It seems that every time you turn around, another blog or website has popped up somewhere on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong; it truly warms my heart to know that people are able to share their ideas, opinions, and points of view with the world. That’s what the Internet is for, right? However, I have recently noticed a troubling amount of sites that have poorly structured articles and posts that ultimately lack in content and usefulness. Last July, I wrote a post (as part of larger series) about what drives users to websites. In this article, I did my best to hammer in the fact that a website’s success revolves entirely around the quality of its content.
But what is quality content? And better yet, how can you create it? Yesterday my 150th post for BestTechie was published, and given this milestone number I have decided to put together a list of five rules – many of which I have learned by trial and error – that help to create the type of unique and insightful content that ultimately brings traffic to a website.
Plan Your Content
When I started blogging for BestTechie almost a year ago, most – if not all – of my content was written arbitrarily. That is, I never took the time to sit down and plan out content before I wrote it. While I did fairly well with this method of writing, I would often realize that I left out information or neglected to get a point across after the post had already been published. By planning my content out a bit more before writing it, I have done significantly better at writing more thorough and well-rounded articles.
Despite common belief, planning an article or post really isn’t all that difficult, and the time that it takes to plan it out is easily saved by not having to struggle during the actual writing process. In fact, most of my article plans are done in my head whilst I do everyday tasks. Once I get an idea for an article in my head, I’ll kick it around for at least an hour before I actually write it. This gives me the time necessary to come up with specific chunks of wording that I want to use, and gives me an idea of what direction I want to take a given post in.
Even with a general plan for a post hot in my head, I don’t simply hammer out that post. Instead, I have found that I produce better work by writing a very short summary of my post beforehand, and then going back and expanding it to make it the full-on post that you as a reader see. This “outline” helps me to not only organize my thoughts, but also keep my work on track as well. Below is a screenshot I took yesterday of a post I was working on at the time. While these few lines are very basic, expanding upon them ultimately lead to the finalized product.
Give Your Readers Background Information
One of the most important aspects of an article or post is the background information that you as an author give the reader before unveiling the post itself; especially if you intend to reference this background information later in your post. The biggest mistake that you can make as an author is to assume that your readers are familiar with the events that built up to create the article you are writing. As enthusiasts in our given fields, bloggers such as myself can often attribute previous events and happenings as “common knowledge”. However, readers can oftentimes be completely unaware of what has already happened, and ultimately end up becoming confused by your post.
Even when a reader has already read about an event, your summary of details and facts can serve as a “refresher” for readers who may have forgotten otherwise key components to a story. On top of this, when you summarize information to a reader you can point out aspects that you want to make sure they are familiar with for the purposes of your post, and aspects that the reader may not have picked up on anywhere else.
However, just as important as it is to familiarize readers with background information, you should also avoid completely restating old news. In essence, you should try to summarize the important information that pertains directly to your current blog post. Once you have an archive of posts on your site, you can link to older articles of relevance to ensure that your readers can get more detailed background information if they see fit. Even if you link to another site, you will make it that much easier for readers to understand your article, and ultimately see the importance in your content.
Use Suspense, Flow, and Structure
Just like a good novel, a good blog post or article depends greatly on your ability as an author to implement the proper suspense and structure to your posts. In the same sense that good fiction writers try to keep you on the edge of your seat, you as a blogger need to keep your readers entertained and intrigued in order to make them read your post in full. Having said this, drawing the user in by a catchy title and well-written introduction isn’t enough if your article becomes dull and boring halfway through, because the reader is inevitably going to stop reading it.
The concept of suspense goes hand-in-hand with the concept of post structure. You see, by structuring your post in such a manner that users never become bored, you stand a significantly better chance of holding their attention. Further, the most well-structured posts that have the best flow of content come as a direct result of the planning process that I talked about earlier. More recently, I have found that writing my post title before my actual content has helped me to stay on track with my original post idea, and has prevented me from venturing to different ideas and topics. This, my friends, is structure.
Opinion and Analyze
I will never tell you that fact is not important in writing a post. Without fact and rock-solid information, your post has absolutely no substance and won’t stand a chance with readers. However, the thing about fact is that it cannot be altered in order for you to produce unique content. If all every single blog focused on pure facts, there would be no point in anyone reading more than one blog because they simply wouldn’t gain anything from doing so. Let’s face it: smaller blogs rarely have the “breaking” or “exclusive” content that is seen in the larger and more well-known blogs. With this in mind, your ticket to making unique and worth-while content is your opinion on the news, because it is the only aspect of your article that you can use to separate your work from all the others.
Anyone can write news, but it takes a whole new level of creative talent to determine the importance of the news; what it really means and why it’s really important. By connecting the dots and analyzing information, you as an author can shed light on what you think the future will hold and why you think the event you are covering is important. Just as it is important to read between the lines, your content should focus on the little details that truly refine and shape your content.
While this last rule is probably one that has been instilled in you since grammar school, the sad reality is that authors neglect to proofread and double-check their content all too often. Even if you have the most brilliant and informative post, readers are going to pass it up if it is riddled with spelling, grammar, and factual mistakes. Think about it. More than anything, your success as a blogger and author depends on your ability to maintain a good image. If you fail to proofread your article – or run it through a spelling/grammar check at very least – you are doing nothing more than throwing away your reputation and image, and might as well give up on writing altogether. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes, and someone is going to find them. The question as to if that person is going to be you or a reader, however, is entirely up to you.
At the end of the day even I myself am still learning how to improve and perfect my content, and I honestly believe that I will always be able learn more and improve my writing techniques. I do hope, however, that my personal journey thus far can be of use other authors and even potential authors. Do you have any techniques or strategies for writing solid blog posts or articles? If so, let us know in the comments!