I enjoy blogging because I'm passionate about certain subject matter, like content creation and marketing or the latest fan theories surrounding my favorite comic book characters. Regardless of the subject, I blog because I find value in researching my favorite subjects and presenting an informed opinion to my audience. Unfortunately, sometimes the meaning is lost in the way I deliver the message.
With over a decade of experience writing blogs, business websites and email marketing copy, I still write my fair share of duds. However, I have developed some effective strategies for creating less of them. Here are four common blog problems I've encountered along with some quick tips to overcome them.
Are You Too Verbose?
Experts suggest blog posts up to 1,600 words are okay — but that's not a strict rule. Your post should be as long as necessary to convey your message with meaning and use. More than word count, focus on the brevity of each sentence. Does it make sense? Does it convey information clearly? Is it useful?
If your blog entries tend to run long, you can:
- Hire an editor to cut word count, inspect grammar and ensure clarity.
- Use Twitter more. Capped at 140 characters, tweets reinforce brevity.
- Divide your blog posts into sections or series.
- Use Control+F (or Command+F on a Mac) to search for your keywords. If you're saying the same thing repetitively, this can help you find sections to cut.
- Read it aloud. This will help you determine the most engaging sections of your blog. Plus, it's easier to catch typos this way.
I find that the first 2-5 sentences of any blog post are always the most difficult to write. You know your audience has a lot of other content to choose from, and gripping a reader's attention in the first sentence is crucial to keeping them on your page (and reducing your bounce rate). While my voice comes through in what I write, I constantly worry that I'm not witty, personable or even geeky enough, depending on the blog venue. To overcome that, I often:
- Write my first paragraph last.
- Write my Yoast SEO description prior to writing the first paragraph.
- Ask someone else to read it and summarize. What key points did they pull from the post?
Does the way you write sound a bit awkward compared to words you speak? Don't worry about formality — you can always make a piece sound more professional in editing. Try these quick fixes:
- Eliminate or reduce cliches and mixed metaphors.
- Look at words ending in "ing." If your section header is "understanding blogs," change it to "understand blogs." This tightens up the language and presents a more searchable term.
- Read other blogs. Eschew the bad habits and embrace what works. As an editor, I have to make a lot of linguistic changes — but I also constantly learn from writers in terms of content and form.
I've done it and I still do it sometimes — I'm so excited about a topic, I sit down to write and come up with a disorganized mess that doesn't really have a point. I've expressed myself, but I haven't really created anything useful. Here are some tricks I use to avoid disorganization, especially when I'm ready to discuss a timely or newsworthy topic:
- Start with a quick outline; your main outlined points will likely become your section headings. Your post may also become more focused when you see what's really important in your outline. Outlines are fluid — feel free to add or delete points as your post goes on. You may find that you've really written on more than one idea (now you have another blog post) or that you tackled the issue in question in a different way than you initially anticipated.
- As you read your paragraphs, insert breaks whenever you start a new idea or take a pause. When writing for the web, keep your paragraphs 2-4 sentences long. This will also help you eliminate redundancy.
- Write your keywords or central thoughts at the top of the page. As you write your outline, refer back to those words. Does each point relate?
Lastly, if your content just isn't working the way it should, leave it. Maybe you'll come back to it in a few weeks; maybe it'll sit in your drafts folder indefinitely. A dead blog post is better than a forced one, and your folder full of ideas and enthusiasm for what you do should reinvigorate and inspire you.
Do you have additional tips to combat disorganized blog posts, verbosity, awkward language or difficult opening lines? Please share them in the comments.
Tara M. Clapper is Technical Editor at SEMrush and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture.