few more isn’t going to harm and a few less won’t hurt either, but you have to be confident that the title accurately sums up what you’re going to talk about.
Don’t feel the need to dive straight into the content’s main point
When you look at other types of content such as a press release or a direct e-mail, you have to grab the readers’ attention instantly, as soon as they land on the post. If the first few words don’t grab their attention, chances are you’re going to have lost them as potential customers.
With a blog post, people visit blogs knowing they’re going to have to spend at least a few minutes reading the content. Therefore, although you do need to grab them instantly with the title, the actual blog post itself doesn’t have to talk about the main focus immediately.
The best way to think of this is to imagine the blog post like a traditional story. The first fifth of the content should be an introduction, stirring up the reader’s interest. The following three fifths should be the actual purpose of the piece and the final fifth should be the ending; a summary or conclusion of what it was you’ve discussed.
By diving straight into the blog post’s main point, you give the reader no reason to continue reading the whole content – and as a blog post is all about reader-engagement and keeping visitors on the website for as long as possible, you need to ensure, at the very least, it makes the reader want to read it in its entirety.
Short paragraphs with sub-headings make the piece easier to read
The way we read online content is different to the way we read offline content and it’s imperative you understand this when looking to produce the most effective blog posts possible.
Pick up a newspaper or magazine and flick to any article. The writer has pretty much produced the content by rules we were taught at school. Things like full and correct paragraphs, as well as sentences that don’t start with conjunctions such as ‘and’ or ‘but’, will be common sights and aspects the writer’s school teacher would give them praise for.
With a blog post, aside from the fact the copy is naturally quite social and conversational, so we don’t mind sentences that are slightly unusual in their structure, we actually prefer (whether you know it or not) to read short, sharp paragraphs – generally consisting of no more than two sentences.
When we throw in a few sub-headings, this breaks up the piece further and visually makes the content appear smaller and easier to digest, making us more likely to read to the first sub-heading, then to the next and so on until we’re at the end.
There are no set rules as to how you should write a blog post, but next time you’re reading a blog and click away from it, ask yourself why you’re doing it. It really wouldn’t be surprising if it was because of the content’s layout more than anything else.
Never write for the search engines
If there’s one thing that annoys me more than any other with blog post content, it’s when I see people wanting it produced solely with a SEO focus. Although blog post content can impact on SEO fantastically and I regularly use it for this purpose, you shouldn’t produce it with the search engines in mind.
And the reason behind this is search engines want you to write for your audience – write it for Google or Bing and you’ll see OK results, but write it first and foremost for your audience and you’ll see great results.
What I normally do is produce the content without any focus on the search engines whatsoever. I’ll draft it with the audience in mind and ensure that it is fully optimised for their needs. Once I’ve finished it, I’ll then go back over it and see if I need to make any amendments to ensure its success in the search engines.
Sometimes, I’ve found I’ve naturally included the specific keywords two or three times at different points throughout the content, so no edits are needed. Other times, I’ve got to rework a few sentences to get the keywords in in a way that isn’t going to detract from the readability of the blog post.
By approaching the content in this way, I can guarantee that the piece is perfect for the audience and truly meets their needs, whilst also being as suitable as it can be for the search engines without having any impact on how well it will engage readers.
Don’t be tempted to turn the blog post into sales copy
Another pet peeve of mine is when I see blog posts that are nothing more than sales letters. They start off with all the right intentions, but by the time you’re at the second or third paragraph, you feel like you’re just reading a press release for the company’s latest product or service.
As with SEO, blog posts can be a fantastic way to increases sales, but as soon as you start writing content with sales in mind, you’ll have a blog post that actually impacts negatively upon your sales targets.
People don’t want to be reading blog posts that have links in them to products or services in every other paragraph. They don’t want to be told to “click here to find out more information” at several points throughout the piece.
Today’s consumers are more savvy than ever. They want to make their own decisions as to whether they should find out more about your products or services and the hard-sell no longer works.
What you therefore need to do with your blog posts is give the reader as much information as you possibly can. You need to educate them on a certain topic and make sure they really do understand the products you offer, the service you provide and / or your organisation’s focus.
Any sales techniques should be away from the content. They could be Calls To Actions in the sidebar. Perhaps clear buttons at the top and bottom of each blog post. When everything is stripped back and all you have is the content, however, the reader shouldn’t feel obliged in any way, shape or form to click on a link or contact you further – they always need to be able to make their own decisions and forcing them to do something is just going to make them want to do the complete opposite.
Many people underestimate how difficult it is to write an effective blog post. We can all open up our blogs, write a few hundred words and publish them, but to ensure the content achieves the business goals set by either ourselves or our clients, it really is vital that the key components of a blog post are fully understood, else you risk producing copy that does little more than fill up the blog.