Want to Write a Good Blog Post? Get to the Point.
Growing up, I had a friend who I loved dearly but told the longest, most rambling stories that rarely had a point – I called them “Dome Stories.”
She would start talking about a subject then wander off onto a vaguely related subject that would then lead to another vaguely related subject, until it devolved like a fractal into random asides that were so far removed from her original intent that even she had trouble figuring out how she got there.
While that may fly in casual conversation, writing isn’t that forgiving, particularly with blog posts.
A good blog post should be clear, concise, and relevant. You get in, drop some knowledge, and drop the mic. It really is a skill that takes practice to hone. But, for the typical professional who may be tasked with contributing to, say, a company blog – that’s a huge ask.
Where do you even begin?
Begin with the Ending
Before I type out a single word, I ask myself, “What’s the point?”
No, I’m not having some kind of existential crisis; I’m simply establishing my goal line. I want to have a clear picture of who my audience is, what I want a reader to get out of these words that I am writing, and ensure that everything that comes after builds momentum toward and supports this conclusion.
Plot Your Course
You have your ending? Cool, cool, cool. Now let’s get to there.
Chances are that, if you’re noodling around an idea for a blog post, you have a pretty good feel for the types of things you want to talk about. TBH, that’s half the battle. But to bring your lil bitty bloggy baby to life, you have to go a bit further and dig a little deeper.
- Research – Make sure the information you’re presenting is both accurate and relevant with some background research on the types of arguments and issues surrounding your topic. Oh, and don’t forget to save supporting links to include in your finished product.
- Tactics – With your argument in sight, you have to determine the best way to convey that to your audience. It could be a narrative, a how-to, or even a listicle – the choice is yours! The form your post takes should reflect your tone as a writer, your audience and the depth of information you wish to share.
- Outline – This is where your post really begins to take shape. Are there common themes in your research or experience? Write them down. Hell, better yet, break them down into subheads and fill in the juicy details around that.
- Imagery – Start thinking about what visuals work best for your post. Keep in mind the tone of your piece, where it’s going to live, and the central point you’re trying to convey.
- SEO/SEM – If getting traffic is important to you, you should keep SEO strategy top of mind. Know your target keywords and be sure to pepper them throughout your copy, optimize your images with appropriate tags and metadata, and aim for a length of 1,000 words for a general topic or 2,500 for a deep dive. (Believe it or not, this post barely clocks in at that lower threshold. I’ve read fanfic shorter than this!)
- Edit – Whenever I write a blog post, I give it to a colleague to read through because I find it nearly impossible to edit my own work. It’s not because I’m the greatest, most perfect and also grammatical writer who ever lived, it’s because I’m too close to the damn thing. Another set of eyes will not only ensure your post is technically correct, it’ll ensure it makes sense and, quite frankly, isn’t boring your audience into submission.
“Now this is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
– Winston Churchill
Half the battle in blogging is getting people to read the damn thing. Make it easier on yourself (and your readers) by grabbing their attention from the get-go and giving them a taste of what to expect.
According to a shocking statistic that I just made up, 85% of men named Terry never make it past the first paragraph of a blog post unless said post is about cats!
Try leading off with personal anecdote, a thought-provoking quote, or some compelling piece of information – a little something to whet your readers’ appetites as you launch them face-first into the meat of your argument.
At the outset, you asked yourself, “What do I want a reader to get out of this piece?” Well this is where you answer it. A good conclusion should reiterate the most salient points of your post and put the power into the hands of your readers with a clear call to action – whether that means signing up for updates, leaving a comment, or just taking this information and running with it.
… And that’s the story of how I escaped a Mongolian prison using only a smuggled-in spoon and sheer determination.
My Point Is This…
For brands, a blog can help establish thought leadership – that oh-so desirable state where you’ve convinced outsiders that you know what you’re doing – by drawing subject expertise from the people around you. But blogging is not a skill that comes naturally for many. In fact, many may find the act of sitting down and organizing all of your thoughts, knowledge, and passion into something useful incredibly daunting – especially if that’s outside of your day-to-day.
And that’s OK.
Unlike, say, a book, the beauty of a blog is that you don’t have to know every little nuance about a super-complex topic; you just have to know one thing and explain it well. When you start with what you hope your reader gets out of your work and craft your argument around that, you’ll be racing toward your point instead of tumbling down a dome.