I have a weird addiction to bad blog posts. They never fail to disappoint me, and I’m always left with a sense of dissatisfaction after reading them, but for some reason I just can’t stop. It’s easy to waste a lot of time and learn absolutely nothing, but why do so many people keep getting it so wrong?
Blogging is a relatively new form of writing. I’ve been blogging for around twelve years, and I wouldn’t consider myself to be anything more than average. However, as an avid web geek, I can spot a good (or bad) blog post from the first sentence.
Getting it wrong
So, what are the initial warning signs?
- The title – This is usually the first giveaway as to whether an article is going to be rubbish or not – and that’s especially true for SEO related posts (more on that later). Obvious/cliched titles, or overly dramatic titles are typical clues.
- The length – Short posts = not much to say. Whatever the reason behind this (motivation, lack of knowledge, time restraints), you know it’s highly unlikely to be a good read.
- The spelling and grammar – Posts that have not been proof-read are annoying at best. Poor English can also be an indicator of poor content and runs the risk of being seen as spam. Always focus on quality, people!
Beyond that, there are all kinds of reasons why your blog post isn’t great. Blogging is a very specific skill, and regardless of what you’re writing about, you need to get the tone and content spot on. Researching and learning as much as you can about a topic is helpful, but it’s only going to get you so far. Planning is also fantastic, but again, it’s the final product that counts.
You need personality, you need to move away from more traditional newspaper/magazine style articles, and above all, you need to provide something beneficial to the reader.
Here are five reasons why a potentially good blog post goes bad:
1. You state the obvious
Creating a blog post that has something for everyone is hard. But most bloggers, especially when they aren’t completely confident on the subject, tend to over-explain everything and pitch it at a very basic level. Of course, if your site is explicitly aimed at newbies in the field, that can be very helpful for your audience. But for broader audiences, the trick is not to start too low down or ‘obvious’ or you risk losing the reader before they get to the meatier stuff. No one likes being talked down to.
2. You don’t know as much about a topic as you think
This is especially true in for SEO blog posts. Most of the average person’s SEO knowledge comes from Matt Cutts videos and things they’ve read on random forums. It’s common to see a ‘Chinese whispers’ effect where someone who hasn’t got something quite right is then quoted somewhere else, and it turns into a whole mess of stuff that’s exaggerated at best and just plain wrong at worst.
3. You make it all about you
Most readers visit blogs to get inspired and find out useful information that they can squirrel away for their own projects, businesses, etc. Unless you’re a big name, don’t make posts all about you. Tell the reader what they can learn. Address them directly, ask questions (rhetorical or otherwise), and focus your posts around something of value to them. There are a few exceptions to this, for example an experiment you carried out and what you found, reports on your own goals/successes for the month, but these are still generally based around inspiration and takeaways.
4. You don’t provide any value
The first three points all create the conditions for this to happen. Just one of the above is enough to make your readers feel like they’ve wasted their time reading your post.
5. You don’t spend time on the formatting
Subheadings, lists, images and other types of formatting all take time, but they’re necessary. Create posts of endless text and watch your visitors scroll faster and faster through it – it’s a subconscious reflex. It’s also the part you’re mostly likely to skip when blogging, especially if you don’t have much time or you give up on trying to find that elusive imagery.
How you can turn it around
- Go to a blog you love, read/re-read the past few entries and make a list of things you like about it. Maybe it’s well-written, useful, funny, whatever it is that you like about it, make a note. Then turn that into a list of reminders and/or goals for your own writing.
- Don’t write about technical topics unless you know them inside out and you’re sure you can bring something new to the table (for example, an SEO experiment you actually carried out yourself). If you really need to write about a particular subject like this, opt for an opinion piece instead.
- Avoid narration. Unless you’re great at constructing arguments and presentating alternative sides, avoid writing blog posts about other people’s blog posts. Reading narrative is boring, especially news-style narrative. I’m not going to stay on your blog, I’m going to go to theirs.
- On a related note, avoid filler content. If you can’t think of anything to say, you don’t need to say it. Honestly.
- Enthusiasm goes a long way. You don’t need to be cheesy, but you do need to get across that you care what you’re writing about. Otherwise you end up with a dull, half-hearted post that’s also much more likely to be littered with typos.
What elements of terrible blog posts have you identified? What do you think makes a good blog post? Let us know in the comments!