“Content is king” is a well-known phrase in the online marketing world. The quality of your posts is what makes or breaks your blog. This sometimes intimidates web designers and web developers who are not very confident in their writing skills. Don’t worry, guys, you don’t need a Pulitzer prize under your belt in order to create great blogposts.
The Craigslists Penis Effect
Have you ever heard of the Craigslists Penis Effect? This term, which was coined by Ramit Sethi, describes a situation where everyone else is so horrible that you can win simply by being half-decent. It’s name comes from a strange phenomenon: apparently, if you are a woman, and you submit a nice g- rated “women seeking men” post to Craigslists, you will immediately get tens of e-mails with pictures of penises. No one knows why this happens. However, this means that if you are guy who writes a normal e-mail instead of sending the lucky girl yet another picture of a penis, you will look like Prince Charming in her eyes. Now, what does this all have to do with writing blogposts?
Well, I’m sorry to say that, but most people write very mediocre blog posts (..and I’m trying to be polite here..). Today, the blogosphere standard of writing seems to be short articles that rehash the-same-old-heard-it-a-thousand-times before ideas. The problem with these kind of posts is that the readers do not get any value from them and consequently forget them five minutes later. This sad thing is actually a golden opportunity for you: if you put in the extra time and efforts into writing an in-depth blogposts that offer some less common insights, you will stand out in the eyes of the readers, and they will come back for more. And it’s really not that hard to stand out when the bar is set very low.
Here are some general guidelines that will help you write better blogposts than most:
- Solve a problem. Don’t just write about random things, look for real problems that your readers are struggling with at the moment, and provide solutions to them.
Example: I need an example here, Rean, can you suggest something?
- Present a unique take on a well-known issue. Don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and to approach the usual topics from a new angle.
Example: “Why Are Programming Languages Sites So Ugly?” by Sacha Greif
- Let your personality shine through. People tend forget dry articles that might as well have been written by a robot very fast, so don’t be afraid to make some jokes or include personal stories. You are not writing for an academic journal.
Example: “Of Responsive Images And Cute Puppies” by Sacha Greif.
You don’t really need to have mad writing skills in order to succeed as a blogger, especially in the web design and web development niche. Focus on providing as much value as possible and don’t obsess over the writing itself. This way, your content will stand out among all the fluff. Consequently, your readers will be impressed, and keep coming back for more.
Three types of articles that you should learn how to write well
The same blogpost might be considered bad in one niche and good in the other. An important thing to understand is that as a blogger, you are not writing for yourself, you are writing for your readers. This means that you have to make sure that your articles are relevant to your audience and meets it’s neeeds. You can’t publish “50 shades of grey” fan fiction and expect that it will help you to get ahead in your web design and/or web development career, can you?
Let’s discuss three types of articles that tend to do really well in the web design and web development niche:
More and more people are getting interested in web design and web development. They go online to learn more about it. You don’t need that much expertise in order to write something that would help these newcomers. Publishing comprehensive tutorials can help you to increase your credibility and get your first readers, followers and e-mail list subscribers.
Here are three tips for writing a great tutorial:
- Make it as timeless as possible. Write tutorials that you believe will be useful today, tomorrow, and three months from now. Emphasize not only specific techniques, but also general principles of the craft, because general principles in design and development rarely change.Also, make sure that it is easy for you to update your tutorial, so that it wouldn’t become useless after a slightest shift in the technology.
- Get straight to the point. People want read tutorials because they want to learn something new, so you will be doing them a favor if you will avoid beating around the bush and get straight to the point. Try to explain things as clearly and as briefly as possible.
- Make good formatting choices. You might write a great tutorial, but ruin it with bad formatting. Make sure to divide your tutorial into several steps and use images to help the readers visualize what’s happening.
Example: Rakhitha Nimesh from 1stWebDesigner writes great tutorials.
Case studies are articles that analyze a certain event. They give readers a sneak peak into what’s happening behind the scenes when someone writes an app or launches an e-book. Well-written case studies tend to be received really well by the web design and web development community. It might really help you to increase your credibility, because when you do it right, you come across as a really knowledegable person.
Here are three tips for writing a winning case study:
- Make sure to pack it with data. Case studies are all about analyzing something that has already happened and drawing conclusions from it. Keep in mind that readers are always interested in various data, such as traffic statistics, conversion rates, revenue, etc., therefore the more of it you provide, the happier they will be.Also, you will always get bonus points for including pictures that visually represent the data that you use, such as diagrams or Google Analytics screenshots.
- Approach it from different angles. Present several different opinions on the issue, then use data and logical thinking to work out which one makes the most sense, and share your conclusion with the readers.
- Share both what went right and what went wrong. It’s important to point out mistakes if you want to give the readers the whole picture of an event. They will appreciate that, believe me.
Example: “1WD E-book Launch Case Study: How To Get 8000 Downloads In 3 Days” by Dainis Graveris.
Interviews can be very helpful when you are only starting out with your blog. You can boost your credibility by interviewing well-known people: when people see an interview with their celebrity crush on a website they are visiting for the first time, they immediately assume that the mentioned website must be legit. On top of that, people tend to share links to their interviews with their own online followings, therefore if you interview someone with thousands of Twitter followers, it’s very likely that you will get a wave of new traffic because of it It might be really worth it to give this a try.
Many people think that it must be very hard to get someone relatively well-known to agree on an interview. Well, as someone who has 30+ published interviews under my belt, I can tell you that it is not as hard as it seems. You just have to not be afraid to ask.
Here are three tips for getting people do to an interview for your website:
- Use this e-mail template:
Subject: Would you like to do an interview for (your website)?
My name is (your name). I’m a writer at (your website).
I’d love to do an interview with you, because I believe your insights on (insert topic) would be very valuable for my readers.
It would be an e-mail interview, meaning I’d send you the questions and you’d send me the answers, so it would be very easy and straightforward. Are you interested?
Let me know!
- Add social proof whenever you can. You need to include things that make you look credible in your e-mail. Have you ever interviewed a well-known person? Or maybe you have been featured in popular website? Does anyone influential like your website?You can mention this in an e-mail by adding a P.S. like these:”P.S. There are quite a few interviews on the site already in case you’d like to take a look, but here’s one with someone you probably have heard of, (name) (link)”P.S. My work has been recently featured in (website), here’s the link in case you want to take a look: (link)”..or something among those line.
- Make references that show that you know the person whenever possible. You might find yourself e-mailing a person whose work you have been following for a long time.When this is the case, don’t hesitate to mention that, and reference his or her work that you enjoyed. This will highly increase the chances of getting a response.
Most importantly, understand that doing interviews is a number’s game. You will have to approach a lot of people in order to land a single interview. Don’t take rejections personally. However, you will get lucky once in a while, so how to make the most out of it?
Here are three tips for doing an interesting interview:
- Always do your homework. The first step is always to take a look at the interviewee’s website Once you are aware of their background, it’s time to start digging. The most efficient way to quickly find out interesting things about someone is to google “their name + interview” and read all the interviews they did recently.
- Ask interesting questions.You have to put yourself in the place of a person who will read that interview and think about what questions would they want answered. Many people make mistakes of asking general questions that nobody cares about. Don’t be afraid to ask sophisticated or even controversial questions if you know that they will provide value to the readers.I suggest you to read an article “Better Interviews” by Sacha Greif to learn more about asking the right quesitons when interviewing people in the web design and web development niches.
- Add and introduction and a summary.A good introduction, besides introducing the person you are about to interview to your audience, should also point out what the interview will be about and what the readers will learn in it. A good summary briefly summarizes the key lessons from the interview that readers can apply in their own situation. Bulletpoints work well for both.Example: “Jarrod Drysdale Explains How He Earned More Than 38,000$ From His E-book” by me (yes, I’m tooting my own horn as always).
Publishing these three types of articles can help you to get noticed in the blogosphere. However, always keep in mind that you have to provide as much value as possible, otherwise people will skim through the article, say “meh..”, and forget about you. Only publish blog posts that you know will provide value to your readers.
How to write great blog posts in only few hours
You probably already realized that in order to build a popular blog you will have to write a lot. This might not seem like the best news ever, since writing good articles takes so long, right? Well, there are several tricks that can help you to produce content much faster without sacrificing it’s quality.
Here are few tips that will make writing great content a much easier task for you:
- Always have a plan. As Rean, our editor, said on his blog, “Writing is not the problem, it’s quite an easy task, but knowing what to write is a different matter.” You can easily write 1000+ words per hour if you know what you want to say. This is why you should always outline your a blog post before starting to write it.
- Write the first draft as quickly as possible. You have probably heard about the so called writer’s block. This is an experience of sitting in front of a blank page of paper or a blank text document for hours and not being able to write a single word. Well, the reason for creative paralysis is that people want to write a perfect piece from their first try, and because of that mental pressure they are unable to even start. It’s not likely that you will ever write a masterpiece this way, so you can just drop that idea altogether and write the first draft from start to finish as quickly as possible, no matter how crappy it might be. It’s much easier to turn a horrible draft into a great article than it is to turn a blank page into a masterpiece.
- Don’t mix writing and editing. Some people might feel compelled to object to the previous tip by complaining that it’s not that easy to write that first draft. Well, my answer is that it is only hard if you try to write and edit at the same time. You can be either in creative mode (writing) or in analytical mode (editing), but if you try to be in both modes at the same time, you will do a bad job at both.
- When you write, block out all the distractions, and fully focus on writing. We live in an age of constant distraction. Most people write with their Skype, Facebook and Twitter on while reading Huffington Post and eating a sandwich. Then, they wonder why it takes so long for them to write something decent. The inconvenient truth is that writing is something thare requires hard focus for extensive periods of time. You have to make a choice between being constantly distracted and writing well.
You might think that this is a simple common sense, but really, common sense is not as common as you think. Even people who make their living as writers don’t always use these simple principles to their advantage. I suggest you to at least try to develop good writing habits from the very beginning, though. It will save you a lot of headache in the long run.
Practice makes perfect (or at least decent)
You don’t have to be a literature genius in order to build a successful blog. However, you have to provide value to your readers, and in order to succeed at that you have to be able to clearly express yourself through writing. An important thing to understand is that writing is a skill just like any other skill and it can be learned. Don’t believe the “you need a talent for writing” fairytales.
Here’s a great excerpt from the interview with Sacha Greif:
When it comes to writing e-books, a lot of designers seem to have this block “ I’m a designer, I’m not a writer, I don’t know-how to write.” Maybe you have some words encouragement for them? Or maybe an advice on how to overcome that block?
You have to become a writer. You can do that by writing on your blog, or doing guest posts, or any other way you can. You need to practice. That’s the only way to get better at writing, I think.
I’ve read somewhere that the more you write, not only you get better at writing, but you also get more ideas on what to write about next.
Many people try to save their ideas, like save their idea for the ultimate blog post, but that’s not how it works, really.
You need to realize that first, you can write about the same thing twice and second, the more you write, the better you become at writing.
Just remember the time when you were only starting out as a web designer or a web developer. You probably were clumsy and couldn’t get the results that you wanted straight away, but with time and practice, you became better at it, and things that seemed like huge challenges back then are a piece of cake now. Well, writing is no different, and the more you practice, the better you become.