12 Tips for Writing Blog Posts That Get Noticed

Jodie Renner, editor, author, blogger

I don’t know about you, but I can’t possibly get to all the blogs I’d like to in any given day. We’re all busy people, so we want to know within seconds whether a blog post will offer anything of value to our hectic lives. And we might even get annoyed at time-wasters that meander or don’t deliver on their promises.

Blogging is a great way to build a community feeling, connect with readers and writers, and get your books noticed and if you’re looking to start your own blog then I would say go for it! If you need help starting one, just visit Blogging.com for help. I’m honored and proud to be a member of this award-winning group blog, The Kill Zone, where my fellow bloggers, all savvy, accomplished writers, offer daily value and entertainment to writers, and our community of eager participants enrich every post with insightful comments.

But if you’re just getting started in the world of blogging and want to build a following, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not about you. It’s all about offering the readers value in an open, accessible style and format. A rambling, unclear, too formal, or overly long blog post can be irritating or boring – a turnoff. And can jeopardize your reputation or blog.

Here are some tips for engaging readers with your blog posts so they’ll share them with friends and on social media.

1. Offer value.

When you’re deciding what to write on, focus on what will benefit your readers, and make them come back the next time. Maybe it’s useful info that will help them in some way, or just some entertaining or humorous or uplifting writing for them to enjoy, for a break in their busy or stressful day. If it’s a personal anecdote, show readers why your story or content could be relevant to their lives, how they can benefit from your experience.

2. Be clear about your topic right from the start.

The subject of your post should be evident by the title and the first few sentences. Readers are so busy these days, with long to-do lists and many other blogs competing for their scarce reading/browsing time, that if they have no idea what your post is about, they’ll probably just move on to the next one.

If you can’t describe your topic in one or two sentences, then it won’t be clear to readers, either. Work on that brief description of the post, then take out any digressions that don’t fit under the topic and would be best under another topic or as their own blog post.

Captivate_full_w_decal3. Hook them in with a great headline.

Give readers a really good reason to stop and read your blog post. What’s in it for them? How will your article enrich their lives in some way? Your headline should clearly tell readers what your post is about, in an inviting way that makes them sit up and take notice.

4. Then follow it up with an enticing intro.

Again, how can readers gain from your article? Make sure it’s obvious right away what exactly you’re going to talk about and why/how it will benefit them.

5. Stick to one main topic per post.

Make sure your whole post is focused on the initial promise you made in your title and first sentences. If you’ve written a long, rambling blog post that covers several topics, even if they’re related, divide it up into several different posts. Then next time you need to submit a post, most of your work is already done!

6. Use a casual, chatty tone.

Blog posts are not the place for formal writing or lectures. Imagine you’re in a coffeehouse discussing a topic with friends. Keep your “voice” casual, open, and friendly.

7. Keep it brief – don’t go on and on.

Readers and writers are busy these days, so be respectful of their time. For most subjects, it’s best not to go over 1000 words – 1,500 max. An optimal guideline for word count is about 400 to 900 words, I think. If your post is long, like this one, I recommend subheadings to help the readers glean the info quickly.

8. Make your post reader-friendly.

There are hundreds of great blogs out there competing for your readers’ time, so make the info readily apparent and easily accessible. Edit out all the extra wordiness, use short paragraphs and lots of white space, and if you’re offering several subtopics under your main topic, use bolded subheadings so they can quickly scan your article to see if it would be useful to them. Numbered lists or bullet points are good, too.

9. Include your readers and invite their opinions.

Use “you” or “we” wherever you can throughout your post to include your readers and make it relevant to them. End your article with a question or two that invites comments and participation by readers. I find I’ve learned a great deal from comments left by readers, which enrich my knowledge of the subject and future articles on that topic. Maybe even start your blog post with a question that will draw your readers in and invite their active participation. Keep your readers involved!

10. Start your blog post a few days in advance, so you have time to revise and tweak.

That gives you time to go back and reread and edit and smooth out your phrasing and think of more interesting word choices and examples. Maybe you’ll come up with some great additional ideas while you’re in the shower, driving somewhere, out for a walk, or just falling asleep or waking up.

Go through your article several times, at different sittings, looking for repetitions, rambling, off-topic sentences, typos, etc. Read it out loud to catch those little missing words and awkward phrasing. If you pause, put in a comma there, or maybe a period, dash, or semicolon. Then, if it’s on your own blog, after you’ve uploaded it, “view” it as it will appear on the blog, then make any final changes. I always find some areas for improvement after I see it as it will appear to the public. If it’s a guest post, use Windows Live Writer to see how it will look on the blog.

11. Pay attention to formatting.

If you have trouble with the formatting of your posts, with odd fonts or too much or too little space between paragraphs, you can fix that in two ways:

(1) While you’re still in Microsoft Word, do a Control All (Ctrl+A) to highlight the whole article, then click on the “Clear formatting” in the tool bar (Home tab, little whiteboard and eraser that looks like chalk).

(2) If you’ve already uploaded your post to the blog, fix the formatting by clearing it in the blog. In Blogger, Do the Ctrl+A thing or just highlight the whole post manually, then click on the Tx at the top right (“Remove formatting”). Then correct the spacing between paragraphs, and redo your bolding, italics, etc. Maybe make your subheads a larger font or a different color so they stand out.

12. To increase the SEO and get more traffic, add in key words.

To increase search engine optimization, so Google shows your article on the first pages, add key words about your topic in your heading and throughout your article, plus in the list of labels at the end. (See mine below.)

Finally, adding a related image or two (be sure they’re yours or in the public domain or you have permission to use them) and some links to other related posts adds to the overall positive experience for readers.

Of course, for guest posting, be sure to read and follow all the guidelines of the host blog!

Bloggers, do you have any blogging tips to add? Or maybe you disagree with some of my points? Give us your opinion below!

Also, check out a related by one of my favorite bloggers, Anne R. Allen, called “How to Blog: A Guide for Authors” and another excellent one by Chuck Sambuchino called “7 Easy Things You Can Do Right Now to Get more Blog Traffic.”

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, her blog, http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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A book that changed your life

By Kathryn Lilley

Last weekend I heard a great program on This American Life called “The Book That Changed Your Life.”

It reminded me of a recent discovery I made: I learned that a book I gave to a friend 30 years ago had actually changed his life.

Thirty years ago, I was 23 and newly graduated from Columbia Journalism School. He was 22, and a charming slacker. We dated just long enough for me to conclude that he had a serious pot habit (I was naive about drugs 30 years ago, and slow to catch on).
As our relationship hit the rocks, I gave him a copy of a book I was reading at the time, The Republic. I marked up passages that I thought applied to him. I don’t recall which ones they were–probably the sections that described Plato’s concept of a well-ordered society. I’m sure it was a bit of a reproachful gift, a pseudo-intellectual parting shot.

Recently I received a long, thoughtful email from my former friend. It was a thank you note. He said The Republic had had a huge impact on his life; he credited it with helping him give up drugs and recalibrate his approach to life. He’s now a successful businessman.

It’s hard to believe that one book was responsible for all that, but I was glad to hear his story.

I can’t think of any books that changed my life in such a profound way (I do recall faking a southern accent for an entire year after reading Gone With the Wind, and another year of nightmares after reading When Worlds Collide, but those don’t count).

How about you. Have any books changed your life?

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Developing a theme through characters

Before there was story structure–before there were even novels—there was theme. A story’s theme is the fundamental and universal idea behind its plot. In King Lear, for example, one of its themes is authority versus chaos.

But to me, a novel’s theme is not merely the abstract principle behind the plot; I believe that you have to bring a story’s theme to life through its characters. Ideally, several of the major characters should portray a variation on the underlying ideas that inform the story. Those characters will reflect the light and depths of your theme, the way the facets of a diamond show off its hidden fire.

In A Killer Workout, the second installment in the Fat City Mysteries, I created a “Mean Girls” theme. I wrote several different characters to illustrate that underlying idea. One character had been victimized by bullies in her youth–another was herself a bully. Still another character had grown up to become a protector of abused young women. Through each of these women’s stories and backgrounds, I explored the ideas of bullying, emotional abuse, and “mean girls” in various ways.

I use my characters to do a “360” exploration of the theme of each of my novels. The secondary characters’ experiences in terms of the theme are usually more intense and extreme than my protagonist’s. They act as “theme foils,” and they also propel her journey through the plot.

What about you? How do you develop the theme for your stories? Do you create your theme at the beginning of your writing, or does it emerge slowly as you write? And how do you illustrate your theme?
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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Tim Maleeny, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, Steve Berry, and more.

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