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A shout out from an optimistic blog reader. Will 2018 see better quality blog posts?


Blog Better
Published on: 19 Dec 2017
7 min read

I originally wanted to title this post as “A trick-free guide to writing better blog posts”.

Everyone wants to write better blog posts. Few make a conscious effort and see the results.

As we come to the end of 2017, I thought I’d welcome 2018 with a post on writing better blogs. Least because I am a great writer, but because I care - more as a fan of great posts. Think of this as a tirade by a reader of yours than as an expert’s advice.

Readers are not naive.

Readers are not naive image

They are not robots either. So, don’t treat them like they are. It really frustrates to see the tricks that blog authors play to keep the reader in me to stick around longer, fall for those catchy headlines, and worse, get me to sign up for a newsletter I am never going to read.

The last thing you want to do is templatize the experience for your readers. Unfortunately, some successful blog writers advice a practice in which you “formulate” a blog post - as if it is a recipe that can be repeated. As a reader I would prefer a more natural and flawed experience than one that is rehearsed and perfected but sounds less human.

They don’t read the same way anymore.

I am no longer carrying the same attention span that I used to. YouTube, and Twitter have corrupted it and now I am looking for higher doses of dopamine as I read. I want light bulbs go on flashing as I read through sentences. If it takes too long, my brain starts wonder in search of dopamine, and I’m gone on to my Google news feed before you knew it.

Over the years reading patterns have changed. People started to get exposed to newer formats of content and the slow, wordy ways of getting to the point don’t stick anymore. Infographics dominated the internet for a while and everyone was after it - that infographics work best for a certain type of content didn’t matter to a lot of people who would force fit their content into a nice looking template!

Make them successful.

Make an honest attempt at making your reader successful. Don’t trick them into believing they got smarter after reading your post. Help them become confident in picking up what they are scared of. Nudge them into action. Be the guiding light that stays with them through difficult times. Share your experiences, and make it real for them. Let them know you failed enough number of times before turning into the expert you are.

People remember you for what you do to them, not your words, not those templates, least of them, not the number of posts you have written.

SEO is important, but there’s more

What makes Google search survive? Yes, showing the best results for a searcher’s intent. How do they do it? No one knows for sure (even the people at Moz don’t claim to know it all so beware of those who claim to know for sure). Now, I may get into trouble with my statements about SEO but just give it a thought.

The practice of SEO has evolved over time and people rarely practice the black hat techniques of tricking search engines. However, even today, importance is given to aspects like

  • Including your keyword in the title, description and in the body
  • Making sure you have certain number of H1 tags, H2 tags and so in
  • Keyword density - number of times keyword is repeated - this reminds me of the Y2K era when porn sites would fill up their websites with the words that trick search engines into showing them at the top

I am not against the practice of SEO. It is just the way people go about writing for SEO giving the reader’s experience and value a lower priority whereas it should be the other way around.

Again, think about it. What would be of more value to Google? A happier searcher or an easier way to find your content? SEO is important, but reader experience and utility outshines it.

Enough of “9 ways to get to heaven right now” posts already.

posts already image

It gives me creeps to still see articles such as these on the web. My brain is trained to avoid them by default. Even if I see them on Medium!

Invented to help authors break their writer’s block, this turned into a curse on the readership. No matter your intentions, please stop going down this route just so you comes across as a sane person. Pick a better headline and try laying out your content in an easy to consume fashion.

Readers appreciate value over glitter. Be less arrogant about the results, work hard to drive your point across in a more digestible way.

The X-factor.

When the web is full of blogs you need to compete with other writers out there to win your reader’s time. It is not easy. There are many great writers out there producing amazing content that just blows your readers away. Doesn’t mean you give up. Think of the following as a few guidelines that will help you stand out in the crowd. May be the first few posts won’t carry as much mass. Persist, and promote in your own way.

Be opinionated.

No one respects a politically correct, spineless stand. Call out the spade and affirm your position. Be open to a contra view but don’t give up on yours just so you can please more people. As they say, when you please everyone, you please no one.

Be bold.

It takes guts to discuss certain issues. If you believe you can help share the voice of by breaking stigma, go ahead and do it. Show your character. Sooner or later you will be vindicated.

Show your wits.

Don’t be boring. Read more and build your wittiness if you aren’t a natural. Most people enjoy your posts if you can just tickle the witty side of their brains.

Use pun and humour.

Want people to remember you beyond the few minutes of reading your posts? Use pun and humour in the right doses. You never know if the smile that you bring on your readers’ face may be the only time in the day that they smiled.

Get the formatting right.

Don’t settle for a good looking blog. Go above that and figure out what appeals to your audience. When I first saw Basecamp’s Signal versus Noise blog (the old one) I was thrilled to see the signature signal wave that is unique to each author.

Use examples / stories.

People relate to stories. Even if the story isn’t new, you can give it your own narrative and make it useful and interesting to the reader at the same time. Sharing experiences adds that personal touch and conveys your authority on the subject.

Use visuals - especially gifs.

I love it when I see people using carefully selected or created visuals to impress upon the context in which the blog post is set. Gifs do an amazing job of this. Don’t be lazy and search for that really good visual which makes your post stand out. Both DHH (Basecamp) and Larry Kim (Wordstream and MobileMonkey) are very good at this.

Let a common thread run across.

When writing long articles, it is possible to veer off the subject once in a while. Same goes for the reader. They have to deal with all the emotions that your post incites while focusing on the subject at large. Help them by spreading cues across your post.

Conclusion

  • I am not an expert on writing better, as you may have realized already, but I wanted to share this for two reasons:
  • I am genuinely worried about the kind of quality we are witnessing on the web today and wanted to do something about it. We are building a product for blog writers to help them write better. Interested in knowing more about it? Go here and sign up for a beta access.

Further reading (not that I agree with everything is written in these, but that’s precisely why I’m sharing these smile)

How to write blog post simple formula ht (From Hubspot)

Write better blog posts (From Digital Marketer)

How to become a better blog writer in 30 days (From Neil Patel)