By Iola Goulton
Blogging. It’s often considered one of the basics of a good author platform, but a lot of authors find it an unpleasant chore. Today I’m sharing my top tips for taking the stress out of blogging, and producing great posts.
And if even the thought of establishing a blog or an author platform fills you with dread … I can help. Click here to sign up to be notified about my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform.
But now, onto my 11 Steps to a Great Blog Post:
1. Plan AheadYes, I know this sounds boring. But it will cut down on your blogging stress in two ways because it means you won’t be scrambling to write and edit a blog post at the last minute. Planning ahead also means you can write when the urge hits you … even if that’s several weeks ahead of your scheduled post date. As an example, I’m drafting this post on 22 November. I know December is going to be busy, so I’m trying to get ahead while I can.
For those of us who contribute to group blogs, planning and scheduling ahead of time makes life a lot easier for the blog admins.
A missed post can take an hour or more of admin time in checking the blog, checking the schedule, contacting the other admins, contacting the blogger, waiting for an answer, and trying to find a substitute post.
I’m an administrator for two group blogs (this and Australasian Christian Writers) as well as having two blogs of my own (Iola Goulton and Christian Editing Services). It gives me a good feeling to check the calendar on Monday morning and find all the posts are scheduled for the week. All I have to do is promote them (see point 10 below).
2. Find the Perfect TopicSometimes you’re writing a blog post with a specific goal in mind: to share a cover reveal, a pre-order, a new release, or a specific time-sensitive promotion. These are easy posts to plan and write ahead of schedule, and should be part of your regular book launch marketing plan.
Sometimes you’re writing a post that has to fit a particular theme e.g. a book review. Here at ICFW we’ve always had a Friday theme: a devotional post. But we’ll be introducing themed Tuesday and Wednesday posts in 2018 (and I’ll be talking a little more about them in my next post. Yes, I’m planning ahead).
But more often you’re faced with a blank slate. I find those blank slate posts harder to write than when I’ve got a topic in mind. So … plan ahead. Plan out what topics you’d like to cover and when. Then you can write to cover those topics, or (if the muse hits you) you can write to please the muse.
What makes a great blog post topic? I suggest:
- Something that interests you (so you’re going to enjoy writing it)
- Something that’s not going to date quickly (so you can continue to promote the post in the future).
- Something that’s relevant to your target audience. You do know your target audience, right? Do they ever ask questions? Yes? Then write an answer. You’re likely to get the same questions over and over, and having the answer in a blog post means you can direct future askers to the post.
3. Write at least 300 wordsOne of our objectives as writers is to be read. Which means writing words people want to read. But first people have to find what you’ve written. This means making your blog post as appealing to Google (and other search engines) as it is to your target reader.
Which means writing a blog post that’s at least 300 words long. More words are better, but only if they are good words. No padding!
(P.S. In a group blog, that's 300 or more words of content. Not 300 words including your bio.)
4. Make Your Post ScanableAs you write, make your post scannable. Many people read blog posts via a reader (such as Feedly), or on a mobile or tablet.
In an online world, scanable equals readable.
To make your blog post scanable:
- Use short paragraphs (no more than four lines).
- Use headings and subheadings.
- Use bullet points or lists where relevant. Like here.
5. Ask a QuestionAs bloggers, we need to engage our readers, to keep them coming back. A great way of doing this is to ask a question.
This could be like my Bookish Question, or like #FirstLineFriday posts (what’s the first line of the book nearest you?).
Or you could ask a question that’s relevant to theme of your post. If the post is sharing your favourite novels, ask your readers their favourite novels. If you’re about Christmas, ask your readers to share their favourite Christmas memory. You get the idea.
The blogs I enjoy reading most are generally conversations where the comments are as important as the blog itself. So work out how you can turn your blog post into a conversation.
6. Revise. Edit. ProofreadWe’re writers. We can do this. (If you can’t, Christian Editing Services can help you!)
7. Add a Killer TitleFeedly delivers me over 100 blog posts every single day. I don’t have time to read 100 blog posts. No one does. So how do I decide which posts to read? Based on the title.
Some people don’t want to use clickbaity titles such as 11 Steps to a Great Blog Post. However, it’s only clickbaity if the post doesn’t actually deliver on the promise (or makes you click through 32 screens to get the 11 points).
Also, I’m reliably informed (thanks, Margie Lawson) that people subconsciously like numbered posts, because the numbers show us how much longer until the end of the post.
8. Include a Relevant ImagePeople like images. Search engines like images. Social media likes images—experts will tell you posts with images get more attention.
Include images. (But make sure you are using them legally.)
Your main image should be centred at the very top of the post. This is the image Blogger will pick up for social media shares (if you use WordPress, you can select a Featured Image. WordPress will display that at the top of your post, and use it for social media shares).
Intersperse images throughout a longer post—it breaks up the text and makes it more readable.
Use design software such as Canva to brand your images, so your images stand out to someone randomly scanning through Feedly. And include your killer title with your image—that will help when you’re sharing to visual sites like Instagram and Pinterest (see 10, below).
If you’re posting on a group blog like ICFW, include your author photo, bio, and social media links at the bottom of the post.
9. Add Your BylineTell your readers who wrote the post. This is especially important if you’re writing for a group blog with multiple contributors. Some people will choose to read the post because you wrote it. Make it easy for them to know they want to read this post.
10. Promote Promote PromoteNote: promote promote promote does not mean spam spam spam.
Promoting means sharing your post with your target audience using relevant social networks.
If your post is about your multi-author romance giveaway, share in places where romance readers congregate (hint: not LinkedIn).
I use Buffer to share to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter—their Power Scheduler means I can even schedule multiple posts at once. A few clicks, and it’s done, with a unique message for each network (e.g. one or two #hashtags on Twitter, but more on Instagram).
Why these networks?
- For my reader-writer-reviewer posts, my target reader is on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Many are also on Twitter, and it takes only a few extra seconds to get Buffer to share to Twitter as well.
- For my writer-editor posts, my target audience is on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The beauty of Pinterest is that people can follow specific Boards, so people who aren’t interested in writing can choose not to follow my writing-related Boards.
I share on Google+ because that is indexed for SEO purposes. Translated: sharing to Google+ means Google is more likely to show my blog post (or Google+ share) to someone who is searching for posts on my topic.
The other reason for sharing or promoting is that some blog posts get more traction on social media than on the actual blog. For example, my weekly Bookish Question often gets no comments on the actual blog post, but always gets Likes and Comments on Facebook and Instagram (especially Instagram).
One request: if you’re a member of a group blog like ACW or ICFW, consider using a programme like Buffer to share everyone’s posts, not just your own. Because this is a community. Let’s work together and help each other.
11. EngageYou finished your blog post with a question, right? Now it’s important to check back and make sure you respond to answers (and other comments). And don’t forget to check your social media networks and respond to comments there as well.
Readers want to connect, to engage. That means responding to comments in a timely manner.
That’s it. My top blogging tips. Is there anything you don’t understand or you’d like more information on? Or anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.
About Iola Goulton
Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.