Author: Ali Luke

What Do Your Blog Post Titles Say About Your Brand?

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What do your blog post titles say about your brand?This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

If you’ve been reading ProBlogger for a while, you probably know the basics about writing blog post titles such as:

  • Be clear and specific
  • Use numbers where appropriate
  • Use powerful words and phrases such as “how to”, “easy”, “quick”, “great”, “little-known”, and so on.

Using these guidelines, you’ll end up with titles that do an excellent job of “selling” your post to your audience. Take a look at some recent posts on ProBlogger for good examples:

However, one thing that might be missing from your title is a sense of your brand. This can be an issue when you see a title you love on someone else’s blog and try to use a variation of it on your own site. What if it doesn’t really fit your own voice and style?

Here are six titles from very different publications:

  1. 22 Unbelievable Facts About The Human Body. #8 Will Astonish You! (EMGN.com)
  2. The Moment You Noped Out Of A Movie You Thought You’d Like (Cracked)
  3. If You’ve Experienced 21/31 Of These Problems, You’re Definitely a Baker (Buzzfeed)
  4. Police ‘could let violent suspects go’ (BBC News)
  5. The arts have a leading role to play in tackling climate change (The Guardian)
  6. Functions of the Apostrophe (Daily Writing Tips)

These are all good titles – if used in the right context.

Each of them hooks the reader in some way and gives a clear indication of the content of the piece.

Just looking at the list, you can draw conclusions about not only the type of article you’re about to read but also the brand publishing it.

For instance, The Guardian is a serious UK newspaper. I’ve never seen them publish a headline like the EMGN one. If they did, their readers would probably think it was a prank or a successful hacking attempt.

Let’s take a closer look at how they work.

#1: 22 Unbelievable Facts About The Human Body. #8 Will Astonish You! (EMGN.com)

You’ve probably seen quite a few of these titles. (They were everywhere a couple of years ago.) They all follow a specific format: a total number of items, followed by “(item number) will [astonish/amaze/surprise/etc] you”.

The formula works: it’s cleverly designed to pique the reader’s curiosity. But it also brands the site in a particular way. It can seem like a cheap trick, and be associated with low-quality writing.

If you want to try this on your own blog, I suggest using it with caution (and perhaps toning it down just a notch by using something like “amazing” instead of “unbelievable”).

#2: The Moment You Noped Out Of A Movie You Thought You’d Like (Cracked)

While most Cracked titles have a fairly standard format, I picked this one because of the word “noped”. If a title uses something slangy (especially slang associated with a particular age group), it’s a strong clue to readers about the intended brand and audience.

Even if you’ve never used the word “noped” it’s fairly clear what it means from the context, and suggests a post that will be cheerfully irreverent.

By all means use slang (or even swear words) if they’re a good fit for your audience and, most importantly, your own voice. Don’t use them just to look cool.

#3: If You’ve Experienced 21/31 Of These Problems, You’re Definitely a Baker (Buzzfeed)

This is a typical Buzzfeed post title. (Other examples include If You Own 23/33 Of these Products Then You Should Be A Beauty Guru and If You Get 9/13 On This Nursery Rhyme Quiz Then You’re Probably Four Years Old.)

It does a couple of clever things:

  • It targets a very specific audience (bakers) with a post that promises to “get” what they’re like.
  • It frames what’s essentially a list post in an interactive way by making it more like a quiz or a challenge.

As well as encouraging the reader to click, it also encourages them to share the post (and their score) with their friends on social media.

#4: Police ‘could let violent suspects go’ (BBC News)

BBC News headlines tend to be short – between five and eight words – so they fit easily in their sidebar. They also frequently use quotes from someone within the article. Five of the six words in this headline are within quotation marks, which isn’t uncommon.

Whether or not you like the technique (some writers aren’t keen), it does allow them to create short, powerful headlines without risking being accused of bias. (They’re required to be impartial in their reporting.)

Whatever your brand, you could experiment with using short quotes in your post titles and see if it increases the attention they get.

#5: The arts have a leading role to play in tackling climate change (The Guardian)

This title comes from the Guardian’s “opinion” section, which functions a bit like a multi-author blog. In fact, most of the headlines there sum up the argument or key point of the article.

This stands in clear contrasts to the headlines on Buzzfeed and EMGN, where the whole point is to “tease” the article. But it positions the Guardian as a place for serious journalism and quality, thoughtful writing.

You might also notice the Guardian uses sentence case rather than title case for the title, as does the BBC. This is a stylistic decision and perhaps lends itself to titles that can also work as sentences. (Sentence case for titles/headlines is also more common in the UK than in the US.)

#6: Functions of the Apostrophe (Daily Writing Tips)

This is a simple, straightforward title. But it works well in the context of Daily Writing Tips, which uses a lot of similar titles (especially in the “grammar” category). A short, clear title such as this promises a post that’s authoritative and complete.

On some blogs it would make sense to jazz up the title (e.g. “The Ultimate Guide to All the Functions of the Apostrophe”). But that wouldn’t suit Daily Writing Tips’ calm and slightly academic voice and style.

If you use a title such as this on your own blog, make sure you can deliver on the promise you make in the title. The post will need to be well-informed and comprehensive if you don’t want to risk losing your readers’ trust.

We’ve taken a look at six very different titles from six very different publications. Can you imagine any that would fit on your own blog, or that definitely wouldn’t work for your voice and your audience? Or do you have a different way of styling and branding your titles?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Image credit: Pineapple Supply Co.

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3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea

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Give your readers a fresh take on a well-worn idea

Today’s post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

Whatever topic you write about, you’ve probably seen a lot of ideas that have already been done to death.

If you’re in the weight loss niche, you might have seen a dozen posts on “How to beat the weight loss plateau”. If you’re in the freelancing niche, you’ve probably come across quite a lot of advice on “Should you charge per project or per hour?”. And if you blog about pregnancy and babies, you’ve probably read post after post about “Why breastmilk is better than formula”.

The problem is, you may also want to cover these well-worn ideas. Perhaps your readers have asked for a post on that particular topic, or maybe you want to make sure your beginner-friendly blog covers all the basics.

Of course, this is where I reassure you that your post will be different because you’ll be bringing your unique voice and perspective to it. (After all, that’s the advice I read time and time again when I started blogging.)

But while that’s true to a degree, I’ve read a lot of posts over the years across various niches that all seemed a bit too derivative.

Without a strategy in mind, it’s all too easy to write a post that just summarises other posts you’ve read on the topic. It ends up bland and boring, or skates over a topic without really giving any new insights.

So how can you offer something more for your readers? Well, I’m going to cover three options in this post, although I’m sure there are plenty more. You could:

  1. Use an analogy to make your post more engaging
  2. Acknowledge the other posts out there and subvert them
  3. Go much deeper into a particular topic than most people do

(If you’ve got other ideas for adding value to a well-worn idea, please share them with us in the comments.)

Method #1: Use an Analogy to Make Your Post More Engaging

If your topic is quite basic, or even slightly boring, an analogy can make it far more engaging. It will be not only more fun to read, but also thought-provoking for your reader. It can also be a lot of fun to write.

To create an analogy, pick something from outside your niche that you could compare with your topic. For instance, you might write about “How writing my PhD thesis taught me how to break my weight loss plateau” or “What McDonald’s can teach you about pricing per hour vs per project”.

Analogies can come from almost anywhere: other areas of your life and experience, or movies / TV shows / books you love.

Examples:

7 Unconventional Birth and Business Lessons from a New Mom – Nathalie Lussier, NathalieLussier.com. This great post from the founder of AccessAlly shares some key business lessons as they relate them to giving birth.

What Classic Monsters Can Teach Writers About Monster Clients – Amanda Stein, Craft Your Content. While there are plenty of posts out there about dealing with difficult clients, this post (published just before Hallowe’en in 2017) offers insights in a fun way.

Method #2: Acknowledge the Other Posts Out There and Subvert Them

Sometimes it’s best to openly acknowledge there are lots of posts on your particular topic out there. You can then explain how your post will be different. Maybe you’ll be going against prevailing wisdom in your niche, or offering a very different take on something.

If your readers are fed up with bland, one-size-fits-all advice this can be a great tactic. Just make sure you can stand by your opinions. Don’t write a controversial post you don’t really agree with.

Examples:

13 Effortless Productivity Tips To Keep You Sane (And Profitable) – Naomi Dunford, IttyBiz. From the first line of this post, Naomi makes it very clear she won’t be giving the type of advice readers have often seen elsewhere: “Productivity tips are generally things that make me want to poke my eye out with a spoon”.

When Life Happens: A Totally Doable Morning Routine for Writers – Hailey Hudson, Craft Your Content. In this post, Hailey (who has a chronic fatigue illness) goes beyond the standard advice on how to adjust your morning routine “when life happens”.

Method #3: Go Much Deeper Into a Particular Topic Than Most People Do

Sometimes, tackling a familiar topic means digging into it much deeper than most people do. Instead of just explaining the basics, you could give an in-depth guide with the hows and whys, or drill deep into one aspect of the topic.

This can be a great tactic if you think a lot of the content in your niche is a bit surface-level. Your readers may know all the basics, but they may be having trouble implementing them, or want to know more than most bloggers are offering.

Examples:

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections – Mark Nichol, Daily Writing Tips. While plenty of writing-related sites explain what interjections are and give examples, this is an impressively long and detailed list.

Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 1: Hooking Readers – K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors. There are plenty of posts out there on “How to write a first chapter”. But K.M. takes it a big step further, creating a series of three posts that each tackle the process from a different angle.

If you’ve always wanted to write about an idea but haven’t yet because it’s been done to death by other writers, I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you could give your readers a fresh take on it.

And if you’ve got your own tips on how to tackle a well-worn idea without boring your readers, share them with us in the comments.

Image credit: Cody Davis

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How Long Should Your Blog Post Be?

The post How Long Should Your Blog Post Be? appeared first on ProBlogger.

How long should your blog post be?

Today’s post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

When I started blogging in 2008, there was a (roughly) agreed-on standard for blog posts: you should post around 500 words every weekday.

Now that I look back on that, it seems pretty silly. Some topics can be adequately covered in 300 words, while others might need 5,000. And some bloggers have a naturally terse writing style, whereas others like to dig deep and give lots of examples.

Around the end of 2013, long-form content became much more popular in the blogging world. (Here’s Darren’s post about ProBlogger’s own experiments with writing longer posts.) Then, as now, it seemed clear that Google had a preference for in-depth content.

But during the past few years, short pieces of content have become increasingly popular as well. Twitter, for instance, is often described as a “microblogging” platform. While plenty of people use it for general conversations or promotional tweets, others do use it in a blog-style way. Take a look at James Breakwell (@XplodingUnicorn)’s brilliant tweets about family life, for instance.

Lots of blogs also carry relatively short posts. Gizmodo is a good example, with very frequent news / time-sensitive posts. For instance, eBay is Knocking 15% Off Everything Just for Today was 168 words.

So should you write short posts, long posts, or something in between?

The answer is, as you might have guessed, it depends. You need to find a post length that suits your content, your readers, and (perhaps most importantly) you as a blogger.

But before we dig into those considerations, let’s take a quick look at length vs frequency.

Blog Post Length vs Frequency

While it’s not a rule, blogs that publish short posts usually publish them more frequently than blogs that publish long posts.

You can see why this makes sense for both the blogger and the reader. You might publish a 400-word post every weekday, or a 2000-word post once a week.

If you want to increase the length of your blog posts, you might also want to decrease how often you publish them. Otherwise you’ll burn out, and your readers will get overwhelmed.

(Sidenote: I’ve never unsubscribed from a blog because they posted less frequently than I wanted. However, I have unsubscribed from blogs that posted too frequently, especially if the quality of posts wasn’t consistent.)

So, with the caveat that changing the length of your content will likely mean changing the frequency too, here are some key considerations when thinking about how long your blog posts should be.

What Suits Your Content?

Some topics pretty much demand in-depth posts. If you’re writing about something that involves lots of different steps, such as “How to start a blog”, it’s probably not going to be short.

But other topics work best with short content. This is particularly the case for blogs that aim to entertain rather than inform. Readers may delight in reading lots of short anecdotes about your kids, but be put off by a rambling story.

Of course, you probably have a bit of flexibility on how exactly you approach your topic. So if you feel you want to write short posts rather than in-depth ones, come up with post ideas that would work for that. Instead of “How to start a blog”, you might write “How to register a domain name” or even “What is a domain name?”

What Suits Your Readers?

The next key consideration is whether your readers would prefer shorter or longer posts. If you already have a reasonable number of readers, you could survey them to find out. You could also take a look at your most popular posts in Google Analytics, or the posts that get the most comments or shares. Does short or long content seem to resonate better with your audience?

You might potentially find that your readers like a mix of posts. Maybe they want fairly short and to-the-point posts most of the time, with a much longer piece of content occasionally thrown in.

What Suits You?

Last, but certainly not least, comes… you. Are you the sort of writer who naturally produces concise, impactful posts like Seth Godin does? Or do you love to dig into a topic and write a post that covers every angle?

If you’ve been trying to write long posts but struggling to stay motivated and productive, it could be a sign you’re better suited to sharing short, succinct pieces of content instead. On the other hand, if you’ve been writing three or more short pieces every week and it feels like you’re on a content treadmill, writing one long piece every week or even every couple of weeks might work better for you.

The great thing about blogging is there are no “rules” on how a blog post should look. You’re free to write 10,000-word epic guides (such as Neil Patel’s Online Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide), or posts with only a few words and mostly pictures or embedded tweets (such as Buzzfeed’s 19 Hilarious Back-To-School Tweets From Parents Who Have Been There), or anything in between.

Quick note: If you’re concerned about the SEO benefits of short vs long content, it’s worth knowing that many experts believe longer content does better on Google. However, if you and your existing readers prefer short posts, don’t force yourself to create long content. It will  only rank well if it’s really good (and gets backlinks).

So what sort of content will you create: short or long? It’s completely up to you. Have a look around and see what others are doing, experiment with different lengths yourself, or come and discuss short vs long in the ProBlogger Community.

Image Credit: Markus Spiske

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Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead)

The post Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead) appeared first on ProBlogger.

Ways to annoy a blog editor

This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke.

Are you (inadvertently) annoying bloggers you want to impress?

If you’re hoping to build a great relationship with a blog editor – maybe so you can land a guest post, or interview them on your blog – then this post is for you.

Because you might just be getting yourself on their blacklist without even realising.

For ten years, I’ve been the owner-editor of my blog Aliventures. I have an assistant for some admin tasks, but emails still come through me. And while my blog definitely isn’t the biggest out there, I still get a fair number of annoying emails.

Back in 2013–14 I spent some time editing Daily Blog Tips, where I fielded a lot of comments, enquiries, guest post requests, and so on.

With both Aliventures and Daily Blog Tips, I’ve had plenty of wonderful interactions with lovely readers. But a few readers obviously didn’t realise their comments or emails were guaranteed to irritate me.

Some of the mistakes I’m about to go through might seem fairly obvious; some might not. I’ve tried to explain why each one is so annoying to an editor.

If you’ve been making some of these mistakes, don’t worry. None of them are awful, just annoying. And all you need to do is avoid making them in future.

#1: Leaving a Comment With a Keyword as Your Name

Have you ever seen (or even left) a comment on a blog with the name field filled in as something like “SEO guru” or “India Travel Tips” or “Top Freelance Writer”? I can understand why people do this. Even though it won’t help you rank for that keyword (links in comments are no-follow), it might tempt a curious reader to click on your name and visit your site.

Using a keyword as your name is really irritating for the blog editor. It looks shady and spammy. And no-one wants any part of their blog, including their comment section, to look like that.

It’s also a technique often used by actual spammers. So for many blog editors, seeing a keyword in the “name” field of a comment is such a red flag that they’ll delete your comment altogether.

Instead: Use your actual name. (If you don’t want to use your full name, just use your first name). It’s not that hard. And don’t think you can get round this with something like “Ali Luke | Top Freelance Writer”. While a blog editor might let it stand, it doesn’t leave the best impression.

#2: Sending Vague, Unanswerable Questions by Email

While I welcome emails from readers, and an always happy to answer a question or two, sometimes their emails just leave me scratching my head.

They’ll be something like, “I want to write stories, please can you help?” or even “How do I become a writer?”

If I only received one email like this it wouldn’t bother me. But when I get similar emails regularly, I can’t help but feel a little exasperated. These questions could easily take me a whole book to answer. They’re not really something I can answer in a quick email.

I can’t imagine what response the emailer is hoping for. Maybe they think they might be able to strike up a mentoring relationship or similar. Or perhaps they think I have some special writing secret I only give out privately and won’t share on my blog.

While I’m not cross about these emails – I’m sure they’re well-meaning – I do find them a bit frustrating. I usually respond by sharing a link to one or more of my favourite writing websites, and giving my best wishes. But I’d really love it if these people would figure out one specific question I could help them with.

Instead: If you’re emailing a blogger for help and advice, ask something specific. (Check their blog first to make sure they haven’t covered it already).

If you’ve got a fairly broad question you want answered, you could frame it as “I’d love to see you blog about…” Most blog editors are happy to receive reader suggestions.

#3: Making Snide Remarks About Typos or Mistakes

With a degree in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing, I like to think my grasp of the English language is more than reasonable. But like everyone else I make the occasional typo or mistake. (And I don’t always proofread quite as well as I should.)

One of the most irritating things blog readers can do is to point out those errors in a nasty – and public – way. They may leave a comment saying, “Wow, I thought you were a professional writer, and you can’t even spell”. Or they’ll take issue with a particular word or phrase I’ve used that’s perfectly correct in British English (which is what I use for my own blog and many of my guest posts).

Instead: Do alert a blog’s editor to any typo or mistake you spot. Believe me, they’ll want to know. But do it in private (by email or direct message) and be nice about it. Something along the lines of: “I think a typo slipped through in your first paragraph (‘potatoe’ should be ‘potato’). Just thought you’d like to know.”

#4: Starting an Argument in the Comments

On large blogs, I’ve seen the attitude among some readers that the blog is a “public forum” and they should be entitled to have their say – even if they’re being nasty to other readers.

This is really frustrating for a blog editor. They’ll have to spend time checking the comments, and potentially deleting ones that fall foul of the blog’s commenting policy. (Even if the blog doesn’t have a commenting policy, editors will still quite rightly delete comments that are hostile and rude.)

Remember: even if the blog you’re reading is large, it’s still someone’s website. It isn’t a public forum or social network. (Even sites such as Facebook and Twitter can delete your posts if you write something truly outrageous.)

Instead: If you disagree with someone, there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But be civil, and if you wouldn’t say it in the blogger’s living room then don’t say it on their blog. If someone else attacks you, either respond calmly or not at all. (Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away.)

#5: Ripping Off Their Content

If you want to really wind up a blog editor, here’s a great way to do it: steal one of their posts and publish it on your own site.

While some spammers do this fully knowing it’s wrong, I’ve also come across occasional readers who are new to the blogging world and simply don’t realise they can’t republish other people’s work on their own blog.

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s what is (and isn’t) okay:

  • You can quote other bloggers. (Make sure you clearly identify the words you’re quoting, and that you name the blogger and link to the source of the quote where possible).
  • You can link to other bloggers’ posts to recommend them to your readers. You can republish a short excerpt from the post (but again, make sure it’s identified as a quote).
  • You can’t publish someone else’s entire post unless they’ve given you explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t publish images from their post without explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t take someone else’s post and rewrite it sentence-by-sentence to make it your own. If you’re using their structure and their thoughts, the fact you’ve switched lots of words for different ones or reworked some sentences doesn’t matter. You’re still committing plagiarism.

Instead: Normally, the best thing to do is to simply write your own original blog posts. That way there’s no danger of ripping off someone else’s work. But if you particularly love a post someone else wrote, you could write something inspired by it. (Make sure you link to and acknowledge the original.)

If you really want to republish someone’s post, email newsletter, etc. on your blog, then email them and ask for permission.

#6: Emailing Badly Written, Off-Topic Guest Post Suggestions

In my email inbox, I have a specific label for ‘bad guest post pitches’. Here are a few lines taken verbatim from various emails under that label. Note that these were all guest post pitches for my blog Aliventures, which is about the “art, craft and business of writing”.

“I can provide you 100% Copyscape protected the interesting and informative article that will be helpful to your readers. […] I have also articles published in some of the major websites.”

“I write excellent content with good information that will be appealing to your audience along with attractive images and infographics. I write on varied topics like health, marketing, gifts, travel, etc.”

“I`ve got some useful and unique content about Business Correspondence Skills, that would naturally attract the attention of the authors and the audience alike.”

I’m not sure what people hope to achieve with guest post pitches like this. I suspect they send out so many that eventually someone agrees to take a post from them.

As a blog editor, I’m not going to accept a post that’s off-topic for my blog. (It’s annoying that people email me without even checking what I cover.) And if the pitch itself is badly written and full of spelling mistakes, I won’t want even an on-topic guest post from that writer.

A milder (but still annoying) form of this is when people email me saying something like, “Can I send you a guest post to look at?” I need more than that to go on.

If you’re pitching a guest post, send an actual pitch. And don’t think sending a email like this to get a “Yes, send it on over” response will get you a foot in the door. It just makes you look a bit clueless).

Instead: Write a great guest post pitch. Tell the blogger the topic or title you propose to write about, and make sure it’s firmly on-topic for their blog. Don’t feel you’re “not good enough” or that your blog “isn’t big enough” for you to pitch a guest post yet. Trust me, your pitch will be far better than most of the ones coming the editor’s way.

#7: Asking for a Link to Your Post

This might seem a little controversial. But as a blog owner/editor, I find it annoying to receive link requests.

Yes, I know getting links to your blog is really important and a big part of offsite SEO. But I get so many link request emails that they always come across as an irritation, not a great opportunity.

The requests I receive often seem like they’re generic template emails, too. They either tell me they’ve linked to me and they’d appreciate a link back (reciprocal link exchanges isn’t a good idea in SEO terms), or that they noticed I linked to someone similar to them in a particular post and want me to link to them too.

(I assume they’re using a tool to find backlinks to their competitors so they can target bloggers to request links to their posts as well.)

However brilliant your post is, the truth is most blogger editors won’t have much time to invest in checking it out. Plus, if I wrote a post six months ago I’m not interested in going back and updating it to add more links.

Instead: By all means seek out links to your blog. But don’t email loads of big-name bloggers in the hopes of getting somewhere. Instead, build up relationships with blogging peers who write about your topic. (This is a great idea for lots of reasons, not just to get links.) Then once it’s appropriate, let people know you’d be happy to link to them any time they have a post they’re particularly trying to promote. Hopefully they’ll return the favour. But don’t be upset if they don’t.

 

Most of these mistakes are easy ones to make. You might think they’re all little things, and that editors shouldn’t get annoyed by them. But imagine receiving the 20th irrelevant, badly spelt guest post pitch in a week, and you’ll see why editors might not have much patience left.

Have you been inadvertently making any of these mistakes? What will you do differently next time around?

Image Credit: Ben White

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Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts

7 easy ways to write better titles for your blog postsToday’s post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

The most important words in your post are the 6–10 words in the title (also known as the headline).

These words determine whether or not the rest of your post ever gets read. They can guarantee failure, or give your post a great shot at success.

And yet many bloggers treat their title as an afterthought. They either run with the working title they thought up when planning their post, or come up with something half-hearted just so they can publish.

So you can see how much titles matter, let me offer you three different posts. I’ll call them:

  1. More Reader Engagement
  2. How to Get More Comments
  3. Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts

Which would you prefer to read?

I’m guessing it’s #3. (Which is, in fact, one of my posts on ProBlogger.) But each title could refer to the same post.

The good news is it’s not hard to get better at writing titles. There are a few straightforward techniques you can use instantly (or with just a little bit of work) to dramatically improve your titles.

Here are my seven favourites:

#1: Be Specific, Not General

A post titled ‘More Reader Engagement’ could mean almost anything. Is it about comments, social media, readers taking action, or what? It’s a general title that could apply to all sorts of posts.

But a post titled ‘Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts’ is clear and specific. If you see that title on Twitter or in your email inbox, you’ll know exactly what you’ll get from that post.

Some bloggers think a vague title will intrigue readers, who’ll then click it to find out what the post is about. The truth is, readers have so many other calls on their time and attention that unless you’re a personal friend they’re probably won’t care enough to click.

#2: Use Numbers Where Appropriate

If you look at any magazine cover, you’ll see that numbers are used prominently.

Numbers are a great form of specificity. A post that promises ‘five ways’ is very different from a post that promises ‘100 ways’.

Here are a few example of how different types of titles could be adapted to include numbers:

How to Set Up WordPress
How to Set Up WordPress in Five Simple Steps

My Top Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging
My Ten Top Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging

How I Dramatically Increased the Size of My Newsletter List
How I Increased the Size of My Newsletter List by a Whopping 351%

Should You Have Comments On Your Blog?
Should You Have Comments On Your Blog? Four Experts Speak Out

It won’t always make sense to use a number in the title of your post, but quite often it will. Of course, it often makes good sense to use numbers in your post, too. (For more on that, check out How to Use Numbers Effectively in Your Blog Posts.)

#3: Use Powerful Adverbs, Adjectives and Phrases

Although I’m not a fan of hype (which I’ll come to in a moment), you do need to sell your blog post a bit in a title. This means using powerful words that grab readers’ attention.

Here are a few examples of titles from ProBlogger, with the powerful adverbs, adjectives and/or phrases highlighted:

Try reading each of those without the highlighted words. They still sound like interesting posts, but aren’t quite so compelling.

Some good words to consider using are:

Words that promise something readers can do easily:

  • Easy
  • Quick
  • Simple
  • Straightforward

Words that promise something readers (probably) won’t already know about:

  • Secret
  • Little-known
  • X won’t tell you (e.g. “ten secrets top bloggers won’t tell you”)

Words that position the reader alongside experts and people they look up to:

  • Like a pro
  • Expert
  • Professional (e.g. “the tools professional editors use”)

Words that promise a comprehensive resource:

  • Epic
  • Ultimate
  • Only (e.g. “the only guide to WordPress you’ll ever need”)

Words that warn readers of danger to avoid:

  • Mistakes
  • Red Flags
  • Warning

But make sure the words are justified. Don’t say your suggestions are “easy” if they require substantial background knowledge or take a lot of time. Don’t call your 500-word blog post an ‘ultimate’ guide. Which leads me to…

#4: Don’t Over-Hype

Your title is a promise. It sets readers’ expectations for your post. Unfortunately, some blog posts have a great title, but the post itself doesn’t deliver on its promise.

Yes, you might get readers. But they definitely won’t be sticking around to read anything else you’ve written. You might even get comments, but they won’t be complimentary!

I don’t want to worry you, or make you feel anxious about titling your posts. Most bloggers are likely to under- rather than over-hype.

But if you’re using a particularly powerful promise in the title (such as ‘The only WordPress Guide You’ll Ever Need’), ask an honest friend or fellow blogger to take a quick look and tell you if the post really lives up to the title.

#5: Don’t Make Your Title Too Long

There’s no absolute rule on how long your title should be. But try not to make it any longer than it needs to be.

‘Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts’ is 60 characters long, meaning it will display in full in search engine results and can fit into a short tweet or social media post.

It’s also short enough for a reader to take in quickly.

But it I called this post ‘Let Me Share My Top Seven Easy Ways to Write Much Better Titles for Every Single Blog Post You Ever Create’, it would lose a lot of its impact. It’s too long (106 characters) to display in full in search engine results. And it’s much too wordy: readers might glaze over partway through.

And if I’m this wordy in the title itself, they might think the post is going to be similarly bogged down.

As a very rough guide, I suggest aiming at around 5–10 words or 50–80 characters for your blog post titles. CoSchedule has some great information on optimal title (headline) length here: What Really Is the Best Headline Length?

#6: Use Square Brackets to Add Extra Information

One nifty trick to keep a title short but still give readers an idea of what they’ll be getting is to use square brackets.

You simply add them to the end of your title, like this:

  • How to Set Up WordPress in Just 20 Minutes [Video]
  • Five Powerful Ways to Start Your Blog Post [With Examples]
  • Your Ultimate Guide to Editing Images for Your Blog [Roundup]

There’s no rule about what you can or can’t put in square brackets, though the ones I most often see used are ‘[video] and ‘[with examples]’. It’s a way to concisely promise an extra benefit and/or of give readers more details about what to expect from your post.

#7: Swipe Other People’s Titles (Then Twist Them)

Finally, one of my very favourite titling tricks (especially if I’m stuck) is to swipe someone else’s title.

Is this legal? Yes, there’s no copyright on titles.

Is it ethical? Yes. I’d avoid doing it if they used a very unusual title format. In most cases, the formula they used for their title is very similar to plenty of other titles out there already. And I’m going to be ‘twisting’ the title anyway.

Here’s a worked example of how you could choose a title and come up with your own spin on it:

Original title: Deadlines – Are they Good or Bad for Your Blogging?

This could become:

Blogging blog: Comments – Are They Good or Bad for Your Blog?

Academic blog: Deadlines – Are They Good or Bad for Your Students?

Small business blog: Email Sign-Up Incentives – Are They Good or Bad for Your List?

Each of these follows the same underlying format as the original (a key word or phrase followed by a dash, then ‘Are They Good or Bad for…’). But each is unique.

Here’s another example:

Original title: 3 Principles of Building an Engaged Blog Audience

This could become:

Parenting blog: 3 Principles of Raising Kind Children

Organisation blog: 5 Key Principles of Organising Your Kitchen

Leadership blog: 7 Principles of Running Engaging Meetings

Go back into your archives and take a look at the titles of three posts from earlier this year. (I suggest you look at these rather than more recent posts so you have some distance from them.)

Would you read those posts if you had only the titles to go on?

Can you spend a few minutes tweaking the titles to make them more compelling? For example, could you add a number or a powerful adjective? (Be careful you don’t change the post URL though, or links to your post will break.)

If you’ve got questions, or you’d like to share your ‘before and after’ versions of your titles, just pop a comment below.

The post Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts

Get more comments on your blog posts more often

Do you wish more readers would comment on your blog posts?

Some bloggers think commenting is dead. And while that’s not the whole picture, there may be some truth in it.

When I started blogging back in 2008, Twitter and Facebook were only just taking off. And if readers wanted to respond to a post, they’d normally leave a comment on the blog itself, rather than tweet or comment on a Facebook thread.

You might think that if you had more readers then you’d get more comments. But that isn’t necessarily true. Some of the big blogs I read only get one or two comments per post. And smaller ones can often get dozens.

The truth is, readers do still comment on blog posts. And there’s plenty you can do to encourage them to do so more often.

One very simple way is to deliberately invite comments by asking a question at the end of your post. But this isn’t your only option.

I’m going to go through five key ways to encourage more comments, and encourage readers to keep coming back and commenting. As you read through, think about which one you could put into practice this week.

#1: Comment on Other Bloggers’ Posts

How often do you leave comments on other blogs? If it’s rarely or never, it might be part of the reason you don’t get many comments on your own blog. Not because of karma, but because of reciprocity. If you leave someone a comment, they may want to repay the favour.

But for this to work you need to comment on the right sort of blogs. Commenting on big, well-known blogs may get some initial traffic to your new blog. But chances are it won’t bring the busy blog owner over to your blog to comment.

Instead, look for smaller blogs that are at a similar level to yours. Maybe they have few or no comments, or they’ve just been launched.

Where can you find blogs like that? A great place to look is in forums or groups aimed at bloggers, such as the ProBlogger Facebook group. Search for your own blogging topic and see if anyone’s mentioned that they blog about it too. If so, visit their blog and leave a comment on their most recent post. They may well leave a comment on your blog too.

You can also establish a relationship with a group of fellow bloggers, reading one another’s posts and (at least sometimes) commenting. It can be a good way to start discussions in the comment sections of all your blogs.

#2: Open Up Room for Discussion in The Way You Structure and/or Phrase Things

If your blog post comes across as the final word on a particular topic, it may put readers off commenting. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – sometimes you may want to write a long, definitive post, and you don’t really care how many comments you get. But if you do want to get more comments, it’s worth thinking about how you phrase things and even how you structure your post.

While an explicit “Leave a comment below…” call to action can be a great way to boost comments, you can also create ‘setups’ to get people commenting.

For instance, in your post you might use phrases such as:

  • “I’m sure I don’t have all the answers…”
  • “I’ll list ten of my best ideas. And I hope you’ll share yours in the comments.”

And then at the end of the post you could write something like, “As I said earlier, I’m sure I don’t have all the answers. I’d love to hear your opinions on this in the comments.”

With a list post, you might stop at an odd number (such as 9 or 19) so you can ask readers, “What would you suggest for #10 on this list? Let me know in the comments.”

#3: Respond to the Comments Readers Leave

If you don’t already reply to comments, make it a habit if you want to get more of them. Readers may not bother commenting again if they don’t receive a response. And if other readers think you don’t read the comments, they may not take the time to leave their thoughts either.

You might want to set aside 5–10 minutes each day to check for comments and reply.

While you don’t have to respond to every comment, you may want to do it until you’re getting more than a handful of comments per post. You don’t need to write long replies – sometimes just “Thanks” or “Great point, I hadn’t thought of that” is enough. As well as helping you build a relationship with your readers, replying to their comments instantly boosts your comments count.

#4: Use Readers’ Comments in Your Blog Posts

One brilliant way to encourage readers to comment is to use their comments as part of a future blog post.

There are several ways in which you can do this:

  • Write a blog post inspired by a reader’s question or suggestion. One of my posts, Seven Habits of Serious Writers, was directly suggested by a reader (whose contribution I acknowledged in the post). Not only was he happy I wrote the post he wanted, it also ended up being one of my most popular posts that year.
  • Quote a reader’s comment in a blog post. Maybe a reader has said something really insightful or something that sparked your train of thought. You could write a post that quotes their comment and expands on or responds to it.
  • Ask for comments you’ll use in a blog post. This works well if you’ve written a post that can easily be extended. For instance, if you’ve written, “Ten Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Parenting”, you might ask readers to leave one of the biggest lessons they learned in the comments, explaining that you’ll pick the best of these to quote in a follow-up post.

#5: Let Readers Subscribe to Comments

You might want to install a WordPress plugin (such as Subscribe to Comments Reloaded) or use a commenting system such as Disqus so readers can subscribe to comments.

This means if someone leaves a comment, they’ll be alerted to any further comments on the post. They’ll see you’ve replied to their comment, or that another reader has added to the discussion.

It’s easy for readers to comment and then forget about the discussion entirely. Letting them subscribe to comments means you’re much more likely to get follow-up comments from them.

Getting more comments isn’t just about getting more readers or using calls to action at the end of your posts. There’s plenty you can do – in your posts, in your comments section, and even on other people’s blogs – to encourage your readers to comment more often.

Which technique will you be trying out in your next post? Tell us about it by leaving a comment. And if you have any other great ideas, feel free to share those too.

Image credit: Mārtiņš Zemlickis

The post Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each)

Written by ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke

When you think of a blog, you probably think of the posts. You might go to the site to read the latest ones (often on the home page), or they might go straight to your inbox. And if you follow the blogger on social media, you may well see them posting links to their latest posts.

But posts aren’t the only type of content you need to create as a blogger.

Whatever blogging system you use, you’ll have two different ways to publish new content: as blog posts or as blog pages.

Understanding Posts and Pages

On a blog, articles (or news, stories, etc) are published as posts. These appear in reverse chronological order, with the newest posts at the top of the list or (in a grid layout) on the top left of the screen.

Blog posts normally have a timestamp showing when they were published. And readers who have subscribed for updates by RSS or email will get these new posts automatically.

But blog pages are a little different. They are what’s known as “static” content. That doesn’t mean they never change (you can always update a page),. But they won’t be superseded by new pages the way blog posts might.

For instance, you might have blog posts for “2015 roundup”, “2016 roundup” and “2017 roundup” all available in your archives. But would you have multiple pages for “contact details 2015”, “contact details 2016” and so on? Of course not. You’d just update your one Contact page.

Pages are used for content such as:

  • Information about you and your blog
  • A “start here” list of posts
  • Sales information about your products
  • Terms and conditions / privacy policy

Key pages are normally linked to in the top navigation.

Pages don’t have a timestamp, and don’t go out to readers through RSS/email. You can allow comments on pages, but most bloggers don’t as it rarely makes sense.

Using Posts and Pages Effectively

To get the most out of your blog, and to make it a great experience for your readers, you’ll want to make good use of the different attributes of posts and pages.

Here are some key ones to think about:

Posts

Categories: Posts must have a category. This helps organise your blog, especially if you use categories as a navigation option or let readers filter your  post archiveby category.

Make sure you set a category for each new post, or it’ll default to “uncategorized”. You can also rename this default category to something that would make sense for many of your posts. For example, if you write about parenting, your default category might be “kids” or “tips”.

Tags: You may want to use tags to help further organize your pages. They can be a good alternative to having loads of categories, and can help readers navigate your site. But don’t just duplicate your categories as tags. Yoast SEO has some good information on how to use categories and tags as effectively as possible for search engines.

Pages

Password protection: While you can password-protect a post, bloggers rarely use this option. Pages are more commonly password-protected, and can be a quick and easy way to provide some of your readers with exclusive content. For instance, my newsletter subscribers have access to a mini-library of ebooks on this password protected page.[a][b][c]

“Parent” pages: A page can be a “parent” to other pages. For example, you could have a general “Products” page, and pages for your three different products under it. When you set up the three product pages, you can select “Products” as their parent page.

Depending on your blogging platform and theme, “Products” may appear in your navigation menu with a drop-down showing the three products pages beneath. (You can also set this up manually, arranging the menu however you like, in Appearance → Menus in WordPress.)

The URLs for the pages will include the parent’s permalink (e.g. www.nameofblog.com/products/firstproduct).

Hopefully this has clarified the difference between posts and pages. If you’ve never created a page for your blog before, why not try one now? Log in to your blog’s dashboard and create a new page (it’ll be a very similar interface to creating a post). An “About” page is a great one to start with, and you can find some tips on crafting a great one here.

The post The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable

More Readable blog posts WordPress Formatting

This post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

You’ve finished your post, and you breathe a sigh of relief. After a quick edit you publish it to your blog, and wait for the comments, tweets, shares, or any sort of feedback.

But once again, you get nothing. There may as well be no-one reading it.

So what’s the problem? It could be that your writing isn’t as strong as it needs to be. But there’s also a very good chance the problem isn’t your writing.

It’s your formatting.

Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of different blog posts, and most of them were fairly well written. But some were really let down by poor post formatting: the post just didn’t look good.

If you’re not convinced that formatting matters, compare this screenshot…

… to this one.

These are two versions of my post Six Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment (and Get More Done). They both have exactly the same text. But I know which one I’d rather read.

Your readers are busy. They’re distracted. They want an easy, engaging read – not a daunting wall of text.

So what’s stopping you from getting the formatting right? Maybe one of these sounds like you:

  • You haven’t really thought about it before. You’re a writer, not a designer, and it never occurred to you to bother with formatting.
  • You’ve got a vague idea that formatting matters, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it. What if you make your post look worse rather than better?
  • You haven’t figured out how to use the formatting features built into WordPress.

I’m going to take you through four key formatting features you can use straight away to make your posts more readable. And don’t worry. I’m definitely a words person and even I can manage these.

I’ll also be showing you how easy it is to format text using the WordPress editor. Even if you’re not using WordPress, most blogging platforms have similar features.

(As you read this, you might want to have a draft post or old post ready for editing in a different tab so you can try out the different features.)

#1: Short Paragraphs

Plenty of white space helps make your post readable. White space is all the stuff around the words. If you have short paragraphs (or lists, which we’ll come to later), you’ll already have extra space where your words can breathe.

Adding extra paragraphs is super easy. Just position the cursor wherever you want a new paragraph and hit Enter:

There’s no absolute rule on how long is too long for a paragraph. But if it goes over four or five lines, you may want to consider splitting it.

Tip: If you’re used to more formal writing (perhaps academic or business writing), having short paragraphs may seem odd. If that’s the case, you might want to read How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed).

#2: Subheadings

I like to think of subheadings as signposts that help orient readers within my post. Almost any post can be broken up into subsections, and each one should have a clear (and hopefully enticing) subheading.

While it helps readers who are skimming for information, it’s also useful for readers who are reading your entire post. Subheadings prevent them from feeling lost or confused along the way.

I like to use Title Case (capitalizing all major words) for my subheadings, but you might prefer to capitalize only the first word of the subheading. Just make sure you’re consistent.

To create a subheading in WordPress:

  1. Type your subheading on its own line wherever you want it in your post.
  2. Click on the subheading and select “Header 2” from the “Paragraph” dropdown.

Before:

After:

Tip: When you’re planning your post, think about the subsections and potential subheadings you want to use. This will help you create a good structure right from the start.

#3: Bold Text

Bold text is a great way to call attention to a key point or important sentence. But it’s easy to overuse, and I suggest bolding only one or two sentences per subsection (depending how long your subsections are).

Some bloggers use coloured text instead of bold text. This can work if it fits with your branding, but it can also look a bit amateurish and distracting.

To create bold text in WordPress:

  1. Highlight the sentence you want to bold.
  2. Click on the “B” in the WordPress editor.

Tip: Try to avoid bolding only one or two words – it can make your text look choppy. I also tend to bold only the first sentence of a paragraph. Having a bold sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph can also look a bit odd.

#4: Lists, and Using Bullet Points

Sometimes it’s easiest to write a list as a regular sentence. For instance, I might write:

In this post, we’ll take a look at paragraphs, subheadings, bold text, and lists.

But if each item on your list is more than a word or two, it will be easier for readers to take in if you lay them out using bullet points.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Paragraphs – keeping them short
  • Subheadings – helping your reader navigate your post
  • Bold text – pulling out key points
  • Lists – using bullet points

To create a list in WordPress:

  1. Set out your text as a list, with each item on a different line:

  1. Highlight the entire list and click the “Unordered List” icon, which looks like this:

Tip: This method creates an unordered list with bullet points. If you want to number each item on your list, use the “Ordered List” icon (next to the “Unordered List” icon). A numbered list will automatically renumber your items as you add new ones – even if you add them to the middle of your list.

I’m sure you’ve already seen these formatting features in use, and have tried using some of them yourself. Hopefully you’ll feel a lot more confident about using them now to make your posts more readable.

Here’s a mini-challenge for you: look back at your three most recent posts, or perhaps your three most popular ones. Try using at least two of my suggestions to improve the formatting, and let us know how you got on.

The post 4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

make-blog-post-conversational.jpg

This post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

You’ve probably heard that your blog posts need to be “conversational”.

You may also have been told why: to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make your blog sound less like a lecture and more like a discussion.

That’s all true. But making your writing “conversational” can be tricky – especially if you come from a business or academic writing background.

If your blog posts tend to sound a little dry and stilted, here are three simple ways to change things.

#1: Talk Directly to Your Reader

Write your post as if you’re talking a specific reader. Picturing an actual person may help – someone you know in real life, or who comments on your blog. You could even imagine you’re emailing them, or writing a Facebook post or comment.

And use words like “I” and “you”, even though you were probably taught not to at school or work. When you’re blogging it’s totally fine to write from your personal experience, and to invite the reader to step into your post.

Here’s an example from Jim Stewart’s post 9 Tips for Recovering Your Google Rankings After a Site Hack. (I’ve highlighted each use of “you” and “your”.)

If your WordPress site has been hacked, fear not. By following these tips you can fortify your site and kick wannabe hackers to the kerb.

And provided you act quickly, your WordPress site’s SEO traffic—and even its reputation—can recover within 24 hours.

This is clear, direct writing that speaks to the reader’s problem. And it’s easy to read and engage with: it’s almost like having Jim on the phone, talking you through fixing things.

Note: As Jim does here, always try to use the singular “you” rather than the plural “you”. Yes, you hopefully have more than one reader. But each one will experience your blog posts individually. Avoid writing things like “some of you” unless you’re deliberately trying to create a sense of a group environment (perhaps in an ecourse).

#2: Use an Informal Writing Style

All writing exists somewhere on a spectrum from very formal to very informal. Here are some examples:

Very formal: Users are not permitted to distribute, modify, resell, or duplicate any of the materials contained herein.

Formal: Your refund guarantee applies for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase. To request a refund, complete the form below, ensuring you include your customer reference number.

Neutral: Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter list, you’ll get a confirmation email. Open it up, click the link, and you’ll be all set to get the weekly emails.

Informal: Hi Susan, could you send me the link to that ProBlogger thingy you mentioned earlier? Ta!

Very informal: C U 2morrow!!!

With your blogging, it’s generally good to aim for an informal (or at least a neutral) register, as if you were emailing a friend. This makes you seem warm and approachable.

Typically, you’ll be using:

  • Contractions (e.g. “you’ll” for “you will”)
  • Straightforward language (“get” rather than “receive” or “obtain”)
  • Chatty phrases (“you’ll be all set”)
  • Possibly slang, if it fits with your personal style (“thingy”, “ta!”)
  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Some “ungrammatical” features where appropriate (e.g. starting a sentence with “And”)

You might want to take a closer look at some of the blogs you read yourself. How do they create a sense of rapport through their language? How could you rewrite part of their post to make it more or less formal? What words or phrases would you change?

#3: Give the Reader Space to Respond

Conversations are two-way, and that means letting your readers have a say too. If you’ve decided to close comments on your blog, you may want to consider opening up a different avenue for readers to get involved, such as a Facebook page or group.

When you’re writing your post, don’t feel you need to have the last word on everything. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. It’s fine to say you’re still thinking about a particular subject, or that you’re still learning. This gives your readers the opportunity to chime in with their own expertise or experiences.

Often, you can simply ask readers to add to your post. For instance, if you’ve written “10 Great Ways to Have More Fun With Your Blogging”, ask readers to contribute their own ideas in the comments. Some people won’t feel confident about commenting unless explicitly invited to do so, ideally with a suggestion of what they could add (e.g. “What would you add to this list?” or “Have you tried any of these ideas?”)

On a slightly selfish note, if you’re not sure about the value of comments, remember it’s not just about your readers getting more out of your blog. Some of my best blog post ideas have come from a reader’s suggestion or question in a comment. And many other comments have prompted me to think in a more nuanced way about a particular topic.

There’s no one “right” way to blog, and some blogs will inevitably be more conversational than others. If you’d like to make your own posts a bit more conversational, though, look for opportunities to:

  • Use “you” and “I”. Talk directly to your reader, and share your own experiences where appropriate.
  • Make your language fairly informal. Don’t worry about everything being “correct” – just let your voice and style shine through.
  • Open up the conversation by inviting readers to comment, or encouraging them to pop over to your Facebook page (or join your Facebook group).

Have you tried making your blog more conversational? Or is it something you’re just getting started with? Either way, leave a comment below to share your experiences and tips.

Christin Hume

The post 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Plan Your Blog Post from Start to Finish

Plan your blog postsThis is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke

Do you plan your blog posts? Or do you dive straight into the writing?

A lot of bloggers barely plan their posts (if they plan them at all). They’re either too eager to get started, or feel rushed and see planning as a waste of time.

But taking just five minutes to plan your posts can make a huge difference to your blogging.

Here’s why.

Five Great Reasons to Plan Your Posts Before You Start Writing

#1: More Planning = Less Editing

By spending five minutes planning, you can often save yourself 15 or 30 minutes of editing. If it’s clear at the planning stage that a post isn’t quite going to work, you can easily change it before you start writing, which will save a lot of time and effort.

#2: A Good Plan Makes it Easier to Write

While some bloggers feel that planning kills their spontaneity, I find a plan liberating. It’s much easier to write when you’re not trying to keep everything in your head and constantly worrying you’ll forget the next three points you want to make.

#3: Well-Planned Posts are More Engaging for Your Readers

If your post wanders off the point and doesn’t deliver on what you promised in the headline or introduction, readers will understandably get fed up. They may not finish reading it. And they certainly won’t be eagerly subscribing to your blog for more.

#4: Planning Can Help You Come Up with More Ideas

The process of writing down your ideas and getting them into a structure can often spark off new ideas. Some may help you deepen the post you’re planning, while others may give you the seed for a whole new post. If you find it hard to come up with new post ideas, plan more.

#5: You May Have to Plan if You’re Working With an Editor

Chances are that at some point in your blogging career you’ll have to write a plan. If you pitch a guest post or a freelance piece, you’ll often be asked for an outline. If you’ve never planned your own posts, writing a plan for someone else to read may feel very daunting. So get some practice in now.

Before I run through how to create a plan for your next blog post, let’s take a quick look at what a plan might actually look like.

The Plan for One of My ProBlogger Posts

Initial idea: “Should You Stop Taking Comments on Your Blog?”

I’ve been blogging for so long my ideas often take the form of potential titles, as this one did. In the end the title became “Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?” (which is far more succinct), but it was good enough for the planning phase.

The Plan

This is the brief version of my plan for the post:

Introduction – why close comments?

Prominent bloggers who removed comments – Steve Pavlina, Seth Godin, Copyblogger (brought them back), Michael Hyatt (brought them back).

Carol Tice (Make a Living Writing) – always answered comments but clearly not sustainable.

Deciding what to do about comments

Close them or not? Link to Charlie Gilkey’s post

Other options:

– Anti-spam plugin

– Close comments on old posts

– Use Disqus / FB comments

Conclusion – comments are valuable but you don’t NEED to have them on your blog

Now this is a very bare-bones plan. This might be enough for some bloggers, but I tend to flesh out each section with a few more notes before I start writing. (I’ll be recommending it as part of your own planning system in a moment.)

You may also have noticed that my plan has “Introduction” at the start and “Conclusion” at the end. Every plan I write includes these sections, and making sure I have those in place helps to give my posts a solid structure.

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

At its most basic, a good blog post template looks like this:

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion

If you want, you can use that template for your posts. However, some bloggers like to go further and create a more detailed template to make their blogging easier. A great example is Michael Hyatt’s blog post template, which he details in Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post.

You may want to develop your own template, or even a template with variations for different types of post, to help you create plans quickly and easily.

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

Of course, this isn’t the only way to plan a blog post. But hopefully  it’s a useful starting point for you. Once you’ve tried it out, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your workflow.

Step #1: Write Down Your Topic or Idea

Write  down the idea/topic for your blog post. Turn it into a working title, which often helps pin down the format of the post. For  instance, “7 Ways to…” is clearly going to be a list post.

Step #2: Create a Mindmap

On paper, or using an app, create a mindmap for your post. Write your title (or a short version of it) in the centre of the page, then jot down your key points around it. You may find that you start coming up with more details – perhaps an idea relating to one of these points, or a link to include. Write those down too. If your mindmap starts getting unclear, circle or highlight your key points in a different colour.

Step #3: Type an Outline

Type your key points into an outline, with any sub-points or extra details beneath each point, as in this example (from my plan for the post you’re currently reading):

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

– Introduction, main body, conclusion
– Michael Hyatt’s template

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

– Write down your topic or idea
– Create a mindmap
– Type an outline

At the start of your outline, add “Introduction”. And at the end, add “Conclusion”. Even if you don’t include any further details, it will remind you to write those sections.

Write down the topic, and come up with a working title to help you pin down the format.

Step #4 (optional): Flesh Out Your Outline

For a very short post, or one where you know the material well, you may want to omit this step. But again, I believe that every minute you spend planning will save you several minutes of editing.

Go through your outline, and write a few notes for each key point. What will that section of your post cover? Are there any resources (yours or other people’s) that you want to mention and link to?

Now, it’s finally time to write. Hopefully you’ll find drafting your post easy, as you’ve got the whole structure laid out for you. And at a glance you can see where you’re up to and how far you’ve got to go, which can help you pace your post appropriately.

For your next blog post, challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes planning and see what a difference it makes. 

And feel free to share your plans with us in the comments.

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