Many of us write well. Many of us also engage with really important or popular issues in our blog posts. Yet, some bloggers turn out more successful than others. How does that happen? What’s the big secret?
The most fundamental answer to this question about the big secret of writing a successful blog post is that there isn’t one. Readers know good content when they see it. They will not read anything that does not add value in some way (unless it’s your mother reading, of course!). So writers need to focus on quality first before anything else.
Yet, I’ve seen many great blogs that fail to engage the reader even with good content. “How does that happen?” I’ve asked myself many a time and have come up with the following cautionary points meant for good writers.
1. Do not reproduce a form that works on paper on the screen. Some very intricate blog posts are written simply as long essays in the same format as they would have been put down on paper. Paragraph after paragraph assail the reader without any visual cues or breaks or headings. Sometimes, content that is relatively easy to grasp, such as stories and anecdotes work just fine in this form but analytical essays that require a lot of critical thinking on the part of the reader are very hard to follow if the form does not help content on the screen.
2. Focus on those first few lines and the title. Remember that unlike anthologies, blog posts are often visible to readers only as the title and the first few lines in various feeds. Therefore, both of these have to catch the reader’s attention and provide a good sense of what the post is going to be about. Drab titles won’t work. However, simply catching attention followed by disappointment in terms of expectation will not help the cause at all.
3. Provide a point of connection with the reader in the initial lines. Whether your post is about a sudden thought you had, a DIY task, a short narrative or anything else, make sure that you are able to elicit the interest of your reader based on some commonality that goes beyond your own personal interest. Your topic should be introduced in a way in which others will want to read about it. You must put yourself in your readers’ shoes and look at your topic.
4. Provide glimpses of depth but don’t lose the reader in the deep. Point to the overly complex arguments that require investment of time and involved critical thinking perhaps in your other works such as books or essays or articles but don’t attempt to put them in the blog itself. I have observed through experience that with some exceptions, most people have expectations that a blog will be short, will touch on topics, will elicit emotions or start an argumentative point rather than carry any of these all the way through as an argumentative essay or a memoir or a story would.
5. Get the reader involved. Again, experience has taught me that an essay frequently imparts some kind of knowledge and the tone and the sequence of information/ arguments/ examples provided does not always expect the reader to “talk back.” The blog, however, has to involve the reader in order to thrive. So the writer has to engage the reader by eliciting their reactions through subtle methods, not just by simply adding a question at the end. Since the blog is also a living form in that it does not end with a single post but lives on the next time with the next post, it can morph by reacting to readers’ views. That’s what sets it apart from other forms of writing.