Last updated July 19, 2016
We read differently online than we do print media of course. Here are some tips to make your blog posts or online articles stand out.
1. Make your posts scannable
Online readers scan and skim. Therefore, use short paragraphs, lists, headings, bold, italics and other text formats, but not so many that it’s jarring or the emphasis is lost.
2. Cover your topic thoroughly
One of the common understandings regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is that preference is given to posts that are substantial and meaty.
Ask yourself, what questions will your reader have about the topic you cover in your post? For example, if you’re talking about horse training, they probably want to know about training techniques. But they also might want to know about equipment to use or how much time to devote to training or proper feeding while training.
Anticipate the reader’s additional questions and address those too.
If the offshoot topics are quite lengthy in themselves, consider writing a series. Be sure to link to the rest of the post in the series and link back to the first post in subsequent posts.
Related: What is SEO?
3. Use cliffhangers
If you write a series instead of one long post, use cliffhangers at the end of each post so people will want to come back for more. Better yet, use it as an opportunity to ask them to sign up for your email list and notify them directly.
4. Start well
Start your posts with a strong first paragraph using keywords. (Again, it’s good to understand SEO.) It’s been said, although no one knows for sure, that keywords near the top of a post are weighted more than those that come later. And if you start your posts with an image, make sure you read my image tips so you are optimizing them as much as possible.
5. End well
What do you want your reader to do at the end of your post? Sign up for your newsletter? Buy your book or product? Leave a comment? Read another post? Think of the last paragraph or sentence as your opportunity to guide them to the door of that next step. This is called a call to action. Hopefully they’ll walk through!
6. Don’t write what others skip
I read a lot of posts and articles online. Just like every other online reader, I skim, but I’ve noticed lately I often skip large portions of text entirely, like post intros and conclusions.
Here’s an example. If I click through to read your post with the title “6 Tips for Saving Time on Social Media” it’s because I want to see the six tips. I can almost guarantee I’ll skip your intro entirely and scroll down to the first tip. The title has already primed me for the meat of the post.
So when I think about my own content, I started thinking, if my readers are probably not reading large portions of my posts, why write them in the first place? In high school, the importance of introductions and conclusions was drummed into us, but the same rules don’t apply here. People are in a hurry. Get to the point quickly.
7. Write just enough not more
It’s no secret that traditional publishers often ask authors to fill out their content with…well…filler (see Lesson #5). This is because there have to be enough pages to justify the cost of printing a book.
Online writing is different. Filler isn’t needed. Your posts should be long enough to express your thoughts adequately but not more.
8. Create pillar content
Pillar content, sometimes called evergreen content, is a handful of your go-to posts. They are not time-sensitive, thus the term “evergreen.” They’re your best stuff and solid examples of what your blog is about.
Link to them on your About page and wherever you need to give your blog a boost. Initially work up to at least 10 or 20 pillar content posts or series and then add more as your blog grows.
9. Link internally & make your site “sticky”
Internal links are links to other posts or pages on your site. For example, the links in this post that take you to other posts on my site are internal links.
Linking internally keeps your visitors clicking (and “sticking”) around, exploring all the good stuff you have to offer. It increases your pageviews in the process, which is often helpful for monetizing, particularly monetization methods tied to pageviews, like display advertising. It’s also good for your site’s SEO because it gives the search engines a more solid picture of what you offer.
10. Link internally, with good anchor text
In the past, SEO experts advised us to try to use keyword-rich anchor text in our internal links.
Anchor text is the visible part of a link. For example, in this link, how to blog, the phrase “how to blog” is the anchor text.
Google says, avoid using generic anchor text like “click here” or “this page.” Instead, use keywords in your anchor text, like the “how to blog” example above.
When you use keyword-rich anchor text as opposed to generic, it’s like casting a positive SEO vote for the page to which you are linking. Obviously you always want to vote for your own site, so using strong anchor text when linking internally makes sense.
These days, articles like Anchor Text: A Data‐Driven Guide and 10 ways link building has changed over the last 10 years highlight an important point. Google is smart and getting smarter. They can tell when you’re trying to game the system by using the same anchor text over and over again in your posts.
The best SEO advice is to write for humans. That is, write naturally. Use phrases and anchor text that make sense to people first.
11. Know when to use good anchor text when linking externally
Let’s assume anchor text is a factor in ranking. Remember how I said strong anchor text could be seen as a positive vote for a page? Another time you might want to use strong anchor text is when you’re linking to a friend or fellow blogger.
But what happens when you link to another site, but you don’t exactly want to cast a vote for them either? For example, maybe you’re writing a post about spammy websites and you want to give a few examples. Or maybe you’re referencing a site you don’t necessarily endorse.
The thing to ask yourself is, “Is the page I’m linking to something I want to cast a favorable search engine vote for?” If the answer is yes, use strong anchor text. If it’s not, use the nofollow tag or don’t link at all.
12. Interact & engage
If you have comments open, make sure you interact. It might not be possible to respond to every single comment, but people will be more likely to leave comments if they see you engage. If you don’t think you’ll be able to respond to comments, just leave them closed or direct interaction to one of your social media platforms.
13. Promote your content
Create a promotion schedule and share your content across social media after posting. Then do it repeatedly, especially your evergreen content. In fact, you should probably promote more than you create.