Does great writing matter in blogging?
It’s a debate that isn’t over—yet. But it’s one where more and more blogging experts are emphasising that your writing does matter, and that readers are drawn in by a strong, engaging voice.
Great writing will:
- Encourage people to share your content.
- Persuade readers to subscribe for more of the same.
- Get a powerful response—like comments or sales.
- Make you look like a big player in the blogosphere, even if you’re just starting out.
You might not think of yourself as a writer, but your writing skills will make or break your blogging career.
A troubling thought, isn’t it?
You’re slaving away at your blog, but you can’t help wondering if you have a shot in hell of getting anyone to read it.
What makes you any different from the millions of other bloggers hoping for attention?
You’re all doing the same stuff. Cranking out posts, messing around on Twitter and Facebook, leaving comments on popular blogs – you know, the usual.
But nobody gives a crap. Readers have seen it all before. You’re not offering anything new, so why should they hang around?
Good question. And the problem is, you don’t really have an answer.
Most of the time, you feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark. You can’t tell what’s working and what’s not. It feels like a big, never-ending guessing game.
Maybe you came here to find some answers. Maybe you’re hoping I’ll tell you what to do.
But I won’t.
Not because I don’t want to, but because sometimes you can’t understand what to do until you first understand what NOT to do. So, let’s start there.
Here’s a big, fat list of ways to be a mediocre blogger. How many are you guilty of?
1. Tell Stories –
People love stories, but that doesn’t mean you should tell any. Here’s why: telling a boring story is worse than not telling any stories at all, and unless you’re trained in storytelling, yours are pretty much guaranteed to be boring.
If you doubt me, go to a bar and tell a story to someone in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. If everybody in the bar stops talking to listen to you, you’re a good storyteller. If they don’t, you suck.
And almost everybody sucks.
2. Learn Actively –
It’s also important to actively learn about writing—to look for areas where you want to improve.
You need to slow down when you write. You need to think about what you’re writing, and how it works to capture reader attention. You need to devote conscious attention to improving your work to make it more effective. More readable. More captivating and compelling.
So how do you give your writing that “conscious attention” which James is talking about?
- Read writing blogs. Ideally, subscribe to them so you get daily tips and inspiration. I’d recommendDaily Writing Tips, Copyblogger, and Men with Pens, for starters.
- Read brilliantly-written blogs, and learn from them. All the writing blogs are great examples, but it’s also a good idea to find blogs in your own niche. If you come across a particularly engaging or well-written post, print it out and go through line-by-line to see how it works.
- Go to a writing class or course. Try your local college, or look online
- Form a writing circle with blogger friends. You might not be experts, but you’ll probably be able to point out the potential flaws or trouble spots in one another’s work.
- Get one-to-one support from a writing coach. Although this isn’t cheap, it’s an incredibly effective way to get advice specific to you and your writing.
3. Be “True To Yourself” –
Let me guess. Tried-and-true marketing techniques just don’t feel right to you, so you’re scrapping it all in thename of authenticity?
Well, I’ll be damned. I must be psychic!
No, the truth is everyone feels that way in the beginning, and everyone has to do it anyway. To get good at something, first you have to follow proven techniques and screw it all up, and then you learn, and then you follow proven techniques and do it correctly, and then one day, when you’ve been doing it a long time andyou’re a freaking master, you invent your own techniques. It’s the same process for learning to play the piano as promoting your work.
If it feels inauthentic, it’s not because there’s something wrong with the technique. It’s because you’re doing it wrong, and you need to keep practising.
4. Write Short Posts –
In my opinion, no beginning blogger should be publishing anything under 1,000 words. And really, 2,000 words should be your goal.
- Readers perceive long content to be more valuable. They’re more likely to bookmark it, share it, andlink to it.
- Most other bloggers are too lazy to write long content. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll stand out.
- There’s some good evidence Google prefers long form content. And giving Google what it wants is smart.
The bottom line: stop writing short posts. Or at least intersperse them with much longer content.
5. Worry About SEO-
Speaking of delusional…
Lots of people see blogging as a way to get search engine traffic. Find a keyword you want to rank for, publish a post around it, and a few months later, you’ll have all the traffic you can handle.
Getting search engine traffic isn’t about keywords. It’s not even about blog posts. It’s about creating something so amazing everyone talks about it and links to it.
So do that. You can worry about SEO later.
6. Search For The Perfect Domain Name –
Blogs are like living things. They evolve. Even if you found the perfect domain name today, you would hate it a year from now, because the focus of your blog will change.
The better solution: pick a domain name that’s good enough and go with it. Sure, changing it later is a headache, but never having a blog because you’re such a damn perfectionist is an even bigger headache.
7. Show The World How Clever You Are –
Got a clever domain name? A clever headline? A clever post?
You’re probably pretty tickled with yourself, right?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but cleverness almost always backfires. People won’t get it. Sure, they would understand if they spent a few minutes thinking about it, but they’re in a hurry, and there are a gazillion other blog posts to read that don’t require so much thought.
Instead, be clear. Don’t make people figure it out. They’ll reward you by coming back.
8. Wait Until You’re In The Right Frame Of Mind –
This one is so tempting.
You’re feeling tired or frustrated or , and you think, “I’ll never be able to write like this. I’ll just stop and come back when I’m in a better frame of mind.”
You’re procrastinating. You’re scared of how difficult it is to express your thoughts, and you’re using your emotions as an excuse to quit.
It’s understandable, but that’s not what good writers do. Good writers write.
It doesn’t matter if they are tired. It doesn’t matter if they are going through a divorce. It doesn’t matter if their kids are screaming. It doesn’t matter if they’re sick and dying in the hospital. It doesn’t matter if terrorists drop a nuclear bomb on their hometown.
They write. End of story.
9. Publish Great Content – In The Wrong Place –
Is great content important?
Should you create as much of it as you can?
But should you publish it on your own blog right now?
To explain why, imagine if Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to an empty room. It’s one of the greatest speeches in history, no doubt, but without an audience, without anyone to hear it and spread the word, it loses power.
Great content works the same way. Before you have an audience, publishing it on your own blog is kind of a waste of time.
You’re better off publishing it as a guest post instead. Borrow a blog that already has a huge audience andfunnel those readers into your own list.
Then, once you have a small group of dedicated followers, really ramp up the content on your blog. Just not before.
10. Give Up –
After reading through all these mistakes, you might feel like, “Well, damn. I’m just a screw-up. I might as well quit.”
But you shouldn’t. Here’s why:
We’re all screw-ups.
In my first three years, I made every mistake on this list. Every single one.
Not only did all my blogs fail, but I was banned by Google, my first guest post was rejected by Copyblogger, and I got so carried away bragging about my interview with Seth Godin he had to ask me to stop. Looking back,it’s horrifying how many mistakes I made.
But I’m still here.
I learned from each failure. I got advice from smart people. I mastered the craft.
Listen to other popular bloggers, and you’ll hear the same story. Over and over and over again.
It’s not a coincidence. That’s how success happens. You live and learn.
If you’re guilty of some of these mistakes, it just means you’re still in the beginning stages of the journey.Take your licks, do your best to learn from them, and never, ever lose faith in yourself.
You really can do this.
There’s nothing wrong with you.