Since the advent of Web 2.0, blogs have claimed a steady share of Internet traffic. From around the world, everyday people blog about all sorts of topics. Since the mid 2000s, the blogosphere has given rise to numerous online gurus who share their thoughts, prose, and witticisms on topics such as:
- Beauty products
Writing an effective blog
In many cases, blogs have served as a launching pad for writers whose talents would have never been discovered had it not been for the open–access playing field afforded by the Internet. This is certainly the case for many of the freelance writers at Ultius. Compelling blog posts are a cornerstone of many businesses today.
The blogosphere gets more and more crowded each day with Wi-Fi expansion making blogs more accessible than ever, anywhere you go. Therefore, it’s crucial to be focused in your blogging approach if you wish to rise above the chaff. In order to meet that objective, you need to choose your topic, determine your vision, know your niche, hone your style, and ultimately write solid posts that draw readers in on a consistent basis.
Hone your writing style to a particular topic
Different topics attract different readerships. For instance, blogs that center on topics like business and expanding social media, politics and the current president, and financial news are generally written in a serious tone. Beauty and fashion blogs, by contrast, are typically written in a flashy, fun–loving style. Blogs in the former category generally draw readerships of affluent, career–oriented adults; whereas fashion blogs typically attract young female followers. Depending on the topic you have in mind for your blog, you’ll want to tailor the writing style to suit its likely readership.
Do your homework
In order to get a feel for writing on your chosen topic, examine some of the most popular blogs in that niche. If you intend to blog about vegan food, for instance, read several pages of the five or ten most popular blogs on that topic to get a sense of what they all have in common. How do they approach the topics of grocery shopping and cooking? Are the sentences usually short and simple or long and eloquent? Are most of the posts lengthy and descriptive, or brief and concise? Do they convey their ideas mostly through words, visuals, or both?
Make your blog your own
You don’t have to copy everything they do; in fact, your edge in the blogosphere will likely owe to your individuality. However, there are common characteristics that tend to make certain bloggers more popular than others. Ideally, you should harness your own insights on a given subject, but be willing to incorporate certain themes and elements that are typically met with enthusiasm by readers in your niche. For example, if you love writing book reviews, but your instinct has always been to title blog entries after a particular book or author, modify the approach if it’s not a traffic generator. If the most popular blogs on your subject generally use provocative or shocking titles that tie some fictional reference to a current news story, adopt that approach. At the start of a given book review, you could comment on how a trending news item relates to a theme that runs through the book in question.
Study the culture of your blogging category
Another thing to examine in each popular blog is the comments section. Note the commonalities of the typical commenter: are most of the comments positive and in depth, rude and brief, or vice versa? Some blogs receive mostly negative comments, yet still draw some of the highest number of hits on search engines. The point of this being that bloggers who provoke are often a lot more popular than those who simply please an audience. If you have the stomach to be a confrontational and polarizing figure on the web, you might eventually find yourself going viral. Depending on the readership culture of a given topic, you may or may not draw an audience that wants to be challenged. If you’re writing a blog that offers simple advice and wisdom from the standpoint of accepted pop psychology, your readers probably won’t want to see anything that falls outside the status quo.
Know when to push the envelope and when to simply mail it
For example, if an entry concerns the differences between what men and women are looking for in the opposite sex, you should probably stick to the “women love nice guys; all men are dogs” gender stereotypes that are frequently regurgitated by relationship experts on TV talk shows. After all, your readership wouldn’t necessarily want to learn anything that might challenge their long held preconceptions. On the other hand, if the purpose of your blog is to explore alternate theories on romance and mating, you’re likely to draw readers with a greater sense of intellectual curiosity. People who wouldn’t be confused or incensed by observations on female hypergamy and alpha/beta dynamics.
Assess the aim of your blog
Some bloggers seek to influence their readers; other bloggers simply wish to entertain with tongue in cheek anecdotes. As you consider ideas for a blog, think of the impact that you’d like to have on readers.
- Do you want your blog to be an educational resource on a topic in which you’re an expert, or will you be using your blog as a platform to make money through product promotion or aggregated news articles?
- Will your blog be intended as a source of content on a subject that already has an inbuilt fan culture — such as celebrities, video games, or science fiction — or will you be presenting political or social commentary with the hope of swaying the minds of readers.
Choose an appropriate tone of voice
If your aim is to be educational or persuasive, your tone should be informative, objective, and—most importantly of all—authoritative. If the tone is not authoritative, readers won’t look up to you for knowledge or insight. For example, if you’re writing a blog entry on the influence of corporate donor money on politicians and campaign finance reform, there are two very different ways you could observe its effects:
- As congressional voting records have shown, senators and representatives place the interests of corporate donors over the will of voters when money taints the process.
- Politicians get very corrupted by the influence of money, IMO, because it makes them bend over backwards to please their corporate overlords at the expense of us little people.
Now which of those examples sounded truer, more confident, and reliable? Most readers would agree that the first example was written by someone with an authoritative grasp on the topic at hand, because the sentence makes an objective observation of basic facts. The follow–up sentence could bring up a specific example, complete with citations, of where corporate money directly influenced a congressional vote that was unpopular with the public.
Always consider the language you use
The second example wouldn’t be taken nearly as seriously by readers because it fails to even reference facts and instead frames the argument as a personal opinion. The use of slang is another discrediting factor, after all, this isn’t a violent video gaming blog. Nothing can be less authoritative, however, than the use of an IMO disclaimer, which conveys insecurity on the part of the blogger. A mature readership—the likes of which are drawn to serious blogs and authoritative content—can easily tell the difference between opinion and empirical fact.
Think of insights you can add to a topic
There are few topics under the sun that haven’t been covered in the blogosphere. Unless your plan is to blog about your own life experiences, chances are that even the most esoteric interest that comes to mind has already been the subject of a blog, or at least been blogged about several times over the past decade. Therefore, the approach to take with any topic is to apply a unique perspective when writing a blog entry. For example, consider the following scenario:
- If you want to dedicate a blog to your favorite musical acts, albums, or songs, think outside of the conventional approach.
- A lot of bloggers have written about popular bands, charting songs, and albums; but how many people have blogged about the instrumental tracks behind those well–known radio staples, or the stories behind certain song lyrics.
- Countless blogs have centered on topics like the Beatles and the Billboard Year End Chart lists, but few have been exclusively devoted to Beatles backing tracks—example entry: “Imagine Revolver as an Instrumental Exotica LP”—or examined the little–noticed historical or literary references that are tucked into the lyrics of numerous pop songs.
Providing you have the resources, you could take a relatively mundane topic and pair it to a widespread cultural interest. A topic such as your hometown, for example, may or may not be of interest to non–locals, but a blog about your hometown between the 1920s and 1960s—complete with semi–weekly, local–archive photo postings of:
- Vintage cars
- Residents of the period
This could draw widespread readership among people who are fascinated by the:
Write your first blog post
Now that you’ve decided on a blogging topic, it’s time to write your first entry. In the blogosphere, visibility is strongest for posts that stand out from the pack. Therefore, whether your first post concerns something timely or evergreen, popular or esoteric, you’ll want to come up with a unique, personalized approach to the topic in your writing. For example, if your first post concerns a recently deceased cultural icon who you’ve long admired, share recollections of your personal experiences in relation to that individual.
Get personal in your post
An in-memoriam to David Bowie—to name but one celebrity passing that trended heavily—could start with you paying your respects to the rock icon, and proceed to share memories from concerts of his that you might have attended; or local press clippings from when he came to your area. A lot of bloggers might summarize the general info that they know off hand about Bowie, but:
- What kind of unique or profound impact did he have on your life?
- Did you ever go through an orange–haired Ziggy phase or ’30s–suited Thin White Duke phase?
- Everyone has heard “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Fame,” and “Let’s Dance,” but what was your favorite deep cut off Low or The Man Who Sold the World?
Don’t just name the track, describe things about the music or lyrics that make you like it so much. Describe also how certain lyrics helped you through dark times in your life. Devote a sentence or two to some inspirational verse from “Kooks” that you wrote on your notebook during high school.
Create powerful opening sentences
Just like channel surfers, the average net surfer has a short attention span. On a random page hit, it’s estimated that most visitors will click to another site if they’re not captivated by a particular blog entry within the first three or four sentences. Therefore, it’s crucial to start each blog entry off with an intro that fascinates readers. This can be accomplished with an opening statement that does one of the following:
Solve an urgent need. Any problem that can occur will inevitably be the subject of a search on Google. If you write a blog about home maintenance or pest control, open with the promise to solve an urgent problem. An example could read like this:
YIKES! THERE’S A WASP IN MY ROOM!
You’ve had it happen before. Your window is open on a hot summer day when, suddenly, a black flying insect with a long thorax appears hovering at your wall side. Here’s what to do when a wasp disrupts your day.
Ask a provocative question. When you start things off with a question, it snaps the reader out of his or her passive state. If you tie the question to something that readers might want, you could have a trusty, standard opening for a sales blog. An entry on rodent control could read like this:
What would you do if you saw a brown rat run across your kitchen floor? With an electronic rat trap from FixDatRat®, the little bugger would be gone in seconds flat.
Say something shocking. A surefire way to rope readers into your blog is to hit them with a statement that they wouldn’t expect to read. For a hypothetical example, imagine the following:
An unheard Beatles ballad has been unearthed!
You read that right. A band known as the Beatles (bet you never heard of them before) cut a single for the Vee–Jay label in late 1963 that was never released because a namesake band out of Liverpool, England, filed an injunction against the Boston trio’s use of the band name.
Make a bold claim. A surprise claim, however outlandish, will hook readers into a given blog entry, even if the promise is only vaguely delivered. The following entry could easily appear on a spoof grooming blog:
You can turn that skullet into a new head of hair!
The trick is simple:
- tilt your head down and let the skullet drape your bald spot
- slip on a beret, backside first, and stand up straight
- pull your newfound bangs out the front of the beret
Write succinct body contents and wrap up
Limit blog posts to the 300–400 word range. Once you’ve introduced the topic, lay it out in three or four paragraphs. There’s no need to cover all facets of a topic in one post. Cover one facet in today’s post, and another in tomorrow’s. By dividing topics up into small portions, you’ll have plenty to write about on an ongoing basis, which will boost your traffic and your social networking ties will grow stronger because followers will grow accustomed to your steady stream of postings.
Leave them thirsty for more
At the end of each post, include a call to action of some sort. If you run a commercial blog, contain links to your products, along with social media icons for your readers to share each post with others. Even if you’re not selling products, include a social media banner regardless. The more that readers tweet and like your posts, the higher your subscription rate will grow.