I run a Social Media Professionals Community on Google+, and I recently asked a few members of the community to provide 5 things they look for in a good blog post. The idea is: professionals will approach this prompt from the perspective of a blog reader and perhaps even more importantly, someone who advises companies on best practices for their blogs. Here are their responses.
Clearly this belongs at the top of the list. The rest of this list does not matter if you can’t get them to click on the link. ‘Headline hacking’ and ‘link bait’ are just a couple of the terms used to describe the art of crafting an intriguing headline. A good headline should include a few elements to make them really juicy:
1. Clearly and accurately depicts the topic of the post
2. Easily digestible language; you don’t want to lose them with million dollar words
3. Specificity, avoid vagueness; ‘How to Do Well in Business’ is not nearly as interesting or informative as ‘Must Have Networking Skills to Grow Your Business’
4. SEO friendly; you want to make sure you can be found
5. Social friendly; you want to make sure you can be shared – be tweetable!
Alright, so you’ve crafted a stellar headline that has gotten a click; congratulations! But now, you have to stun them with your ideas. While there is a lot to say for skillfully curated content (entire SITES are built around skillfully curated content) if you’re trying to craft a good blog post, our professional say – make sure you’re sharing something new!
One professional says, “[this is] probably the hardest part of writing a good blog post.” – Julep Media
I think the hardest part is trying to figure out what’s original and what’s not. Also, do you avoid pre-existing content to maintain originality? It’s pretty easy to get caught up in this self-doubt. Relax. Original content can be as simple as adding your own thoughts or insight to a pre-existing topic. Take this very blog post for example. I’ve asked 5 other individuals their thoughts – I’ve presented their thoughts – and then I’m elaborating on those thoughts with my insights.
You are the narration of your post – they are seeing the post through your eyes, being presented the post through your ‘lens.’ Your perspective is the differentiating factor.
Content Must be Valuable to the Intended Reader
This is a loaded point. Let’s break it up back to front.
Who is your intended user? Do you know who you want to be reading your post? Have you thought about the type of people to whom this post might be interesting? Thinking of an intended reader will help you shape the message and perhaps even help you with writing in general. It’s easy to pretend like you’re talking to a person rather than just writing for the great expanse of the Internet.
What Determines Value? Don’t think so hard about the philosophical ramifications here. Value is simply, what does my intended user gain from reading this post? What do I want them to gain from it? What do I want them to do with it?
Look at this example: I want social media professionals and bloggers to read this post. I am providing to them tips from social media professionals that will help them in their own professions. I hope that they will read it, and if they find it helpful perhaps even share it to others.
Must be Visually Stimulating
This comes as no surprise – break up some of that text with a photo. Nearly all blog posts you see presented to you in a social stream have some sort of picture included. Your headline and your picture should work together to speak volumes about your post.
Your post’s format can be split up with
• bold headlines
• numbered lists
This kind of formatting helps to aid ‘scanning’. A load of people tend to skim posts for information relevant to them. Make that an easy process.
One professional provides a good bonus tip: “A pinnable image with the description already in the title tag” – Jimmie Lanley
This is interesting because it not only indicates that you should be thinking about how this content will be accessed on multiple platforms but also alludes to the importance proper metadata inclusion. Make sure you read about the importance of metadata and SEO.
Include Proper Accreditation
“Author information – especially if it helps me share with proper accreditation” – Courtney Seiter
This is important not only for your very helpful information resources and their authors, but also for you! If your name/company/contact info isn’t listed anywhere on your piece and someone else wants to use it… they’ll use it regardless. People probably have a low tolerance for digging around for author info if it’s not readily available. Make sure you get credit for your hard work.
Did you use someone else’s info? Include proper links to the original source and the author at the bottom of the piece. Make sure people can find out more about the topic. The more useful YOU prove to be, the more likely they are to come back. That’s a good thing, right?
“Good spelling and grammar” – Courtney Seiter
“Make sure that people can leave comments, share the content, and connect with you on social networks.” – Julep Media
“STRUCTURE! Writing a beginning, middle and end. Creating an outline before you get started.” – Walter Rumpf
“Citations and resources that show the piece is well researched” – Courtney Seiter