Tuesday, 12 January 2016

8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post

What makes a perfect blog post? The following 8 elements are the hallmarks of excellent blogs and are partly based on conclusions drawn from mistakes I’ve made on my own blog. Read on to find out how to reach the maximum number of blog readers and how to generate more social media shares:

1) Blog consistently about a particular theme.

Successful blogs are centred on a particular theme. Therefore, be as minimal as you can about the range of topics you choose to blog about. Check out the following examples of excellent blogs with a consistent theme: Claire Cox’s blog on translation/freelancing; Joshua Becker’s blog on minimalism; or Derek Sivers’ blog on entrepreneurship.

2) Pick an eye-catching headline.

8 out of 10 blog visitors will read your headline; 2 out of 10 will read the rest of your post (aka as the Pareto or 80/20 principle). A snappy headline is crucial: it will make or break whether people will carry on reading your post. Statistics have revealed that readers usually only absorb the first 3 and the last 3 words in a headline, so focus on those 6 words.

Reaching the maximum number of blog readers

3) Make your opening sentence intriguing.
You usually have 10 seconds to impress the reader – failing which she’ll turn away and won’t return to your post. So make your opening sentence at least one of the following: catchy, scary, quirky, compelling, enticing, extraordinary, thought-provoking, or very personal. Consider drafting that all-important sentence last.

4) Organise your post as a list.
There is a reason for why my blog post “Top 10 misconceptions about translation and the translation profession” has been the most popular post on my blog for a long time. It has been found that a large proportion of popular blog posts are structured as lists along the lines of “10 quick tips to…”, “7 essential elements of…”, or “8 surefire ways of…”.

5) Be minimal in your use of words and the length of paragraphs.
A perfect blog post is as concise as it possibly can be. For me, the most enjoyable stage in writing a blog post is stripping it of all superfluous words and passages. Ideally, the number of adjectives included should be minimal, too. Contrary to what we were taught at school, adjectives often add nothing but unnecessary fluff to a text, thus detracting from its readability.

6) Use memorable language.

People reading online content tend to just skim text, and attention spans notoriously are decreasing. Therefore, use straightforward, punchy or bold language to drive home your message. This post by Julien Smith may be an extreme example of this, but it clearly achieves its goal of sticking in your mind once you’ve read it. (A must-read, by the way, if you care too much about what other people might think about you!)

7) Include a photo.

People in general respond better to visual content than to plain text, so visuals in a blog post are essential for making it perfect. They will brighten it up and render it appealing and unique. But: make sure photos on your blog are legal! Check out Kari Koonin’s article “Copyright on images in blogs – are yours legal?” here.

8) Write as if you’re giving advice to a friend.
The harsh truth about blogging is this: Hardly anyone out in the big, wide internet world is interested in you; people who come across your post are usually looking for solutions to their own problems! A perfect blog post therefore rarely focuses on the blog author alone, but is mainly directed at the readership. Write as if you’re talking to a friend, include relevant links, be helpful, engaging, and inspiring.

And finally: A perfect blog post should be actionable. As a result of writing this article and with reference to bullet point 1) above, I have made this decision: From today, I’m going to combine blogging about freelance translation with minimalism, a topic that has been close to my heart for almost 2 years. Stay tuned!

Related posts on this blog:
29/9/2014: My 3 favourite minimalist principles
23/10/2014: Should translators blog?
6/6/2013: How wide is your web presence? 
16/9/2011: Top 10 misconceptions about translation and the translation profession