How to write an outstanding blog post

You Late this Spring, Liz Strauss tagged me, asking what makes an outstanding blog post and I've been letting my answer cook until now.  Which is a fancy way of saying…I'm finally getting to it.

Maybe it took me this long because I'm not sure I have the answer for this one.  Honestly, some of the posts that I still love the most and touch my heart are ones that you hardly noticed.  And sometimes a post that I think is just okay draws a huge response.

So clearly, I haven't a clue. 

But…I have recognized some patterns.  Maybe there's a hint or two in them for all of us.

It's all about you.

The best blog posts are reader centric.  They respect your intelligence, your time and your need for something fresh and different.   Rather than being intent on teaching you something new, they are intent on generating a conversation by acknowledging that we both have something to say on the subject, whatever it may be.

It's not all about you.

When I first started blogging, I fully intended to offer tips and commentary on the world of marketing and branding.  I didn't plan to share or show you my heart.  After all, this is a business blog.  But, I discovered that when you write every day, you can't really avoid that.  And that's when people beyond my parents and my employees started reading my blog.  So, while it can mostly be about you.  It actually has to be about me too.  Sort of like a conversation perhaps?

I'm not you.

Some days, I find the blogosphere pretty intimidating.  I read all these smart and insightful things and wonder…what the heck am I doing at this party?  Thank God I am smart enough to know that I will never be as sassy as CK or as poetic as Gavin or eloquent as Liz or helpful as Mike or inspiring as Christine or as prolific as Lewis.  My blog is never going to look like David's or have a subscription list like John's.  I can't draw like Tony, share wry observations like Cam or connect people like Phil.  And I sure can't cuss like Paul.  And that just scratches the surface of the bloggers I admire and wish I could be more like.

And to try would only serve to embarrass myself.  Like it or not, I've got to work with my talents or you'd recognize me as a fake and rightfully call me on it.  So I offer up what I've learned over the years, in my own native voice and hope that it will resonate with you.

I only come back because of you.

Talking to myself every day would bore me to tears.  I love to write but I really love the conversation.  I think the biggest tragedy of blogging is that most people read the posts and never dig into the comments.  That' s where the real meat is.  I can serve up a topic but I promise you, the real "a ha" comes in the interaction below the surface of the original post.

So back to Liz' question.  What makes a great post?

I think, for me anyway, my posts stretch towards greatness when I draw the outline of the picture and then you color it in.  When I don't know all the answers, but I have a pretty good idea of the questions.  When I don't think too long or too hard, but instead just toss it out there.  When I don't worry about how pretty the words sound, but instead enjoy your words.  My best posts are when I look around the room, marvel at the interesting people gathered and just pull up a chair.

So in the end…it seems that what makes an outstanding post for me….is you.

How about you?  If you're a blogger – how/when do you create an outstanding post?  And if you're a reader, what makes a post noteworthy to you?

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18 comments on “How to write an outstanding blog post

  1. Vernon Lun says:

    Hi Drew,

    It was well worth the wait!

    Vern

  2. Drew,

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve approached creating an outstanding post yet. But the posts I’ve admired most from others are those that come from the heart; a strong opinion, well-expressed, joined to enough humility to learn from others. Or,in some cases, just pointing to something else inspiring and valuable, and sharing the link with others. Or, at other times, just plain sharing personal things with us friends around the virtual table.
    I benefit greatly from your example of sharing ideas not yet fully-formed, and letting others in on the creative process.

  3. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Drew!
    Outstanding to me is writing that takes me in to what is written. I hear your head and heart in what you’re saying. So I am drawn in and I not only hear what you are saying, but I learn your ideas AND about you as well, which is a deeper understanding. To me that is an outstanding blog post and this one more than qualifies. 🙂

  4. Vern,

    It’s good to know you’re out there reading!

    Drew

  5. Steve,

    I think when you first start out blogging — you aspire to being as good as though you admire. Then, after you’ve written for awhile, you get it. It’s not you that’s good or not. It’s the conversation.

    That’s what makes a blog post outstanding.

    Drew

  6. Liz,

    Deeper understanding. Maybe that is the core. However you get there, as long as everyone walks away with a deeper understanding…the blogger has hit the mark.

    Drew

  7. Art Dinkin says:

    YOU are one of the bloggers I admire and if you don’t know what makes a good blog post… well, I would recommend you read your blog but pretend you did not write it. Because your blog is excellent.

    I understand the part about writing something you are certain is brilliant and is sure to draw countless oooh’s and ahhh’s… and then you hear nothing. Then one day you slap together a post while patting your head and rubbing your tummy (or between meetings or while you are on a phone call) and as soon as you publish it the comments and emails begin to roll in.

    Looks to me Drew like you already have it figured out. The only absolute is there are no absolutes. The rules are in conflict and contradict.

  8. Art,

    Thank you kindly. I’m just swinging at the pitches and hoping for singles. I think a blogger gets into trouble when they swing for the fence every time.

    If nothing else, we can keep each other company!

    Drew

  9. Chris Brown says:

    Drew:
    To me a good blog post resonates with the reader… they nod their head in agreement and then email a link of it to a friend with a note: “Remember what we were talking about? This might work – check it out.”

    Okay, so how do I write one of those?!! That’s really the question isn’t it? To me, it’s sharing what I know in small bite size chunks and helping my readers get their arms around “marketing”.

    Chris

  10. Penina says:

    Hi Drew,

    I’ve read a few “what makes a great blog post” posts, and this is one that really inspires me!

    I feel like my latest blog posts have gotten dry, and are too “careful”… They need to be revitalized…

    Normally, I try out “how-to” info like this in a step-by-step way, but I suspect yours is the kind of message that creeps into a person’s being (if they allow it), and bursts out from the center.

  11. Lewis Green says:

    Drew,

    Readers determine a post’s (written work’s) qualities, so as a writer I can only share what makes good writing.

    But as a reader, I can assure you that you know what makes a good post. Can’t say for sure that I have ever rated anyone’s writing as great (or outstanding), including those writers who critics describe as stars. Even they have (had) bad hair days and their infrequent moments of greatness do not add up to great writing, but can be seen as good writing or as popular reading.

    So, while most writers aim for greatness (outstanding), we usually fall short. And those writers who see greatness in their own words, imply that they know the magic handshake. That’s worrisome because no one knows the secret.

    That is what makes your post on the subject a winner. You admit the mystery remains unsolved, thereby telling us that you continue to aim high. Make sense?

  12. Hi Drew – Great post! I often feel the same way as you do about all these marvelous folks and writers! But then, as you say, it’s about our relationship with our readers and that’s the key thing.

    There are so many “rules” about blog writing – and it can completely stunt you if you think too hard about them. So what you’ve written here is right on the money!

  13. Chris,

    I think there’s a lot to be said about bite-sized. And I think your posts do exactly what you set out to do — ease the reader into the world of marketing without feeling as though they are stepping through some mystical land where they’re feeling lost.

    Drew

  14. Penina,

    Yes…I think we are often too careful and too methodical. I mention that in today’s post as well. When we think about the brands and companies we love…they are not methodical. They are passionate and sometimes that means they get a little over zealous or shoot past the mark.

    But maybe that’s not all bad.

    Drew

  15. Lewis,

    As always, you make perfect sense. And I agree with you. It’s about finding the right blend of what makes us passionate and what makes our readers sit up and take notice.

    If they don’t care, why bother. If we don’t care — they can tell.

    Drew

  16. Christine,

    When you look at your blog and get caught up in comparing it with others and checking it against all the rules — you’re right. You can get frozen in place.

    I’ve decided that a bit of butterflies is okay. It means that it matters to me. And when the post and the readers matter — I think the posts are better.

    Looking forward to checking out your new CD!

    Drew

  17. CK says:

    Gosh, what makes an outstanding blog post is a tough one to answer. But I sure can say what makes an outstanding blogger…heart, soul, smarts, creativity, curiosity, courage–and a true desire to learn more about the profession, others and themselves. What’s best is that you find bloggers that excel in each of these areas in our community.

    Fact is, the reason I heart this community so much is because everyone is unique and has their own set of strengths.

    But I don’t think you give yourself nearly enough credit for all you do and share (and that’s why we heart you so much).

  18. CK,

    I know…I thought it was a toughie too!I think you are right…a blogger has to get the bigger picture and want to contribute more than they initially get back.

    If they understand the value in that…they get it. And we can expect great things from them.

    We’re fortunate that we’re surrounded by many people of that mind set, eh?

    Drew

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