How to write a blog that people will actually read

1. Pick a niche and stick with it. Writing about your cat, in-laws and bad Chinese food is fine once in a while, but pick what you’re most passionate about and write about that.

2. Keep it short! Remember the Five Bs of public speaking also apply to blogging: Be Brief, Baby, Be Brief! Most people will not read a whole page of content, so keep it short and simple. If you have something that’s going to be long, break it up into a couple posts and make a series out of it.

3. Make it skimable. People sit down and read books, but they skim the Internet. Break up your paragraphs, make lists, make key ideas bold and see #2. Site visitors will glance over your post in a second or two to determine the gist of it and then decide whether to read it more carefully. Make sure they get the main idea of the post within that one or two seconds.

4. Post consistently. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a week or three times a day, just keep it semi-consistent. If you’re going to take an unusual break from posting for some reason, let readers know that so they’re not tempted to drop their subscription to your blog.

5. Optimize for SEO. Configuring your blog for Search Engine Optimization is critical for increasing traffic. About 90% of my traffic comes from sites like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Live because I put a lot of work into making this site as optimal as possible for their bots and search queries. A quick search for SEO and your blog platform will get you started in the right direction.

6. Don’t publish content immediately. Write a good draft and let it sit for a day or so and then come back to it. You’ll be amazed just how much you’ll want to tweak it and how much better you can make it sound by coming back to it with a fresh mind.

7. Be careful what you say. Never publish anything about someone if you don’t want them to read it because I will guarantee that somehow they’ll eventually find it. And be careful about criticisms unless you’re ready to stand by those accusations for the long-haul.

8. Offer new content and fresh perspectives. Saying the same thing everyone else is already saying doesn’t make you stand out. Offer new original content that’s your own. Offer a unique approach to your niche.

9. Be authentic. One of the reasons people read blogs is because they relate with the author on some level, so give them something they can relate to. Admit failures, celebrate success, don’t pretend to be the only expert in your niche, humbly learn from others and share personal stories. Be real.

10. Ultimately, it’s YOUR blog. Other people can give suggestions and input, but remember that it’s your blog and as such it should reflect you and your personality. So have fun with it! Readers will pick up on that sense of enjoyment and be attracted to it.

Bonus: Do NOT copy and paste articles from others. Although this doesn’t really fit the rest of the list, it’s probably one of the most common blogging etiquette mistakes I see around the blogosphere. The author of that material put a lot of time into creating it and deserves the traffic and incoming links it generates. Summarize it in your own words and post a link to the original instead. (UPDATE: Thanks to Adam in the comments for pointing out that is IS acceptable to copy a small portion of an article and cite the original source with link.)

Posted on December 12, 2007

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