This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.
Did your latest post get all the readers, comments and tweets that it deserved?
Probably not. You wrote a great piece, but somehow, it seemed bland. Your ideas were good, but the post lacks a little something. What you need is more spice.
Here are nine ways to add some heat to your post, and grab readers’ attention.
#1: Add a snappy title and subtitles
You know that posts need great headlines. Often, the headline is all that a potential reader can see before clicking through to read the whole post—on Twitter, for instance, or in a CommentLuv link.
When you’ve got a post ready to go, though, it’s easy to just hit the Publish button, leaving it with whatever title first came to mind. Don’t do that. Give yourself time to pause and rethink. Is every word in the headline pulling its weight?
Further reading: How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog
#2: Introduce powerful images
You might think images don’t really matter. After all, you’ve written great content—surely no-one cares whether or not there’s a pretty picture with it?
The thing is, images are eye-catching. They can make your posts look more polished and professional. And a great image can even set up the mood or tone of a post.
You’ll want to include at least one image per post—probably at the top. But if you’ve got a longer piece, it’s often worth adding several images to help break up the text. You can see how I did this in a huge post, Freelance Writing: Ten Steps, Tons of Resources, with ten images, one for each step.
Further reading: Blogosphere Trends + Choosing and Using Images
#3: Tap into readers’ concerns
Your readers don’t just want interesting information. They want posts which solve a problem. That could be something simple and basic (“How do I hold my camera?”) or something huge, like “How do I get out of debt?”
If you know your readers well, you’ll know what their common worries and struggles are. You can use these in your post, by empathizing with how they feel and by showing them the way forwards.
#4: Add a personal anecdote
This isn’t a technique which you’ll want to use in every single post, but it’s very powerful when used sparingly.
Readers love stories, and they love to feel a sense of connection with another person. By telling a brief story from your own life, you hook the reader on an emotional level, not just an intellectual one.
My favourite example wasn’t originally a blog post at all. It was live, from Darren speaking on stage at BlogWorld Expo. He retells the story in the video post What My 4-Year-Old Son Taught Me About Successful Blogging.
Further reading: The Power of Being Personal on Your Blog (which also includes an anecdote!)
#5: Offer “take home” or “action” points
Sometimes, you’ll have a great post packed with useful content—but without anything for the reader to really grab hold of.
To help your reader engage, offer “take home” points, summing up the post, or “action” points: something that gets the reader thinking or some next step they can take. I’ve noticed that when I do this with posts, I get more comments and retweets than otherwise.
This is particularly crucial if you’ve written a post which is heavy on theory. There’s a great example here in Charlie Gilkey’s The Four Key Dimensions of Business, where he ends with four straightforward questions to help people start using what they’ve just read.
Further reading: How to Create Compelling Content by Inspiring Action
#6: Get readers to react
Sometimes, bloggers aim to use the power of reaction in quite a cynical way. They post rants—angry pieces which are just intended to start an argument or to get attention.
But when you encourage thoughtful reactions, you help readers to share their ideas—and to share your content. You turn them from passive consumers of your content into active engagers with it.
Getting readers to react might be as simple as asking “What do you think?” In most cases, though, you’ll want to pose a question or ask their opinion on something specific.
Further reading: 7 Questions to Ask On Your Blog to Get More Reader Engagement
#7: Include quotes from other bloggers
When you’re reading blogs, you might come across a great quote—a sentence or a paragraph which really resonates. Why not share it with your readers?
Including quotes from other bloggers can help you to back up your own opinions and facts: it proves that other experts in your field are saying the same thing as you.
Plus, quotes help break up a long blog post. They allow you to introduce a different voice into your piece, and can provide a starting point for discussion.
Further reading: Blogosphere Trends + Effectively Using Quotes
#8: Use an analogy
Maybe you’ve written a great post that explains exactly how something works, in painstaking detail. The problem is, your readers aren’t engaging with it—they’re not even reading it.
Can you come up with an analogy that helps the reader to understand?
A good analogy gives your reader a picture in their head, based on something familiar. It can give them that “Aha, I get it!” moment. It can help them look at something in a fresh way, like Starting a Successful Blog is Like Planning an Invasion. You can keep the analogy going as a running metaphor using language that relates to it (like “allies” and “skirmishes” in that post).
Further reading: Blogging is like…
#9: Make your language punchier
You’re a blogger—which means you’re a writer. You need to make every sentence and word work for you.
By “punchier”, I don’t mean you should be aggressive. I mean that your words need to be strong and engaging.
Cut out unnecessary words and phrases, like “it may be the case that” or “In my opinion” or “it’s quite probably true that”. You don’t need these wishy-washy qualifiers, and your sentences will reader more strongly without them.
Use everyday language. Short, simple words can convey your points far more effectively than grandiose, convoluted ones.
Further reading: Blogging is About Writing
I’ve given you nine ways to spice up your posts. Now it’s your turn! What’s your number 10?
Ali Luke is a writer, blogger and writing coach. She’s just launched The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing, a fully updated and expanded version of her popular Staff Blogging Course. Grab your copy today for $29, and start using your blogging skills to make serious money.