How to Write a Great Blog Post, Part 3: Titles, length, and language

Three weeks ago, I began a series in which I shared the very simple process involved to take a concept from the idea stage to completed blog post. This process is successful because it always keeps new material in the pipeline. It keeps you inspired, helps prevent burnout, and encourages creativity.

In parts one and two of the series, I covered the early steps of writing a post - creating an active ideas file and tips for finding inspiration; and advice for expanding the concepts in your ideas file and the positives of getting personal in posts. This week I'll discuss the process behind writing your post - summarizing the concept in your ideas file; creating a great title; choosing the right length; and using the most effective language.






Part 3: Writing the post

Before writing your post, it's crucial to sum up what you want to communicate in three sentences or less.  Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What is the one thing I want my readers to know? 
  • What is the one thing I want my readers to remember? 
  • What simple truth do I want them to embrace as a result of the material I am providing? 
Maybe all you want your readers to know is you prefer high heels to flats. Summarizing your post topic before it's written will keep you from writing 700 words on the construction process of high heels and straying from your point. I usually hand-write the three sentence summation of what I want to communicate on a notepad beside my computer and look at it frequently as I am writing.

If I cannot sum up the idea in less than three sentences I have to entertain the idea that I may not have an article, I may have a series.

Once my material is grouped in your ideas file comes the difficult process of editing. Everything I have added to my idea is not going to make it into the post. I go through the concepts in my ideas file, and decide which points contribute towards effectively communicating my message, and which words detract. Some material may be discarded not because it is bad, but because it works better as a stand alone idea of its own.  Do not use material in an article that could be an article in and of itself.  Put it back in your idea file.

Once you have selected the best material from the concept in your ideas file for the intro, body, and closing of the post, you're ready to compose your post title. Why do this before writing the body of your post? While there will usually only be a handful of words in your post title, they are the most powerful words that you’ll write because for most of your readers the decision as to whether to read the rest of your post rests upon them.

Composing An Effective Post Title

Blog post titles appear in: 
  • Search engine results
  • RSS feeds
  • Links from other bloggers
  • Social media sites
  • On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them)
The title is often the only thing people see and the sole thing on which they base the decision to visit your blog. The purpose of a title is to drive potential readers to your blog, and a boring, complicated title will guarantee you less traffic than a captivating, intriguing one. While many bloggers use song titles or lyrics as post titles, they are avoiding the massive opportunities a straightforward, powerful blog title can generate.

When crafting an effective post title, it's helpful to consider one of the following techniques:

  • Communicate a benefit: Identifying a need with your readers, and promising to meet that need, is a guaranteed way to draw potential visitors in. Posts with titles such as "Dressing For Your Body Type" and "How To Wear Fall's Fashion Trends" clearly articulate what readers will learn in the post.
  • Ask a question: This is a favorite technique of mine. When you present a question, readers are wired to respond. Posts with questions as titles are not only effective at drawing in readers, but also at generating comments.
  • Personalize titles: Personalizing the language that you use helps readers feel more connected to your blog.  Simply inserting the words "you","your", or "my" draws readers in. For example, my post My stomach, myself has drawn over 1500 hits since it was published less than a week ago.
  • Use keywords: Keywords tell search engines what your post is about, and guarantee that it will resonate well beyond the date it's published. Search engines pay particular attention to titles to ascertain what blogs are about.
  • Keep it short: Search engines show only approximately 65 characters of a post title, so if you go too long it's likely your full title won't appear in search results.

Post Length: How long should a blog post be?

It's well documented that the typical web reader has a short attention span when it comes to reading content online. An investigation on Problogger found that average blog readers stay 96 seconds per blog. As a result many web-masters purposely keep their content length down to a level that is readable in short grabs.

  • SEO: There is a fairly strong opinion among those considered experts in Search Engine Optimization that both extremely short and extremely long web pages are not ranked as highly as pages that are of a reasonable length. The general opinion seems to be that a post of around 250 words is a reasonable and effective length.
  • Quantity of Posts: Shorter posts might allow you to publish more posts, and more posts are better for generating readership with RSS and in Search Engines.
  • Topic/Genre: The type of post that you’re writing will often determine it’s length. For example when writing product review you’ll generally write more than when you compose a daily outfit post.
  • Comprehensive Coverage of the Topic: Ultimately this has to be the main criteria that bloggers go with. You should write enough to comprehensively cover your topic and then stop. Long posts for the sake of them are not a wise move – but so are short ones that don’t cover the topic well.

You've gotten inspired, organized your concepts in your ideas file, narrowed down your concept into three points, constructed an effective blog title, and thought about length. Now it's time to write! Use language that you speak in - your own voice is distinctive and makes you unique. The great writing manual, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, instructs us to write in a way that comes naturally. It also says to avoid fancy words and to omit unnecessary words. Readers enjoy writing that is conversational, without being wordy. Write in a way that speaks to your reader, not down to them, and doesn’t confuse them with jargon and acronyms and technical stuff.

Pretend that you’re having a conversation with a friend, and write like that. Then go back and edit out sentences and words that are unnecessary, and revise sentences that aren’t clear. 


Next week I'll discuss the final editing process of writing a great blog post, and provide a few final tips. Has this series made you think different about crafting a post? What has your favorite tip been so far?



5 comments:

  1. I've been meaning to comment and tell you this forever, but I haven't done it--this series is fantastic. You're giving great advice and I'm learning a ton. I'm seriously impressed at how much you have blogging figured out after only being at it a few months. Us old timers could definitely stand to take a few notes!

    ReplyDelete
  2. If there was ever a blogger suited to compiling a book about blogging, it's you. Your posts are always so well-written and informative, and this isn't the same old information that's been regurgitated time after time on "how to be a better blogger" sites- I'm considering you the forerunner in blog-advice-giving. You might seek out a position at IFB- this information would be so useful for everyone in that community!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know that titles have been challenging for me. I appreciate the advice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just started blogging a few days ago and I am so glad to have stumbled upon this post!! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's hard for me to really narrow down my posts and keep them concise -- I'm quite a talker! I'd like to think I'm improving, though, and I'd hate to keep it short for the sake of keeping it short.

    ReplyDelete

I love my readers! Comments are welcomed and appreciated.