Three steps for writing good blog posts

Thord (he of Swedish descent and bearing a reputation for ‘crack’ design skills) writes about the two most important skills a blogger can have.

#2 is knowing how to blow your own horn (‘toot’ is so politically correct it gives me a shiver). Thord discusses it in some detail, and I like this part best:

Some of us have some kind of roadblock built in that stops us from promoting ourselves. Get over it. Or get run over.

The #1 skill Thord talks about is knowing how to write good blog posts. Seeing as how T left the door open there, here’s my two (or three) cents on how one may go about writing ‘good’ blog posts.

Like all good 3 step lists, this one is a model of simplicity:

  1. Define what ‘good’ is – use concrete measurements instead of an arbitrary feel-good factor
  2. Learn how to achieve the results defined above
  3. Execute (and then some).

If it was as easy as writing it above, no blog consultant would have a job. As things stand, there’s a lot more to it under the surface although as I’ve discussed below, once you internalise this formula (or you start writing for a blog that gets tons of traffic) it becomes effortless.

So let’s get started with step 1 – defining what a ‘good’ blog post is.

STEP 1: SET STANDARDS FOR ‘GOOD’ BLOG POSTS

‘Good’ is an arbitrary, unclear objective. One man’s ‘good’ is another man’s masterpiece, while the rest of the population may consider it absolutely crap. You need a precise measurement of what a good blog post is, and for this you will need to know your blog’s key objectives (and your role in achieving them).

Different blogs measure success in different ways. An established celeb gossip blogger would judge success in terms of sheer traffic / long-term search rankings a post brings. A budding car blogger could measure success in terms of the links a post gets. Someone writing on a sports blog geared towards building a strong community could measure success in terms of the # of comments each article generates.

And while we’re at it, there’s also a difference in scale – Seth Godin receives a minimum of 10-20 links for each post that he writes. His baseline for a ‘good’ post would be far higher than for the owner of a newly-launched blog who’d consider 5 links to be a home run.

If you own your blog, then you’re likely to have several different objectives that define success. Comments, Traffic / Pageviews, Links, RSS Subscriptions and Search Rankings are the most common, but you may have something different based on your specific situation. It’s a good thing to have different objectives – it gives you space to write different types of posts and be successful as opposed to doing the same thing over and over again.

If you are blogging for hire / guest blogging, you will most likely have a brief or some instructions on what the blog owner wants from you (you should ask if you’re not told). For example, for one of my blogs I tell my writers that they have to meet one of 3 objectives with each post – get X number of comments, Y amount of traffic or Z number of links.

Set out your stall in terms of the objectives you want to reach, and then attach concrete values on them. You can get a good idea for what values to use if you look at your blog’s recent history and pick out the most successful posts (according to different objectives). For a new blog, you’ll probably have to set a conservative number and then readjust as you go along.

STEP 2: LEARN HOW TO ACHIEVE EACH OBJECTIVE

Do you know how to get more comments to your posts? Do you know how to write posts that attract links?

This step is perhaps the easiest of all 3. There is tons and TONS of blogging advice on the Internet (the fastest way to get started is to head over to the Best of Performancing page), it’s only a matter of finding the right information and using it.

Want more RSS subscribers? Got them here and here. Want better search engine rankings? Got that too.

For any objective that you set yourself in Step 1, you’re likely to find quality, executable advice for achieving that objective on the Internet. And here’s an open offer – if you don’t find it on the Best of Performancing page or by searching through Google, drop a line in the comments and I’ll hunt it down (or write it up) for you.

STEP 3: FOLLOW THE FORMULA

In Step 1, you defined your goals. In Step 2, you figured out how to get there. Now all you have to do is connect the dots. It’s as easy as it sounds, but there are a few things you should be aware of at the start:

  • A good blog post is mediocre on a poor blog, fabulous on a good blog. Learn how to build a kick-ass blog.
  • You’ll probably need to revise the targets set in Step 1 soon after starting on this path. That’s ok, don’t fret – if you’re going in the right direction, you’ll only be revising them upwards.
  • Being a good blogger means building a skill-set. Build your skills, and you’ll have less difficulty in writing good blog posts.
  • You’ll probably fail miserably in the beginning, or hit a home run and then tank. Whenever you hit your first ‘valley’, don’t give up – that valley is designed by nature to weed out 90% of the ‘cant-hack-it’ folks from the mix. Once you’re able to push through and rise again, you’ll not only be a better blogger but you’ll also be better than most (90%+) other bloggers out there.
  • Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to follow the rules. In this case, following the formula works for a reason. Innovate if you have room for error, play it safe when you don’t (unless you’re feeling lucky).

So there you have it. Three simple steps to write ‘good’ blog posts. These require some work at the start but once you’ve internalised Step 2 (through practice, experience, research and judicious use of bookmarks), it’s simply a matter of picking a target and applying the formula.

At this stage, you might say:
“Ok, so I know how to do all this, but what do I write about?”

Well, I’ve got you covered there as well.

WHAT DO I WRITE ABOUT?

Here are a list of posts that I feel can solve any and all of your blogger’s block problems. Seriously.

  • 10 Killer Post Ideas
  • Finding and Writing Fresh Blog Content
  • Blog Pulling Power – Create Flagship Content
  • How to Beat the Blank Page of Doom
  • How to Turn Link Posts into Linkbait
  • 11 Reasons to Write When You’ve Misplaced Your Passion
  • 3 Ways to Engineer Good Content
  • 12 Tips for Battling Blogger’s Block
  • 100 Blog Topics I Hope You Write

This article was originally written on 30 Nov 2007 for Performancing.com.

Filed under: Blogging

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