*This article originally appeared on Sohuis.com.*
You know the feeling. You’ve clicked on a Google search result and read the article. And… it wasn’t what you were looking for at all. It was a serious letdown.
Best case scenario, you click off that website and go look for something that’s more helpful. Worst case scenario, you lower your respect for the company or person who wrote it. Both of these options are bad for businesses who use content marketing.
As a copywriter, I write blog posts for my clients every day, so I’ve gotten pretty clear on what it takes to not be the author of “That Disappointing Article.”
Here’s how you can write a blog post that doesn’t disappoint your readers, in five simple steps.
1. When choosing a topic: go with your gut
I’ve made the mistake too many times of writing about a topic that I thought readers would care about…but which I had zero serious interest in.
I mean, everyone wants to know about the best new time management software tools out there, right? Maybe. But honestly, there was no reason that I should be the one writing about it.
If you dream up a topic for an article but can’t say why you specifically should be writing it—or, better yet, you can’t seem to want to write it—then don’t write it. Not only is it harder work for you, but it’s also going to feel flat to readers.
However, do make sure your topic is also something that your readers would care about. If you’re writing for, say, a brand consultancy for female founders, don’t choose a topic on the American Akita (no matter how much you’re fangirling about this majestic breed).
The trick is to find the sweet spot: Choose a topic that 1) you know very well, 2) you care a lot about, 3) your readers would be interested in.
2. When gathering & organizing information: be original
How often do you read three different blog posts on a topic and find that they’re more or less saying the same thing?
This happens because the person who wrote article #2 or #3 didn’t draw from their own research or their own experience. Instead, they pulled information from one or two other blog posts and repackaged it into their own article.
As a reader, that’s pretty annoying. If you’re reading a second article on the same topic…you probably didn’t get what you needed out of the first article. And if the next article has the same information? Smh.
Luckily, if you’ve chosen a topic you’re interested in, writing original stuff shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to occasionally check in to make sure you’re not using a ton of information from a single source and that you’re adding in your original thoughts.
Bonus tip: An easy way to make sure your post is original is to angle it toward your audience as clearly as you can.
3. When writing: make it easy to read
You’ve heard this before, but it can be tricky to put into practice. That’s why I’ve got four mini-steps to make writing “easy to read” articles, er, easy:
Use logical headers and subheads (like this one) for people who are skimming
In a perfect world, readers are reading everything. But we don’t live in that world, so use headers and subheads.
When should you use them? Headers and subheads are ideal for when you have a list of complex thoughts that might get lost in a long page of text. Likely, every article over 200 words will have at least one subhead.
One important thing to remember is that each header should use a parallel structure. That means each header should use the same “language formula.” For example, in this post, each of my H1’s use the formula “When ____[ing] : [do _____].” This makes it easier for your reader (or skimmer) to follow along.
Break up your paragraphs into smaller chunks (but not too small)
Paragraphs for a blog post should be much smaller than those found in a magazine article or academic/literary essay. Readers are looking for quick, accessible information, and slogging through long paragraphs makes that more difficult.
However, don’t make every sentence its own paragraph. (Trust me, this happens on the internet a lot.) That defeats the purpose of breaking up the paragraphs because then there’s no visual organization of your information!
My rule of thumb is to aim for a variety of paragraphs that range from 2-4 relatively short sentences. With the occasional single-sentence paragraph thrown in for emphasis.
Use short sentences and connecting phrases, even when it feels silly
It might feel a little silly to shorten all of your sentences. It might feel even sillier to add many, many connecting phrases. But it makes for way easier reading.
To show you what I mean, here’s the paragraph above written in a single long sentence:
It might feel a little silly to shorten your sentences and add many, many connecting phrases, but it makes for way easier reading.
Here’s it written in short sentences, but without any connecting phrases:
It might feel a little silly to shorten your sentences. It might feel sillier to add many, many connecting phrases. It makes for way easier reading.
Just these small changes have made that paragraph a tiny bit more difficult to read. And if you’ve got a whole article full of those tiny bit more difficult sentences, they add up to a blog post that’s A Lot Harder To Read.
Use a conversational writing style
“Conversational writing style” just means writing the way most people speak (but maybe a bit more organized). In conversational writing, you’re allowed to use contractions, you can use the first and second person, and, hey, you might even throw in a few super-casual interjections.
To check if your writing is conversational, read the article aloud. If there’s a sentence that causes you to stumble, that’s a sign it could be more conversational.
4. When revising: double-check your logic
After you’ve written your article, it’s time to make sure everything flows logically. That means you should check your logic from paragraph to paragraph (did you leave any key point out?) and from sentence to sentence (does there need to be a connecting phrase to tie two thoughts together?).
Revising is also a great time to circle back to your title. Now’s the time to make sure the title truly reflects the content of your article.
In fact, a surefire way to guarantee your blog post is a letdown is to have a title that misleads your reader about the content.
5. When writing a conclusion: summarize the takeaways, end on an inspirational note, or include a call to action
There’s no right way to end a blog post. But you do have to end it somehow. You shouldn’t just exit the stage with no closing statement, so to speak. That’ll make your readers feel a little confused—and leave them without any closure.
In this conclusion, I’m going to summarize the takeaways!
So, if you’ve skimmed to this point, you’re in luck. Here’s what you need to write a blog post that doesn’t disappoint your readers:
Choose a topic that both you and your readers care about.
Don’t just take information from two other popular sources and repackage it into a “new” article. Try to offer as much original thought as possible.
Make your content easy to read by using matching headers and subheads and a variety of paragraph lengths (up to four short sentences long).
Use your revising time to make sure you haven’t made any accidental logic jumps.
Whatever you do, make sure your blog post title accurately reflects the content.
And finally, here’s a bonus call to action: If this post wasn’t a letdown for you, share it. If it was a letdown, email me and tell me what I could have done better.