An editor’s advice on how to determine if you have the essential elements of a successful—and shareable!—blog post.
1. Will people click on it?
Headlines are what compel a reader click on and share any given post, so spend some time finessing yours. Keep it friendly and conversational, punch it up with alliteration, wit and wordplay, and make it informative—tell readers exactly what they’re going to get, and be specific. Consider that odd-numbered lists, how-to statements and ultimate/beginner guides most commonly go viral, while headline lengths of 8 to 14 words are most often shared on Facebook and Twitter (and longer, and they’re likely to seem complicated and confusing). Brainstorm a bunch of options so you can whittle the list down to your best—and when in doubt, ask a friend which one’s their favourite.
2. Is it attention-grabbing?
Less than fifteen seconds. That’s how much reader attention most blog posts get, so you need hook your audience from the start. A compelling first sentence is key. Ask a question, share a surprising statistic, make a controversial statement, confess a secret. Whatever you do, begin with a hook so interesting it’ll be impossible not to read what comes next: your main thesis and the overall point of your piece. This is where you need to be straightforward, clear and concise. It’s where you let readers know what exactly you’re writing about. You have only a few sentences to prove not only that you’re an expert on the subject, but also that the subject is something they’re interested in hearing more about. The readers have already clicked on your piece, but the intro is where you have to prove that it’s worth reading.
3. Is it readable?
Just because blogs can go on forever doesn’t mean they should. Your readers’ time is valuable. They aren’t likely to waste precious seconds searching for your point, so make each sentence clear and clever—and have it serve a purpose. According to content management experts HubSpot, 43 percent of readers admit to skimming blog posts, which is why it’s essential to break up your content into pithy categorized subheads (and why listicles are so popular). This allows readers to scan content and decide what pieces are relevant to them; huge blocks of text will likely turn readers off. In addition to breaking up your content, consider these keys to a engaging read: Get to the point, remove filler words, switch up sentence structure, limit your use of big words, keep sentences short, be clear and concise, offer evidence where applicable and use graphics where appropriate.
4. Is the grammar darn near perfect?
Nothing says “this author is unreliable” like egregious errors—and a simple spell check can’t always save you. Speaking from personal experience, spell check might not, for example, catch when you’ve written “contentious” instead of “conscientious.” And should you commit the cardinal sin of using “your” instead of “you’re” or “their” instead of “there,” the grammar police will descend into your comments, making you look careless and untrustworthy even to those who didn’t initially notice the oversight. Free grammar checkers like Grammarly can help, but it’s also essential to learn the art of self-editing. Let your writing sit for a day or two and come back to it with a fresh mind, review it several times and read your piece different ways (print it out, read it out loud, read it from end to beginning).
5. Is it personable?
What makes those (depressingly few) readers who stay until the very last word then share your work on their social media? You’ve ensured your post is catchy, compelling, scannable and grammatically (almost) perfect—now ask yourself if you’re saying something new, fresh and true to you. Do ample research to establish your expertise (and tell readers why you’re an expert). Make sure your post says something different that similar ones on the same subject, (and don’t be shy to remind readers of this edge). Add your unique voice (readers who relate to your style of writing are more likely to become loyal audience members.) Share your own insights and make it professionally conversational to make your post seem unique, approachable and, above all, a genuine reflection of you.