A perennial complaint from bloggers is that they don’t know what to write about. But is that really the case? I think the challenge is less about finding something to say and more about finding interesting ways to present their ideas in a blog format.
Options abound, but to deliver content in ways that will engage your audience, it’s important to think not only as a writer but also like an editor. If your blog is writing-centric, consider this: while the style and clarity of your writing matters, the way in which your ideas are presented is equally important in gaining readers or in wowing your current audience.
Here are 3 ways you can produce compelling content on your blog (plus a word on archives):
1. Create Post Types. It’s easy to get into a rut and think that every blog post has to be similar. To vary your content, create several different post types that fit with the topic of your blog. For example, a “News Roundup” post can be used to share 4-5 links to timely and interesting articles in your area of interest. For each link, provide the author name, publication, and a short summary. Or you might want to have “Ask the Experts,” in which you allow experts to offer competing opinions on an important topic. To help your readers get acclimated, put together one post that defines your several post types and make it sticky somewhere on the front page sidebar.
As you develop new post types, be sure to consider the timing of the post; you might want to post a “News Roundup” on Friday, to summarize the previous week’s news. But you don’t necessarily want to use it every week, unless you have enough other weekly content to offset it. “Ask the Experts” should probably be used even less often, but will likely generate significant attention for your blog because it will help your readers get a grasp of more complex subjects. Both of these types of posts have the added benefit of enhancing your blog’s reputation as informative and useful. So don’t be afraid to experiment!
2. Peg Your Post to the News. Inspired by an article you’ve read? Angered by a news report? Act as a commentator on the news. Use a bookmarklet like Press This (if you use WordPress) or something similar to highlight content from other sources and then add your original thoughts and ideas to the post. As a general rule, highlighting more than a paragraph or so is excessive—better to quote briefly and comment extensively. Remember, this kind of post doesn’t have to be especially lengthy (though it can be). You can toss out a one-liner sort of commentary or write up a few hundred words, or more if you’d like.
For this sort of post, you’ll need to stay abreast of trends in your subject matter. Sites like Google Trends can help you find out what’s hot in Google Search; if there’s a topic that fits with your blog, you can develop a timely post on the issue or else track the trend. You can also stay up-to-date on current events in your field by using Google Alerts to notify when articles or blog posts with keywords you’ve chosen appear on the web. The upshot: you’ll be well informed about current events in your area of interest and so will your readers.
3. Say It With a Slideshow. Many bloggers use jQuery slideshow plug-ins to highlight specific content on their sites. But slideshows can actually be the content for a post with the addition of some additional commentary. Whether you want to highlight several gadgets, top women leaders, or great vacation hotels, using photos is a great way to tell a story—TheDailyBeast does this really well. Your best best: find a slideshow plug-in that has an area for commentary (preferably on the left or right side of the image), and a visible navigation button so that readers will know exactly how to advance the slides. Images are always popular with readers and slideshows make for excellent evergreen content which you can repurpose or promote year-round.
One caveat: don’t forget to get relevant permissions for the photos that you use in the slideshow, especially for photos of celebrities, which may be restricted. For more generic photos, use stock photography (select photos that have the model’s release), or try open photography sites, like Flickr. If you go this route, remember to confirm the photographer’s attribution and use requirements before using anything you download. Helpful hint: if you have a photo you like, and can’t remember where you found it, this site can help you identify the author (for Flickr only).
Finally, a Word on Archives. What do you think when you see a blog archive with five or six years worth or blog posts? My guess is that you’re more inclined to take that person seriously because they have demonstrated a level of commitment to blogging. So why do so many bloggers neglect to setup a user-friendly archive page on their site? Not just a listing of archives in the sidebar (let’s face it: looking at years in calendar form isn’t exactly inviting), but a more user-friendly page that includes fun categories like “Best Of”, “Most Controversial”, or “Mea Culpa.” Anil Dash has done this to great effect on his blog, which has well over 10 years of content. If you have more than a year or two’s worth of content, this is a great way to generate interest in some of your older content. After all, as the not-so-old saying goes, good content never goes out of style.
Jessica Faye Carter is the CEO of Nette Media and a frequent speaker on women, culture, and social media. She blogs on her own site and at Technicultr.
Image Credit: iStockPhoto
Great idea about a more user-friendly archive. I’ll definitely have to improve mine. Press This is also something I’d like to try out.