If you read a lot of conventional wisdom articles about how to write successful blog posts, you’ll read a lot of advice that’s just plain wrong. Some people giving out this advice give it because it worked for them five years ago so they assume it’s still working now. Others are just parroting what they’re heard before, with no research or testing to back it up. If you follow all the “rules,” you’ll be average at best.
Here are the worst piles of crap:
Write short, easy-to-read posts of 400-600 words.
Ask anyone who has written some epic long post that’s gone viral and they’ll tell you this is bunk. My most popular post on the Cheapest Destinations Blog is 4,803 words, for example. There are e-books for sale that are shorter than that. But don’t take my word for it. In this awesome (long) post from AppSumo founder Noah Kagan, the analysis of more than 100,000 blog posts showed the longer the post, the more it got shared.
Break your post up with lots of subheads and short sentences so people can skim easily.
Yeah I know, people have short attention spans on the web and they don’t like to read long blocks of text. That’s what everyone will tell you anyway.
But what kind of readers are you trying to attract? The kind that surfs the web like a squirrel on crack? Or the kind that have landed on your site because they’re actually interested in the topic?
If it’s the latter, forget the former. Go for quality visitors, not just eyeballs. Stick in a photo or subhead where it’s natural, but those who want to skim and just pick out one fact aren’t the ones who are going to sign up for your e-mail list, get your RSS feed, or value your advice. Ten seconds from now they’ll be on to something else and won’t ever remember the name of your blog. So don’t dumb down your writing to please them. Let them go.
Don’t try to be too clever with your title—and keep it short.
This is actually half right. It’s good advice for search: you want the subject of the article to be the subject in your title. And not too long.
But it turns out this is terrible advice when it comes to social sharing. Just look at the success of sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. They’ve built up massive traffic and Facebook followings by posting clever titles that promise something funny, strange, or amazing if you will just click that link already. (Recent examples: “The Nipple Bikini Lets You Go Topless Without Taking It All Off,” “A Man Walked Into A McDonald’s With A Knife Sticking Out Of His Back,” “If You’re Too Grossed Out To Share This Video, Then You’re Exactly Why It Exists.”
Put links to your post on every social media platform as soon as you hit publish.
This is bad advice for a whole host of reasons, the main one being that the time you publish a post might be the lowest readership time for your audience on social media. If most of your followers are in bed by 10 pm and your post goes live at midnight, then put the megaphone away until the morning.
Besides, based on personal experience with six different blogs and websites, at least 90% of an article’s traffic comes after it has been out at least a month. What’s the rush? The other point is, it’s better if others spread the word for you than if you do it yourself. This is especially true for Stumbleupon.
One caveat though: posting on Google+ does seem to get your post indexed faster by Google. Whether this matters or not in the long run is up for debate.
Write lots of list posts to get clicks and shares.
Yes, you probably will get more clicks and shares if your post has a number in it. Like it or not, top-10 lists are still popular and probably always will be. The lemmings love lists and even if they haven’t read it, they’ll retweet it.
But what good is a retweet if nobody clicks on the link? What’s the good of bringing more traffic to your site if it’s the first and last time they’ll visit–for 15 seconds?
The occasional list post is a nice break that will probably get you higher short-term traffic. You could say it’s the entire reason some blogs (like The Luxury Travel Blog) get so much traffic. They’ve done lists non-stop from the start and it has worked for them. Hey, your next list post may even go viral.
But here’s the key question: do you want to be known as a writer with expertise, or a person who’s good at making lists?
Your turn: what other advice do you read all the time that hasn’t been right for you or your audience?