Inspiration strikes in strange ways; in this case, I reached the end of Neil Patel’s excellent article covering 13 questions you should ask yourself while writing a blog post. In his discussion of the last question, he compared a blog post to a restaurant meal. Will your reader complain about your blog post because you’ve served them skimpy fare? “Are you feeding people content so they are full when they leave your site…or are they hungry, looking for more?” Patel asked. “If they are still hungry, your readers probably won’t come back.”
So if your readers are devouring your blog content, that makes you a cook. And if a blog post is a complete meal, then writing a blog post is like cooking that meal. As with a meal, your visitors enjoy the finished product, but you know how much work went into it. Creating a good blog post, like cooking a good meal, involves a process that begins even before you turn on your computer or open your cookbook to track down some recipes.
It starts with what you enjoy. No, actually, it starts with what really makes you salivate. Can’t get enough spicy Indian food? Then you probably shouldn’t be cooking potato pancakes – unless you want to give them a very different twist. The best chefs, like the best bloggers, are passionate about what they’re doing. So write about your passion. Or at least find something in what you’re writing that makes you feel passionate.
Now if you’re preparing a meal for a group, you need to take their tastes into consideration. Is someone allergic to garlic? You’ll need to exclude that spice and find ways to make your meal just as flavorful. That’s eminently doable. I’ve talked about many aspects of my life in the literally hundreds of articles I’ve written for SEO Chat, but there are certain things I won’t discuss – because they’re private, or because some of my readers might find them offensive. So cater to your readers’ tastes. You can certainly spice things up a bit, but let’s face it, you wouldn’t serve steak tartare to a table full of vegetarians, right?
Okay, once you get a general idea of what you’re going to serve, you need to look up some recipes. What this means in the context of a blog entry is, you need to do some research. And unlike many cooks, you won’t want to copy a recipe exactly. “Before you sit down and write an article, it’s important to search the web for articles like your idea,” Patel notes. “One of the things that I do is take the headline that I’m thinking about using and drop it into the Google search box. Then I look at what comes up.”
In the context of a blog entry, that might mean that you find some provocative research, an analyst’s opinion relevant to the research, and form your own point of view about it all. There are plenty of ways you can combine different ideas, but you need to add something original to make a blog entry – or a dish – truly yours.
So what are you going to put into this dish and how are you going to prepare it? Will you include lots of images? Lots of statistics? Personal anecdotes? Mature writers and mature cooks develop their own, inimitable styles – and while they both might like one particular style best, depending on their personal tastes, they can work in several different styles competently. So, as a blogger, pick the “voice” you’re going to use for your article and assemble the ingredients you need.
You may need to create and work from an outline. That’s perfectly okay. Or you may simply rely on your past experiences. That’s okay, too, if you have the background to pull it off. A really good chef can form a mental image of what a dish will look and taste like – but a beginning chef trying to do the same thing might see it end in disaster.
This is why even an experienced blogger needs to do certain things to make sure his blog entry will turn out well. Prime among these is fact-checking. If you’re going to include any of those statistics and images I mentioned to support your blog post, check your sources. Try not to quote someone quoting someone else; go back to the original source if you can. Think of it as using the freshest possible ingredients.
Ideally, the first time you cook a particular dish – your first draft, if you will – it’ll be just for yourself. That means you can throw everything together however you want, but you don’t want to leave it all jumbled up when you get it ready for public consumption. If a blog entry is a multi-course meal, you don’t serve the dessert on top of the salad; you organize everything and bring the courses out one at a time, so your readers can savor it properly. You may find you need to step away from your preparations after everything is down on paper, and take some time to think about how your information should be organized and presented.
Once you know the order in which you want to present your information, you need to think about plating, er, spelling and grammar. In a video uploaded in August 2011, Matt Cutts noted that there’s an interesting correlation between PageRank and correct spelling – that is to say, sites that Google considers more reputable tend to feature correct spelling and grammar. This doesn’t mean that Google looks at spelling and grammar as one of the 200 signals it examines for websites (there are technical reasons for that), but it is an interesting indication of a page’s quality. And don’t think your readers won’t notice; they will, and they definitely appreciate content with correct spelling and grammar. Cutts notes that such pages provide a better user experience, and user experience is something that Google DOES care about – as should you.
If you serve up your blog posts properly, you actually will leave your readers hungry – hungry for more of what you’ve fed them. And with any luck, you’ll get your just desserts with increased traffic and a high ranking in Google. Bon appetit!