What makes a good blog? It’s one of those questions that if you ask the average person in the street they may struggle to answer. Whilst many people may have a favourite blog, that they read weekly or even daily, few would be able to put their finger on exactly why they like it.
This is because there is no one aspect to a successful blog, it’s a sum of all its parts more often than not and this will incorporate:
- Excellent writing
- A strong ‘voice’
- Great design and strong CTA
It should go without saying that a good blog contains well written, useful and informative content, but it’s not always the case. Many blog owners unfortunately take the route of writing it themselves, even if their skills don’t lie in this area. There are a wealth of good writers online (although they are not always easy to find) and so if you’re not one of them, find one and pay them.
In order to go about this, firstly a business should decide on the following:
- Will the blog be ghost written or will you find a writer that’s an authority in the niche and use their bio and Google Authorship
- Will the blogger carry out the strategy – coming up with titles, organising publishing dates etc.
Plenty of writers also provide content strategy and SEO services, as they complement what they do, but many others don’t, so making this decision is important in the first instance as it will dictate your choice of writer.
The ‘voice’ of any written piece (or audio and video for that matter) is the personality of the writer/brand shining through. It’s what makes a blog unique and can be the difference between a good and bad blog. Tone should be approachable, something that many corporate blogs fail completely on as they struggle too hard to be authoritative. This often results in over-wordy pieces that are dry and quite frankly, dull.
To arrive at what the tone of voice for a blog should be it’s all about knowing who you’re speaking to. The reader is your highest priority and so in order to properly address them, you need to know them inside out – even better than they know themselves.
Common blogging mistakes include:
- Over complexity
- Using over complicated language
- Using jargon
- Being obsessed with word counts
- Writing for SEO and not the audience
Remember that if you want your readers to trust you so that they’ll return again and again, then it’s important that they don’t feel patronised or intimidated by your content. A good blog is easy to read and whilst some blogs will assume a certain level of knowledge, the less that’s assumed about the reader, the better.
Let’s have a look at the above blog – what’s wrong with it?
- The title – whilst perhaps attempting to be self-deprecating, it just comes across as someone without a sense of humour attempting to have one. Couple that with the strapline and it’s just not funny nor, I would imagine, very successful
- Design – It’s not too bad, at least it’s relatively clean, but there are huge blocks of text that don’t look good to the eye
- The RSS feed – is this another joke? I’m not too sure
- The content – It’s all about me, me, me. The language is also unnecessary – whilst I’m not suggesting that a blog has to be prudish, it’s worth thinking about the fact that your audience might not appreciate profanity for the sheer sake of it. The content is also pretty pointless and self-indulgent and is a platform for the author, not much there for the reader
Blog owners don’t always take into account the design of the blog and assume that the content itself is enough. That’s not true though, a good blog should be clean and simple, with plenty of white space so that the eye can scan easily and a clear bio. It’s also a good idea to ensure that there’s a clear call to action, such as newsletter sigh-up, clearly visible near the top of the page.
Individual blog post
As you can see in the example above, this blog uses color well and ensures that this is offset by plenty of white. The title is nice and large, kept to the left of the page, not centred, as this is the way that we read, from left to right. There are two calls to action visible in this screenshot, which immediately serve to tell the reader what else they can take away from the blog.
Front page of the blog
As you can see, the front page of the blog is well laid out too, with nice images for each post set out in magazine style, which is in keeping with the industry it relates too and, therefore, its audience.
The language used is good:
The YotaPhone is the next generation of the hairstyle we know and love and also hate: a business in the front, party in the back Android with two totally different screens. It’s a celebration like you’re used to on one side with a 5-inch, colour (sic) AMOLED display. Flip it over, and there’s a more demure, Kindle-like 4.7 inch electronic paper display on the other.
- Friendly language that addresses a relatively young audience
- Short sentences
It’s also a very visual blog that uses plenty of images alongside the ability for the reader to pin them easily. This is another CTA, encouraging visitors to share, even as they are actually reading the piece.
Authority and Trust
The word authority now has a whole new set of connotations, thanks to blogging and the net. A good blog will be an authority on its industry and will seek to inform and entertain its readers whilst providing them with the sense that they are gaining information from a source that can be relied upon.
This does of course take time to build, but a blog is an ongoing project and it takes a while for readers to understand that they can trust what you’re saying. In order to build and reinforce trust, there are a few tactics to take.
- Perform guest blogging on well-known sites which will get your name out there
- Provide supporting information wherever possible from reputable sources – this can be achieved by finding the sites that your readers already trust and linking to them in your articles (citation). This should be done in such a way that it’s clear that you are including the link to say that you’re referring to the blog as a source of information, not just for the sake of sticking a link in it
- Blog often as this begins to give readers a sense that they can check your blog out and will usually find new material to enjoy. If you don’t blog regularly, people will soon lose interest and go elsewhere
- What you know and love is generally the best thing you can write about, as people tend to see that you care about your subject and so will read on. It’s much nicer to read something where it’s clear someone really knows what they’re talking about than a half-researched blog that’s a bit wishy washy and sketchy on the details
The latter brings us back to voice. Even if your blog is ghost written, a good writer will be able to adjust their tone in order to suit your business and should be given enough rein for their own personality to shine through. The voice should incorporate a real enthusiasm about the industry and give the impression that the author knows it well and loves writing about it.
We all know the value of social media but some corporate bloggers are somewhat snobbish when it comes to sharing. This means that somehow, they believe Facebook and similar to be ‘beneath’ their industry. This approach generally means they don’t get any readers, and those that do visit and read don’t share, as there’s a lack of buttons allowing them to do so.
On this kind of blog, you may find a LinkedIn company profile, as this is professional networking so it’s just not as downright common as Facebook. This is the type of blog that I often find is associated with an online presence that’s faceless and ultimately, personality less.
For a blog to work, it should:
- Include a comments system
- Have plenty of means to share
Have an RSS feed
Comments and social sharing help give a blog a sense of community and if this takes off, then it’s likely to become one of the most important aspects to the blog that you will own.
Engagement is one of the most difficult things to achieve online, so it must be encouraged in every way it can. Social is great for adding that little bit extra personality into sharing, as it can be carried out when posting a share with a personal comment.
A commenting system that takes off is gold though, for readers and SEO alike. If you look at a high profile social media influencer, and study their tweets, you’ll find that many articles that they post are not put up that day, but go back months.
This is evergreen content that is being kept further alive by the comments system; OK, a post might not be new, but it will have new comments which keep the post and discussion surrounding it alive for ages.
There’s no secret to good blogging, it’s just a case of knowing what works and what doesn’t. Good writing, coupled with great design and enthusiasm are enough to get readers interested. A sense of community and engagement, frequent posting and a strong CTA will keep them coming back for more.