12 Ways to Turn a Boring Post into Pure Gold

Perhaps your blog is not getting the kind of traffic you’d like, or perhaps you’ve submitted some of your stories to Digg or Netscape or Reddit and they never go anywhere. You need a way to ramp up your writing, and get the kind of posts that people are scrambling to read…It’s time for a 12-step makeover for your posts.First, you need to realize that all the time you might spend checking your blog stats and optimizing your ads and redesigning your site and optimizing it for search engines and submitting it to high-ranking sites and social bookmarking services … all of that is well and good, but it’s not going to get you anywhere until you focus first on the content.Good content and good headlines drive traffic.Focus on the things you can do to improve your content and headlines, and ignore the rest, for now. Once you’ve built up some good content, you can worry about those other things. The most productive use of your time is spent doing the things that will get you the most benefits.Here’s 12 things you can do right now to your post to make it into one that will drive traffic to your site:1. Bold ideas. You start every post with an idea. Well, take the idea you come up with for your post, and see if you can make it bolder. Be daring — aim for a big post, not just a regular one. Aim to say something huge, not just what everyone else is saying. Aim for a post that a major blog would link to, and that people will talk about. Get noticed!2. Bold headlines. Once you have your idea, start with your headline. As much as I like to flatter myself about my amazing writing (I’m humble, I know), people would never read a word of it if their interest weren’t caught by the headline. There are so many posts on so many blogs, that your headline has to grab the reader’s attention and want them to find out more. For more on how to write a great headline, see The Sexy Art of Writing Headlines That Kill at FreelanceSwitch.3. Scannability. A reader will only give you a few seconds of scanning a post (either on your blog or in his feed reader) before deciding whether to move on or keep reading. That means that your post cannot be a bunch of long, plain paragraphs. You need to highlight key points through bolding, through bullet points, and other design elements. The reader should be able to find out what your key points are in 10 seconds or less — otherwise, he’ll move on and you’ll lose readers.4. Usefulness. How will your post be useful to the reader? What problem does it help him to solve or what skill does it teach him? If your post is kinda interesting but has very little practical use to the reader, it won’t mean much. But if you teach the reader something he really wants to know (how to lose weight! make money! become attractive! become a hacker! be more productive!), you will get their attention and have them wanting to read more. Step-by-step guides are always extremely useful.5. Create a resource. Related to usefulness, this point tells you to find a bunch of useful things on the Internet, and put them all together to create an extremely useful resource for your reader. You’ve just saved a huge amount of time for the reader, and for that, she will bookmark your post for future reference. Get enough people to bookmark you on delicious, and suddenly you’ve got a popular post. Take whatever topic you’re thinking of writing about and find a way to create a resource — a list of 100 tools to lose weight, 50 ways to make money online, 5 ways to be instantly more attractive to your hot co-worker, and 60 tips from celebrities teaching you to be better in bed.6. Link to others. This should be obvious, but if you create a resource, you will most likely have a collection of links. This is very useful to the reader, but it has added benefits for you: the blogs you link to will be grateful for your link. And this could get you some link love in return. Don’t go overboard, but in providing useful links to your readers you are helping out a fellow blogger — and that will come back to you, either immediately or eventually.7. Focus on the lead. What’s the most important part of a post after the headline? The first paragraph. The first sentence, actually. If you don’t grab the reader’s attention with that first sentence (known as the “lead” paragraph, or “lede” in journalese), you will lose him. He will go on to the next post in his feed reader, and read someone else’s tips for being better in bed (“Get a bigger bed!”). After you craft your headline, really craft your first sentence. Get it as concise and catchy as possible, and explain why the reader should continue reading. After the first sentence, the next few are also very important. Now, you shouldn’t get so caught up in the lede that you don’t write the rest of the post … write the whole thing, then go back and revise the lede until you’re reasonably satisfied that it does its job.8. Be different. This is easier said than done, I know. But it’s useful to know what others have written on a topic, and find a way to provide new information, a twist on what’s been done, or a fresh perspective. If you’re just doing what everyone else has done, in exactly the same way, people will yawn at your post.9. Be concise. After you’ve written your post, go over it for a few minutes. It’s tempting to just press “Publish” and be done with it, but it’s actually very useful to trim your post down a little where you’ve been wordy. See if there are unnecessary words or even sentences or paragraphs that can be cut out, or reworded in a less awkward or confusing way. Write simply, with force, and people will enjoy reading you. Write in a convoluted, fumbling way, and people will move on.10. Give practical tips. This is very related to the usefulness tip, but extends it a bit: Instead of just being useful, provide a list of practical tips. Not general or vague tips, but ones that can actually be implemented by the reader without further research. For example, if you’re going to write about how to write a good headline, don’t just say “be catchy” but give some actual examples and methods for doing so. Your reader will be eternally grateful.11. Know what you’re talking about. I’ve made some mistakes here myself, but it’s best if you write about something you really know about, that you’ve experienced yourself, and can give some real-world advice about what works and what doesn’t. It’s easy to give diet or exercise advice, but unless you’ve actually lost 50 lbs. or run a marathon, you are just talking about vague concepts. If you haven’t actually done what you’re talking about, find another topic.12. Don’t make it all about you. Sure, you know what you’re talking about and you’ve gone through it yourself. And it’s good to share your experiences and make your post personal. However, you are writing for a very general readership, not for your mom, and they are more interested in how the information will help them than they are in the personal details of your life. It’s good to put yourself in your posts, because readers can identify with it, but be sure that what you’re writing about is of general interest to many people, not just your personal stalkers.

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40 Responses to 12 Ways to Turn a Boring Post into Pure Gold

  1. Pingback: » The FreelanceSwitch Blog Writing Column has Moved Blogs

  2. JohnP says:

    Wow, some really good tips here, I was wondering when Leo’s articles were going to start – not that Collis’ weren’t enough for me!!

  3. Ha! My articles were gems of brilliance, whatchu talkin bout willis :-) Actually I agree completely, great to have Leo’s priceless wisdom on the site! And there’s plenty more to come from him too

  4. A lot of people blog, but not a lot blog well, thanks for your help in improving my skills. I’ll put your suggestions to use.

  5. Thanks for those simple but probably effective tips..I was wondering what you were going to do with this website/ blog (re: fsw latest post), good to see these type of posts continueing.Can you please however change the first paragraph style? I cannot read it at all.http://germworks.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/nxe.jpg

  6. Armen says:

    This is top advice, some of which I really need to begin to take heed to.Thanks Leo!

  7. Rob Schultz says:

    As others before me have said, this is great advice.I know that I always get caught up in the design phase and that’s not the main focus of my site. If you’re a constant blogger you get sick of seeing the same design day in and day out. I always want to tinker and make it better.I promised myself that I’ll work through this final redesign that I’m in the middle of, but after that it’s strictly content-rich posting.

  8. Joel Laumans says:

    Interesting post.I think #3 Scannability is crucial. The internet generation has learned to browse through web page texts in a matter of seconds when reading it thoroughly would take minutes. And not to mention that with the amount of information flying back and forth our attention spans have become more shorter.

  9. Definitely some good advice. I agree most on the bold titles and scannability . That’s why I love this blog’s big font and spacing =D

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  15. Joe Barone says:

    Wow! This article is an invaluable resource for every blogger. I’ve created (and deleted) many many blogs since the dawn of the “blogolution” some years back, their doomed fates caused by my inability to unify content under a central theme or purpose. I’ve made personal blogs that read as daily diary entries, political blogs that became entangled in a web of hateful comments and spam, an art-community blog that really ended up becoming an online personal portfolio… all of which failed to strike a chord with their target audience: everyone else.I haven’t truly blogged in ages, but I’m anxious to get started again, but this time with some sort of purpose. I’m sure your article will help me a great deal! Thank you so much for posting this. You’ve been dugg, delicioused, and bookmarked, not to mentioned subscribed to :)

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  17. Matty says:

    Great article, thanks for the heads up :)

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  19. Freelance says:

    thanks! very useful info

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  27. Presell says:

    point number 11 – that’s important … so many times I’m reading something, and after some time it seems like some … sorry for saying that “bolox” …

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  30. i think number 5 create a resource is one of the most effective ones once you have the material.I noticed that on my blog when i ‘create’ a resource it gets bookmarked, resulting in a continually flow of people that refer back to itintellimind.net

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  40. Aspen Wedding Photographer says:

    Thanks for the tips. Usefulness is a huge one. If people can actually use it, you have your work cut out for you.

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