You take your blog seriously, don’t you?
You understand its role in showcasing your books, your services, your products.
And you spend a significant portion of your week writing.
Sometimes, however, despite your best efforts, your latest blog post feels shaky, unfinished, noticeably light in information.
There’s something’s missing, and you can’t ignore the feeling there’s something more you could offer your readers.
And you can’t help feeling defeated, staring at that unfriendly screen, sighing at the pitiful state of the word count box, wondering what happened to your inspired ideas.
On these particularly bad days, you find yourself wondering if you’ll ever write anything good again.
You’re not alone.
And there’s more good news:
You’re not even in trouble…
I remember the first time I introduced an ambitious essay project to a class of college freshmen.
Picture it: yawning undergrads staring at their cellphones, thinking about their friends, their sports activities, their part-time jobs, their big, important lives.
Essay projects threatened their lifestyles, cutting into their time, into their habitual ways of locating the path of least resistance. As I read through the topics options, themes, and word count requirements, I received incredulous looks, huffs, and groans.
I told them the project would be fun, and I assured them I’d support them every step of the way.
Weeks later, while assessing their progress, I encountered procrastination, excuses, sketchy work, and outright plagiarism. I decided they’d benefit from one-on-one conferences. In a matter of minutes with each student, I saw lights go on, faces changing from dread to wonder.
I’d like to offer you the same opportunity, a way to go from stuck to stoked.
My students succeeded, and I know you’ll succeed as well. You need fresh tools and strategies, methods to bypass your habitual modes of thinking, modes that may have started the trouble in the first place.
As writers, we like to fly by the seat of our pants, relying on inspiration as our primary fuel. Eventually, we run out of steam, finding ourselves short on our goals, wondering how we’ll make up the difference.As writers, we like to fly by the seat of our pants, relying on inspiration as our primary fuel. Eventually, we run out of steam, finding ourselves short on our goals, wondering how we’ll make up the difference. Click To Tweet
You’re in the right place.
Here are 21 proven ways to beef up a scrawny blog post.
- 1 Roll Out the Research
- 2 Add Evidence
- 3 Tell a Story
- 4 Add Visuals
- 5 Embed a Video
- 6 Go Deeper
- 7 Share a Secret
- 8 Quote an Expert or Someone Famous
- 9 Tell the Truth
- 10 Document Your Mistakes
- 11 Ask a Question
- 12 Challenge an Assumption
- 13 Google Your Subject
- 14 Cite a Competitor
- 15 Compare and Contrast
- 16 Insert a Metaphor
- 17 Revisit the Past
- 18 Insert a List
- 19 Speculate
- 20 Provide Additional Resources
- 21 Get Specific
Roll Out the Research
Nothing adds credibility and interest like relevant research. Statistics add substance add integrity to your arguments.
Consider the following questions:
- What are the experts saying?
- What trends are developing?
- What percentage of households are experiencing the problem you’re discussing?
You can take a global approach, or you can focus on regional or local statistics.
Present the research, and add your commentary. Take a look behind the numbers:
- What does the data suggest?
- What does the data hide?
- What do the numbers predict for your readers?
If you’re uncertain about where to look for statistics, start with government agencies.
Here are a few U.S. government agencies and the types of information they provide:
The Statistical Abstract of the United States provides statistical data from various government agencies. FedStats covers data compiled by federal agencies. CenStats provides statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
WDI Online provides international economic and social statistics for hundreds of countries.
Maybe your readers could benefit from worldwide internet statistics. Internet World Stats lists global resources for internet data and usage statistics.
Do you need scholarly articles to bolster your argument? Add .edu to your search engine queries. Check out Google Scholar.
If you’re still struggling to find appropriate statistics, conduct a Google search, or check out the sources cited below your topic’s Wikipedia page.
Whenever possible, back up your statements with evidence. This doesn’t mean you need peer-reviewed, scientific proof; just make sure you explain your reasoning. Statistical data is only one form of evidence.
Start by asking yourself why you believe a particular statement. Comb through your past experiences, your own anecdotal evidence. Explain your stance, illustrating the conditions, causes, and effects supporting your convictions.
If you run out of ideas, consider the following questions:
- Can you share someone else’s experience?
- Can you find a recent news article to reference?
- Does your argument rest on logic?
- What fundamental truths explain your position?
- What experts would agree with you? Why?
Make sure you’re not simply repeating what you’ve heard or read. Take the extra step. Your readers will appreciate the effort. And don’t be afraid to include another writer’s research. Just make sure to reveal your source, and add a link to the original author’s post or article.Make sure you’re not simply repeating what you’ve heard or read. Take the extra step. Your readers will appreciate the effort. And don’t be afraid to include another writer’s research. Click To Tweet
Tell a Story
We learn by internalizing stories.
Stories help us remember, imagine, anticipate, and recreate. If you’d like your blog posts to stand out, share an engaging story.
If you want your audience to remember an important idea or theme, place it within a story.
Stories help us process complex information, aiding in recall. Stories help us understand each other. There’s no better way to promote empathy, trust, and resonance.
Studies show that stories light up multiple regions of the brain.
Joshua Foer, a memory expert, concocted an outrageous story including naked bicycle-riding Buddhists, a Britney Spears song, and Wizard of Oz characters to help him remember the contents of his Ted Talk speech.
- KnowYourMeme.com is a website documenting internet phenomena from pop-culture stories.
- Snopes.com investigates urban legends.
Besides making your blog posts and web presentations more appealing, visual components help readers process information. Science supports this.
Visuals can break up large chunks of text, reducing fatigue and overwhelm. Images provide additional ways to relate to your content.
Consider adding images to the title and body sections. Insert colorful charts, graphs, and infographics to add additional layers of interest. Back up your written data with a visual recap.
Here’s a brief list of free visual tools:
Microsoft Word provides tools for creating pie charts, bar and column graphs, line graphs, and scatter plots.
Online Chart Tool allows users to create custom visual charts. The site has an easy prompt system to help beginners navigate the process.
Besides adding value to your content, images make your posts more sharable. Consider the phenomenal success of Pinterest. Visual content captivates.
Embed a Video
Nothing engages visitors like video. The popularity of sites like Youtube, Live Leak and Ted Talks demonstrate the medium’s widespread influence. Videos provide audio and visual information, helping us engage on multiple levels.
Whether they’re informational or instructional, videos helps us better assimilate complex information.
Videos provide superior benefits over text including body language, real-time demonstrations, and time sequencing. If we need to clarify a point, we can pause, rewind, and watch certain segments again.
Here are some recent stats from the Youtube website:
- More than 1.9 billion unique users visit YouTube each month.
- Over 1 billion hours of video are watched every day on YouTube.
- 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
- According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.
Given the choice, many people prefer video over text-only content.
The Internet’s full of superficial, generic content. If you’d like to make an impression, provide more depth than your competitors.
Focusing on specific subtopics can make the difference between a quick scan and an engaging read. In a matter of minutes, you can position yourself as an authority, someone who’s willing to tell the truth, to redefine the various angles of a problem.
After you’ve delved below the surface, offer solutions.
Continually ask yourself how you can provide more value.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.” Take the time to demonstrate how to fix something.
Be helpful rather than clever. Your readers will thank you for it.
What secrets can you share?
- What information stands between your audience and their next logical step?
- What have you learned from your time in the trenches?
Every worthwhile activity can be completed faster, cheaper, or somehow better. The trick is being an insider on the process. If you’d like to gain lifetime fans, followers, and clients, share a secret or two.
Everyone’s an expert in something. If you’re still scratching your head, conduct some research.
- What are your readers wondering about?
- How can you accelerate their progress?
If you’re a consultant, you might worry about giving away your expertise for free. If this is your case, provide half of the secret, the first step. Describe its properties and benefits; leave an intriguing trail of crumbs that eventually links to the paid product.
Quote an Expert or Someone Famous
Famous and not-so-famous quotes can add interest and perspective to your writing. Like relevant images, quotes can accentuate specific ideas or themes. Quotes can prompt your readers to consider fresh angles and deeper connections.
A well-placed quote provides you with another opportunity for discussion.
Describe what the quote means to you, how it fits with your argument. Perhaps the quote represents a type of consensus thinking, running contrary to your argument. Build a case for your contrarian views.
Quotes are quick and easy embellishments that can add value and interest to your writing.
Tell the Truth
The more experience you have, the more insight you can offer. Consider the truth of your article.
What’s the real story below the surface story? Ask your peers, go to Quora.com, spend some time on genre-specific message boards or communities.
To get to the story, conduct a poll. Try a free service like surveymonkey.com. Post the survey on your social media accounts. Offer a free gift to a random participant. Find a similar article, and comb through the comments section.
And don’t be afraid to take a bold stance. Ask yourself what everyone’s afraid to say.
Document Your Mistakes
Mistakes are our greatest allies, teaching us more than easy success.
Your readers will face the same obstacles, so engage them with your war stories. Add a section documenting your top five mistakes. Offer advice. Show your readers how they can bypass these difficult lessons.
Direct them toward the straighter path. Empower them with new strategies. Tell them what to look out for, how to help themselves succeed.
Offer them a case study highlighting your worst mistakes and the best solutions.
Ask a Question
No one knows everything, and you’re no exception. Don’t be afraid to share your vulnerabilities.
You enjoy providing answers, but often, your best work includes any number of imperfect strategies. Discuss these with your readers.
Reveal your own knowledge gaps. Share the truth of not knowing. Tell them where you’ve been, what’s working, and what’s not working.
Reveal your own big questions, your struggles to move forward. Share the secret struggle that’s keeping you up at night. Invite them to join the discussion, to find a viable solution.
Hold a contest. Ask for guest posts on the topic.
Challenge an Assumption
The Internet is full of unproven assumptions. Whether correct or not, repetition can create a consensus until someone comes along and challenges the assumption.
For decades, everyone assumed fatty foods made people fat. Paleo and ketogenic diets challenge this wisdom.
People used to believe the common cold could be “caught” from being outside in the cold too long.
Dogma keeps us stuck. Ask yourself what is true versus what is merely accepted.
Google Your Subject
Often, when we’re immersed in a writing project, we forget the obvious: those everyday tools waiting at our fingertips.
For most of us, before committing our first word to paper, Google is our first resource.
Now that you’re midstream, however, with a viable draft available, you can consult Google for fresh angles on your blog post or article. For example, you can search for controversies within your subject. You can also search for a consensus among experts in your field.
While we’re on the subject, I know many of us could improve our search skills.
To search for an exact phrase, put your search terms in quotation marks.
“Kindle book marketing tips”
If you’re dissatisfied with your search results, you can filter specific results with a minus (-) sign. Let’s pretend you want to market your book, but you’re not interested in the Kindle platform. Your search query might look like this:
Indie author marketing tips -Kindle
Let’s say you want to know what a certain left-leaning website is publishing about Donald Trump’s presidency. Use the following query:
Donald Trump site:HuffingtonPost.com
After your initial search, try clicking alternate tabs such as videos, books, news, and, images.
Don’t limit yourself to a single search. These alternate tabs can provide you with quality books for research, charts and visual data, and videos you can embed in your article.
For more Google search tips and hacks, click here.
Cite a Competitor
We can paint ourselves into a corner by trying to be the sole authority on our topic.
No one said we have to know everything. Make a list of competitors, and spend a few minutes on each website.
For each competitor, research articles matching your current project. Make a list of the ideas you agree on and a list of ideas you disagree with.
Share these insights with your reader, and invite them to join in the conversation.
Citing other authority sites adds credibility and interest. Your readers will appreciate your willingness to share your competitor’s ideas and expertise.
This openness will also build trust with your reader. Show them you care about the many disparate, informed voices in your field of expertise.
Compare and Contrast
Another great way to add depth to your posts is to showcase opposing views. Take, for example, the suggestion above. You could begin with two competitors sharing contradictory opinions on your subject.
With compare and contrast, your options are limitless. Consider the following strategies:
- past ideas versus present ideas on the subject,
- consensus thinking versus contrarian views,
- short-term thinking versus a long-term approach,
- practical, baby steps versus a global solution, or
- low risk versus high risk approaches.
To organize your thoughts, draw a Venn diagram on a sheet of paper. Fill in the similarities and differences. Sometimes, this visual approach provides a breakthrough.
Insert a Metaphor
What does your problem look like? Come up with a person, place, situation, idea, or thing that reminds you of your subject.
A metaphor for this post could be cooking: turning a skimpy meal of scrambled eggs into an inspired brunch. With guests arriving in a matter of minutes, your bowl of a dozen whisked eggs appears unsatisfying, a little light in substance.
In order to develop this meal into something worthy of your guests, you scour the refrigerator for a few delicious ingredients to amp up the visual and gustatory appeal.
In under a minute, you find mushrooms, a few ounces of smoked Gouda cheese, and several slices of ham to accompany the eggs.
Once you shift your thinking, you notice the unopened bottle of champagne on the lower shelf, chilled and ready for use. Instead of orange juice, your guests will enjoy delicious mimosas.
Revisit the Past
Another way to shift your perspective is becoming grateful for the problems you face. For example, in the past these problems might not have existed. Take your reader on a journey to the past.
Discuss life before the issue in your article. Discuss the ways things were dealt with in the past.
Spend some time articulating the mindset, strategies, and solutions available at that prior time. Paint a picture of deprivation. Illustrate the myriad ways people got along without something, the ways they settled for “good enough.”
Once you’ve framed the realities of the past, accentuate the ways we’re now lucky to have the problems we have. Before blogs, writers relied on traditional publishing venues in order to express themselves. Needing to beef up our blog posts is a privilege.
Insert a List
Even if you’re already dealing with a list post, consider inserting a list within list.
Besides adding a welcome visual break, the bulleted list helps readers sort and assimilate information. For today’s scanning reader, these lists may prompt a quick social media share or a bookmark. Your lists might include problems, solutions, steps, or examples.
Make sure you include bullets, letters, or numbers to break up the text. Your readers will appreciate the break along with the opportunity to increase comprehension.
Sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to offer bona fide solutions. We’re allowed to exercise our imaginations, to share our own what if scenarios with our readers.
Your blog is your personal property. You may speculate on any number of things.
Think about it. Every scientific advancement, every breakthrough throughout history, began with speculation, with someone’s willingness to think out loud, to explore unknown territory.
If you’re interested enough to maintain a blog on a particular subject, you have the right to ask important questions, to offer your opinions without concrete evidence.
Demonstrate the value in asking questions, in the possibilities inherent in the journey toward discovery. Besides the occasional trolls and naysayers, no one’s going to throw you in jail or light a fire in the town square.
You have nothing to lose. Besides, if your prediction falls flat, you’ll still have a golden opportunity to write a follow-up blog post.
Provide Additional Resources
This one’s my favorite, and it’s super easy.
Go to BuzzSumo.com, and look up the top performing articles on your subject. Insert a list, and share the links along with a brief description. Your readers will be grateful, and they’ll be impressed by your willingness to share valuable resources beyond your own domain.
Find an app or two, a digital solution for a common reader issue. Help your readers save valuable time, money, and energy with a little software. Take things a step further by offering free and paid versions. Show them you’re in the know.
Offer a list of websites, influencers, or social media gurus within your field of expertise.
Stop worrying about users clicking away from your site.
If this concerns you, provide a list without the links, and offer a premium, opt-in bribe in the form of a PDF list. You can put the URLs in the PDF list while gaining an email subscriber.
Get into the habit of asking yourself how you can be more specific. Consider adding full names, citations, associations, places, ingredients, complete urls. Don’t assume your readers already understand.
Show them you care by adding detailed descriptions, brand names, links to reviews, etc. Think about that friend you have, the one you call when you need specifics: addresses, phone numbers, recommendations.
In no time, you’ll become the go to guru in your industry. Your ability to fill in the blanks shows expertise, someone on his or her way to becoming a valuable influencer.
What’s your favorite way to add depth and interest to a lightweight blog post?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.