I’m often very pleased to receive great pieces of quality writing–that means the hard work is already done, and editing will be a cinch. The writer has taken care of the absolute, number one, most important, top of the top, primary, tastiest ingredient. That is, they had something important to say.
So that’s the trick–first and foremost, the content itself must be important, original, useful, and thoughtful. Without this, none of the below tips matter. After all, a home with faulty electrical wiring, a leaky roof, unstable foundation, and old windows is not going to be more valuable with fresh paint and fixtures.
If you have some great content that just needs to be jazzed up, use the following as your checklist.
1. Reassess Your Title
Your title is to your blog post what a book cover is to a book. It’s usually the hook–the thing that draws someone to want to read more.
You shouldn’t judge a blog post by its title and you shouldn’t stress too much about it, because it’s certainly not the most important part of the content. But you should aim to create interest with your title.
Important: This doesn’t mean that a simple title (like mine!) is boring or ineffective. And it does not mean that you should resort to hyperbole. If I titled this post “The World’s Best Blogging Tips You Can’t Live Without” it might have gotten a few more clicks, but I’m not after clicks. I want to provide something useful to people, and not get them to click on my post out of fear or sensationalism.
- Keep it short. I’d recommend somewhere between 5 and 10 words is sufficient.
- Use active language, because passive language is often cumbersome and unnecessary (e.g. “5 Habits that are Sabotaging your Sleep” versus “5 Habits that Sabotage Sleep” or even “5 Sleep-Sabotaging Habits”).
- If you created a list article, use the number in your title (like the example above). We (humans) like lists.
- Make sure it represents the content well (doesn’t over-exaggerate).
- If you’re so inclined, create a little mystery with a more abstract title like, “Coughing and the Meaning of Art,” for example.
- Don’t make it too simple (e.g. “Car Brakes” versus “Car Brakes 101″ or “How to Extend the Life of Your Car Brakes”).
2. Organize It
Organization, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
- You make it much easier for me to digest information.
- You look pretty.
Okay. Those two ways actually sum it up.
Organization is vital! Only a few tortured souls actually like daunting break-less texts. If your blog post is a long block of text or several, it’s time to refine the format:
- Separate your ideas. Keep dominant ideas in their own paragraphs. When a new idea begins to sprout, give it a new paragraph (I generally keep paragraphs to 5 lines or so maximum).
- Use headings. Headings work almost like new chapters or new acts in a play. The blog post itself is a cohesive unit made up of different parts. Give your readers an idea of what each part is about with its own heading (kind of like how I’ve done with this post–but blogs that are not list-driven can/should also have separate headings).
- Use bullet points and numbered lists to further clarify ideas (imagine if this list was a paragraph instead–it would be harder to digest each separate point).
3. Include Other Sensory Treats
I like to include at least one image in my blog post, even if it’s just for decoration. Sure, that might seem unnecessary, but in the way that a good title draws someone in, so does an image.
I fully support including images, but do not just go to Google Images and choose a picture to use. Even if you’re considerate enough to credit the photographer and link to their site (which of course you are!), you don’t have a right to use it and can be sued. Even if you take down the image immediately, you can be sued. For a lot of money.
For images, you have a few choices:
- Use your own pictures–you own the right to those!
- Search for images under Creative Commons, and always give credit. Make sure you understand the different licensing specifications (scroll down to learn about each license, and bookmark the page for future reference).
- Buy a subscription to a stock photo site.
- Use a free stock photo service like stock.xchange.
Also included in this category are charts and other graphics. Those are fun to make yourself as well!
Infographics are an excellent supplement to many blog posts–and there are so many out there that it’s almost guaranteed you’ll find the perfect one for your topic. Just make sure you include an infographic that is well-researched and professionally designed. (See our dos and don’ts if you want to try making your own!) Plus, you can often embed them right into your blog. Like this: