Bloggers can get so carried away trying to outdo the competition that they forget about the basics. You can be as creative as possible but why ignore principles that are proven to work.
1. Hook them with your headline
Your headline is what readers see first – it’s what has to persuade them to click and read the rest of the post. A headline must provide enough of an idea of what the reader will get if they follow the link. Here are some ideas on how to write clickable headlines.
2. Entice them with an image
An image attracts more readers, particularly if it is well selected to illustrate the headline and gives them more insight into what to expect from the post. Fortunately, you can use the following 8 sites to find beautiful free images if you are not a photographer yourself:
3. Create informative subheadings
Subheadings do the work of breaking up your post into readable sections. They provide a detailed breakdown related to the main header. An interesting exercise is to read a headline and subheadings and see what this tells you. This activity does not work at all if subheadings are generic or if they are so clever and elusive that it’s difficult to know what they are about. When subheadings are specific, they are surprisingly informative. Most readers skim through posts and it’s a subheading that will make them stop and read further about exactly what interests them. It’s not a matter of just making a few words at the top of a section bolder than the rest of the text. You have to think carefully about subheadings as they should arouse curiosity, surprise the readers or evoke their interest in some way so that they want to continue reading.
You will find examples of good and bad subheadings here.
- Don’t think of a subhead as just a label for the content below. It is a way to keep readers interested.
- Find a balance between stating the obvious and being too cryptic – too obvious is boring and too cryptic will leave readers thinking ‘what on earth does that mean?’
- Try to work surprise, personality or emotion into your subhead. You don’t necessarily have to be shocking – evoking emotion works well too.
- Remember that your subheads should tell a story. Build from one subhead to another to create a clear picture.
4. Write short paragraphs
Writing short paragraphs, even if they are only two sentences long, helps you to avoid a ‘wall of text’ and keeps your post easy on the eye. Try to stick to one point a paragraph and make your point in the fewest possible words.
5. Keep your tone conversational
Choose simple words as far as possible. You don’t have to write over reader’s heads and impress them with your extensive vocabulary. Use active not passive voice – passive voice tends to be boring. Know your audience – figure out exactly who you are writing to and have a clear purpose when you write. Avoid jargon, ambiguity and acronyms. Tell stories and appeal to the emotions.
6. Make use of bullet points
Bullet points attract the eye and help readers to find important information. Long, over complicated bullet points defeat the whole object. They should start with the same part of speech such as an action verb and be written in the same tense. The text that introduces the bullet points should end with a colon. If the text that follows is not a proper sentence, it does not need to begin with a capital and end with a full stop. Structure and punctuation must be consistent. Bullets help to break content down into digestible chunks – they drive home your content and make it easier to remember.
- keep them short
- use action verbs
- stick to the same tense
- punctuate consistently
7. Add relevant links
Links are added so that readers do not have to be bogged down with too much detail. If they want to find out more, they can click on the link. These links can be a mixture of internal links (clicking on this link takes you to a post on this site about how to be better writer) or external (this will direct you to another website with content on external links). The links should be set to open in a new tab or window so the reader can easily go back to your post.
8. Make use of keywords and other SEO tactics
If you want readers to come to your site via the search engines, SEO is essential. There are two broad aspects to SEO – on-page and off-page factors. In this post, only the on-page factors are relevant. You have to think about words users would type in to find your site. When using keywords you need to use a light touch and never sacrifice readability. Relevant keyword placement is important. The ways of using keywords have changed considerably over the years and so you need to make sure your on-page keyword advice is as current as possible.
9. Edit and proofread
Once you have gone through the process of writing your post, it’s so tempting to just push that publish button. We tend to scan through what we have written and easily miss errors that jump out at someone else when they read the post. We also tend to get too close to our material and may assume readers already know certain information because we know it. It makes sense to step away from what we have written for a while and come back later to edit. When you reread, make sure that your meaning is crystal clear.
Edit ruthlessly where necessary – shorten, delete, rewrite, don’t repeat or ramble, and omit any needless words. Here are some words you can do away with:
- for some reason
- a little
It helps to read your post out loud!
Share your post as much as possible. Social sharing buttons on your site will make it easier to share. People go online to belong, not just for content. They get a sense of community when they share. The content of your post needs to enhance someone’s life in some way or they won’t read it and share it. If it helps them to solve a problem, is useful in some way or makes them laugh, they are much more likely to share it.