How to write posts that people will actually read

by Sterling Camden

Are you just blogging for your own edification, or would you like to have more readers?  Yeah, I thought so.  Me too.  Whether you’re blogging for dollars, for your ego, or for a cause — you wouldn’t be putting it out on the web if you didn’t want people to read it.  But even among your subscribers, most posts will not garner more than a quick skim unless you can grab their attention and convince them to sit down and take their virtual shoes off.  Here are a few pointers:

  1. Choose a subject that you care about.  The best writers can make even the mundane interesting, but why make things hard for yourself?  Your own enthusiasm for the topic will animate your writing style better than any studied approach to writing.
  2. Read up on it.  Check out what others have said on the subject, so you don’t miss any key perspectives.  More importantly, the “conversation” up to this point will often spark new ideas of your own upon which to build your post.
  3. Think of a catchy title.  Many bloggers seem to think this is the most important step, and lots of posts have been devoted to this one facet of composition.   For readers who are skimming at warp factor 9, the title is your only chance to lock on tractor beam and pull them in.
  4. Provoke your readers.  If you want to get them off their RSS horses, then you’ve got to make them say “whoa!”.  Right at the top, make an assertion or ask a question that (at least seemingly) challenges some cherished belief or hits one of their own hot buttons.  They’ll read another sentence or two to see if you’re really saying what they thought you said.
  5. Be funny.  No topic is so serious that it can’t benefit from a well-placed verbal whoopie cushion.  If you don’t know how to be funny, then sorry, you are the joke.  Seriously, you can almost always find something humorous to say by drawing unexpected associations between elements of your subject and unrelated but universal domains such as food, sex, and extraterrestrials.  [Insert “Spock and the cucumber” joke here].
  6. Use examples.  I almost left this one out, because I was too lazy to come up with any.  So you can judge whether this post serves as a negative example or a counterexample.
  7. Engage with your sources.  Make sure you discuss what others have said on the subject (refer to step 2) and link unto them as you would have them link unto you.  This isn’t just being nice.  The holy trinity of Pingback, Google, and Technorati will direct interested readers to your post.  If the blog you’re linking to doesn’t support pingback, then make sure you add a trackback.
  8. Add your own insights.  Sometimes you can get away with just rehashing what everyone else said, but the best posts introduce a new way of looking at some facet of the subject.  That’s what brings readers back the next day.  That’s what makes them link to you, too.
  9. Choose your conclusions wisely.  You don’t have to decide on every point you discuss.  When you can leave the question open, end with an evocative ambiguity, and/or ask your readers what they think.  On the other hand, if you feel strongly about your conclusions, state them boldly and then suit up for the ensuing flamestorm.
  10. Don’t go on too long.  I think I’d better stop here.

Of course, there are many SEO-related tasks (besides linking) that you can undertake to help get your posts noticed.  The points I’ve outlined above concentrate more on the content itself.  What would you add to this list?

Advertisements
Advertisement




60 Responses to How to write posts that people will actually read

  1. There are many schools of thought that emphasize the length of the post as well. For meaty content posts a lot of writers will say to stay in the 400 – 600 words range because much more will seem too long and you start to lose your readers interest. Of course we all know and love Steve Pavlina who completely obliterates this norm with 1500 – 2000 word posts that people regularly consume and hang on every single word.

    So where do I stand? I try to mix it up. For news/technology/what's new type posts I keep short, kind of like the Sexy Geeks here. ;) For tutorials or personal thought posts I usually shoot for the 600 – 800 range. I don't actually count the words… that's just how it ends up.

  2. There are many schools of thought that emphasize the length of the post as well. For meaty content posts a lot of writers will say to stay in the 400 – 600 words range because much more will seem too long and you start to lose your readers interest. Of course we all know and love Steve Pavlina who completely obliterates this norm with 1500 – 2000 word posts that people regularly consume and hang on every single word.

    So where do I stand? I try to mix it up. For news/technology/what’s new type posts I keep short, kind of like the Sexy Geeks here. ;) For tutorials or personal thought posts I usually shoot for the 600 – 800 range. I don’t actually count the words… that’s just how it ends up.

    • I don’t count words either, Jonathan, but I often find myself winding down at about 250 words. This post, however, went to 622.

    • Yeah, it's a lot — but you don't have to start out following every one of my points. Heck, I even break a few of my own rules fairly frequently. The most important thing is just to write, and write often. Then as you get more experienced, you start looking for little ways to improve. That's what this post is about.

    • Yeah, it’s a lot — but you don’t have to start out following every one of my points. Heck, I even break a few of my own rules fairly frequently. The most important thing is just to write, and write often. Then as you get more experienced, you start looking for little ways to improve. That’s what this post is about.

    • Yeah, it’s a lot — but you don’t have to start out following every one of my points. Heck, I even break a few of my own rules fairly frequently. The most important thing is just to write, and write often. Then as you get more experienced, you start looking for little ways to improve. That’s what this post is about.

  3. lotsa people tend to focus on tip number 3, as you've mentioned. But they pretty much ignored the rest.

    You get pulled in by their catchy title, and BAM, you're looking at an ugly page, with tons of ads and minimal content that's barely relevant to what you're looking for originally.

    Pfft.

  4. lotsa people tend to focus on tip number 3, as you’ve mentioned. But they pretty much ignored the rest.

    You get pulled in by their catchy title, and BAM, you’re looking at an ugly page, with tons of ads and minimal content that’s barely relevant to what you’re looking for originally.

    Pfft.

  5. I thnk it totally depends on the subject matter of the topic and the quality of the skills of the writer, that how beautifully he/she can write.

  6. I thnk it totally depends on the subject matter of the topic and the quality of the skills of the writer, that how beautifully he/she can write.

  7. Thank's for sharing such great advice! I'll print it out and put i next to my computer. It's way to easy to forget "simple things". At the end of the day I do believe it's important that you actually love what you are doing, if not, my experience is that "I get sick and tired" and give up. Again, thank's for great advice!

  8. Thank’s for sharing such great advice! I’ll print it out and put i next to my computer. It’s way to easy to forget “simple things”. At the end of the day I do believe it’s important that you actually love what you are doing, if not, my experience is that “I get sick and tired” and give up. Again, thank’s for great advice!

  9. Great Advice Chip. I am working on a new blog which concentrates more on the funny side of life posting articles on the latest news which I care about. I think my current blog is a bit too serious and may actually start adding a bit of humour to it.

  10. Great Advice Chip. I am working on a new blog which concentrates more on the funny side of life posting articles on the latest news which I care about. I think my current blog is a bit too serious and may actually start adding a bit of humour to it.

  11. Step 7 is about linking and engaging your sources. What if that source is a celebrity? I listen to podcasts and some of what they talk about goes into my blog. Is there a way engage them without coming across as someone who is trying to "ride on their coat-tails"?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.