Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Best Way to Write Better Blog Posts

This post initally appeared on LinkedIn.


Write when you have an idea.

That’s it. That’s the absolute best way to write better blog posts. Sounds simple, right? Then why are so many blog posts not worth reading?

Too often, we write blog posts when we need to. That’s not a recipe for writing good blog posts. We need to start writing when we want to.

We are overloaded with content. This post will pop up as one in a stream in LinkedIn. If I tweet it out, it will join thousands of other links. What is going to make this blog post stand out?

Sure, you can write an excellent, engaging – or, click-bait – headline. You can bold certain words and underline key points. But if the content is not good, people are not going to share.

daryl hall guster
Too often, we are constrained by the process. There is nothing more damaging to good writing than process.

Daryl Hall hosts an amazing music show, Live from Daryl’s House, where he jams with fellow musicians and chats with them about music. In an episode I re-watched recently, the lead singer of Guster asked Daryl about his process for writing music. His answer was perfect.

“Process? I have no process. I hate process. It ruins my soul.”

Okay, so no one is going to confuse your next blog post with Sara Smile, but greatness should still be the goal. To write a great blog post, you need inspiration. However, that inspiration is not always going to be there when you start typing.

The challenge we have to overcome is the schedule we lay out for publishing. Yes, it would be great to have a set number of posts every week. No, that does not work out in practice.

We need to accept that spikes and valleys should happen when it comes to blog posts if they’re being done correctly. Some weeks, there may be an engaging, shareable blog post every day. On the flip side, there may be weeks without any blog posts and metrics will go way down.

Content marketing works when it doesn’t feel forced.

How can your post rise above the rest? It’s probably going to be on a topic that hits you when you’re not at work or even thinking about work. Maybe it happens when you’re taking the dog for a walk on a beautiful Sunday morning and a brilliant idea blows up in your brain.

When that idea hits, you need to write it down and explore it. Maybe all you have at first is a lead or a few paragraphs. That's okay, because simply writing the idea down is vital. It gives your brain a jump-off point for further ideas. Once the creativity starts, let it grow and see where it takes you.

To make this work, we cannot be limited by a schedule. If you have two really good blog posts ready to post on the same day, this is not a bad thing. This is a moment to be savored and exploited!

I used to write for a newspaper back when print still mattered – yes, I am aging myself – and I know what it’s like to fight for space. But if two major stories broke on the same day, would we delay one until the next day? Of course not. We’d go all out on both because they were worth it. We were usually rewarded with higher newsstand sales and a spike in interest. Online, you do not have to worry about space – so use that unlimited resource to your advantage.

If you free people up to be more creative about when and how they write, they will produce better content.

Writing a blog post should be far more than an item to check off. It needs to be engaging. It needs to be thought-provoking. It needs to be unique.

And if you succeed, people will be much more likely to click on the links that you want them to.

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