Hitting the High Notes with Your Blog: Here’s How To Do It
My editor and I were reviewing a blog recently and I remarked that the blog lacked depth. So the discussion led to ‘How does one add depth into a blog?’ Here are snippets from our conversation that I hope will aid not just our writers but anyone seeking to share thoughtful, ‘in-depth’ pieces of writing with the world.
‘Plumbing the depths’ is almost always a pejorative term. So perhaps, as writers, we should seek to soar and hit new zeniths rather than seek a nadir. That being said, how does one write a rich, thoughtful AND engaging piece with new insights that leaves the reader with a sense of having learned something new?
Here are 6 easy ways to try to do this –
Go to the bank – As we write in this digital era, and as most of our writing lives on the net anyway, it’s not that tough. We have the wealth of the internet – videos, quotes, memes, infographics, images and other blogs – to bank on. We also have the banality of the net at hand, so take care not to get lost in a maze of irrelevant trivia, or to overdo it. A quote a blog is good enough. Perhaps a couple of topical videos. Link to 1-2 relevant blogs that you may want your reader to look at for further reading (Side note – the ‘you link to my blog and I’ll link to yours’ cottage industry is alive and well. Try it!) Always, always, always, make sure your references are very aligned to your core topic. Show, don’t just tell.
Let your personality in – Are you a mountain climber, who just happens to write blogs to catch a breath? Or a Jane Austen fan who sees Darcy dripping out of the lake everywhere? (We have a couple of those in our office!) Perhaps you Netflix your way out of boring evenings. Hey, let that passion shine in your writing. A wry allusion to Bergschrund gaps here or a tongue-in-cheek reference to Colin Firth in the lake there never hurts and, in fact, may be the one thing that makes your blog memorable for the reader. Let your true self seep through – keeps the blog from being banal.
Research, research, research – The first thing I do when someone assigns a blog topic to me is read. It’s the happiest feeling to key in the topic into Google’s search bar and do some no-agenda learning about a brand new topic. I’m sure everyone does too. Here are some ways this secondary research can yield better results –
Look up Google Scholar. As the tagline says, you can literally ‘Stand on the shoulders of giants’ – sift through previous research, studies and writing on the topic to learn, perhaps quote and cite.
Look at news, images, videos – Instead of the ‘all’ tab on the search results, the ‘News’, ‘Images’ and ‘Videos’ tabs may yield more targeted results. Speaking of videos, Google doesn’t always index Vimeo or Metacafe videos. It’s worth searching on these portals too.
Trade publications, here we come – Every vertical and horizontal has trade publications – mags, journals, leader blogs, communities. These can be vital sources of information to build your blog. For example, if you’re researching Cybersecurity, Brian Krebs is the industry insider to follow. How do you find these sources? Google ‘Best cybersecurity news sources’ – follow the search results down the rabbit hole! Never stop your research with Wikipedia – Wikipedia’s citations list for any topic may be a good place to start.
Your client – Ask your client for sources they may want to include in the blog. They may have already collected a good set of research articles and links – most clients are erudite people who just don’t have the time to write. Help them help themselves by asking for inputs.
Structure it – Meandering blogs serve no one and only help to ensure your reader never comes back. Give your blogs a structure – awesome headline, optional explanatory subtitle, context-setting introduction, and the ‘meat’ sandwiched between that and a ‘bring it all together’ conclusion or summary. Don’t worry so much about hitting the word length desired (it will get hit if your research and structure are good). Here’s someone famous sharing his formula for getting 37,000 readers per blog post – many books don’t sell that many copies! Make it rich, make it structured.
Follow the KISS principle – This is perhaps the most important, yet most ignored tip. Short sentences. Conversational, plain English. 3-4 sentences per paragraph. Avoid the Queen’s English at all costs. Talk to your reader, ask them to talk back in the comments or with an email. Keep it simple, silly!
Sit with your editor– When in doubt, sit with your editor and have her scrub through your blog. Editors read A LOT and can be a treasure trove of tips on what to do and what to avoid. Here, I’m doffing my writing hat at our in-house editors SS and AJ who keep me on the straight and narrow language-wise, grammar-wise and depth-wise!
And there you have it! See the structure of this blog – it’s a listicle. See the single meme with Ned Stark (yes, I ‘flix my way through weekends too!) See the peppering of quote and video – just enough, not more.
Did you find this blog helpful? Is it engaging? One heartening hint for me: if you’ve come down this far, you probably did. Let me know if I hit the high notes (or not) in the comments or write to email@example.com.