When writing your blog post, keep these three elements in mind.
Attention-getting headlines are a must. Write your headlines with your reader in mind. Think about what sort of terms people would use on Google to find the subject you’re writing about. Put that term in your headline.
Back in my newspaper days, when I was producing content for the Orlando Business Journal website, our crash course in search engine optimization included an example of what not to do, citing the news agency whose article about an airplane crash in the Hudson River was titled “Jetliner’s Icy Plunge.” Well, of course no one was doing web searches for those terms. People searched for “airplane crash Hudson River,” so outlets that had headlines close to that ranked higher on Google.
Copyblogger has a great set of resources called How to Write Magnetic Headlines.
Focus on great writing rather than SEO. Include your keywords in the first paragraph, if it’s not too corny to do so. Keywords in your lead can improve your search engine ranking. But if putting them there produces prose that sounds artificial, go for authenticity instead.
Over at Lateral Action, Mark McGuinness puts it this way:
“While keywords are definitely important, it’s a common misconception that the most important thing you need to do to get a new website to rank well on search engines is to fiddle about with the keywords in your website text…First, produce great content that will naturally attract links from other sites. Then optimize your most important pages.”
I wish I could give you the five easy steps to great writing. But truly, it comes down to practice. Nevertheless, later in this series I will talk about the craft of writing and give you some resources.
Use story elements when possible. Fiction stories are made up of character and plot. Nonfiction, likewise, is often about people and events. Every story is a human interest story. Even a story about robots has the angle of “how will this affect the lives of humans?” Trace cause and effect relationships to a conclusion. Raise questions and answer them, from both sides, if possible.
One technique is to bring the reader into the article as if he or she were a player in it by using the second person, e.g., You know that when all the family arrives for Thanksgiving dinner, you’re likely to feel increased stress. Here are 10 ways to unwind during the holidays… This is most often found in how-to articles, but can work in other types as well. People are bored by facts, but they remember stories.
You can also make up a fictional story to make your point. Jesus did this with his parables, and modern-day parables can also be effective. McGuinness has a cast of characters that he uses on his site to illustrate points and relate them to his readers. Here’s one example: “The 3 Critical Characteristics of the Creative Entrepreneur”
Your story can be about something that happened to you and what you learned from it. I did this above with the headline anecdote. Sometimes the whole blog post is the story, for example in Hannah Gaddini’s post for The Junia Project about what she learned while preaching in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: “An Accidental Advocate (in one of the worst places in the world to be a woman).”
True-life stories about other people are extremely effective. The folks at Planet Money do this really well. Soon after the Haiti earthquake, they presented a story about “Yvrose Jean Baptiste, a small-time Haitian wholesaler” whose business was disrupted by the quake. If the reporters had just served up a bunch of facts and figures, you’d forget about it, but this businesswoman got people’s attention. Five years on, I still think of her when I think about Haiti’s beleaguered economy. That’s great storytelling.