Gone are the days of acquiring Web traffic by simply having key words littered throughout a blog. Thanks to an emphasis on authorship, the growing power of social media channels like Google+ and search algorithms, quality content is continually increasing in importance, especially when it comes to search engine rankings.
In addition to pleasing search engines, it’s also important to please your audience by making sure your blog is consistent, compelling and engaging. While blog writing isn’t the same as content marketing, it’s a vital part of creating winning content that keeps an audience coming back for more.
Ready to make your blog writing stellar in 2013? Use this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the bases:
Write a great headline.
Headlines serve as a first impression. They’re the first thing that readers see, whether they’re on the blog itself or a list of search engine results. Even if you write the most awesome post in the world, it won’t matter if your headline is lame because no one will be interested. In an article for Freelance Switch, Leo Babauta shares that a good headline is catchy, useful and succinct. It clearly lets the reader know what your post is about, commands attention and leaves them curious to learn more.
Know your target reader.
One of the pillars of successful blog writing is finding and developing your own voice and style. But, your voice and writing style are useless if you don’t speak to your target audience. For example, if you have a wellness blog and your target readers are retired, upper-middle class individuals who live in the suburbs, it may not be helpful to write like this: “Ya know dat exercising regularly is dank, right? So, why don’t you old dudes do it more often? Docs say that werkin’ out will fo’ sure take your health to a whole ‘nother level.”
When you write for your target audience, your readers will find you more interesting and personable.
Make your blog posts scannable.
Readers go to blogs to find quick information. You have less than 10 seconds to capture a person’s attention, and a post that looks like it’s going to take too much time to read and absorb is a turn-off.
A scannable blog post doesn’t make your reader dig for information. Instead it gives your audience the opportunity to quickly find the main points and information they seek. Use subheads, bullet points, short paragraphs, lists and bold letters to make your blog more reader-friendly.
Your audience doesn’t want to read information that they’ve already reviewed. Search engines won’t list content in search results that isn’t original. So, yes, you have to work at blog writing. According to Google, its ranking algorithm rewards high-quality sites and boots low-ranking (and plagiarized) content. Therefore, it’s vital that you keep your writing fresh, focused and compelling.
Ditch the jargon.
The best blogs use plain language, are simple to understand and use a conversational writing style. A blog isn’t the place to show off your ability to use big words, acronyms, jargons and other technical terms. For example, instead of telling a reader about the hematoma and laceration that you got on your tibialis anterior after falling on your deck’s stairs, you’re better off simply stating that you got a cut and bruise on your shin.
There is so much misinformation on the Internet that today’s readers are skeptical. So, unless you’re already a well-known industry leader, you have to regularly prove that your readers can trust the information that you share. This means that you:
- Give credit where credit is due: If someone else had the idea that you’re writing about, let your readers know.
- Reference expert sources: Prove to your readers that you’re not making up information (for example, “According to the Mayo Clinic,…”).
- Get your facts straight: It never hurts to double check the facts and figures that you report.
Proofread and edit.
Resist the urge to write and click “Publish.” One of the best ways to lose credibility among your readers and new visitors is publish a blog post that has spelling and grammatical errors, doesn’t make sense, omits words or uses words and phrases incorrectly. In an article for Problogger, Luke Palder suggests using a word processing program to write your posts so you can take advantage of the grammar and spell-checking functions. After you finish writing, read the post out loud to ensure that it makes sense, is easy to understand and omits awkward phrases.