How To Write Compelling Content For Your Blog

The age of blogging galore is over. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have readers too. There was a time when the mere fact of having a blog would bring you an interested and sometimes avid audience. But now the field is too crowded and you really need to stand out if you want to talk to somebody else besides the guy who’s looking at you from the reflection of your monitor.

I’ve written more than 300 articles on this blog by now, and I feel I have only scratched the surface. In today’s article I’ll share some of my insights on how to write constant, quality and engaging content for your blog. Although I primarily blog about personal development, this post won’t be about this specific niche, you can use the advice for whatever blog you have, or intend to have.

Play With Your Words

This is by far the most important and useful tip for writing good content, at least for me. Although I have a constant pool of ideas, I like to write without constraint, to play with the sentences and see where I land. By playing with my words I understand writing in a free form, without being concerned about following the main idea of the post.

You may find yourself drifting really fast from the initial target and write about things that are surprising even for yourself. Or you realize that you’re not so keen about the initial idea and another, much appealing topic is rising. Go for it. Write as you don’t have a deadline or a structured approach. See where you land.

Apart from being a very good antidote to writer’s block, this free form writing approach is almost always a fantastic way of brainstorming new ideas. Every time I start writing an article, I don’t really know if it’s going to be a series, if it’s going to be about the initial topic, or if it will be 400 or 4000 words. But I do know for sure it will be something I would love to write about.

Keep An Incubator Of Ideas

If you’re serious about blogging, you’ll going to be serious about blogging. And by that I mean you’ll have to treat it as a full time occupation. The published articles on your blog will be only the visible part of an iceberg. Under the sea level lies your entire setup. One of the most important parts of this setup is what I call an incubator of ideas.

Your blog will be a reflection of yourself, regardless of the topic you write about. Ideas can come in the most unusual places and at the most unusual times. You have to develop a scaffold for capturing those ideas and keep them in a safe place. The capturing setup is beyond the scope of this article, as it implies a variety of approaches and devices, for now it’s important to know that you have to capture and keep all of your ideas.

I created such a blogging incubator setup using MacJournal and its ability to create smart journals based on a variety of keys (tags, post priority, post status, etc). Even more, I use a GTD paradigm, meaning I isolate the “Next Posts” in a separate journal, so I can always have a fresh focus on them. Feel free to read the entire tutorial.

Make Room For Other Opinions

One of the most forgotten things about blogging is its conversational nature. A blog is made of much more than your own insight. It’s made of your readers comments, the pingbacks, the blogogsphere reactions, and more. If you write in a very sharp way, keeping a rigid approach, chances are that your blog will not become mainstream soon. It may attract a small pool of faithful fans, if you are really good, but not more. In this case, I think you’re using blogging in a therapeutical way which is not inherently good or bad, it will just not become very popular.

Making room for other opinions will allow your readers to express their own insights, to create controversy, to allow freedom of speech and to receive new hints for future posts. I’m not talking only about keeping the comments form opened and answering to your readers as soon as you can, I’m talking about a whole specific approach in your writing.

Even when you’re giving advice or when you’re expressing a very personal point of view, allow yourself the freedom to be challenged on that. Most of the blogs I read on a regular basis have this approach: they present facts or ideas in an open way, giving me a chance to react, to enhance or to disagree openly. And you know what? I can’t wait to come back again to see what happened since my last visit.

Clearly State Your Expertise

No need to be shallow if you’re blogging. No need to brag either, of course. But there is a very important point you should be aware of: make your expertise very transparent. It will not only help your credibility, but it will give your readers a sense of comfort.

If you had a business for 10 years, be transparent on that. I had a business for 10 years, and that gave me the perspective and authority to write several series about how to create and maintain an online business.

But if you started something new, and have no idea about what you’re doing, be also transparent. One of the most read sections in my blog is about the raw food diet. I kept a raw food diet for more than 7 months (it ended once I got back from my trip to Japan) and blogging about it was a fantastic way to learn something new. I wasn’t an expert on that, and I clearly stated that.

Be Consistent

Keep a closed list of topics. That will make your blog easily recognizable. Don’t go too far, don’t spread too much. If you have other interests, the best thing you can do is to create separated blogs for them. Consistency is the key in creating a credible blog brand. Two months ago I decided to migrate 2 of the categories of this blog, namely iPhone and astrology, into their own blogs: iPhoneCounty and AstrologyBits. I will write about iPhone and astrology here, of course, but only when there is a consistent overlap with the main topic of this blog, which is personal development.

Being consistent means also be your most attentive and agile reader. You have to constantly read your blog. Maybe this sounds strange, and it will be strange in the beginning, but once you crossed 50 or 100 articles, you’ll know what I mean.

When I had more than 200 articles, I decided it’s time to automate a little bit this task, and I created a mind map for my blog. I put each post into this mind map, and whenever I want to see my blog from a distance, to have an image of the content topics and their overall weight in the blog, I look at the mind map. There is a separate post about how to put your blog into a mind map (featuring a lot more than just keeping your posts in it), so feel free to read it.

Practice

Nobody will write content for your blog, you’ll have to do it. Of course, you can create a network of blogs, hire people to write and pay them. But in that case you’ll be an entrepreneur, not a blogger. A blogger blogs, period. So, practice your writing, do it often and do it again.

One of the key metrics of a blog is what I call posting speed. It’s basically how many articles you intend to write in a period of time (week or month). This posting speed has a very interesting effect on your writing: it will make it better. The more you write, the better will be at it. There is always a threshold here, you’ll have to experiment a little to see which posting speed is suitable for you. Last year I intended to write 90 articles in 90 days, and I failed miserably after only 17 articles.

But when I decided to have at least 15 articles by month (a practice I follow for about 8 months now) I also created a simple wordpress plugin in order to help me with it. It’s called wordpress blog audit plugin and you can download it from here (among other useful stuff to download). The plugin does a few simple things, one of them being the ability to show if you met or not your posting speed.

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So, what are YOUR opinions about writing compelling content for your blog? What can you share about this topic? Do you find the advice useful? Do you have something to add? Would love to hear your insights in the comments.



Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Steven Aitchison

    Hi Dragos

    Some great advice here. I would also suggest using a program called DarkRoom which is a text file editor but is a black screen with green text and it blocks out everything else on your computer and lets you totally focus on your writing.

    I also liked the mindmap idea which I will need to check out.

    I’m also going for a post a day but will have the help of other authors for the blog and I can write for other blogs as well, but your goal of 1 every two days seems to be working great for you.
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..The power of Focus =-.

    1. dragos

      Thanks, Steven

      MacJournal has this option called full screen, when the background becomes black and the text green, I should have mentioned that I use it ONLY in this mode when I write articles, it’s great for blocking distractions.

      BTW: good luck with your goal ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Kevin Simpson

    Hi Dragos-
    What a great article on blogging. I am a recent beginner and mostly write when moved to write or find something stunning and profound. So blogging is at hobby mode for me as of now. Must have been short and written on the go. Your points will be used – especially being consistent and practicing.

    Cheers

    Kevin
    Most recent entry on Raising Alabama
    http://kdsl.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/raising-alabama/
    .-= Kevin Simpson´s last blog ..Raising Alabama =-.

    1. dragos

      Most of my revenue generating activities – including a business I had for 10 years – were out of hobbies, so be aware :-)

  3. Robin Easton

    Hi Dragos, this is a great post and timely for me as it is something I’ve been pondering of late. When I started my blog I decided to give myself the luxury of allowing it to be both philosophical and nature based…and allowing myself be more personal. However lately I’ve been thinking about being a bit more specific. Am not yet sure if it will hamper me too much or not. The main this is I wanted to have fun with it as well as create a platform for my book when it comes out. My book is about my life in the jungles of Australia when I was younger. But until the book is out, publishers don’t usually like an author to put too much out there about it….no until the book is available for sale.

    But I think this first year and half has been good as it is helping me find my way in the blogging world as well as my most authentic voice. That’s easy for me to do in a book but a bit harder with my blog due to keeping posts short.

    I really enjoyed this post. I think it’s something I will have to read a second time to really digest some of the great ideas here. Thank you for sharing it.
    .-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Journey of Soul =-.

    1. dragos

      Thanks for the kind words, and you made me really curious about your book. One more reason to follow your blog, maybe I get a preview sometimes soon ? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. m

    followed this from hacker news. your site sucks and this article is ironic because its not compelling at all. go worship jeff atwood

    1. dragos

      Thanks for being around here. The day I will make everybody happy is the day I will be sure I’m dead. Upsetting people is sometimes the only proof you’re alive. From what you’ve write in the comment, along with your anonymity, I suppose you’re using this proof a lot.

  5. aurora

    Plain and nice article. However, you might give brief examples from the great bloggers and their styles. For example in the section of “Be Consistent”, I might give Paul Graham as an example, as I think he’s one the most consistent persons in his ideas. And Joel Spolsky might be a good example for the “Make Room For Other Opinions” section as I frequently see him relentlessly follow the readers opinions and reply them in a “persuasive” manner.

    Reading and writing by example is nice and effective, I think.

    1. dragos

      Thanks for the comments and especially for those suggestions. In all honesty I’ll reckon that I don’t follow those guys on a regular basis, but they will be in my feed reader now. As for examples, I’ll give Darren Rowse from problogger.net as an example of consistency, and Brian Clark from copyblogger.com as an example of conversational and inciting guy.

  6. Kikolani

    I still haven’t tried the mind map with a program, although I did it on paper for the two series posts I have done recently. Instead of just putting a condensed version into one post, I wrote down the idea, then broke it up into smaller parts, which has turned two ideas into weeks worth of major posts.

    ~ Kristi
    .-= Kikolani´s last blog ..WordPress Thesis Theme Customization Part Two: Plugins =-.

    1. dragos

      You should try the mind mapping technique more often. From what I read in your blog it will tremendously help maintain your ideas and future posts. You can try FreeMind, is a free mind mapping application, written in Java.

  7. BunnygotBlog

    Hi Dragos,

    It has been suggested to me to have other blogs. I enjoy writing about famous women with the intention of encouraging younger girls with the stories. I have a mixed crowd. I have noticed teenagers and up reading her.
    What I have found is- one work is over, I am not so compelled to write about business.That was one of the topics I was focusing on.
    I have a muse, that came to me over the net.She has sent me articles that have peaked my interest to write about when I am in a slump.Then I never delete something I have started to write.This too, helps avoid the block
    This is a very good article for all blogger ‘s to read.

    1. dragos

      Having a muse is definitely a great writing incentive. I do have my own muse, fortunately, she’s with me in the real life all the time ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Reasonable Robinson

    A really timely post as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been blogging for over two years and like many writers have ‘hit the wall’ a times. I pondered on the fact that there is only so much to be said and, with many of the communication models in mind that draw our attention to ‘cutting through noise’ I wondered just how anyone stands out. I guess there is always the risk that some really good ideas/comments/observations will be overlooked. The only dependable way to be ‘heard’ I believe is to to create a reputation that is passed on from reader to reader. All the other ‘gee whizz’ tekky ideas are transient and lack authenticity. One of my recent posts considered if we can actually blog about ‘nothing’. Well…at least I got a post from it!!
    .-= Reasonable Robinson´s last blog ..Spotting A Bare Faced Lie =-.

    1. dragos

      Yeap, the only valuable asset out of blogging is reputation and that can’t be built overnight. I know Steve Pavlina since his crazy polyphasic sleep experiment, and took me at least 2 years to know him better and to learn what to take and what to leave out. Writing good content is only one part of the whole deal, you need to have something to say, to stand up for what you write / share, to embrace criticism (that’s one of the most difficult tasks, because criticism is often violent and not entirely funded) and to stick with the task long enough to buy a “real estate” in the brains of your readers. For instance, Pavlina bought the real estate called “courage and discipline” in my head, while Leo Babauta bought the real estate called “simplicity and persistence”.

  9. ibz

    Didn’t know you ended your raw food diet. How come? Maybe you should have a post on that.

    1. dragos

      Yeap, I will have a post soon. As far as I’m concerned I’m on a pause, I do intend to go back to a raw foodish eating style once the holidays are over.

  10. JMom

    I like reading articles like this because it gives me something to aim for. Although I have been blogging for a while, I have always treated it as a hobby and had never really given it any structure. I never considered myself to be a writer either (I still don’t) so sometimes when I read articles like yours or the ones on Copyblogger or Problogger I am just awed at how you guys approach blogging. I’ve got a ways to go but I’m learning, thanks to you guys. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    .-= JMom´s last blog ..Books in a Box =-.

    1. dragos

      And I love reading comments like this, because it means I changed something in the system. No need to do it like Problogger, Copyblogger or me (ok, I admit, I’m so flattered to be mentioned in the company of those guys that I had to find a way to repeat it), do it your own way. If you find here at least a little bit of inspiration, it’s great. Means I did my job :-)

  11. Stephen - Rat Race Trap

    Dragos, nice work! I think being passionate about your topic helps. I hold back in my articles some, because I don’t want to get too far out there, but I think it helps people to see you are a real person with emotions.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Dig For Diamonds =-.

    1. dragos

      Yeap, as always, Stephen, your comments are contributing more value. Being passionate is something that certainly help writing. And, of course, not only writing :-)

  12. Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

    Hey Dragos, this was a wonderful article. These are the kind of insights that come from experience and dedication. I think most bloggers, and especially new ones, could really benefit from your conclusions. Thanks for your usual attention to detail.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Is Your Why Good Enough? =-.

    1. dragos

      Jonathan, thanks for being here and for your support. As always, great to have you around :-)

  13. Celes | CelestineChua.com

    Great post dragos! ๐Ÿ˜€ Coincidentally Darren from problogger just wrote a series on creating compelling content too. I have an ideas list on my computer which I use to capture new ideas whenever they strike (which is very very frequently, like several times a day at least). The only problem (?) is I end up having a huge ideas list and not enough time to write all of them!
    .-= Celes | CelestineChua.com´s last blog ..Poll: Do You Prefer to Have Pictures in the Articles? =-.

    1. dragos

      I know the feeling of having too many subjects and so little time :-) I use this thing I learned from GTD: I do a weekly, or monthly review of all my ideas and then prioritize them. One thing I found interesting is that after enough time, some ideas which are not becoming blog posts are melting with other, newer ideas. So, I have to keep my incubator clean, otherwise they will start overlapping.

  14. Ching Ya

    Hi Dragos,
    I was directed here from Kikolani’s Fetching Friday. I have to say, you’re spot on with the tips given. To me, the toughest thing about writing a compelling content is the ‘time’ to actually sit down, and do it. Inspirations don’t come daily, and the best thing I’ve learned is to write it as soon as it hits you. I was saved by a couple of times during blog drought moments with those pre-written posts. I need to work more on the consistency, and work the way out of the busy schedules.

    Having said that, you’ve been helpful in this post. ^^

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging Tracker
    .-= Ching Ya´s last blog ..My Big Move To WordPress, So Long Blogger! =-.

    1. dragos

      Thanks for being around here (Kristi is doing a great job with her Fetching Fridays, isn’t she?). As for inspiration, keeping that ideas incubator is also a fantastic time saver.

      Glad to be helpful :-)

  15. ayo olaniyan

    Hi Dragos,

    how are you?

    Jonathan was on point when he mentioned ‘most bloggers and especially new ones could really benefit from your conclusions’ i certainly fit that description lol!!!
    Lest i forget, i found your blog through CYT.I Will be going through the other topics highlighted in this post.

    Have a lovely day.
    .-= ayo olaniyan´s last blog ..Accepting who you are. =-.

    1. dragos

      Well, glad to have you here, Ayo :-)

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  17. Mitch

    Very nicely written, and absolutely true, as that’s what I do all the time. Well, at least on one of my blogs, since the others are more niched. Sometimes I’ll write very long posts, but I try to temper those with something a little shorter and more snappy here and there. But I always try to be entertaining in some fashion.
    .-= Mitch´s last blog ..Do Something Out Of The Ordinary =-.

    1. dragos

      I also try to alternate some stuff in the post length, but I usually try to remain in the 1000-1500 zone. Seems that for this blog this is optimal. On other blogs I also use shorter posts, especially on the niched ones.

  18. Prasenjit @ Make Money Blogging

    If you ask me I miss ideas. While I have lot to write, when I think I’ll write, I just get lost. I don’t know how to have a clear thought about what I’m going to write.

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