11 Tips You Can Use Today to Develop Outstanding Content for Your Blog

  • October 25, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 28 Comments

How often should I post on my blog?

How long should my posts be?

Can I have other people write articles for me?

How far can I stray from my chosen topic?

How do I create incredible content that attracts hundreds of comments and shares? How do I keep people coming back to read everything I publish?

At some point, all bloggers have these and dozens of other questions about developing content. Maybe you’re struggling with some of them right now.

As we gear up for the launch of our new blog Expert Enough as part of the Million Dollar Blog Project, we’ve been thinking a lot about content strategy. I’m going to share our content strategy for the new blog later in this post, but first, here are 11 of my top tips for developing outstanding content for your blog:

  1. Experiment with content types, formats, lengths and more.
  2. If I had to leave you with just one tip for creating outstanding blog content, it would be this: experiment broadly and often with all aspects of your content.

    Especially in the beginning, you need to try a lot of different things to figure out what works for you and your audience. Every situation is different. The types of posts that go viral on one blog might go flat on yours. Something that seems simple might become a huge hit at your site. You never know.

    There are lots of things to experiment with. Try really short posts, and really long ones. Try easy-to-read list type posts and try essay style posts. Try infographics and surveys and round-ups and ask-the-readers posts.

    The point is, if your blog isn’t a huge success yet, don’t just stick with the same old boring content groove you started with. Play around until you get a reaction from your audience. When you find something that resonates, run with that theme and try other similar posts.

    The more quickly and methodically you experiment, the sooner you’ll figure out what really works. Don’t waste time writing the same post over and over again expecting that one day you’ll be “discovered.” More than likely, you’ll just get bored yourself unless you try new things.

  3. Actively work to find your voice.
  4. Figuring out who you are as a writer is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying discovery. But, it can take a lot of time and dedication to really find your voice.

    Just like you need to experiment to figure out what content types work, you also need to experiment to find your voice. This has less to do with trying different content types, and more about trying different topic, different points of view and by playing with different roles and emotions.

    Here’s some of my best advice about finding your voice from a post that led to major breakthroughs for me:

    How do you convey your full personality through words? It’s not an easy thing. How do you show that you’re passionate, gutsy, funny, provocative, dynamic and vibrant like your friends know you to be? How do you let people know your full values, traits and even quirks through writing?

    There are two areas that keep us (or me) from fully self-expressing ourselves:

    The first is courage. It takes guts to do something you’ve never done before. Knowing that once you write something online it’ll be out there for good can make you question every word, every sentence, every blog post. And what if people don’t like your fully-self-expressed self? That could make a grown man cry. Or at least stop revealing himself.

    The second is writing ability. I’m not talking about innate writing ability, something you can only be born with. I’m referring to a learned skill here. The skill of being able to write conversationally, drawing on all of your experiences and thoughts and feelings, and to get those across in a coherent way. I think you can learn that skill. Some people come to it naturally, and other people have to work at it. Like me.

    Without the courage and skills, many of us end up with a half-assed persona online. Something that sounds stiff and formal in a way that we don’t sound in person. (Side note, this doesn’t just apply to writing, either. You can create personas that you use in real life in different situations, especially in business situations).

    To muster that courage and gain those skills, you have to experiment. Try writing rants, try expressing parts of yourself you’ve never shared before, try being funny, try being serious, try acting like a leader.

    Dig in and examine your favorite writers and try to figure out how they’re able to connect so easily with you.

    Finding your voice is something every blogger should strive to do. Once you have, your writing will be more exciting and powerful forever.

  5. Pick one person and write for him.
  6. One of the biggest problems I see with beginning and struggling bloggers is a lack of connection with the audience. It’s easy to write bland, robotic, anonymous posts. It’s much harder to write posts that make your audience feel something because you connected with them on an emotional and human level.

    A trick that often works for me is to think of one person (usually a friend) and write as if I’m talking to him or her directly. This can help make your statements more conversational and relevant and help you avoid being vague or obtuse.

    Give this a try for your next post and let me know if it leads to a breakthrough.

  7. You don’t have to create everything from scratch.
  8. When blogging started, a lot of the value in blog posts was in discovering new content. Bloggers used to share other great content from around the web as a way to help their readers out.

    Once social media came along, much of that sharing and linking moved to Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

    It’s too bad, because you can create some really great and useful content by pulling other sources together on your blog. By acting as a curator or facilitator, your readers will appreciate the time you spend helping them find great stuff they might not otherwise find.

    The next time you feel stuck, as if you have nothing interesting to write, try creating a post that comments on other great content that already exists. Link out freely and you might also get the attention of other bloggers.

    To learn how to curate content effectively, check out Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. Maria is a master of “combinatorial creativity” as she calls it. Watch how she pulls from 100s of sources, both online and off to create her unique and ingenious blog.

  9. Spend a LOT more time on headlines.
  10. However much time you’re spending on headlines right now, you should probably double it.

    Killer headlines are an imperative to getting your content noticed among the sea of other headlines being shared across social media. Your headlines mean the difference from a wildly popular post and one that goes unnoticed.

  11. You can get help if you want it.
  12. If you’ve thought about getting help writing content for your blog, there’s good news. It’s actually pretty easy to get other people to write for your blog, for free. All you have to do is ask.

    Bloggers like to write guest posts for other blogs because it means they’ll get exposure to a whole new audience. The bigger your audience, the easier it is to attract guest writers, but even if you’re just starting out, you can still ask people to guest post. Just aim for other bloggers who are starting out as well, and maybe offer to swap guest posts.

  13. All else being equal, posting more frequently is better.
  14. The more often you post on your blog, the more chances you have to connect with your potential audience, and the more chances you have of writing a viral post.

    Just make sure you’re balancing quality over quantity. If writing more often means you end up writing fluffy, irrelevant posts, you might want to dial back the frequency a bit. But if you’re able to crank out high quality stuff on a regular basis, try writing even more often and see if your audience grows faster.

  15. Follow proven formulas.
  16. You can learn a lot by studying what has worked well for some of your other favorite bloggers. One technique I’ve used repeatedly is to borrow from the formulas that create viral posts elsewhere online.

    Here’s an example: earlier this year I published 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Set Your Blog Up for Massive Success. That post quickly became one of the most popular posts ever here, and I wasn’t surprised one bit.

    How did I know that post would be a big hit?

    Simple. I copied a proven formula from one of my favorite blogs. Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt published a post the week earlier called 24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Can Change Your Financial Life Forever. It was his most popular post ever (which is saying a lot considering how popular Man Vs. Debt is).

    I adapted his post formula to suit my own needs and hit publish. Hundreds of you retweeted it and liked it on Facebook, just like Baker’s readers did for his post.

    Pretty cool, right?

    Then, a smart listener heard Pat Flynn and me talking about the technique during the SPI podcast on traffic and engagement. He ended up with this as a result (read about the full details at the Smart Passive Income blog):

  17. Listen to your audience.
  18. When your audience responds enthusiastically to one of your posts, a light bulb should go off. “Ah ha! They dug this post, I should do more of that!”

    How can you tell if your audience likes what you’ve posted? Check the # of comments, shares, links, average time spent on the page, bounce rate and other statistics. If they’re much higher than average, you may have a winner on your hands.

    To figure out what your audience likes, pay close attention to how they respond to everything you publish. Refer back to tip #1 above and make sure you experiment with lots of different kinds of content. This will make it much easier to identify what people like.

  19. Write about things you care deeply about.
  20. Ah, the old “passion” cliché once again. You’ve heard it before:

    People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing – Dale Carnegie

    There’s a reason you hear so much about passion. When you really care about what you’re working on, the sentiment comes through. It makes your writing more powerful, more human, more connectable. Your words will be more likely to resonate with your readers. They’ll be more likely to share your stuff.

    If you’ve been writing about things you’re indifferent about, try switching it up. Take on something you love to talk about. See for yourself if the results are different.

  21. Make your content readable.
  22. It’s a shame when bloggers work so hard to create something brilliant, but then package it up in unreadable long paragraphs with no visual markers or interesting breaks.

    Learn how to make your text more readable in this post I wrote called The Simple Technique That Will Make Everything You Write Online More Popular:

    Here’s the thing. When you write in long monotonous paragraphs with no specific emphasis, you make your readers fall asleep.

    They take one look at your 10-line-long paragraphs and head for the back button.

    The problem is that those long paragraphs make your readers work too hard, so most of them don’t end up reading your text at all.

    Readers on the web don’t read word-for-word, starting at the top, like you would a novel or news article. Readers on the web start by scanning new pages, looking for key points and headings.

    By making your text scannable, you make it more likely someone who visits your page or receives your email will digest what you’ve written.

Next: Try At Least One of These Today

Each of these tips can be implemented easily for your very next blog post.

Give one or more of them a try today and let me know how they work for you. Seriously, I challenge you to try something new with your blog content for your very next post.

The Content Strategy for Expert Enough

Our new blog Expert Enough launches on November 8. We’re working hard behind the scenes on implementing our full launch strategy.

Once we launch, we’ll have to develop some incredible content on a regular basis to build a blog popular enough to reach our million dollar goals.

Here’s the basic outline we’ll be following:

  • Posting schedule: 3x per week to begin with, 5x+ per week later on.

    We’re working hard to build a really big, really fun and interesting new blog. Posting just a couple of times won’t do this topic justice. To pull this project off, I’m anticipating we’ll have to post much more frequently. That’s not to say you can’t succeed by posting less, but we have bigger goals for this project than the typical blog.

  • Contributors: I’ll be writing posts weekly for the new site and Caleb will also be writing. The two of us aren’t experts on everything though (yes, it’s true), and we’ll have trouble keeping up with a daily schedule unless we have help.

    That’s why we plan to involve lots of different guest contributors. If you’re interested in writing something for the new site, please send us an email at support@thinktraffic.net. We’d love to talk to you about it. It should be a great opportunity for you to get some exposure from our (hopefully) big audience.

  • Content types: to keep things interesting for us and our audience, we plan to employ lots of different content types including: how-tos, expert interviews, in-depth guides, infographics, lists, link round-ups, running series, reader interaction posts: questions/polls/challenges, 30-day challenges, quizzes and more.

  • Topics: this is one of the most challenging aspects of our new blog. The main topic of “expertise” is potentially a little boring on it’s own. We’re going to try to spice it up and make this blog broadly appealing by talking about things like food & drinks, travel, tech, health & fitness, social commentary and more. We’ll also include lots of posts about expertise and becoming an expert, along with success and leadership type posts.

  • Curation of content: we don’t plan to create every piece of content from scratch. Instead, following blogs like Lifehacker, Boing Boing and Brain Pickings, we plan to include lots of links and commentary on other relevant content from around the web. Read tip #4 above for our explanation of why this is a good approach.

  • Social media: as I mentioned before, we’re already maintaining a Facebook and Twitter account for Expert Enough. We’ve started posting lots of links to other content we think our audience will appreciate over there, and we’re gaining followers and interacting with people.

    We plan to continue using Facebook and Twitter actively to extend the Expert Enough community. We’ll use the social media outposts as places to interact and post extra things we don’t cover on the blog. We’ll be updating each of these actively, with 15+ daily Twitter updates and 2+ daily Facebook updates.

Of course, this is just our plan to start with. I’m sure things will change along the way as we experiment to see what people really respond to.

Now we’d love to hear from you. What is your favorite tip for creating outstanding blog content? Please share in the comments.

And if you’re following along with the Million Dollar Blog Project, please share any questions you have about your content strategy below. We’re happy to answer.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Sarah Russell October 25, 2011 at 6:28 am

Challenge accepted! The big one for me is headlines – I usually only add them as an afterthought, and they’re always more descriptive than engaging (basically, “This is What My Post is About” versus “My Post is Awesome and You Should Read It!”).

Definitely an area I need to focus more energy on, so thanks for the great tips!

Corbett Barr October 25, 2011 at 8:58 am

Or, “This is How My Post Will Blow Your Mind and Change Your Life” ;)

Mary October 25, 2011 at 6:32 am

This post is a slam dunk home run packed with exactly what I need right now. Thank you! The best way I get content is to actively participate on the internet in my niche and to actively live and practice what I write about. As I’m interacting with others and trying to implement what I’m learning, I find myself responding. I often realize a great post is the response I’m about to submit to a message board. I stop then cut and paste it into a new post and save it as a draft. I’m always asking myself how I can improve in my own efforts in my niche (for me personal finance that has evolved from getting out of debt to saving money to making money); I keep my iPhone with me so I can jot down ideas. Another new way of getting ideas is to play more – as I draw closer friends and family into friendly banter it often results in new language, ideas and attitude! This sounds cheesy but I’m finding I get more ideas getting work done around the house than I do sitting at my laptop all day. Sometimes I just go mow the lawn!

Mars Dorian October 25, 2011 at 6:59 am

Wow, and I thought this article was NEVER going to end ;)

I personally noticed that VISUALLY supported content connects even more with you audience, you know, infographics, unique images, cartoons and etc.

Since our attention span is getting shorter by the year (Some people even claim we now have the attention span of a goldfish !), it really helps to breakTHROUGH the clutter by offering visual content that engages the eyeballs.

Mary October 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

That’s a great tip, Mars and I one I really need to take to heart.

Gregory Ciotti October 25, 2011 at 7:07 am

Monster post, and I agree here, reading the same “style” of content can be quite boring, and even worse to write.

I’d also add different types of ‘mediums’ to spicing up content, for example, you might do a video or podcast, but you could write a script for it to follow, which would be a good way to test your writing for an entirely different medium of presenting your thoughts.

Cristina Ansbjerg October 25, 2011 at 7:09 am

Personally, I find difficult to follow blogs which post every day. 2 or 3 times a week seems more than enough.
Also when a blogger has to post so often half ot the content is usually fluff.
I’m not saying that’s going to happen to Expert Enough. It’s more a general opinion.

Joan October 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

My biggest tip is to repurpose quality comments and expand upon them to make future posts. This worked SO WELL for me that I launched a weekly Q&A series, “Ask Joan,” based on that premise. And I don’t mind saying I stole the format of my weekly Q&A wholeheartedly from Trent Hamm over at The Simple Dollar (www.thesimpledollar.com), whose Q&As are incredibly successful and that I’ve long admired.

Jamie Northrup October 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

I will definitely spend more times on headlines, but I also need to post more frequently without giving up quality, need more time in a day!

Conni October 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Wowsers, one hell of a great post!

I somewhat agree with Cristina about posting content daily with the exception of e.g. Ev Bogue, whose ‘daily letters’ are in a sort of Seth Godin style – short and to the point. In my opinion the only way to be successful with the daily strategy. Much longer than that, and I skip it – just too overwhelming 5 times a week.

Other than that, super helpful and valuable advice! Might just print if off and hang it up on my wall ;)

Eric October 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Great stuff Corbett!
My tip has to do with keeping visitors on your site longer. We just got hit with the dreaded “Panda Update” that basically cut our traffic by 2/3′s! We have a feeling it has something to do with a high bounce rate on our site.

I’ve spent the last few days going over my most popular posts in terms of traffic, and seeing what changes I can make to keep people from bouncing…or in other words, leaving my site after only one page visited.

I’ve since added a few more in-text links within the first couple paragraphs that point to other articles on my site…also, I listed some “Related Posts” at the very bottom of those posts so it gives my readers somewhere to go after they’re done reading. Pretty no-brainer stuff, but I guess I wasn’t really doing it to begin with.

The next thing I’ll look at is my menu bar and see if I can tweek those categories to spark more interest/clicks.
Eric

Jane M October 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

My biggest tip for writing great content:
Fascinate and amuse yourself.
Don’t just regurgitate info you already know. Do research, discover something new about your subject. This will guarantee that you stay interested in writing your blog. And if you think of a funny anecdote, joke, or reference to throw in there, go for it. Don’t worry that people won’t get it. Not everyone will, but those that do will love you for it.
xJane

Amy October 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

These tips are priceless!

I started my blog writing long, essay-like paragraphs, but noticed a big difference from my audience when I shortened them to no more than 3 lines/paragraph.

The tip that helped me the most in this post is: “Pick one person and write for him.” Great idea! I’ll try this in my next post.

Nick Tort October 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I totally agree Amy! I have never approached writing a post to someone in particular, but when you think about it – it makes perfect sense. It puts your writing in the zone of being personal and real.

Chris Webb October 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

That was some epic shit Corbett – great post.

What do you thing of Glen Allsop’s approach?

He was posting like once a month or even two, and EVERY post was like “this shit has changed my life” and I’m sure everyone of his readers would agree. However I will admit that I sometimes forgot to check his blog because he can go so long between posts.

Have you consistantly noticed a drop in subscribers with a drop in frequency?

Thanks as always
Chris
compelling.tv

Nick Tort October 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm

it’s all about the headlines!

Canalh October 26, 2011 at 3:55 am

Blogging in several languages enables targeting a broader audience !

Brett October 27, 2011 at 6:02 am

Periodically rummage around in Google Analytics to find those juicy long tail queries that you can use to write an article around. Keyword phrases with which/where/what/how are especially valuable!

Hmerologia October 28, 2011 at 5:08 am

Thank you for this valuable list. The ideas are very helpful.
The one i enjoy most is #1. Experiment with content types, formats, lengths.
It is a very good way to evaluate the results of your visitors. If you realize that most of your visitor like a particular format it is a good idea to do more of this.

Sarah October 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

I recently changed my voice a bit. I have always written things in a professional sounding tone, but I recently noticed the blogs I preferred to read time after time were ones that were a bit more personal, or disjointed but still packed with good information. It seems to have helped a bit.

I think adding some of your personality is a good thing.

sudha October 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I somewhat agree with Cristina about posting content daily with the exception of e.g. Ev Bogue, whose ‘daily letters’ are in a sort of Seth Godin style – short and to the point. In my opinion the only way to be successful with the daily strategy. Much longer than that, and I skip it – just too overwhelming 5 times a week.

Geoff Ward November 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm

This is a fantastic post yet again. I am late to the game so I am way behind. Before I actually get started I’m just trying to catch up with all the other posts. Then I’m going back to dissect exactly what I have to do to take my blog from zero to hero. One question, my first blog is on wordpress.com is there any advantage to buying a domain name now besides being able to monetize which I was planning on doing at a later point once I had more visitors.

Caleb Wojcik November 15, 2011 at 7:19 am

We highly recommend that you own your domain name instead of hosting it on wordpress.com. You can read more about why in this post: http://thinktraffic.net/how-to-find-a-great-domain-name-for-a-new-blog-and-set-it-up-in-15-minutes

Faissal Alhaithami November 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Really awesome tips, I like the 3rd point which is “Picking one person and write for him”.

this looks interesting and I’ll give it a try ASAP.

Thanks for the helpful post.

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