I probably work on 20 blog posts a week that come from six different writers, a variety of clients and several of our own Right Source staffers. So even though it seems like a blog post should be pretty easy to knock out, I know that’s often not really the case.
Sometimes when I write a post, I get that lightning bolt that zaps me, and the ideas and good writing pour right out, but more often, it’s a laborious process and it takes me a few hours to produce a really good post. And then we edit. For instance, I’ve been working on this post for quite a while (I won’t say exactly how long) and it seemed like it would be really simple to zip off and put to bed. The thing is, there is actually a lot that you need to pay attention to when you write a blog post.
Not too long ago, our own Mike Sweeney wrote a remarkable blog post about creating a remarkable blog post. As we discussed that post internally, trying to decide what should be on the list of 10 really critical things that you must do to make your post stand out from the sea of blogging mediocrity, there was a big list of things that we thought were important in terms of blog post creation, but we felt that we needed to include only the 10 most essential tips. That conversation made it clear, however, that there are an awful lot of things that you can miss, or do just a little bit wrong, that can have a serious negative impact on the success of your blog. Some of them seem like they’re minor, kind of “why-is-she-bringing-those-things-up” sorts of items, but if you are doing a few of the things on this list in your posts every time, you might not get the results you’re looking for in terms of traffic or leads or whatever your ultimate goal is.
Here are 34 things (including our 10 biggies) that could be keeping your posts from getting traction and making the jump from good to remarkable:
1. Lame headline — Don’t derail yourself right at the beginning. Eight out of 10 people will read a headline but only two out of 10 will continue after that, so that headline better be good. Spend some time on it. Be clever, but don’t mislead people. Give them some glimpse of what your post is about.
2. Boring intro paragraph — Your intro paragraph is your next chance to lose people after the headline. You have options to pique their interest here: a personal story, some statistics, a bit of controversy, but regardless, you have to tell readers what you plan to accomplish with the post. If it’s boring, they’re done.
3. Lackluster writing — You’re starting to see a pattern, right? The writing in the rest of your post actually has to be good, too. It doesn’t require that same “hook” that you have to look for in the intro paragraph, but it needs to be better than average throughout.
4. No editing — Unless you truly are an editor (and even then I think you should have someone else look over your work), please have someone edit your content. The best option is to hire an editor, but at the very least, have someone copyedit and/or proofread what you write. Remember that proofreading is a detailed spelling and grammar check, copyediting involves more revision for style, format and accuracy of text, and true editing can involve changing the substance of the content.
5. Errors in your post — This is just a deal killer. Errors can be any kind of sloppiness: spelling mistakes, spacing problems, formatting, broken links.
6. Not making a point — Every post needs to make a point—just one. It should be really clear to the reader what the main takeaway is from each post you write.
7. Tackled too much in your topic — Refer back to No. 6. Just tackle ONE point, not two or three or four. Break your post into two or three or four posts if you have that much to say. Then you have a series.
8. Tackled too little in your topic — Again, refer back to No. 6. You need to actually be able to MAKE one point. If you don’t really have enough to say around a topic, then choose another topic.
9. Lacks organized structure — Be organized. Make an outline if you need to. Your post needs a beginning, a middle, and an end to make its point.
10. Did not include actionable points — The reader’s takeaway should be something useful, that is, something they can take action on in their workday or that helps them in some way.
11. Reader sees only a giant sea of gray — A blog post needs to be skimmable. Use bullet points, numbered lists or bolded text.
12. Post is too long — This can be a bit subjective, but we are talking about a blog post, not a New York Times article, so don’t write 2,000 words. You will lose people.
13. Post is too short — Likewise, some say there is some wisdom in varying the length of your posts, and an occasional short, newsy post is good, but 100 words isn’t going to get a point across to anyone.
14. Topic is boring — Sure, there are lots of topics out there, but you should write something unique and interesting so that people will come to you to read it.
15. You chose a topic that has been done TO DEATH — Pay attention to what your industry is writing about so you don’t write about the same thing. Create a variation on a popular topic if it interests you.
16. You’re selling — A blog post is not an ad. A post is supposed to educate and/or help the reader discover something new or interesting. There is no selling. The closest thing to selling is the call to action at the end (see No. 34).
17. You’re not writing about something that matters to you — It shows if you don’t, and it’s just a lot harder to write about stuff you don’t care about.
18. You don’t tell stories — Get personal, throw an anecdote in, share a business experience. Show your audience you are a real person with real experiences.
19. No keyword research — Critical from an SEO standpoint, Google’s Keyword Tool can be a big help.
20. Meta data is not complete — Make sure to include your target keyword(s) in your title tag and description tag.
21. No links within post to your own site — This is pretty easy to do and will loop people back to your other material. It’s also useful if others pick up your post, as backlinks will help with SEO.
22. No links to outside sources — In journalism school, you learn to use only good, reliable source material when you write. Creating a blog post is no different. Link to your sources so your readers can dive into quality, related information about your subject matter.
23. Difficult to share — Sharing your posts speaks to the marketing part of content marketing. Distribution is key to growing your audience. Add sharing buttons at the end of your posts so that readers can easily share right from the post. Our Allison Novak has other great tips for social sharing.
24. Not submitting to social bookmarking sites — Similar to the point above, this is a good way to grow your audience.
25. Infrequent posting — Posting once a month is not enough. Get one post up per week at a minimum if you want to get some traction and a loyal audience.
26. Irregular posting — The loyal audience that you’re after needs to know when they can anticipate a post from you, especially if you’re making them so remarkable that they look forward to them.
27. Empty editorial calendar — It’s hard to keep a regular schedule when you don’t know what to write. The lack of ideas can be stressful, but brainstorming is a good way to fill the pipeline quickly.
28. Content is not your own — The content in your blog needs to be unique and created by you. Occasionally reposting something outstanding is fine, and certainly inviting guest bloggers is recommended, but the majority of your blog content should be original in order to position you as a thought leader in your industry and to build your brand.
29. No images in your posts — All text and no pictures make Jack a dull boy.
30. No tags on your images — Search engines can’t read what’s in an image, so in order for an image to help you with SEO it needs to include a file name, alt text, and a title tag that all effectively describe the image.
31. You don’t know your audience — This is a biggie. How do you know what to write if you don’t who you’re talking to?
32. You know your audience(s) but forget about them — Think about who your audience is each time you write. Pretend you’re one of them. The post needs to be useful for them and appeal to them each time or they won’t come back. You can’t write a post now and then that is for another audience. It throws people.
33. No related posts section at the end — As those audience members are nearing the end of your blog post and start to wonder what additional gems of content you may have produced, offer them up right there with a list of related posts, all of which should have a call to action at the end. Which leads me to…
34. No call to action — Ultimately you have a goal, correct? Generate leads, get new customers, make money? Probably something along those lines. After people read your remarkable post, and they say, “This person is a genius, I wish I could tap into more of her brilliance,” you should give them a way to do that either with a link to other fabulous content that might be related to your post theme, or with some uber-desirable piece of anchor content only available for the contribution of a name and email address. In the end, your posts need to show you some results, or it’s really hard to justify the writing. The call to action will help.
If you are already a remarkable blogger, congratulations! Maybe this list gave you a nice pat on the back, and you can now truly say you’ve got it all covered. If you don’t think you’re all the way to remarkable with your posts yet, but you’re working on it, see if you can address a few items on the list in your next post. I doubt you’re doing all of these things wrong, especially if you read our posts regularly! But even doing a few of the biggies on this list can turn readers off to the point that they won’t come back. Remember, there are 2 million blog posts written every day. You don’t think people can get good information somewhere else if yours isn’t remarkable?