If you’re new to blogging, congratulations! You have now joined the ranks of a hundred million other people, all of whom, like you, are vying for the public’s attention.
Blogging is the best avenue for budding and professional writers these days, but there’s a lot of competition.
To stand out among the masses, you need to get it together. If you go head first into your debut blog with no preparation, no forethought, and no understanding of how the blogging world works, you’re likely to produce a big ol’ crapsack full of word vomit.
(Trust me. I know.)
See, you might be a great writer, but that doesn’t mean you’re a great blogger. Not by a long shot. So whether this is your first time stepping out into the blogging world, or you’ve already gone out, failed miserably, and are now looking for some guidance, this blog post is for you.
At WideNet, we’ve developed an effective process (through significant trial and error) that I’m going to share with you so you can start producing awesome content that doesn’t suck (or at least sucks less).
First, let’s take a look at 5 of the most common mistakes new bloggers make:
Thinking people care about YOU
You are not important.
…at least, not as a writer.
Unless you’re the Pope or Gary Vaynerchuk, readers don’t care about you or your quirky bio at the end of the page. They only care about what you have to say – a hard truth for the starry-eyed blogger to accept. But like it or not, that’s the reality. So put your ego aside, and focus your energy on your content.
What you write should be geared towards your audience. Not you. Cut the personal, introspective blabber and write something the people want to read. In fact, unless you have a mind blowing personal story (and it better be good) that can boost the overall message of your blog, keep it in the third person for a while.
Burying the lede (or point)
Like journalism, effective blogging gets to the point. (I could end there, but I’m going to elaborate a touch).
99% of internet users are coming to your blog to learn something, and, like every cliché female lead in a romantic comedy, they need to know where it’s going.
That doesn’t mean every blog post has to be 500 words or less. Long posts are fine, so long as they’re relevant. Just don’t bury the point underneath a bunch of pointless verbiage.
Lack of Focus
This is in relation to the last point.
A good blog needs focus – both on the audience and the topic. A lot of fresh-faced bloggers tend to be chock full of ideas, which is great…until they try to fit every one of them into a single blog post.
I get it. We’re writers. We spend all day bombarding our brains with ideas. Write them down, but don’t try to fit them all into one post.
You’ll find more success by writing one great blog post about one single topic. Plus, by writing on one idea at a time, you give yourself a lot more writing material to pull from.
Once, when asked about how he writes, poet Charles Bukowski said, “Don’t try,” meaning, wait for the inspiration to hit you, and then write.
Don’t listen to Bukowski. He gave bad advice. He was also a pessimist who whined a lot and died as an ugly, sad man. You don’t want that.
One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is blogging only when they feel inspired, which can often lead to long gaps between posts, causing you to lose relevancy and trust with readers.
Try this exercise. Sit down with pen and paper and write down every conceivable idea you can come up with. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it might sound, just write it down. Build yourself a bible of source material.
Then, set a schedule, and stick to it. Be it two blog posts a week, bi-monthly, or every other day, have a reliable posting schedule. A stream of fresh content keeps readers hooked and grows your audience.
You can’t call yourself a writer if you aren’t writing. So, if you want to be successful at this, you SHOULD try. Try really hard.
Skipping the Editing Process
Looking at some of the blogs on the web today, you’d think proofreading is a lost art.
Whether it’s overconfidence, apathy, or inexperience, some bloggers just don’t seem to grasp the importance of editing and proofreading.
No, it’s not fun, but it is necessary if you want your audience to take you seriously. Bad grammar makes you look stupid and destroys your credibility. Your first draft can look like a 1st grader typed it with its feet, but before you publish your final copy, you better proof your content with a fine tooth comb. And don’t just check for grammar. Make sure your writing reads well and makes sense.
It will save you so many headaches in the future. And embarrassment.
Here’s a little extra special tip: forget about word counts. This isn’t college anymore. Not everything has to be a solid 1500 words, and trying to stretch a blog post out will only hurt you. The only exception here is if you’re writing for a publication that requires you to have one. If that’s the case, stick to the word count, but other than that, it doesn’t matter how long or short your blog posts are. If you’ve made your point and backed it up with solid information, you’re done. Don’t lessen the value of your post by filling space.
So did you get all that? Great. But we’re not done yet.
Say you’ve followed all the information above, and now you’ve got yourself a nice, clean blog post that’s ready to go. What do you do next? Hit publish? NO YOU DO NOT.
You run it through the filter.
“The filter” is what I call the four questions I ask myself every time I’m about to publish a post. It’s a good way to stay self-aware and hold yourself accountable.
1. Is it informative?
Users want answers. They want information. Give it to them.
Your content should tell your target audience everything they need to know – the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Before you publish, read it back to yourself, and make sure you’ve answered these questions. A little ambiguity is fine, but a blatant lack of information is just frustrating.
Don’t let your content be a wasted read.
2. Is it simple?
Don’t be fancy. Keep it simple. Simplicity aids communication and makes information easier to digest. Plus, it keeps you on level with your audience.
If something is small, say it is small. If it’s large, say it’s large. Don’t try and show off your complex vocabulary. Save that for your novel. Your message should be strong enough to stand on its own without having to dress it up with big words.
Cut the hifalutin verbiage and shoot it straight.
3. Is it consumable?
Honestly, everything on this list works towards making your content consumable, meaning it’s right and ready to ingest and retain.
Truly effective, consumable content is always in the right place at the right time and crafted specifically for the culture of your audience.
Example: If you’ve got a heavy mobile audience, then your content needs to be short, sweet, and easy to read and access on a smartphone. If you’re targeting a demographic that responds well to visuals, then you better produce some pie charts and infographics.
Your content isn’t just a solid block of information. It’s a conversation. It’s malleable. Form it to your audience so they can consume it.
4. Is it motivating?
Let’s be honest for a minute. Taylor Swift’s song Shake It Off makes you want to dance. You just can’t help yourself. When that chorus hits, you shake it. You shake it hard.
Your content should have a similar effect. It needs to be so enticing and compelling that it motivates people to act. To do this, you need to know your audience, know what drives them, and know what they want. If your content doesn’t reflect that, take a step back and rework it before you go live.
There. Now you can publish.
A Confession and a Pep Talk
The information provided here has been scrapped together after years of writing and failing. Without a doubt, these guidelines will help you excel at blogging, but they won’t make you a great blogger.
At the end of the day, the only way to become a great blogger is to practice, practice, practice. Write every day. Find YOUR voice, YOUR style. That’s something only you can do, but it will make you great.