You picked a topic that’s trending… you wrote passionately and eloquently about it… you optimized your darling so everyone would be able to find it online…
But your blog post just sits there.
No readers, no comments, no nothing.
Frankly, my dear, it stinks.
Bad blog writing has undermined all your hard work. Even if people want to read your post, they give up before they make it past your introduction.
Because you’ve broken the cardinal rules of content marketing: write clearly, concisely, and conversationally.
As the editor of a popular blog, I see my fair share of bad blog writing. It usually boils down to five major mistakes. Let’s take a look at what they are and how you can avoid them, so your blog posts won’t hit the rejection pile, but will instead be read and shared by a horde of raving fans.
Mistake #1: You’re Showing Off, Not Communicating
Big words don’t impress. Inspired ideas, well expressed, do.
Sometimes guest bloggers send me a blog post that I know has some useful content in it, but the good stuff is buried beneath so much “writerly” writing, I can’t dig it out. Read this paragraph, and you’ll see what I mean:
You can’t but agree that every solid prosperous website involves analytics in order to get timely information on all fluctuations taking place behind the scenes and make right decisions lifting their business to the higher level. Our today’s virtual life is the one of constant development. This entry highlighted main points of A/B testing, knowing which you can take utmost advantage of this simple, quick method, giving rather accurate results if used properly or in combination with more complicated technologies.
Why It Stinks
First, it’s a really big chunk of text. In books or magazines, you can get away with longer paragraphs, but not on the web.
In web writing, you should aim to keep all paragraphs at six lines or less. But most should range from one to four lines. This creates enough white space that your article looks easy to read.
The Great Wall of China may be inspiring. But a great wall of text is intimidating for your busy visitors. Go easy on them. Keep your paragraphs short.
Second, this paragraph is almost unintelligible because of the big words and awkward phrasing.
Look at the first sentence: “You can’t but agree that every solid prosperous website involves analytics in order to get timely information on all fluctuations taking place behind the scenes and make right decisions lifting their business to the higher level.”
What does that even mean?
How about just saying it plainly: “It’s critical to measure the results of your marketing, so you understand what’s working and what’s not. Analytics can uncover trends and give you insights that help you make smarter marketing decisions.”
Don’t try to impress people with your fancy writing. If you try to be smart, cute or clever, more than likely, you’re just going to turn off your readers.
Figure out what you’re trying to say, then say it.
Mistake #2: You Don’t Have a Point
Blog posts aren’t considered high quality when they’re long or use flowery language. They’re high quality when they have one main point, and everything in the post relates to and supports this one idea.
I see a lot of content pieces that ramble, talking all around a topic without ever giving the bottom-line point in one, easy-to-understand statement. Like this example:
The first question people usually have when their eyes are opened to the wonderful world of conversion optimization testing is “Where do I start?”
In some companies, this is often just based on “gut feeling” or previous experience. Throughout my most recent experience in companies with a usability lab and without one, I’ve really come to love having a lab. At [my company], I have the great pleasure of not only having nearby a state-of-the-art customer experience lab – but the advantage of working with an incredibly talented team of customer experience experts.
Taking advantage of user research, such as Heuristic Evaluations and Usability Tests, has proven to be a great way to identify where to start with conversion optimization. After conducting this research, our experts identify areas for improvement and even recommendations to include in my first round of optimization testing.
Why It Stinks
I see two problems here. The first is that there actually is a point to the article – it’s just the wrong one.
This writer wants to be promotional, not helpful. Notice the huge second paragraph that talks up the lab. (I removed his company name and the name of the lab, which he had underlined and linked.) Clearly, the point of this post is to get people to click on a link. That’s not an appropriate purpose for your blog posts.
The second problem is that there’s no easy way for readers to figure out what information is going to be shared in the article – because the writer doesn’t lay it out. He expects us to know intuitively, I suppose.
But here’s the thing…
If the writer wants to promote the lab, he should say so, and then tell us about the lab.
If he wants to talk about conversion optimization testing, he needs to tell us clearly what he’s going to say about it and invite us to read on.
Journalists have a trick for quickly and easily making their point. It’s called the nut graf. (Nut, meaning “kernel,” and graf, meaning “paragraph.”)
Essentially, this is your thesis statement (except it doesn’t come at the end of a long introductory paragraph like it did in your English essays). It stands alone as a short paragraph, summing up what the reader will get from your article and hinting at a benefit if you read to the end.
Why is this important?
If you can’t tell people what your article is about in a sentence or two, you don’t have it clarified enough to start writing about it.
Where does it go in the article?
There’s no hard and fast rule. You can make your first paragraph the nut graf and immediately jump into the body of the article. Or you can lead with a story or cool statistic, then – boom – drop your nut graf like a grenade to make a powerful point.
In most cases, it comes at the end of your introduction, before the body of your blog post.
Mistake #3: You’re Boring Me to Death
Even a boring topic can make good reading if it’s written well. Conversely, an interesting topic, badly written, will put your readers to sleep.
What if it’s a boring topic, badly written? Well, see for yourself:
Press release has always been the most useful resource to make the public and the media aware of the business’s products and services. Its popular networks like PRWeb or Business Wire have always helped many websites to generate great amount of authoritative back-links. Distributing a press release which is inserted with a related keyword choice in the prominent areas along with a newsworthy content always leads your company name to recognize as a credible brand. Don’t forget to include anchor-text specific links that highlight different terms. Besides that, a home page or subpage link in order to drive traffic to the main site or an internal page.
Why It Stinks
You can bore your readers by falling into a variety of traps:
- Repeat yourself
- Drone on about something your readers grasped three paragraphs ago
- Follow too many rabbit trails
- Use no specific details
- Make only high-level assumptions with no discussion
The sample paragraph above is a perfect example of #4 and #5. There are no details, few specifics, and a lot of assumptions that all add up to vague, uninteresting writing.
Part of the problem is that the topic is too broad. The writer was attempting to cover SEO practices in 2013. All of them.
He had so much material to cover, he couldn’t go deep on any of them. So he was expecting readers to wade through 3000 words of pure fluff.
Start with a narrow enough topic that you can drill down and talk about the details related to your topic.
Then edit carefully. If you repeat yourself, consolidate your point. If you can say something in three words instead of three sentences, do it. Pare down anything that isn’t essential.
Above all, say something useful. Broad statements don’t make good blog writing. If you say something, explain it… share specific examples… address alternative viewpoints.
Mistake #4: You’re Confusing Me
If a reader has to stop reading to ask, “Why is this picture here?” or “How does this connect with that?” or even to go back and re-read a paragraph a few more times, you’re not being clear enough.
I once read an article that listed nine page elements eligible for A/B testing, then inserted a screen shot that illustrated minimalist design:
Don’t confuse your readers. Imagine your article is a bus tour of your topic – and you’re narrating the trip. You want your readers to know where they are and what they’re seeing at all times.
As writer, it’s your job to orient your readers, so they never feel lost.
Great writing takes your readers by the hand and leads them on a journey. You must introduce one idea at a time, logically tying each to the previous idea, until your readers see the big picture as clearly as you do.
Don’t mix things up or introduce random ideas without telling people what you’re doing. Use a strong narrative structure to organize your information, then guide your readers one idea at a time.
Mistake #5: You’re Not Saying Anything New
If you’re recycling the same old ideas as everyone else in your industry or sharing other people’s ideas without injecting your own thoughts, you’re dealing in low-quality content.
Generally, the creation process for low-quality blog posts looks like this:
- Research what others have written on your topic.
- Grab a few ideas from those articles.
- Rearrange the ideas into your own article.
- Save and send to a well-known blog (or click “publish” on your own blog)
That’s not good enough. You need to share original ideas from your own experience, your personal response to what’s going on in the industry, or new approaches to trending topics. And you probably need to edit.
It is important to keep a pulse on the hot topics of the day. So yes, research what others are saying. But don’t copy.
Add to the conversation. Say something new.
Your blog posts will be a lot more interesting if you write like you talk. So be yourself. Share your ideas. Ask questions. Explore ideas that pop into your head.
And while you’re at it, work on your writing skills. Low-quality, stinky blog posts don’t help your content marketing efforts, and they don’t help your reputation as a thought leader.
It’s time to step up your game. Avoid the top five mistakes I’ve listed here… and you’ll find your blog posts not only get read, but get shared and commented on too.