How to write a great blog

First, I’d like to say that there is no how-to guide or recipe for writing a brilliant post. That being said, I’d also like to point out the fact that some posts seem to perform better than others. Lists and guides usually receive more comments and likes than “normal” blogs.

So this is not a how to guide. We’re just going to talk about the major components of a blog post.

The title

It’s very important to come up with a catchy title. This along with the first paragraph are the first to be noticed by readers. Also, the title shouldn’t be too long.

The opening paragraph

This paragraph determines whether or not a reader will read (or try to) your entire post. It should aptly describe what the post is about. If you can come up with a snappy sentence, than do it.

The rest of the damn thing

You should do well on your own here. In fact, there isn’t much I can help you with. Yeah, I could say a bunch of nonsense and act like I know it all, but I’m not going to. Because what worked for me might not work for you. Also, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.

I just write. As simple as that. I write what I want, when I want, how I want, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe there’s a good advice here: don’t be afraid to take a stand.

One of the most harmful things you can do in this life is to try to please everyone. You can’t. This is your virtual space, your online home. Try to tell people what you think, what’s your opinion about this or that, and I guarantee you, people will respond.

My most popular posts are basically opinion pieces. The post that got Freshly Pressed, the ones that got hundreds of comments, all of them are about me taking a stand. A lot of people agree, a lot disagree. But they all know what I think about that certain topic.

Blogs are for opinions. For everything else, we’ve got Mastercard and Wikipedia.

Well, this is not entirely true, but you get the idea.

In time you start to realize what people expect to read from you. You also start to understand what you’re really good at. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Write different types of posts, try out some weekly features. You never know.

As you gain confidence, you’ll feel more comfortable about tackling more sensitive issues.

The only way to grow as a writer is to write. A lot. Also, if you have the time, read other blogs. Popular blogs, not so popular blogs, everything actually. That way you’ll get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. You might even spot some of your own faults.

Try to find your own voice. Don’t listen to people telling you how to write. They can’t write your posts for you.

Links and tags

Don’t forget to add these. Two, three links to relevant information, articles, or other blogs are very useful. For SEO and what not And your followers will thank you. Also, don’t forget to add tags. That’s how the Freshly Pressed editors find you. And readers can know what to expect from your post.

Format the damn thing

Layout is very important. What do you want your readers to focus on? Think very carefully.

If you have a longer post add:

  • subtitles
  • lists
  • blockquotes

Try to make the post look nice. Add pictures, sketches, whatever. There should be a balance… you know the eye grows tired when it sees a lot of words. Font size, colors, all that stuff.

Like I said, there’s no secret formula to writing a great blog. All you can do is write. Indeed, it’s important to focus on content, but don’t forget that the visual layout of your posts is equally important.

Now, I’d like to know what do you think. What do you think makes a blog great? Is it the content? Or the layout? Or a mixture of both?


Tomorrow we’ll talk about one of the greatest blogging tools available for free: Zemanta


109 thoughts on “How to write a great blog

  1. i read these with interest. The daily and weekly changes in the numbers who seem to be reading my blog change inan incomprehensible manner. So I just press on with my personal opinions, written as interestingly as I can.


  2. I like your direct no-nonsense advice. Catchy title, a first paragraph that draws the reader in, and then the rest is up to you! Yes, that's good advice. No bullshit! Thanks, Cristian. You're credible.


  3. Obviously with the number of followers you currently have, you're doing something right. This is a great post for someone like me who is new to Word Press. I guess I need to study up on WP because I'm not sure what you mean by a "Tag". :)


  4. A good blog post?

    For me, the following are important, in no particular order:

    >Punctuation. There should be some, and it should be in the right places.

    >At least try to sound organised. I should not have to try to pick the sweeties of information out of the gravel of irrelevant, useless crap.

    >Do not try to pretend to be something, or someone, that you're not. It always shows. This includes pretending that you know more than you do. That shows too.

    >Blog about something you enjoy, or are interested in. Preferably both. If you are interested, then you might make me interested – even if I usually wouldn't be.

    >If you are an author, do not try to sell me your book every five seconds. If I like your writing style, and you have made it known that you are an author (by a prominent link/picture on your blog) then I will check out your book on my own. If you hassle me, I will treat you like any other door-to-door salesman, and I will hide behind the sofa. There is an art to selling people things they didn't know they wanted. You have to make them want the thing first.

    >Opinions are good. Your blog is yours -you can be as opinionated as you like. Anyone who doesn't like it can feel free to leave.

    Anyway, that's my contribution. You keep writing, I'll keep reading. :-)


  5. Love your blog posts, they're witty and informative and above all helpful. As for the whole subject of writing great blogs, I don't think I'll ever 'get it'. I just write as best I can, I think you've either got it or you haven't. I'm not sure what 'it' is, but I'm working on it. Thought you might be interested in my attempt at tackling this sort of subject. Or not, I dunno! You may be bored senseless. I tried!


    • Several commenters want more word count from hopefull4many's posts and they are usually 350 plus words. One or two are longer (over 550 words). Like Cristian says" write on something you find interesting" and if it is short (only 100 words) or if it takes you longer to "not have anything else to say", then you are finished. Word count is just a number. It is more important to say what you want than how many words. The turn off is saying nothing just to get a word count.


    • Yep, I agree with hopefull4many. The best advice I was given was, "if you don't have anything to say, shut up". Sometimes my blogs are quite long (over 500), other times really short (about 200). I'm constrained a little as I have a particular topic that I blog about for my work but the same principle still applies.


  6. I think it's a mixture of both, and sometimes timing. My post on iOS 6 and iPhone 5 made my views fly up because I wrote it on the day of release. Apart from that I fully agree here, just write what you want and when you feel like it and the response will be varied but indeed existent.

    I'm new to wordpress too, so I'm still learning the ropes.


  7. Humor, definitely humor. And don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I was scared to start my blog. In fact, it took me three months just to convince myself to publish it. I don't have the faintest idea of how it will turn out, but it's helping me tremendously. I'm new and still learning about blogging, so thanks for the advice! Once I figure out how to do it, I will re-blog this post.


  8. Your prolific writing of late is like drinking from a fire hose. I'm off to a writer's conference in New Mexico next week and trying to take in as much as possible. It's tough to keep up but all good.


  9. Thanks, Cristian. For whatever it's worth, I think individuality and independence are paramount. Content trumps layout/design every time for me, understanding the limited wherewithal for many to the latter art. Theophania… agreed.

    I think, also, understanding what you want to get out of the blog is important, but that probably goes without saying. I just use mine, for example, as practice and as a catchall for thoughts/ideas. Very little traffic, but that's fine, as I don't really promote and that's not what it's about. A box to put my stuff in… maybe to gather up later.

    Sorry, babbling.


  10. I usually go for content over appearance though the layout is a bonus! I've read some really good blogs that are on terrible backgrounds and have teeny tiny fonts but I generally don't revisit them very often…..I should probably tell them in the comments section but it always feels a bit rude to point it out! My pet hate is dark muted font colours on dark backgrounds….Nanna's eyesight just cant cope with that anymore!! I'm doing a writing course at Uni that advises serif fonts like Times Roman for reading on paper and sans serif like Arial for online/screen reading, it's something to do with how easy it is to read on different formats. I also hear there are websites out there dedicated to having Comic Sans removed from the entire known universe :)


  11. Thanks for the advice! I think a good blog is all of the above. I look at it like a print ad. Catchy, informative and some eye candy. I also like to make it flow in such a way, that the reader can easily follow along without feeling like its homework. I agree, writing about what you like and no about is most important and seems to work best. cheers!


  12. Well written advice. And the layout looks appealing too. :) What hooks me is original content. Not necessarily unique, but from the heart or what the author/artist captures themselves rather than collected from other sources. Share a piece of yourself and it will come back to you, I think. There are a lot of photos and ideas out there, but there is only one You.


  13. I actually think it's also important to "close" a blog post properly; it can be an open ending with a question, it can be a conclusion of sorts, or it can just be "that's all I have to say on the matter". Sometimes you read blog posts that feel like the writer just suddenly got interrupted and pressed "publish", which lets the reader down and can ruin the entire post – and at least for me can ruin my desire to read any following posts on that blog.


  14. Zemanta is amazing. Right now they are having some technical difficulties, in that the widget is not loading for some blogs. But they are working hard to try to fix it, and being very friendly and apologetic about it. Like you said, free service and it's led me to many other great blogs of interest.


  15. I totally agree with You that it is both content and layout. First catch the eye, then captivate the mind. Everyone's opinion counts for something, and like You say, we can't please everyone. I guess another tip could be to establish who You want your audience to be, and then make sure that You relate to them. Thank You for the helpful advice :)


  16. I totally agree about the title and first paragraph, but I also agree that you need to write about something you're passionate about. As a new blogger I am still learning, always good to get some tips and tricks :)


  17. Blogs are for opinions. For everything else, we’ve got Mastercard and Wikipedia. – lol. I need to learn to bring more humour into my writing I think. Thanks for the inspiration – you have great talent.


  18. That was really useful to read, and reassuring too! I read a blog the other day about what how to write a good blog and I found it overly prescriptive, critical and rude. Yours on the other hand was honest, open minded and thought provoking. Thanks :)


  19. Thanks for this post. Can I add,

    I always believe you should hit Draft at least five times before you hit Publish. In between, go away and make coffee, or tea, come back and read it through. You might then be thinking, did I really write this?! Never go away and fetch alcohol, you'll believe every word you've written is brilliant.

    And one day I might even follow my own advice.


  20. What in the world is Zemanta?! Whatever it is, I want it, too. :)
    I've considered writing more list-like posts but have been breaking down my posts into categories instead. I've never had a whole bunch of readers, so I'm probably one of those who need format updating. But, I'm not too concerned with the amount of readers… For now. Life sure keeps me busy.


  21. When reading blogs, or some emails, I tend to skip the latter parts if I find it too long. Consequently, when writing, I try not to make my posts too long. I usually try to keep them below 1,000 words.

    If the content is too much, I split it into multiple posts.


  22. nicely done. i tend to write longer, but i've become more conscious of that so i'm being more surgical in what i write. i've sort of made a deal with myself: if i get beyond 1500 words, it better be really important or really funny. and visuals as you suggest – call outs, pics help a lot to calm the eye.

    hey, i wonder if you would like to guest blog for me some day… ? (seriously!!) -molly


  23. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! It has been very helpful. I wrote quite a bit in high school but becane an artist and everything went to the visual right brain, so my esteem and verbal tools are rusty in the writing compartment. You're giving me confidence that my blogging intuition, isn't half bad. Great!


  24. Thanks for the tips… not that I'm writing FOR anyone other than myself…LOL, but I do know I have a few who read or are just polite enough to hit the like button. :D It's nice to know that it's safe to do opinion blogs. I do tend to do that more than my poetry, photography or writing…. but that's because I have my opinion about things and don't really care what other's think. They are entitled to their opinion even if they disagree.. Your blogs are always interesting and often most helpful. :D


  25. Real good advice, this. :)

    Hmm, I think maybe (to me) what makes a blog great (at least for the ones I follow) is content. For example (I'm going to use your blog here) even if you have a kick-ass (excuse the language) layout, if the content is, well, crap it's not worth my time. But even if you have the crappiest layout, if the content is REALLY good/interesting then it IS very worth my time. Although a combo of both would help. :)

    Yours are a combo of both, but I particularly like the content. :)


  26. Love this post. I think that the content is most important but you do bring up a great point in regard to layout. If I visit a blog and its content is too clustered or there are no images breaking up long paragraphs, it can be difficult to lure new readers let alone maintain the following you have. My blog is on the lighthearted side and my most popular posts are ones filled with personal pictures and descriptions. Thanks for the tips!


  27. Good advice Chrisian. Just follow the proper format and write what you know and are passionate about. Keep the advertising links to a minimum. I'm just getting started in the blogging world and appreciate the advice. Nice job Christian.


  28. Don't forget spell check and grammar. I know I am not perfect at this but I do try to make a conscious effort. I also re-read my posts after a day or so and look for mistakes.


  29. I love the advice you give here. And I agree it's a mix of format and content. Even books that I love, when paragraphs start to get too long, no break up, nothing to keep the eye moving along, it's hard to keep going. It's great when people add little touches to their blogs (font formatting, bullets, etc.) :)


  30. Thanx for the post I've just started blogging so i find it difficult…

    I'm not a good writer so i don't don't really know who to make a good post…

    I agree with you on the formatting thing i think what most attracts people to read anything is the layout and formatting as it makes it easier for eyes to follow….


  31. Thank you for sharing this information. I think both (visual & content) are equally important, but it is better to put content in text only when there is no interesting picture to put. May I know what is your opinion?


  32. When I first started blogging, I was writing because I want people to know that I write. I was trying to be impressive, I was trying to sound smart.

    But it didn't make me feel good.

    So I started writing for me. I write what I want, what I feel, when I feel it. I write about opinion pieces and just like you said, I write about the things I take a stand on. Even though I feel that I am going against the grain, I keep on writing about the things I feel most strongly about.

    And before I know it, I was gaining followers and getting more comments than ever. And the amazing this is, I didn't feel like I need to gain more followers or that I'm writing just for the comments.

    I want to continue writing simply because I want to share what I feel.

    For me, most of the times, content works better than layout. Mainly because I don't dress up my posts so much most of the times. When I feel a little fancy, then I will bother with colors and formats and catchy sketches etc.

    I find tagging your post and using the correct related links helps too.


  33. Great post. I agree with your suggestions. Rued my choice of first para on last post re gender-divided kids books – when picked up in Twitter / facebook it doesn't reflect the content, and I agree with you that that is important. Lesson learned!


  34. Pingback: Ten useful things I’ve learned about blogging « Serendipity

  35. I completely agree. I also just write. It isn't unusual for me to be surprised by what drops onto the page … Blogging is fun because it's the freest writing in the world, limited only by our imaginations. It's the most fun I've had in years!


  36. Excellent points Theophania! I absolutely agree 100% with all of them. Add your points to Christian's points and one might actually have an excellent blog. The punctuation and the selling me something are two pet peeves of mine.


  37. Pingback: When to write a blog post (and when not to) « The Bishop Review

  38. This was spot on what I needed to read tonight. I’m new in these parts but have been reading a lot – – you’re the first person (at least that I’ve come across) that mentions formatting as being significant. I am a short story writer/novelist at heart so lots (and lots!) of words have NEVER tired my eyes but I remember when I tried my hand at screenplays, that was the first thing we learned….WHITE SPACE. I am realizing this is very much the same, probably even more crucial. So thank you and here’s to subtitles and blockquotes!


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