Mastery of a skill doesn’t happen overnight. Whether playing guitar, painting landscapes or carving sculptures out of crayons, getting good at something takes time.
The same is true of blogging. You have to make mistakes, write junky pieces, craft posts that no one reads, and continually develop your skills on your way to becoming an experienced wordsmith.
That’s all good, but what about right now?
What about that blog post that’s staring you in the face? How can you improve it and become a better blogger or content creator today?
1. Know Your Audience
The first step to a successful content strategy is knowing who your audience is. If you try to write for everyone, you’ll end up reaching no one. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, you’ll end up churning out content that never reaches your target audience.
To define your target audience, develop a customer persona, which is an avatar of your ideal customer or client. To get started creating a customer persona, check out Buffer’s fantastic guide.
2. Use An Outline
Not everyone uses an outline when they write, but, as the daughter of an English teacher, I have outlines embedded deep in my DNA.
An outline doesn’t have to be super in-depth, just lay out the key points you want to hit, make sure they’re in a logical order, and start filling in the text. If nothing else, an outline keeps you on-point and prevents you from meandering off on a tangent…which leads to the next point.
3. Know Your Point and Stick to It
Some blog posts are stream-of-consciousness journeys into the writer’s mind, which is fine, but those types of posts generally aren’t going to stay relevant for long or get you much SEO juice to drive ongoing traffic.
The best blog posts—those that people return to again and again—have a clear point, they back up their point with info, and they never lead readers down unexpected roads.
Know the point you’re going to make before you start writing and you’ll do your readers a great service. You’ll also improve your chances of driving future traffic to your site.
4. Leave Plenty of White Space
You know those huge blocks of text that are really hard to read, easy to get lost in, and leave you with an eye-ache? Don’t do that.
Reading on screens is different from reading print. Eye fatigue comes much sooner, and readers are much more likely to click away if the text is at all challenging to read.
Leave plenty of white space in your posts. You can do this by making your paragraphs short and using subheaders to break up sections.
5. Vary the Visuals
Riffing off the previous point, you want to vary the visuals of your post. Include images where it makes sense, use bold to separate sections, use bullet points when possible, include pull-quotes, and break up text with videos.
If a post seems hard to read or boring, people will click away. You can keep them engaged with a variety of visuals and types of content.
6. Nail Your Headline
There’s a school of thought that 80% of people will read your headline, but only 20% will go on to read your post. That makes nailing the headline of your post incredibly important.
You never want to slap a half-baked headline onto a post. Ideally, you know what your headline is before you sit down to write the post but, at the least, you should brainstorm a good handful of headlines before selecting the one that is the most engaging, concise, and SEO-friendly.
7. Include a Call to Action
The essence of content marketing is that you draw people in with valuable content then invite them to explore more of your offerings.
If you draw people in with your content but don’t ask them to do something once they’re there, you’re not doing content marketing—you’re doing what might prove to be a waste of time if people visit your page, leave, and never to come back.
Be sure to include a call-to-action in your posts inviting people to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social, email you, join a community, etc. What you’ll ask them to do depends on your strategy, but you should be asking people to do something.
8. Proofread Your Post Before You Hit Publish
As they say in writing circles, your first draft is generally crap. Don’t toss a post together and hit publish before you have a chance to edit it, trim it, clean up typos, check your links, etc.
Ideally, your first draft can sit for a day or so, so you have fresh eyes when you return to it. Even if you only have a couple of hours, though, or even 30 minutes, come back to your draft with an eye on improving it and you’re bound to find something.
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