Content is what makes or breaks a blog. It doesn’t matter how pretty your website looks or how high it ranks in the search engines; if your content isn’t holding your visitors’ interest, they’re going to click away.
A little effort and knowledge (or research) is often enough to crank out some pretty good blog content. But with a little attention to the final details, you can kick the quality of your content up to the next level.
Here are some copywriting tips that will help you get from “pretty good” to “awesome!”
Know Your Audience
Decide before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) just who it is you’re writing for, and let that inform your style, tone, and content. Would your audience respond well to an informal tone? Are they already somewhat familiar with your topic, or do you need to cover some of the basics? The better you know your audience, the more relevant your copy will be.
Don’t Confuse “Stiff and Formal” with “Professional”
When writing for a business blog, a lot of people tend to lapse into an overly formal style because they think it will make them sound more professional. However, if you really want to engage and persuade people with your writing, you need to sound like a real person, not a corporate drone.
Ernest Hemingway once advised authors to “Write drunk; edit sober.” And while it may occasionally be tempting to take that advice literally, Hemingway’s point was that writing and editing need to be treated as two separate disciplines. Write from your gut, with as much emotion and passion as you can. And then go back and edit your content mercilessly to make it tight and cohesive. Which brings us to our next point…
Use the Rule of 24
So you’ve just finished writing a great blog post and you’re anxious to share it with your readers. You’re thinking you’ll give it a quick read-through, and then publish that bad boy.
It’s really hard to edit something properly when it’s still fresh in your mind. That’s why most folks who blog for a living subscribe to the Rule of 24:
Sit on what you think is your final draft for 24 hours.
The longer you can wait between writing and editing, the fresher your eyes will be when you revisit your work. Simply letting your work sit overnight can give you the perspective you need to make the necessary edits. This is where your pretty good content becomes truly awesome.
Read It Out Loud
It’s amazing how effective this can be for discovering missing words, awkward phrases, and other problems with the flow of your content. When you skim over something with your eyes, your brain often tries to help out by filling in the gaps. But when you read it out loud (or convince someone else to read it to you), those kinds of errors tend to stick out.
Reading your work out loud also gives you the opportunity to…
Use the Breath Test
As a writer, brevity has always been my kryptonite. A good rule of thumb for writers is to keep your sentences down to 20 words or less. However, going through a post and counting words can be mind-numbingly tedious. So what I like to use is a little thing called the “breath test.”
It works like this. Read a sentence out loud, from beginning to end. If you run out of breath in the middle or find yourself gasping for breath at the end, the sentence is too long. Either trim it down, or break it up into smaller chunks.
Avoid the Passive Voice When Possible
An active sentence is one where the subject is doing something. A passive sentence is one where something is being done to the subject. For example:
- Active: Billy ate five pounds of bacon.
- Passive: Five pounds of bacon were eaten by Billy.
For some reason, writers tend to drift into the passive voice when they’re trying to sound formal and professional. While that’s more a question of style rather than grammar, overusing the passive voice will weaken your message and make your content seem limp and lifeless. So if you must use it, use it sparingly.