14 Tips for Writing Killer Blog Posts

  • September 3, 2009 by Guest Writer
  • 17 Comments

Editor’s note: this post was written by David Turnbull. Find out more about David at his blog Adventures of a Barefoot Geek.

ballpoint-pen

Writing killer blog posts is more than just correct grammar and perfect spelling. Fixing mistakes in your use of English (or whatever language you write in) may add polish to your work, but polish isn’t enough to save a blog post with poor foundations.

Now, I’m not saying everything I write is “killer” – that very word is subjective in itself – but after being an avid blog reader for quite a few years and blogger myself for nearly the same amount of time, I feel I’ve identified a few keys to what makes an article well received.


Here are 14 tips for writing killer blog posts:

  1. Start with a great headline.
  2. Headlines aren’t only the key for capturing the imagination of your readers, they’re the for capturing your own imagination before you’ve even begun a blog post. Take time crafting a headline that would capture your attention and get you excited to read the article. If you’d be excited to read the article you’ll be excited to write the article.

  3. Love the concept.
  4. A blog post about lint, no matter how beautifully it’s written, is still a blog post about lint. And that’s lame. Instead of fretting too much about sentence structure and proper grammar, focus your attention on the concept behind the article. The idea you base your content on is far more important than the way its delivered.

  5. Be ambitious.
  6. Don’t aim too low. Instead of writing a “Top 10″ list why not aim to write a “Top 100″ list? Not only will you be rewarded exponentially in terms of traffic, but starting with such an ambitious idea will inspire you to match that ambition with quality. And it’s not just limited to list posts. Definitive guides (such as “The Definitive Guide to Podcasting”) are also great outlets of ambition.

  7. Challenge assumptions.
  8. Opinions and assumption-breaking thoughts lead to controversy and controversy = attention. If all your posts just agree with what others have said why would someone read what you have to say? Creating controversy for the sake of controversy is a fairly cheap tactic, but there are plenty of assumptions in every niche that you can disagree with, and with good reason. For example, one reason Rolf Potts is so well known is because he helped popularize the idea of vagabonding, which challenged the assumption that travel is both short term and expensive.

  9. Brood over your idea.
  10. Brooding is overlooked and under appreciated, but Dr. Charles Reynolds Brown, former Dean of Yale explained its importance very well:

    “Brood over your text and your topic. Brood over them until they become mellow and responsive. You will hatch out of them a flock of promising ideas as you cause the tiny germs of life there contained to expand and develop…” (How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie.)

  11. Own a notebook.
  12. Pen and paper is a powerful combination. It’s easy to open a new document on your computer and be overwhelmed by the blank screen. Staring at a blank piece of paper on the other hand is more inviting and has the advantage of breaking up what’s most likely your standard routine. Get a glass of water, maybe a bite to eat, and then sit back on a couch with a scrappy notebook and pen. Ideas will flow, and killer blog posts will be conceived.

  13. Record every idea (and make it easy to do so).
  14. It’s easy to discount ideas that you deem unworthy of writing down. Write them down anyway. Think of every idea as a seed. Write it down today, and it may just grow into something beautiful. I’ve had some pretty average ideas spark some fairly fantastic ones.

  15. Avoid inbred thinking.
  16. Inbred thinking is the continual regurgitation of the ideas of others. Online, the problem is most commonly seen on “make money online” blogs, which sprung up after the success of John Chow, Darren Rowse, and Shoemoney, but had no foundations of their own. Because of their lack of experience all their “insights” were simply the ideas of others poorly hacked together. There are many ways to fight inbred thinking, but the two greatest ways are simple: don’t get attached to any individual’s way of thinking (no one is perfect after all) and always be looking for your own experiences.

  17. Identify your best idea generation times.
  18. Being someone who prefers to wake up earlier it was to my dismay that all my greatest ideas come fairly late at night, between 11pm and 12pm. And it’s not just a one time thing. I’ve experimented with brainstorming at different times and that period consistently results in both a higher quality and quantity of ideas. But everyone’s different, so don’t just begin brainstorming at midnight because it works for me. Experiment with different times.

  19. Believe in what you’re saying.
  20. Telling people what they want to hear (“Making money online is easy!” “Of course you can lose 100kg in a day!” “Health doesn’t require eating right or exercise!”) can be a great hook but there’ll be a lack of substance, and it’s that lack of substance that will turn off readers from really connecting with your work. Don’t say things because you think readers will like you more because of it. Stick to what you believe.

  21. Write less!
  22. One thing school taught me is writing more = good. But in the real world that’s not the case. There’s no need to leave out important details in your articles but ruthlessly remove unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. Say more with less.

  23. Edit by hand.
  24. Editing is unsexy and lame but it’s the difference between a good article and a brilliant article. And if you really want to make a post stand out, print it out before it goes live. Get a red pen and just like your teachers did in school, read through it, circle errors and correct the mistakes you undoubtedly overlooked.

  25. Don’t publish everything.
  26. After spending hours pouring your soul into an article it’s hard to not be attached to it. But not everything you write is brilliant. The concept may be great, but articulating your idea is a whole other beast. Before you hit the “Publish” button look at your work and ask yourself “Will I be proud of this article if I look back at it in 2-3 years?” If the answer is “No”, don’t publish it, but don’t delete it either. Just leave the article as a draft, and come back a couple of weeks later to see if it can be saved.

  27. Let it sit.
  28. Once you feel your article is “good enough”, leave it as a draft and start working on other content. Revisit the article 1-2 weeks later and read through it. You’ll have forgotten exactly what you’d intended to write and this’ll make you less blind to mistakes you may have overlooked. And, as with brooding, letting your article sit will give yourself a chance to form new ideas, both consciously and subconsciously.

David Turnbull is a Buddhist blogger, computer geek, book worm and Apple fanboy. He spends his time sharing his ideas about technology and simplicity on his blog, Adventures of a Barefoot Geek and chatting with people on Twitter.

photo by _StaR_DusT_


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Steve September 3, 2009 at 5:41 am

Thanks for the tips. As a newbie blogger I’ve been writing posts and then going back every couple of weeks and deleting the posts that bore me. Sometimes I have found myself wishing I had saved some of those and just fixed them because they did have some good content. I know that my blog lacks some focus and wonder if it might not be better to split things up and use several websites, each with better focus. The one thing I AM sure of is that these tips should make me a better blogger and I thank you for them.

David Turnbull September 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Instead of splitting up your posts you could try creating an all encompassing brand.

For example, I created the term “Barefoot Geek” because it’s very flexible in how it can be interpreted. The ‘barefoot’ side of things brings thoughts of simplicity and being carefree, whilst ‘geek’ can be related to anything remotely technological.

Then I simply created a “What is a Barefoot Geek?” page on the site (which is one of the most popular pages at the moment) and once visitors understand the concept they’re receptive to a broad range of content.

It’s similar to what Tim Ferriss has done with the the Four Hour Work Week blog. His subtitle is “Experiments in Lifestyle Design”, but since he coined the phrase “lifestyle design” he can effectively write about whatever he wants.

Anyways, that’s my take on it. I’ve tried creating niche blogs but I find it much easier to have just one broader blog tied into a single concept. :-)

J. D. Bentley September 3, 2009 at 9:13 am

Points 6 and 7 are really speaking to me. I have a notebook I bought specifically for this purpose, but I have trouble getting started with anything new. At the same time, I know that if I write down all these ideas I have, I wouldn’t be so clueless when I sit down to write.

The minimalist in me also loves the Write Less point. I’ve been writing 1000+ word posts for the last couple weeks, so with my last post I stopped at 600 words. This had two noticeable effects:

1. It was more easily digested. It got more page views and more readers than most of the previous posts.

2. I left a lot out. I didn’t leave out anything vital, but I left a lot of what I wanted to say out. This resulted in my comments exploding with additions and suggestions. If you write less there’s a good chance readers will have more to offer to the conversation.

Great post, David! I’ve been meaning to subscribe to your blog, but lost the link. I’m gonna do that now. I’ve also been looking forward to Cody McKibben’s interview over there.

David Turnbull September 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Thanks for the comment J. D.
I’m glad to have you as a subscriber :-)

Tristan Lee September 3, 2009 at 10:08 am

Hello David. I liked tips 2 and 7. The concepts, or a blog post’s content, is everything. What are you writing about and how is this going to affect the reader? How do you take an idea and put your own spin on it?

“Lint” like you said, no matter how perfectly structured the grammar, punctuation, and spelling is will just be on be on lint and do nothing really to help the reader.

Tip 7 reminded me of how every human being has the capability to take something small and turn it into something big. As long as your creative, you never know what you can turn a simple idea into and that is the beauty of our minds.

Creativity plus content, or concept, equals a great blog post.

Thanks for sharing these great tips with us.

David Turnbull September 3, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the compliment Tristan. Glad you enjoy the tips. :)

Jen September 3, 2009 at 10:09 am

Great post and some good tips.
I like the idea of leaving drafts to sit and go back to..I normally do for a day or two but will try weeks.
Thanks David

David Turnbull September 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Hey Jen,

Thanks for the kind words. In terms of letting articles sit, I think the most important thing is to just leave them long enough so you’ve forgotten exactly what you’ve written. If it’s too clear in your mind it can be difficult to pick up mistakes.
:-)

Robert September 3, 2009 at 11:31 am

Great list. I’ve only just started blogging after years of thinking it useless and most of the time, inaccurate on whatever the topic was. I’m turning a new leaf, the community and playground for idea growth is too valuable. Glad to see #4 on here, without conflict, without friction, we won’t look to improve!

David Turnbull September 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm

For sure. You don’t have to try to hard to realise that every blogger whose attained and maintained popularity says things that go against the norm. :-)

James NomadRip September 3, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Adding some of those to the list of things to notice about my writing. The rest were already on the list.

Good post. You’re definitely a writer ;-)

David Turnbull September 3, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Thanks for satisfying my dream of being known as a writer :D

Bob Bessette September 4, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I love the “let it sit” entry. I have a blog post that has been sitting for a few days now and I’m going to give it the weekend before I publish. It’s probably ready now but just today I thought of a few more modifications and, over the weekend I will probably think of some more mods that I want to make. This is a really thoughtful post. I really enjoyed the points and will definitely check out your blog.
Best,
Bob

David Turnbull September 4, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Great to hear Bob. I hope my blog will win you over and you become a subscriber ;)

Daniel May 13, 2013 at 6:26 am

Great stuff and good points to remember! Thanks for sharing

Bob Bessette September 4, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi David,
Just subscribed. I look forward to reading your posts.

Best,
Bob

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