Blogging Tips for Writing Better Posts
Being a blogger is quite a journey. One day you might feel as though you’re simply shouting into the abyss (real talk: it’s quite possible you are) and the next everything comes together and your audience suddenly materializes. While no two bloggers share the exact same experience, there are certain patterns that can be found in terms of what can help a site grow and what types of posts will resonate with readers.
Since starting this blog a couple of years ago, I’ve certainly learned a lot — not just about personal finance but about writing and blogging as well. More specifically, I’ve seen first hand how making adjustments to the way I produce my posts can have a huge impact on how they’re received and how much traffic they drive. That’s why I thought it was about time to share some of what I’ve learned from over time and highlight a few ways you can make your blog posts and articles even better.
Have Clear Points and Structure
Here’s a hard truth: many of your site’s readers aren’t going to read every word of your post. This is especially true if they arrive at your post via search (more on that later) and are likely skimming to get the answer to their specific question. In these cases, it’s actually better to cater to such behavior by making your post easy to navigate.
When I was in school, I was definitely one of those kids who would write their paper and then craft the outline after the fact just so I could turn it in as required. Yet, when it comes to crafting blog posts (or at least longer ones), outlining has been indispensable to my process. By laying out the bones of your article ahead of time, you can help manage the flow, content, and overall point of your post more effectively.
Another advantage I’ve found to outlining boils down to this: writing intros can be hard. Truth be told, it’s often one of the last things I tack onto my post. I also have a habit of hopping around my post, filling out sections as ideas strike me before going back and writing the rest. Then I can eventually add an intro and conclusion that follow the old five-paragraph structure of “tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.”
It’s probably no coincidence that a formal outline actually bears a strong resemblance to what makes a good article structure. Starting with a headline that explains the main thesis to subheadings that highlight the primary points, this type of structure will allow your blog posts to flow nicely and make for a cohesive article. Plus, using H1 and H2 subheadings effectively (meaning using keyphrases) can help boost your SEO.
Finally, bullet points can also serve some important functions in your articles. Beyond helping to break-up your big paragraphs of text, they can also provide an easy way to present related pieces of information in a different way. If you want, you can also use bullet points to further inform readers of what’s ahead by placing an overview at the top of your post or sections.
Write Conversationally and Have a Voice
The line between a “blog post” and an “article” has been blurring for some time. As a result, a writing style that may have once been considered too casual by some is now one that’s preferred by many readers. So while you may be inclined to keep things “buttoned up” in your posts, developing your own voice and keeping things conversational can help your readers connect with your writing.
Finding your style
Arriving at your writing voice is a process. In fact, it’s not unusual for writers to evolve with each passing post as they gain both practice and perspective. That’s why one of the best ways to find your voice is to simply start writing and continue to write. Then, through personal reflection and reader feedback, you’ll be able to determine what’s working and what’s not.
Another great piece of advice regarding finding your writing voice is also the most cliche: be yourself. The beauty of the blog format is that you don’t need to adhere to a certain publication’s style and can do whatever you deem best for your audience. Therefore there’s plenty of room for experimentation and exploration.
By the way, as a blogger, chances are you’ll cover a number of different subjects within your niche, with some of these topics proving more “serious” than others. In turn, there’s nothing wrong with adjusting your tone and style to fit the subject matter. Additionally, you shouldn’t feel as though there are topics you can’t write on because they don’t fit your signature style — instead, assuming it’s a topic you really want to write on, make the necessary adjustments and give it a try.
Sharing anecdotes and references
One of the best ways to connect with readers is to share stories from your life that not only apply to the topic at hand but also share a bit of your personality and what makes you “you.” Such stories can be helpful for establishing your experience with the topic, allowing readers to relate, not to mention adding color and levity to your writing. Plus, these tales can really help drive home the points you’re trying to make and allow them to better resonate with your audiences.
Similarly, using references to pop culture and other relatable things can serve to spice up your prose while also showing some more of your personality. Just like with personal stories, using well-known shows, movies, songs, etc. as support for your theises can be a great way to grab readers’ attention and make the subject more approachable. Of course, given how seriously people take their pop culture these days, it’s probably not a great idea to spoil recent plot points as this will likely result in some angry reader comments and e-mails.
Cover Topics That Interest and Excite You
Whether blogging is just a hobby for you or you’re hoping to make a living from your writing, no one wants to waste time talking about things they don’t actually care about. Setting the lack of fun aside, trying to cover topics you have no interest in can often result in a sub-par product that fails to get a reader’s attention. This isn’t to say that it can’t be done but, make no mistake, your enthusiasm for a topic can shine through in your post. As my sister-in-law literally just put it to me, “To be interesting, you must be interested.”
Your expert topics
Personally, I like to place the bulk of my blog posts into two main categories: my expert posts and my “cite an expert” posts. That is to say that there are some articles I can sit down and crank out given my knowledge on the subject while others will require some more research. For the former, it can be extremely helpful to assert your expertise not by rattling off a list of credentials but by (as we discussed in the previous section) sharing your relevant experience in anecdotes. Being an expert on a topic also makes it possible to share insight that others simply can’t provide, adding value to your post. For those reasons, while each blog can vary, I’d presume most sites would feature a majority of “expert” posts.
Your “cite an expert” topics
Unless you’re some omniscient being not of this earth, it’s impossible to know everything. Therefore there will undoubtedly be times when you’ll need to/want to write about subjects outside of your spectrum of knowledge. This might be intimidating to some but, in my mind, there’s no reason you can’t still tackle these topics — as long as you do your homework and cite your sources.
Writing about topics beyond your depth can still be of service to your audience. After all, you’re doing the research and boiling it down for them in the style they enjoy from you. At the same time, it’s unfair and, in some case, illegal not to give credit to those whose work you’re relying on to craft your pieces.
A common misconception is that citing other sources in a post makes you seem less knowledgable. In actuality, it shows that you do know what you’re talking about and, by linking to authoritative resources, you’re backing up what your purporting. Of course, on that note, do make sure that you’re referencing reliable sources and established experts as opposed to, oh I don’t know, Wikipedia (though the famously-maligned site can contain some great links you can follow for more information).
Try Using Images and Visuals
Similar to how a long post without structure can cause readers to close out of your post, sometimes a wall of text can also prove intimidating. That’s why breaking up your post with relevant images can be effective for keeping readers engaged. Additionally, you can leverage infographics to not only present your data in a different way but potentially earn backlinks from other bloggers.
Stock photos and attribution
Something you should know about using images in your posts is that you can’t just hop on Google Images and insert whatever you’d like. Moreover, even if an image is labeled for reuse, specific attribution may be required. There may also be rules about what you can use Creative Commons image licenses for — such as forbidding any commercial uses — so make sure you understand these licenses before using the images.
If you don’t want to worry about navigating the world of Creative Commons licensing, there are stock photo sites you may want to rely on instead. While most of the best stock photo sites require a subscription or a la carte purchase, there are some resources you can use to find gratis photos to include in your articles. One of my favorites is Pixabay, while Pexels and Unsplash are also popular options. As for paid options, there are sites at several different price points and subscription models (number of downloads per month, unlimited downloads, credits that rollover, etc.).
Pro tip: if you’re looking for a discount on stock photos, check out services like AppSumo that tend to run specials on subscriptions or bulk image credit purchases. I’ve ended up with a subscription to StockUnlimited as well as several credits for Deposit Photos via this method. Adding these extra sites to my options has allowed me to supplement the free options and ensure that I’m not reusing the same photos over and over.
Use personal photos when possible
As I just alluded to, the problem with stock photos is that many other bloggers — especially in your niche — are probably pulling from the same small pool. Thus, it can be difficult for your posts to stand out on social media and elsewhere. Customizing these images by adding text (note: double-check the Creative Commons license to make sure this is allowed) can help with this but the best way to overcome the issue is to include your own photos when possible.
I’ll admit that there have been times when I had a clear vision for the stock image I wanted to use but just couldn’t find one. Then I realized that what I needed was simple enough that I could just snap the picture myself. Plus, most smartphones are now equipped with camera technology so advanced that you probably don’t need any fancy equipment to take a suitable blog image. On top of that, depending on the topic you’re writing about, it may make sense to include photos you already have, such as travel pictures or other random images you may have captured.
Another great way to help break up your text and provide additional context to your readers is to create an infographic. This could be as simple as a list of top tips you talk about in your article or could be a checklist, comparison chart, or whatever else you can think of.
One of my favorite resources for creating infographics is Piktochart, with Canva being a close second. Both other services offer templates and customizability that make it easy to create your image. Of course, there may be a bit of a learning curve, but with some practice you’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish.
By the way, another benefit of infographics is that you may be able to use them for link outreach. By allowing other bloggers to embed your graphics in their relevant posts, you can earn backlinks to your original post and increase your SEO juice. Obviously there’s no guarantee that this will happen but, if it does, it’s just a nice added bonus.
In the same vein as infographics are tables. These are especially useful if you’re reviewing several products or services in a post and want to highlight certain aspects of each. Putting these tables at or near the top of your post will also give readers an overview of what you’ll be covering before they dive in. Bonus tip: using text anchors, you can also make it easy for readers to click on the product or service they’re most interested in and jump directly to that section of your article. This same technique can also be used to create a different type of table — a table of contents — that can be very useful for longer posts.
Balance Search-Friendly and Reader-Friendly
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the importance of search engine optimization and the disservice you’re doing to your site if you’re not actively keeping your SEO in mind. This is 100% true — period. That said, it can be easy to get carried away with making your post more search-friendly that you end up sacrificing its readability and your writing style. Luckily there are ways you can maintain a balance between these two goals, ensuring you not only find an audience but also keep them around.
Writing headlines is kind of an art — and one that’s evolved over time. Part of the reason for the latest changes involve SEO and making it easier for people to find your articles. Meanwhile, there’s also been a rise in “clickbait” articles that seem to be equal parts mocked, despised, and effective. All that considered plus the fact that your headline will be the first thing readers see, this is where your first balancing act will take place.
Did you know that your article can have two headlines? With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can. In addition to the “on-page” title that readers will see at the top of your post, you can set an SEO title that will show in search queries. Actually, you can have even more than that as the plug-in will also allow you to customize what headlines show for social media snippets and more.
While this may be able to help solve some of your problems, it also means you may find yourself writing multiple headlines and deciding what each should be. Like many other aspects of blogging, this may take some experimentation on your part. The good news is that you can always change your headlines to help this process and see what works best for your site and its audience.
Have you ever read a blog post that made it extremely obvious which keyphrases they were targeted because they stuffed them into every conceivable sentence? First of all, this strategy is probably not helping your SEO — Google’s algorithms are smarter than that. Secondly (and more importantly), you’re likely annoying your audience and causing them to flee. There will surely be plenty of natural places to insert your keywords — including subheads and elsewhere — but don’t get greedy.
Be Ready to Edit and Revise
There may be no better feeling than finally finishing up a post you’ve been working on. Sadly, it’s probably not time to publish just yet. Being human means making mistakes — and this goes double for writing. Therefore, before sending your post out for the world to see, y0u’ll want to invest some time in proofreading, editing, and perhaps soliciting feedback.
Typos and tightening
Clearly one of your largest proofreading priorities should be finding and destroying the dreaded typos. It’s truly depressing how a single missed or added keystroke can bring about so much embarrassment. But, beyond your self-loathing, typos can also be distracting for readers. Therefore, editing your post after you finish it is always time well-spent — and it doesn’t hurt to give it another read or two even after it’s published.
Looking at the larger picture, it’s also a good idea to review your writing for clarity, coherence, and more. I’ll be the first to admit that there have been plenty of times when I complete a sentence that made perfect sense in my head, only to realize that what is actually written on the page is non-sensical. This is also where soliciting feedback from others can be extremely helpful.
Get a new pair of eyes
Okay, I don’t mean this literally as performing such a procedure every time you write an article would get pricey — not to mention wasteful 😉 Silliness aside, having someone else review your work when possible can be invaluable to bloggers. Not only can they often catch typos your tired mind repeatedly missed but can also provide outside insight into whether your points landed the way you intended.
Vary your word/phrase choice
We all have a few crutch phrases we insert into everyday speech and, sometimes, our writing. I know I do, which is why I’ll often try to trim them out when I notice myself using similar phrases in a single post. Funny enough, I also try to stick to a rule my second-grade teacher first introduced me to: no two sentences in a paragraph start with the same word. It’s crazy how, 25 years later, this phrase still informs my writing (and my idiosyncrasies about said writing).
At the same time, while attempting to mix up your word choice and broaden your vocabulary can improve your writing, an overreliance on thesauruses can backfire — just ask Baby Kangaroo Tribiani. The goal shouldn’t be to impress readers with your five-dollar words but rather reduce the distractions that crutch phrases can introduce. It may not be easy to spot these instances but, when you do, consider trying to make adjustments and phase them out of your writing.
Spinoff or updates needed?
Sometimes as you go back to edit your post, you may realize that certain sections may warrant follow-up posts. Take it from me: make note of these spin-off posts so you remember to revisit them down the road. In addition to just being a “gimme” blog post idea, it also gives you an opportunity to link back to your prior post.
Speaking of revisiting ideas, it may be worth going back and updating older posts. This could mean expanding upon them with new material, making tweaks to some of the stats and figures you may have included, or just giving your [insert current year here] take on a subject in which your opinions or knowledge may be evolved. Such a practice will also show readers that you care about your content and are working to ensure that their content is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
As much as blogging is a learning experience, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Having people read, care about, be entertained by, and gain perspective from your writing is a feeling unlike any other. That’s why putting your all into what you create for your blog is so important. With that in mind, hopefully some of these tips have got you thinking about ways you can improve your posts to better reach and serve your audience. Good luck!
Also published on Medium.