Note: This post is based on a presentation I gave to a women’s empowerment group on my campus recently. I thought the information might be useful to others, so I am posting it here.
Blogs offer a great way to boost your professional image, practice your writing skills, and raise your voice. This post offers 11 quick tips to help take your personal blog to the next level.
The Big Picture
We often think of blogs as soapboxes, places to vent and share our feelings and insights. To elevate your blog, think of it instead as a conversation. Several groups participate in this conversation: you, your readers, other blogs, news media, organizations, and even others beyond these groups. Asking yourself, “What am I going to contribute to this conversation?”, is an easier starting point than, “What am I going to write today?”
1. Choose your passion.
Write about something that interests you! Or, write about something that you want to learn more about. Readers respond more to this kind of energy than blog posts that come from elsewhere. And by going deep into one passion, you will continue to find inspiration to keep writing.
2. Engage in social listening.
Social listening means following conversations about your subject happening elsewhere online. Some ways to listen online:
- Read the news about your passion
- Read other blogs
- Watch videos and vlogs
- Seek relevant experts or brands
- Check out Instagram or Snapchat stories
- Follow relevant Facebook pages
- Follow relevant hashtag campaigns
Look for patterns, themes, questions, or gaps in the discussions that you might address in your own blog posts.
3. Participate in online communities.
Online, 90 percent of people lurk. Become part of the other 10 percent, and say something that contributes to the conversation. For example,
- Compliment a post
- Answer a question
- Reply to another comment
- Ask a question
Go beyond the emoji response and actually write something. That said, avoid promoting your own blog in the comments in the other conversations. It’s like getting a commercial break in the middle your Netflix movie marathon.
4. Learn more about your audience.
Audiences like it when you take an interest in them. It also benefits you to learn more about them and their interests. Here are some ways of doing that:
- Read the comments on your blog
- Check profiles of your commenters
- Check out their social media profiles
- Do a short survey of their interests
5. Change up your blog post formats.
Blog posts can take so many different structures:
- Interview another blogger
- Product or service review
- Offer instructions for doing something
- Make a list (“Top 11 Ways to…”)
- Respond to a reader’s question
- Respond to another blog post
- Compare options
- Participate in a meme
This variety helps keep interest for audiences and you.
6. Tell your readers how the post benefits them in the first paragraph.
Online readers scan blogs more than read them. If the first paragraph fails to grab their attention, they will move on to something else. Tell them what is at stake as soon as possible; don’t make them wait for the big reveal.
7. Write a catchy, but not deceiving, headline.
The best headlines provide the subject and the incentive for reading the post, and they do so in a short sentence of 6-8 words. Remember that headlines on your blog posts appear on different social networking sites when they are shared, so avoid using inside jokes or cute phrases that won’t make sense of out context. Also avoid clickbait, or the headlines that read, “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” They turn off audiences, and some sites — even Facebook — prohibit certain phrasings that resemble clickbait.
8. Add 5-7 keywords to each post.
Keywords place your post in search engine results and connect your blog with other posts and articles that share the same keywords. In other words, they offer a way to connect with the conversation.
To determine some keywords, consider your post’s
Be careful not to go overboard with adding keywords.
9. Interact with your audience.
Audiences enjoy when bloggers connect with them and their comments. They also respect when you respond to criticisms gracefully and fairly. Interact with your audience by responding to their comments on
- Your blog
- Other blogs
- Review sites like Amazon and Yelp
- Other social networking sites
You also can build blog posts around their questions and comments. Be sure to tag the appropriate people when you do!
10. Set reasonable goals and stick to them.
Set a goal of writing a blog post on a certain schedule, such as one post per week or one post per two weeks. Set a goal that is workable within your current obligations and gets you writing on a regular basis. That regular writing practice will make writing blog posts easier and easier.
Another benefit is that regular posting appeals to audiences. It keeps them coming back to your blog and gives them something to look forward to.
11. Limit or balance “I” statements.
Blogs often are written in the first person, or with sentences that begin with “I.” Sometimes, every sentence begins with “I,” especially rants.
Remember that blog posts are as much about conversations and audiences as they are about their writers. Look for a balance between using “I” statements and other statements. Save the “I” for the points closest to your passion.