How to make your blog content not suck

Hands typing on a keyboard with the words 'How to make your blog not suck'

I’m a working mum. I have a day job as a digital content designer, which is one of those job titles that tends to confuse people. When I tell people what I do, they’ll often assume that I’m a web designer (I’m not) or that I write code (I can’t). I often explain it like this:

“You know how you to go websites and there are words on them?” I say.

They nod.

“I write those words,” I say.

People underestimate the importance of web content. Don’t get me wrong – good web design is important. Your website should look nice, and it’s great to have fancy image sliders and video panels and plugins that do cool things. But if your content is bad, people aren’t going to come back to your site.

If you’re not a blogger, this post probably isn’t going to be very useful to you. If you’re a blogger who’s been at it for a while, you’ll probably know most of this stuff already. A lot of it’s common sense. For the rest of you new or newish bloggers, here are some tips to make your content not suck.

Never underestimate how lazy your readers are

I don’t care how compelling your birth story is or how interesting your most recent holiday was. If you write a piece that’s 5,000 words about it, I’m not going to read the whole thing. And neither is anyone else, except for maybe your mum.

People are lazy on the internet. They want content that they can consume easily. The ideal length of a blog post, according to recent research, is 1,600 words, which takes the user about 7 minutes to read. A photo-heavy piece could knock that down to 1,000 words.

(My posts are often a lot shorter, but I’m pretty impatient when it comes to writing/reading/everything.)

Overall, 74% of blog posts that are read are under 3 minutes long and 94% are under 6 minutes long.

(A note for all your vloggers – the ideal length of a YouTube video is around 3 minutes.)

If you really, really need to write a longer piece, you don’t want your readers to have to work too hard to read it. Which brings me to my next point:

Make sure your content is easy to read

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on an interesting-sounding blog post, seen blocky paragraphs written in small text, and just closed the browser window because I can’t be a***d.

Your blog content needs to be scannable, which means using things like:

  • Short paragraphs and lots of line breaks
  • Bullet points or numbered lists
  • Sub-headings

Choose a clean template and a readable font in a normal size. No Comic Sans, please.

Images can help break up long text, but only include them if they’re relevant to the post (ie pictures of a product you’re reviewing) – lots of stock images can be distracting. For example, here is a cute image of a hedgehog.

Hedgehog on a table

Yes, it’s adorable. Yes, it makes the page look nice. But it’s completely irrelevant to this post. Don’t do this.

Don’t get too hung up on SEO

A lot of people think SEO needs to involve installing plugins and all sorts of keyword trickery. It doesn’t.

If you try to stuff in lots of keywords just for the sake of it, it will be obvious. Your post will ready weirdly and Google will know what you’re doing, because they know EVERYTHING. If you want to boost your on-page SEO, it’s pretty easy:

  • Use relevant words in your page title. If you post is about weaning, put the word ‘weaning’ in the title. Simples.
  • Use appropriate keywords throughout your text, which should kind of happen naturally if you’re writing good content.
  • Add in-line links, both internal and external – but only if they’re relevant to the post. Avoid link stuffing.
  • Make sure that you name your images sensibly and use your keywords in your image alt tags (which is important for accessibility too!).
  • Make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Google hates mobile unfriendly sites. As does everyone, because they’re INFURIATING.
  • Write engaging content. This is one of the most important points, and it’s one that people sometimes forget about. Good content that people want to read increases time on page and decreases bounce rate, which can affect your ranking.

Don’t do these things because they’re the worst

There are a few things that drive me and other digital nerds nuts – avoid them at all costs.

Don’t say ‘click here’

It’s not descriptive enough for screen readers and won’t mean anything to people who are using assisted technologies. Plus, it doesn’t tell users anything about where they’re going if they click on the link.

This is good: You can buy the Awesome Baby Thing on the Overpriced Baby Crap website.

This is not so good: To buy the Awesome Baby Thing, click here.

Don’t link to PDFs

This is less of a problem in the blogging world than in the business world I work in, but I’m going to bring it up anyway because I hate them so much.

The only time you should ever put a PDF on your website is if you’re absolutely sure that your readers will want to print out the content. And that’s a pretty big if.

See, PDFs weren’t designed for the web. They’re not easy to navigate, they take ages to download and they look s**t on mobile. Take the content in the PDF and convert it to a web page instead.

DON’T USE ALL CAPS

Unless it’s for comedic effect or emphasis (as I’ve done above). A few words is fine – a whole paragraph isn’t. It’s really hard to read and will come across all shouty to people who are using screen readers.

On a related note, studies have found that titles in sentence case (where only the first letter is capitalised) are easier for users to read than titles in title case (where the first letter of each word is capitalised).

Find your tone of voice and be consistent

Are you sassy and sarcastic? Authoritative and informative? Personable and chatty? Whatever your tone of voice is, own it. Be consistent with it. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not, unless that someone is a really awesome writer, in which case you should totally copy them.

Just kidding. Don’t do that.

But the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader, so read bloggers who you admire and learn from them.

And on that note, go away and write some brilliant content, you lovely people.

A Mum Track Mind
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Pink Pear Bear

34 Replies to “How to make your blog content not suck”

  1. Great advice. Thanks for sharing. #fortheloveofBLOG

  2. I think I check all of the above points (hopefully) but I’m still working on interesting content (I’m as boring as….. something completely boring) hence my blog being packed with fiction. Also totally agree with finding yor own voice. When I first started I wrote what and how I thought people wanted me to. No read it and it was pretty crap. I took a break, found my voice and hopefully I’m making it work now, probably not but let’s not burst my bubble 😉 #forthloveofblog

  3. This is really useful – I think we all wonder if our content is engaging enough at some stage, and you’re absolutely right about finding your voice and being consistent – I think I’ve worked mine out and it does make it easier to write. #fortheloveofblog

  4. Very straightforward and honest advice here. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. As a newbie I soak up these articles. The challenge is putting them into practice. #fortheloveofBLOG

  5. Thanks for this. Very useful. As a journalist who has worked online for years am intrigued by digital content designer. Does it pay better than web editors?!

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Nope – I wish! Same job, different title.

  6. There are some wonderful tips here. I agree, it’s easy to get lured into changing things just to improve SEO ranking; But I’ve avoided much of it as it’s made my posts sound odd! Your tip about ‘being yourself’ is the most important. If you aren’t yourself then you won’t enjoy writing your blog! Thanks for sharing on #ForTheLoveOfBlog

  7. Great advice. I can’t tell you how often I will give up on a post simply because it is too long or hard to read. #blogginggoodtime

    1. sorry, I actually found you on #fortheloveofblog. Need more coffee…

  8. The Tale of Mummyhood says: Reply

    This is a really interesting and useful post, it has certainly given me food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

    #fortheloveofBLOG

  9. I love getting tips, I’m still new to the game so any advice is always welcome! Thank you! #fartglitter

  10. ugh writing in all caps is a pet peeve of mine. Why do people do it? Nice set of tips #FartGlitter

  11. Brilliant post, I think I am doing most of these things but there is always room for improvement. I am guilty of clicking away from an interesting sounding post if it is too long or has no gaps in the text/has a weird font.xx #fartglitter

  12. This is a great post. Thank you for sharing all your advice and expertise. I shall endeavor to comply! Alison x #fartglitter

  13. This is brilliant! I actually didn’t realise what exactly your job entailed which makes me an awful friend as we must have talked about it so many times?! It’s nice for me to read a ‘tips’ post where I have actually been doing SOME of the things on there – although there’s definitely room for improvement. Thanks for sharing babe! #fartglitter & #bigpinklink

  14. This is a great post, thanks for the tips! I’ve just helped a friend out with some content writing for his website and really enjoyed it. I always try to keep my writing easy to read as people have so little time these days. Tor x #fartglitter

  15. Great post with some great tips! Thanks for sharing! 🙂 #FartGlitter

  16. I love this post. I love your job. This is some really good advice. I’m not a natural writer, I’m working hard getting better at it. Definitely agree reading others blogs helps. #bigpinklink

  17. This is good advice and it’s cook that you’re someone who has a job doing this sort of thing.

    I worry about my blog being a bit crap, but only enough to make a half arsed effort to make it mildly entertaining haha!

    #bigpinklink

  18. Thank you for a really interesting post 🙂 As a newbie I’ll take your points on board! X #fartglitter

  19. There are some great tips here for any blogger to learn from. I work in digital too, and I’m constantly learning new things from blogging. I had no idea that the average blog post is 1,600 words – that is loads. I struggle to write 500 words sometimes. I think the main thing is being consistent, and having a TOV that reflects your style, and is honest and coming from the heart. There is no point trying to shoe horn a post that isn’t your style or TOV, as your readers won’t enjoy reading it. Content is key, and content is king! Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  20. Really liked these tips. My posts are almost all around the 800 word mark, as I actually find myself switching off when reading a post longer than about 1000 words, but maybe I just have a very short attention span! I keep telling myself “content is king,” like a mantra, but I have to confess, sometimes I wonder if the rest of the world and I have the same taste in content! #bigpinklink

  21. Totally brilliant advice, I really appreciate all of this! #BigPinkLink

  22. Love this post! You do what I want to do, I didn’t know it had a proper title but with hidsight, I did think ‘Website content comer upper with’ was a bit wordy! Thanks for joining us at the #bigpinklink

  23. This is just what I need! I’m very new to the blogging scene and just having a guide like this is ace!! Sharing now! Everyone needs to see this!! #bigpinklink

  24. This is a great post with some practical, yet cool tips. Really love your humour in it also. Yeah – Cap Locks overkill, don’t do it folks! PDF’s drive me nuts. Find your voice and be consistent, this I really like. Your tips on SEO are solid. SEO is a time-suck but you are correct on not getting too bogged down on it as you will get feck all else done if you get too sucked into it. I’ll defo be tweeting this post for sure, nice work! #fartglitter

  25. Good, sound advice. After years of tinkering, I’ve found the sweet spot for me in terms of post length is around 700 words – shorter than experts recommend but not too long to be daunting to a reader – although that can vary depending on the nature of the content. From a writing perspective, it’s a good discipline to force yourself to write more concisely. I’ve yet to write a post that didn’t benefit from cutting out 100-200 words.

    An authentic, consistent tone of voice is the one thing I think is the most common failure point for bloggers. So often I see bloggers whose tone veers wildly from one post to the next (particularly when they are writing paid content), or those who are clearly imitating (whether consciously or unconsciously) a ‘big’ blogger in an attempt to emulate their success, mimicking tone of voice, sentence structure and even pet phrases. It sounds trite to say so, but the one piece of advice I always give new bloggers is, “be yourself”. It’s something that’s easier said than done! #BigPinkLink

  26. Great post thanks – I think I’m definitely guilty of too many words sometimes! And I’m pretty sure my voice changes depending on which topic I’m writing about too….almost a year later I still feel like this is all a big learning curve! Always looking for hints and tips #fartglitter

  27. Ah some great point here! Oops, I do the ‘click here’ thing…but I’m stopping right now! I can’t agree with the font thing strongly enough. When I click through as a linky host and am forced to read a difficult font after a few hours of reading it makes me want to cry.

    #fartglitter

  28. This is a truely fab post and so so helpful I am definitely guilty of a few which I will be rectifying imminently, thanks lovey!! Xx #bigpinklink

  29. Great tips! I do most already but at least three have given me pause for thought. Thanks 😀 #fartglitter

  30. Ooppps so I am guilty of the ‘here’ link!! Although not everytime thankfully, but enough to notice it so I will try not to in the future! Thanks for the tips. #BigPinkLink xx

  31. I love this- Thank you for imparting your digital knowledge!!
    So useful to have a bit of a reminder for the do’s and don’ts, my appearance of text so paragraphs etc really need working on. I’m a bulk text girl, OR too many line spaces… cant I blame WordPress? Probably not…
    Big thanks!
    #fartglitter

  32. Great post, really useful. I need to up my game I think. I do put too many random hedgehog pictures in for sure.

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