Originally posted on 6/8/15
In my two plus years of blogging, I think I’ve learned a few things about how to write interesting (and sometimes controversial) posts people want to read. Sure, I’ve posted weak articles no one seems to want to read–we’re entitled to have those days sometimes–but I think my track record on the whole has been pretty good. I don’t consider myself any sort of blogging guru or anything, and there’s still a lot I’m learning, but I think I have learned enough to be able to share what I know with other bloggers and people who want to start a blog.
1. The title is everything.
Never mind the subject matter, this is a great title. Did it grab your attention? That’s the only important thing.
Keep your titles “grabby.” Make them stand out. Make them a little controversial (“Don’t Judge Me Because I’m Poor”), a little true-confessional (“People Think I’m Stupid” or “All My Narcissistic Lovers”), a little cheeky (“Why Are Some Things So Annoying?”), or even pose a challenge to the reader (“My Son is Furry–Have a problem with that?”) Don’t try to make them too “nice”–because that will make them boring.
When all else fails, just keep them short and to the point. “I Have Issues” is a better title than “I Don’t Know Why I’m So Depressed, Nervous, Bitter and Angry all the Time.”
Keep your titles as short as possible. Never, ever write a title that sounds like a Ph.D thesis, such as: “Preternaturally narcissistic and sociopathic actions within the social media milieu: a paradigm of the interglobal loss of interpersonal altruism.” WUT?
Never, EVER use the word “paradigm” in a title. If you do that, I will personally come to your house and splash water all over your keyboard. That’s a promise. The same goes for “milieu.” Don’t use that word. Ever. No one knows how to spell it anyway.
2. Keep your subject matter on topic as much as you can.
It’s alright to veer off topic to tell an anecdote or provide an example to flesh out your article and add human interest to it–in fact doing this can make your post seem more personal and that’s almost always a good thing. But try not to veer off the topic too much. It’s hard to do sometimes, but if you do, always somehow bring the article back to your original topic, and it will look like you intended for it to veer off topic a little to make a point.
3. Break up your text!
Even if you write like Shakespeare or Hemingway, readers will bypass your well-written post if it’s just a long wall of text. While a photo, graphic, drawing or cartoon isn’t required for a very short post, it can make your post stand out more and look more appealing. Walls of text for long posts hurt people’s eyes.
If your post is very long, break it up. Use photos or pictures or quotes at appropriate intervals that illustrate the point of your story or article. It’s easy to Google images you want to use–just type the subject matter into the browser and click on Google Images, and I can guarantee you’ll fine the perfect image to illustrate your article. Your own photos or pictures are fine to use too, when appropriate.
But be careful with this too. If you use too many pictures and graphics (as I tend to do), your post could wind up looking like the cover of a supermarket tabloid, and that will turn off readers too. Make sure your post looks clean and uncluttered, especially if you also run ads on your site.
Quotes and block quotes also work well at breaking up walls of text, and never be afraid to use humorous quotes or captions, even in a serious post (as long as it’s still in context). You can also use subheadings within the article and that will make it easier to digest too.
Beyond that, break up your paragraphs into smaller, easier to chew pieces. Readers are not cavemen gnawing an entire flank of beef all at once. They are civilized humans who like their steak cut into small pieces that can be picked up and savored one at a time. The same advice goes for paragraphs. Keep them bite size and they will be much more readable and taste better too.
4. Use the share buttons!
Even if you hate social media, make sure each blog post contains all the social media share buttons available, which can be found in the dashboard. Even if YOU don’t want to link your post to them, OTHER people will use them. If they’re not there under your post, people probably won’t bother sharing your post. Share buttons are a lazy way of getting your post seen by many people, only you’re letting your readers do the dirty work for you. That’s nothing to feel guilty about.
5. Use links in your posts.
Linking to other blogs within your post creates a pingback: the writer of that blog will see that you quoted them, and more than likely will come and check out your blog. They might even follow you back. Creating a blogroll (in Widgets) or somewhere in your header will help too. It shows you read other blogs as well as your own, and the other bloggers will appreciate your support, and may even recommend your blog to others.
And of course, if you quote someone else’s material, make sure you link to their post or at least credit them.
Link to your own articles too. Doing this not only adds depth and background to your article, but it also encourages readers to not stop with the article they’re reading–they might click on your links and read your other articles too!
6. Don’t ignore your comments!
If you ignore your comments, people will lose interest in your blog. People like it when their thoughts are acknowledged and validated. No one wants to feel ignored. Replying to comments may seem like a time consuming chore, but if you fail to do this, it’s insulting to the reader who wrote the comment or asked the question, and it will seem like you don’t care. If you don’t want comments on your blog, you can always disable them. Personally, outside of writing for yourself only, I never understood why anyone would do that. All popular blogs are dynamic, interactive blogs, where people can comment and lively conversations and debates can get started. It’s helpful to comment on other people’s blogs as well.
Replying to comments keeps your readers around and makes it seem like you care about them. It also creates a sense of community that keeps people coming back for more.
You do not have to reply to every comment, but at least “like” it if you don’t have time to reply. If your blog is very active, it may be hard to reply to every single comment or give long well-thought out replies, but a “like” or a few words such as “thank you for your kind remarks” should be sufficient.
If you have the time (unfortunately I don’t much anymore), comment on or at least “like” posts by other bloggers. Follow as many other bloggers as you can, too. Most people are polite so most likely they’ll follow you back.
7. Write frequently.
You should challenge yourself and try to write at least one new post a day. If you can think of nothing to write about (we all have those days), post a funny, cute or attractive photo or a quote you like. Cartoons work well too (I use them all the time). And don’t forget about cats. Cats online are like sex in the movies–they will “sell” your blog post. You can also reblog someone else’s article, but make sure you give credit. If it’s a WordPress blogger, that is automatically done for you.
If you don’t post frequently, people will stop visiting your blog. Sometimes I write 3-5 posts a day. You don’t have to go that crazy, but at least one post a day will keep your blog from stagnating like unmoving pond water. There’s nothing that will kill a blog faster than abandoning it. If you don’t appear to care, your readers won’t either and will go somewhere else.
8. Write as if you’re speaking.
You don’t have to be a Shakespeare or a Poe or have great writing ability to write a good blog post. If you know how to string together a few sentences and have halfway decent grammar (grammar and spell check will help), you can still write a post people want to read. The key is to make it conversational and personal. Don’t overload the reader with too many facts or overly pedantic language. And always, ALWAYS be honest. People can tell when you’re lying or leaving out pertinent information. They will finish reading your article feeling like you’re hiding something. They will feel cheated and may never return.\
If possible, write your post in a conversational, personal tone. If it’s a scholarly article, of course you cannot do this, but for most blog posts, writing in simple, casual language and using personal examples to illustrate a point makes your article seem more personal, as if you are talking to the reader. Be a story teller.
9. Surprise your readers.
If your blog focuses on one or two subjects as this one does, it’s okay to add in an occasional article or post about something unrelated or even totally random. In fact, I think doing this (as long as you don’t overdo it) makes your blog fresher and more interesting. Another benefit of posting off-topic material is that you will attract readers who may not otherwise be reading your blog. I have had a number of foodies and furries reading this blog (and even following it) because of articles I wrote about those subjects. It helps to be versatile, but be careful not to lose your original focus or you will just look like you aren’t that interested in your theme topic.
It’s okay to have a general interest blog though. Many blogs aren’t about any topic in particular, just whatever the writer wants to write about that day, and that’s fine too. In fact, some of the most interesting blogs out there are general interest blogs without a focus.
10. Don’t dwell in negativity.
If your blog is about a serious or dark subject (as mine is), watch your pessimism and negativity. People won’t feel inspired or come away feeling like they’ve learned something of value if all you do is bitch and moan and talk about how the glass is always half empty. While emotional honesty in a post is great, people also want to feel like you’re giving them some hope for their hopeless situation too. That’s why I include inspirational memes and quotes, happy or cute photographs, cartoons, jokes, and lots of music. (Music has been an important factor in my recovery, second only to writing). Sometimes I find that if I post something positive even when I’m feeling like I want to jump out a 16th floor window (it happens more often than you think!), it actually improves my mood. Don’t lie in your posts and pretend to be happy when you’re not (which can come off as insincere and obnoxious), but don’t suck people into your vortex of darkness with you either.
11. Don’t require people to sign in.
Unless you are in a situation where you have a potentially dangerous stalker or group of people harassing or stalking you online, never, EVER require people to sign in to read your blog. I know if I see a blog that requires me to sign in or use a password to read posts, I’ll bypass that blog, even if it’s about a topic I’m jumping out of my skin to read about. I just don’t have the patience or time to fill out all that garbage if I want to read your blog.
12. Don’t write about something because you think it’s cool.
Never write about something just because it’s popular or trendy, if it doesn’t interest you. People will be able to tell your heart isn’t in what you’re writing about, and you’ll come off as a wannabe or a hack, and certainly less than honest. Nothing will drive a reader away faster than if they sense a lack of passion or honesty in a blog post. It’s okay to be uncool and embracing your uncoolness in fact makes you cool.
13. Run naked in public sometimes.
If you have been keeping an article set to “private” because you think it’s too personal and feel shy about sharing it with the world, take a deep breath and make it public! In my experience, whenever I’ve been afraid to post something due to its personal nature, I have NEVER regretted taking the plunge. It will set you free.
14. Controversial articles get more views.
It’s a fact. I’ve posted several articles that proved to be extremely polarizing. People either loved them or wanted me to die a prolonged and painful death. Yes, posting something controversial or “un-PC’ WILL get you more haters, trolls and you may even have to face bullies, but guess what? My stats SOARED! That article TRIPLED my usual number of views for that week. Sure, most of them were probably clicking it on to see what all the fuss was about, but along the way, I got a ton of new followers too, and while my views have gone back down, my overall visibility has increased. And the trolls and bullies have moved onto other things. (To handle trolls and bullies, please check my articles under the “Handling Online Trolls and Bullies” tab.) I find it’s best to ignore them, but sometimes even a hater post can make great fodder for a new article, but be careful about identifying anyone by name because that could get you in trouble.
15. Check your grammar and spelling.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many blog posts I see that are full of unecessary spelling and grammar errors. If you can’t write a proper English sentence, you probably should take up another hobby besides blogging. Theirs nothing mor disstractng & anoying than a sentenzes who no can read becuase your writting in bad grammer & falty speling.
A few other things to remember.
If you’re a new blogger, don’t panic if things go slowly at first. Don’t get discouraged, frustrated or give up because at first it will seem like no one is reading your blog. It takes time. Becoming visible and getting lots of views and follows takes some people longer than others. Dedication, patience and honesty will reap great rewards in time. Of course, if you write about a “hot” topic, like I do, that will help your growth too. But it isn’t necessary to write about something trendy. I don’t think the growth of this blog is because it’s “better” than any other–but because I’ve put so much time and effort into creating it.
Finally, you can’t “make” a post go viral. Unfortunately there’s no way to tell ahead of time which of your posts will grow legs and spread all over the web like wildfire. It could be a post you think is “boring” but somehow resonates with many people, or one you posted a long time ago. Maybe the “right” person sees it and helps get it out there for you. But when it happens to you, it’s an amazing feeling and makes you feel validated as a writer.