Last updated July 23rd, 2015 at 06:30 pm
I read a lot of blogs, contribute to a few, and consult with clients on blogging best practices.
If you blog or have any responsibility for publishing blogs, I want to share with you my most fundamental rule for writing blog articles that don’t suck.
(If it weren’t for all the evidence to the contrary — i.e., lots of blog articles that suck — I would think that the advice I’m about to give you is so simple and basic and obvious as to be unnecessary.)
Without further ado, here’s the rule I recommend you apply to each blog article you publish:
Decide whom you’re writing for and give them something they can use.
As with songwriting (sometimes the lyrics come first and sometimes the melody comes first), the order doesn’t matter.
Decide whom you’re writing for
If you never expressly decide — and limit — whom you’re writing for (i.e., profile your audience), you run the risk of diluting your message and missing out on engaging anyone.
Can an article target both skiers and chess players? PHP programmers and graphic designers? Fans of Keanu Reaves and fans of Daniel Day Lewis? Theoretically, but only if you’re able to find the thing that both of them can use. Otherwise, you’re probably just making your job a lot harder.
and give them something they can use.
Note the singular something.
The reason many blog articles suck is that they try to do too much. (Trying to address different audiences can itself be trying to do too much.)
By the way, when I say "something they can use", I don’t mean that every blog article has to be a how-to tutorial.
Write a Summary First!
How will you know if you have given a specific audience something they can use?
Write a summary and read it to yourself.
Write down a concise statement in 25 words or less summarizing whom your article is for and how they might benefit from it.
This article offers blog authors and publishers a simple but potentially useful suggestion for writing engaging articles.
Ideally, you would write the summary statement before you start writing the article. At any rate, write — and review — your summary before you publish the article.
If you can’t write such a statement, you probably need to go back to the drawing board.
PS: An added benefit of writing this summary is that you can use it either as your meta description content or as the basis for a manual excerpt — or both!
Mike Witherspoon says
This comment offers Jeff Cohan and his readers feedback that this post was timely, informative and productive. We will be implementing this approach.
Jeff Cohan says
So it didn’t suck!
jay maurice says
Well said, love the perspective of understanding who you are writing for.
Jeff Cohan says
And I can’t overemphasize how helpful it can be to write the summary first. I find that if I can’t write a succinct summary, then I might actually have multiple articles in my mind, so I’ll go back to the drawing board. The summary focuses me, which is good because, in case you never noticed, I can go on and on and on…
Another great advantage of writing the summary first (especially if you’re using WordPress and Yoast SEO) is that you will have already done some of the work you need to do to finalize the post. Namely, you can (a) copy your summary into the “Manual Excerpt” box. Without a manual excerpt (assuming your theme supports excerpts on archive pages), WordPress will automatically select the first part of the post to display on your home page and other archive pages. And we all know that the first part of a post isn’t always a summary of that post.
In addition (b), the Yoast SEO plugin has a box for “Meta Description” (up to 156 characters). You can pare down your summary to that length, and many search engines will often use that meta description as the page description in search results.