What is the one experience that all bloggers have in common when they decide to become a blogger? Two words, “information overload” It did not take me long to catch on to the simple truth that many successful bloggers (if accumulating money is your definition of successful) become so by tapping into the “How To Write A Blog Post Better” market. I am not one of them. Finding my family history is my goal and sharing my research as short stories will always be my focus. Saying that, although it has taken a while (2 years plus), I seem to have reached the stage where my posts now follow what could be described as a “writing blog post format” The end product is a post that works. Try it and see if it does the same for you too!
Learning From Mistakes
1. Understand Your Target Audience
My first mistake was a biggy! It went by the domain name of Ready Set Retire. As a new retiree my goal was to share my experiences, set goals and, in the process, get the most out of retirement. Unfortunately, I did not understand the make up of my audience and I would compare “Ready Set Retire” to writing a blog about “People Named Margaret”. In both cases, the target audiences do share common factors, but in no way would you accept them as homogenous groups. In fact bothgroups are as divergent as a colour wheel, which makes writing a blog post to reach a specific audience, an impossible task.
2. Chasing Keyword Numbers
Closely linked to understanding your target audience is knowing what your potential viewers want to read. There are two ways this can be done. The simplest way is check out other blogs in the same niche as yours which will highlight the most common topics. But, if you check out the “How To” of blogging, you will find “Keyword Searching” and it’s alter ego, “Search Engine Optimization” at the top of their lists. The concept of writing what readers want to know is a simple one, but I have to admit I never gave it a thought when I started my first blog. After many many hours, and a couple of paid for courses, I spent even longer chasing the illusive golden keyword. Of course, it doesn’t exist and I ended up boring myself silly writing about things I had no interest in! However, there is a middle ground where you search for the best keywords for what you want to write about. The goal is to write what potential viewers type into the “search box? For example, in “Writing Stories For Your Family Heirlooms” my working title was “Writing Stories For Your Family Treasures” However, using a keyword search I found the word “treasures” did not feature as a highly searched word in a way that supported my niche. Using Thesaurus to find alternative words I settled on ” heirlooms”. The next step was to see if this new word was a more successful keyword. Finding the numbers more positive I used the same keyword phrase in “Make Words Your Family Heirlooms” & “Downsizing Family Heirlooms” These are long tailed keywords which are more specific than using a single word. As such they more closely equate to what potential readers will type in the search bar/voice search. Using the searched word “heirlooms” in the title made it easier to be found by the search engines without changing the focus of my post. The best way to get visitors to your blog post is to answer the questions, “How to…., “What is……… For this post I used two long tailed keywords……………
- Blog writing format: Volume: 1,600/month and
- Writing blog posts: Volume: 1,600/month
I try to limit my focus to only two or three keyword phrases. Generally, I find that adding any more to my post tends to make for a confused focus. (Apparently this also confuses the “Google” bot) However, any extra keywords uncovered are not wasted as they are listed in my Notebook to become the starting point for my next post!
Focusing On Becoming A “Blogger”
If I am honest, in the beginning I looked at becoming a blogger as a way to make “pocket money” I have always enjoyed writing so it seemed feasible to me that I would have some success! When “Ready, Set, Retire” failed to entice any visitors I eventually took the pragmatic approach to look for a more profitable niche. This led me to begin a blog about fermenting food. Thankfully I only got as far as a free domain I called, “Fermented Pickles”. If I share with you the fact that I don’t like pickles in any form and I live on a boat with limited storage you can see how blinkered my focus on profitability was. I also dabbled with the idea of writing & making “Bathroom Fragrances” I came down to earth with a thud when my husband asked me what I was going to do with the products as I don’t have a bath!
Eventually the penny dropped that writing a better blog post would only happen if I was connected to what I was going to write about. To be honest, I can not claim credit for this “light bulb” moment. Once again, the credit goes to my husband who, whilst sitting quietly in the recliner next to me, looked over and said, “I thought you wanted to write family stories”? As simple as that, “Warts and All” was born.
In the process of setting up a blog, writing posts & searching for the “magic keyword bullet” I have learned by my mistakes. According to the oft repeated Chinese proverb, this has given me an understanding of the process of writing blog posts that works for me, the writer, as well as my target audience.
3. Giving Your Blog A Soul
Using keywords as writing prompts for your first step to writing your post, is not only time consuming, but can also dry up any motivational creativity that made you want to write in the first place! It also has the distinct possibility of producing blog posts that are factually correct but have no, what I call, “soul” In other words it is not “honest” writing. Most “How To” bloggers will (should) emphasise that well written, regular content is the key to success. No one is going to advertise on your page if the visitor numbers are low. No one will buy your product if Google lists your blog on page 25. Building up your blog authority through consistent, well written posts around a tight niche will, eventually, be rewarded. After a year of writing Warts and All, Google now knows I exist. As proof of this, the visitor numbers from Google searches to my site, are slowly increasing month on month. I’ve a long way to go but, as I am writing about what matters to me, I’m in no hurry. Already, my words have become the heirloom I will leave my family.
4. Ignoring Personal Writing Prompts
Like my parents I have had a rather “gypsy” lifestyle. One of the downsides of this choice is that one tends to avoid accumulating unnecessary baggage. Consequently I have very few photographs & even less physical family mementos. There are no saved birthday cards, school records or childhood drawings. Therefore, whatever has survived has immense family significance. One letter that has withstood the vagaries of this itinerant lifestyle was written by a nurse. It became a writing prompt for my first post about my brother. I had very little material to work with as I am the only member of my family still around. My elder relatives are all in the UK and have not been able to add any other photographs or records. However, my cousin did tell me he remembered my brother and I waiting on the front door step for my mother to finish work. The effect of these words was an emotional shock. It was the first time anyone had spoken of my brother and I in the real world. This casual memory became a precious personal link that led to A Love Letter For Jimmy It received many positive comments that showed my emotional connection was shared by my readers. The author of the comment below M.A. Lossl became the lynch pin for all the blog posts that followed.
“Hello dear friends, I was enchanted by this poignant story. A lost brother found“M.A. Lossl
Not all photographs have strong emotional connection. I have found photographs that leave me wondering what was going on and why! The photograph of my mother in a group photograph in front of a bus was one such image. Researching social history has always interested me as a way of understanding the dynamics behind how people lived and worked. Mum had written “Sharabang Outing” on the back of this photograph which made no sense to me. Who or what was a “Sharabang” It led me to discovering a social history with some unusual historical insights that turned blog research into an enjoyable break from writing. That enjoyment filtered into my writing to make that important emotional connection with my readers.
“I love this post Vicki. It’s so interesting and the great group photos and video depict happy times despite some hardships. I never knew what a charabanc or a Beano was! I must ask Mum and see if she remembers…….“Julie
Writing A Blog Post
For those who have already read my post “In The Beginning” you will recognise the quote below. At the time of writing I have to admit I did not realise how important this post was to become.
“I am writing in the same way I have lived my life. No planning, no purpose and no end goal!”
For me this means my family history will be written one story at a time, as and when material comes to hand. I encourage you to write a post that gives you permission to let go of the idea that writing a family history has to be both chronological and one person at a time. The simple act of writing words that state your desire to write freely without the constraints of perceived convention can be both motivating and liberating in equal amounts.
10 Easy Steps To A Blog Post Format That Works For You
Step 1. The Light Bulb moment happens when you know what you want to write about. If you are not itching to find the time to write your blog post or are bored with your background research then there’s a very good chance your reader will be too.
Step 2 This is the research phase. If you think you know your topic well you may be tempted to skip this step. However, writing a blog post is different from most other mediums in that If you want your writing to be read it first has to be found by a search engine! Taking the time for a quick browse online will confirm your ideas and possibly add material you may not have thought about. At this stage it is a good idea to save the links that contain new material. In my experience you can waste a lot of time trying to find that “really good idea” that you were going to come back to later!
Step 3. Brainstorming. This step is the most important as it forms a solid infrastructure for your winning blog post. At this stage I open a new page in Notebook but the process is the same wherever you write your draft post. I use a working title that is related to my “Light Bulb Moment” which will invariably change as my writing becomes more focused. Brainstorming ideas for content includes material I want to write about as well as interesting ideas from my research. In the first instance it is a simple list of bullet points. Once I have covered all the material I group the bullet points into connected topics. This gives me the basic headings and will highlight any glaring omissions.
Step 4. Based on the draft I do a quick keyword check to make sure the subject and supporting topics have the potential to attract readers. It may seem counter intuitive to do a keyword search after the draft but my goal is to write freely rather than trying to make my writing fit a specific keyword. Changing my first choice word to fit keyword numbers is totally different to changing the focus of my post!
Step 5. There are 3 options to choosing a featured image. The first option is obviously to use family photographs. Hopefully someone will have labelled the photo so you know who it is or you have a relative who can identify the subjects from personal memory. Having not inherited many family photographs I have had to learn to be creative. The free, Canva programme is a personal favorite of mine. It is simple to use and the results get better the more you feel confident enough to use use all the options. For some reason, opening up my blog post to be greeted by a visual delight underneath the heading motivates me to start writing. Free Google images are the third option as long as you understand the concept of copywrite. It is not difficult to avoid this Bogey Man as there is a handy tool that allows you to filter the photographs to only show those that can be used without infringing on copyright laws. Simple!
Step 6. The first paragraph is the most important you will write. This is your chance to “hook” your reader. Get it right and they won’t hesitate to click on the “Read More” link. As you can see I place this paragraph directly under the image that will be used to promote this post. It also becomes the “excerpt” which in WordPress is used to give an overview of the post.
Step 7. The next step is to add headings. In theory this should not be difficult providing Step 2 was successful. The headings should have almost formed themselves as the bullet points are grouped into like minded content.
Step 8. I use the WordPress platform for my writing which has a draft section. This is where I expand my bullet points into writing prose. As each bullet point is covered I open my Notebook page and write DONE in red beside it. Those of you who write lists and add items just so you can scratch them out or tick them will know how satisfying this habit is! Below is an example of how I keep track of my brainstorming bullet points.
. Failed first blog: no networking, wrong focus, topic boring for me! DONE
Step 9. I like to add images to each section of my post as this breaks the text into readable chunks. A good image can also add immediate curiosity. It also gives the opportunity to use your keyword in the caption and the file name of the image.
Step 10. Make a personal connection. There are many ways to do this depending on the goal of your blog post. Whether you are promoting freebies, selling a product or sharing information, acknowledging the reader can provide both parties with a positive experience. For me, it is the comments I have received that have given me motivation, support and validation as a “writer” to continue “Warts and All”.
Tips For Writing A Better Blog Post
- A blog post should be easy to read in your own, personal voice
2. Write a blog post that connects you, the writer, with your reader. It is a mercurial quality but one which I would describe as “honest” writing.
3. Use a clean font such as Monserrat or Raleway with a font size no smaller than 12-14 pt.
4. Highlight important words in bold or italics. This lets the reader know it’s not a place to skim over. It will also draw their attention to further text down the page.
5. Use white space and images to break up text blocks. Unbroken text can overload the reader into thinking your blog post is too “wordy”
6. Headings should accurately describe the content but also include a catchy descriptor if possible. For example my heading above could have been “Keyword Numbers” but “Chasing Keyword Numbers” was more emotive
7. Images that support the content and gives the reader added visual information. If possible your image should be saved using a keyword. The caption should also be relevant to your keyword. (It all helps your Google search properties)
8. There is no definitive answer to the best blog post length. The best I could offer is it all depends! As a new blogger I would suggest keeping your blog post to around 900-1500 words or a 20-30 minute read
9. Do not be tempted to try & cover everything in one post. Instead, link to another post or use the overflow material to become the foundation of a new post. This new post can link back to the one you are currently working or other posts of a similar focus.
10. After posting: don’t fret the stats but see if there is a trend you can use such as visitors coming from Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. I began by using Facebook, “Writing Stories For Your Family History”, (consider this an invitation to join!) to drive visitors to my site. This is an easy tactic but avoid “over stuffing” or FB will get grumpy and close down your posts! I have my own Facebook page and try to link a post 3-4 times a week. I am a member of a dozen or so groups where I answer questions and give tips to other bloggers. Depending on the group rules, I always try to leave an appropriate link to a blog post.
11. A pre-editing read does not focus on grammatical errors or spelling mistakes and typos. This level of reading takes a more subjective approach. Now is the time to ask yourself these questions
- Was it honest?
- How did you feel when you wrote it? If it evoked feelings in you it has more chance of doing the same for your readers
- What did you leave out and why?
- It may be you realise you have covered a lot of material. Ask yourself if this post is the best place for it. Maybe it needs it’s own linked post.
- What is the overall visual impression of the page?. Don’t be afraid to reduce cluttered content. This is usually an indicator that you have tried to include more material than you need. As above, it may need it’s own linked post.
- The other alternative to self editing it to give it to a family member or close friend. I must confess to doing this, but only once. It was a sobering experience as the only comments received was a spelling mistake and an incorrect date! Consequently I much prefer the 24 cool down period followed by my own, clear eyed objective read through.
- Save your best comments to remind yourself that your readers like what you’ve written. My first post, A Love Letter For Jimmy received comments that urged me forward. In comparison to the personal nature of this post, I wanted to venture into the world of writing templates Templates are ideal for those times when material is short and research fails to turn up enough information for even a short story. I was out of my comfort zone, big time, and it was a huge learning curve which made the comments from visitors even more rewarding.
“Thanks for this piece, reviewing it was actually a new delight. I have actually skimmed many short articles about the topic. Maintain the great work, looking forward to your publications.Robertson
2. Add variety to your blog posts. Sometimes you need to be ready to think outside the box, take a risk, spice up your writing life! My next winning blog post already has it’s own Notebook page. If you keep an open mind it is possible to find a blog post idea in the most unusual places. To make a change from researching the lives of my relatives and writing up the results I am always on the look out for a post that comes out of nowhere. Yesterday I found a beauty. It seems that I, along with other members of the family, have a genetic trait I did not realise had a name. It seems I have Moretons Toe, where the big toe is not the biggest.
As I am in the zone with writing this blog post I have added a new page to my Notebook with the working title of, “Hereditary & Family Genetics” My keyword search focused on, specific genetic defects and how hereditary genes are transmitted.
- Hereditary 30,473
- Inherited: 14,167
- Genetic & genetic disorders: 13,000
The keywords, in themselves, are not difficult to use but more importantly this unusual blog post will add to my family history (albeit in a rather unconventional way)
Postscript To Writing A Winning Blog Post
For those looking to make monetary gains from your winning blog post I concede that you will not find specific monetization tips in this post. From my earliest research I read many times that monetary rewards can only come when your traffic numbers are such that you gain advertising rights. Having saleable e books also requires traffic/readers. It seems there are no short cuts. Well written, relevant content are the stepping stones to increasing your traffic that will, if that’s your goal, provide monetisation opportunities. As for me, I have to admit that I’m enjoying where I am. Perhaps in the future, if a suitable opening presents itself, I will go down that route as I’m not adverse to a little extra pocket money. So, never say never!
The number of followers a website accumulates is another numeric that haunts the new blogger. By successful blog criteria my followers are small in number. However, they are active with their comments which I take as a positive. With my Pollyanna hat on I am more than happy to compare my numbers to my first retirement blog. In which case my numbers are fantastic. It’s all a matter of perspective after all.
Supporting Links To Writing A Winning Blog Post
5 Templates To Quick Start Writing Your Family History A Gypsy Lifestyle Writers Block How To Stop Procrastinating A Love Letter For Jimmy All Aboard The Sharrabang Writing Stories For Your Family Heirloom Make Words Your Family Heirloom The Hidden Treasure Trove Of Family History Stories
Message From Me
I have to confess, if someone told me 2 years ago I would be offering advice on how to write a winning blog post I would have denied the possibility vehemently. Yet here it is! If it has helped you in any way then I am satisfied. If it helped enough for you to leave a comment or hit the “Like” button below I would flying high. Just Vicki
Brilliant clear guide.
Thanks Kristine. I hope it helps!