Blogging seems easy on the face of it. After all, we can all write to some extent, and many blogs are written from an opinion standpoint, so it seems like something you just need sit down and donate an hour or so to doing. This, as many people discover the hard way, is not an accurate account of blog writing.
There are several blunders that people make when writing a blog, and sometimes it’s not to do with the actual body of written words. We take a look at some of the mistakes we often see:
Not spending enough time on the headline
The headline is the single most important aspect of a blog and one that is continually overlooked.
Make use of free headline analysing tools such as CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer which will give your title an overall score, a breakdown on the types of words used, whether the length is appropriate, and what type of sentiment it conveys. Another is the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer which will provide a score based on emotional analysis. Of course, use your gut feeling as well. We originally had the title “Here are the biggest blogging blunders you need to avoid: Part 1” which received a higher score on one of the analysers but we felt it sounded clunky, so we changed it to the current title.
The best way to come up with a great headline is to first write down whatever headline comes to mind. Then write another. And another. Try straight forward ones, creative ones, use different synonyms for the original word to see which one feels the best, try longer versions and also try shorter. Keep going until you have, say, 20. Then run your favourite ones through the headline analyser tools to see which ones rate the best, and those that most accurately reflect what the story is about.
This leads on to a very important point about headlines: be accurate and don’t over-exaggerate. Readers want to know what they are going to find when they open the post. Headlines that over-promise and under-deliver are a huge no-no and are guaranteed to disappoint your reader once they open the story.
Not spending enough time picking the right graphic
Does the photo below look similar to the images you are using with your blogs?
Stock photos are a relic of the past, so if you are still using these, you should aim to move onto a more modern approach as soon as possible. Photos that have an authentic feel are ideal. They show your audience genuineness and avoid the impression of a faceless corporation. Try Unsplash and Pixabay for free photos that have a certain candidness to them.
If you’d like to create your own images, you absolutely can. Even if you’re not the proud owner of amazing Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop skills, you can still create eye-catching graphics to use as your main image. I have used Canva — an easy-to-use graphic design tool — to create the image for this very blog.
Trying to sound overly intelligent
Take a look at the traditional media: newspapers, radio and television. The information provided is, more often than not, easy enough for an early high schooler to understand. The news is intended for the common person in society, so complex words are rarely used. The traditional media is catering to their audience, and you should too.
If you are using complicated words when you could use something clear and simple, or writing overly long sentences in the hope of sounding thoughtful and clever, you are doing yourself a disservice. People want to understand the point you are trying to make. They don’t want to feel stupid and they certainly don’t want to have to drag out a dictionary to understand your sentences.
On the other hand, if you are a business or a blogger with a sophisticated audience who is guaranteed to understand more complex topics, then by all means, include terms that the reader will understand and be comfortable with.
Being a perfectionist
Your blog will never be perfect, no matter how many times you go over it to move that comma or switch paragraphs around.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood
If you know exactly the topic you want to talk about and have a few dot points in mind, you’re already ahead. Start by jotting down those dot points (it doesn’t matter if they’re vague) and expand from there. Write a very rough, even horrible, draft. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or if the sentences make sense. That way, you have no expectations or pressure on yourself to be perfect and you may be pleasantly surprised at the kind of creativity and ideas that flow from your fingers.
The process of cleaning up the copy is done during the editing process, so leave the drafting process to letting the creative juices flow without any hindrance.
Not leaving enough time for editing
Editing is a vital step that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or time allocated to it.
Put your copy aside for at least a day after the rough draft is complete. Then, carefully run your eyes over the copy to see if your ideas are organised logically, that sentences make sense, the grammar is correct, if anything needs removing or replacing, and if you need to add information that seems to be missing.
Check your document for any particular words that keep cropping up; “that” is a very common one that appears far too often. Also, go over your spelling with a fine-tooth comb because spell check won’t pick up every word as you intended it to be used.
We highly recommend getting a colleague to glance over your writing, as a set of new eyes will pick up things that may never be seen by you. This step may take a few days of back-and-forth between people (or yourself), so don’t expect it to be done quickly. For even more tips, have a read of Part 2 here.
If you’d like to upgrade your writing skills to connect better with your audience, join Masterclass: Write Like a Marketing Pro, the half-day workshop for anyone in communications. Learn from experienced journalists and marketers, Sarah Mitchell and James Lush. You can find out more here.
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