There is no greater disappointment than visiting someone’s blog and finding content that is bland, rambling, and, in general, underwhelming. You know the experience. We may love the writer personally and want to cheer them on, but in reality, we are skimming over the paragraphs without absorbing any of it.
Let’s avoid that on our own blogs, okay?
Quality content is so much more important than website design and the perfect crop on your photos. If you have a blog, your content tells the reader who you are and how clearly you convey information; it showcases your knowledge, your writing style, and your ability to connect.
No pressure or anything, but your blog better be damn good. I mean, if you’re going to spend all that time writing content, you want people to actually read it. And, you know, bonus points if they read that one post and go digging around your site for more.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be a natural writer to master the skill of blogging. Even creative writers can struggle with this kind of writing. Crafting a strong blog post is more about organization, clarity of purpose, and audience awareness than it is about clever phrasing and figurative language.
After over fifteen years of teaching college composition courses, the basics are so ingrained in me that I can’t help but look for them and want to share them, too. There’s a better way to blog and it has nothing to do with your images or your affiliate links. (Those are different topics completely).
Note: if you blog as a form of journaling, without the intent of others reading, this post isn’t for you. Same goes if you use your blog to share poetry or fiction. Do your thing. But if you do hope that people will read your content and understand your ideas, please keep reading. No matter what you write or how you write it, purpose and audience are key.
In short, purpose means that you have a reason for writing. Your purpose is closely related to your main point. Spoiler alert: your blog posts should have a point and then make that point early and often. In theory, you can wait until the end of your post to reveal your main point, but you probably aren’t writing a mystery in a blog. No need to build suspense.
Where to begin? Your title and your first paragraph should at least strongly hint at your main point. If you make readers wait too long to figure out what you’re saying, you risk losing them — for good.
Think back to an English class where you had to write essays. Regardless of the topic of your essays, there was always a prompt or a main point. The teacher told you what kind of paper to write in or what mode. Modes include narrative, compare/contrast, and cause and effect. You may have been given a purpose, as well: to persuade, to inform, to analyze, and so on.
Knowing the purpose, what kind of paper you were writing, ideally made the writing process easier than if you were given free rein. (Of course, if your teachers told you to write anything you wanted for five pages without having a purpose, you had a vastly different experience from most of us). The purpose mattered in your assignments because you were being graded on certain criteria. If you wrote a personal narrative when you were supposed to write a persuasive research paper, your grade would suffer.
Now apply this to writing a blog post. Do you have a purpose in mind for this post? And can your reader determine that purpose?
Questions to ask:
What is my goal with this post?
What do I want readers to know or learn by the end?
What is my main point and subpoints?
How will the post support my main point and my purpose?
If you realize your post doesn’t have a point or that it took a really long time to get to your point, revision is part of the process. Even previously published posts can be edited. Ask yourself what purpose you had in mind when writing the post and make sure it is clear throughout.
Audience is one of the other fundamental parts of writing that I teach in composition courses. Once you know your audience, you can tailor everything from your headings and images to the examples and wording in your post. For example, you would write differently for a group of non-experts than you would for readers who are experts and understand the same jargon as you. When you think about what others want to read about, you are thinking about audience.
If you do not currently have many readers for your blog, don’t worry. The bigger question when thinking about audience is, “who is this post intended for?” Please do not say your audience is everyone. Yes, in theory, everyone could potentially be in your audience. You are going to make your message so clear and specific and helpful to your audience, though, that you need to have some clear idea about who you’re writing for.
How do you find out who your audience is and what they care about? You can poll them or ask questions (possibly via a newsletter or social media). Or it may help to listen to the questions they ask. Check out Facebook groups in your area of expertise and focus on listening. Lurk a little bit. Social media is great for this.
Your audience is full of real, live people, and they’re out there. Help them find you by creating content that appeals to their interests, questions, and fears, content that seems meant just for them.
By considering purpose and audience, your blog posts will get stronger and more consistent. No more skimming or rambling. Your English teacher would be proud.
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