What is it that makes some blog posts so readable, while others are painfully boring?

If you’ve ever wrestled with how to make your writing soar, rest assured, it’s a learned skill. While traveling my own path of “bloggerhood” I can safely say that any success I may have had thus far comes largely from these 4 tips:

1. Kill The Keyboard

For as sophisticated and technological as our world has become, nothing beats the old pen and paper when it comes to getting your ideas down. For a couple reasons:

  1. Using a pen and paper to get your ideas down allows you the freedom of being able to quickly edit, cross out, circle, draw arrows, and underline for added emphasis
  2. Synthesis is a little bit easier when you can see the entire page at one time.
  3. The slower speed of writing with a pen and paper allows your mind to stay up to speed, whereas the speed of typing creates a lot of “stop-n-go” lag time while your mind tries to catch up, and figure out what to say next.

2. How To Write a Good Headline

The search for a good headline is a writer’s holy grail. It is true for newspaper columnists, magazine columnists and even MORE true in the online world. Why?

Because readers are never really committed.

While newspaper and magazine readers already have it in their hands, online content is never safe from an exit click. At any moment a reader can navigate away–forever lost to a far corner of the online universe.

Fortunately, there are some simple cheats for crafting a good headline. Here are a few of the most tried and true:

  1. Incorporate a list of secrets, steps, tricks, or a process. Examples: “7 Must-have recipes for Your 4th of July”, “13 Teenagers that Are Shaping Your Online World”, etc. Lists are HUGE. The next time you’re in a 7-11, grocery store or newsstand, take a look at the magazine rack. 95% of the magazine covers will make use of a “list” headline (check out the headline of this post).
  2. The “how to” headline. This guy works! The phrase “how to” is a siren song to generation looking for solutions. “How to” is actionable, it promises to teach a skill. It promises value (like the section header above).
  3. The yes/no question. “Should Oprah leave Stedman Graham?” “Did Reagan lie in his biography?” “Is steroid use really the culprit?” Starting an article with a yes/no headline implies to readers that they will receive a definite answer. Not that anybody really cares about Oprah, Reagan, or steroids, but once the question is asked, something about the human mind wants that answer.
  4. Money, money, money! Obviously anytime you throw money figures around, ears start to perk up. Why else do you still see ads that say things like “The $10 Million Dollar Stay at Home Secret”, or “$6,500 a Month of Passive Income!”? Pretty simple–they work. Use sparingly though. Money headlines are a close cousin of the FREE headline, which people have seen so much, that they are now starting to tune out.

The makings of some good stuff…how every post begins…

3. Pictures = 1,000 Words

Once upon a college class, I had a design professor that pounded one principle into my head–build an article around a good photo–not the other way around.

While I don’t know if my stance is quite that strong on the subject, I definitely see his point. At the very core, adults are just big kids. We still like picture books. We want to be entertained.

Along with your well crafted headline, having a great photo at the very top of your blog post seduces visitors into taking that first step of “reader faith” into your blog post. Spend some time to get it right if you need to.

Usually finding a great photo for your post can be as simple as doing a google image search. In the advanced section, you can enter specific search criteria, such as size, aspect ratio, and more.

If necessary, you can use additional photo resources such as flickr or getty images, to find that truly great photo that will be the springboard that launches readers into your content.

4. Keep It Chunky

Like La Victoria Salsa.

A good copywriter knows that too many lines of boring old text will drown a reader, so he keeps his paragraphs short. Think of your content like short little chunks, that can be easily digested. Lots of white space helps readers quickly scan, and feel like they are making progress.

Strange, but true.

Additionally, when possible,  mix in other elements to break up the solid wall of words:

  • bullet points
  • text boxes
  • additional photos
  • side boxes and other graphics
  • colored text where appropriate

Want a Bonus Step?

Since you’re reading on, here it is.

If you have difficulty feeling like your posts are organized what you want to accomplish in your posts, try thinking about them in terms of a 3 part act:

  1. Principles
  2. Actionable Steps
  3. Additional Resources

For this post, the principle is that there are easy steps you can take to make your writing effortless and catchy. The actionable steps are the numbered suggestions 1-4 that I give. The additional resources are what you will be reading in about 2 seconds.

Additional Resources:

How to Create Headlines that Ge Retweeted

Ten Tips For Writing a Blog Post

How to Find Free Photos and Images for Your Blog Posts