Have you been wondering how to make your blog stand out?
At this point, there are umpty-million blogs out there. Every niche has tons of bloggers. There is no wide-open field you can claim — and if you spot one, it’s probably there because that’s a topic nobody can earn from.
Now, it’s a matter of competing successfully with other blogs on your topic to grab readers’ attention. Especially as a startup in a niche full of already successful bloggers with huge mailing lists, it’s tough.
But it can be done.
When I started my freelance writing blog in 2008, there were already several very successful blogs in my niche — but today, my traffic is equal or better to the blogs I once viewed as unassailable leaders on my topic. I was still able to build a viable blog-based business around the same topic.
I had a secret weapon, though, and it’s a tactic that’s working even better today for differentiating your blog. But few bloggers use it well.
Google’s changes have brought this blogging technique to the forefront. And bloggers who learn how to do this right will stand out in 2014 and be able to build their blogs, even in a crowded field.
What is this technique?
Writing longform blog posts
After roughly a decade in which frequent short, punchy blog posts did well for many bloggers, that form is tired. And Google is viewing short posts with increasing suspicion as possibly mere keyword-stuffing gambits.
Longer, more detailed and informative posts are on the rise.
Besides appeasing Google, long posts can deliver more value to readers, show more authority, and build more reader loyalty.
How can you take advantage of this trend? There’s a right way and a wrong way.
Where long posts often fail
Some bloggers are catching on that longform is a good approach, but don’t understand how to write a compelling long post.
If you’ve read a mile-long post lately, and when you were done reading, you thought, “Gee, there was really only about three good tips in all that!” join the club.
Many bloggers who’ve caught on to this trend are writing longer posts — but by simply not editing themselves. They still only have 300 words of information if they’re being concise, but they’re just blathering on for 1,000 words or more.
That’s not the way to win with longform posts. That’s the way to annoy readers and make them unsubscribe.
Successful longform posts require more sophisticated writing skills.
How to write long posts that rock
Here’s the thing: When blogging started, it was a new writing form. Those short, zippy posts. The casual language. The links. The first-person point of view.
The first thing I noticed when I got into blogging was how different blog posts were from magazine articles.
With the rise of longform, blog posts are becoming more like feature magazine articles.
And like great magazine articles, successful longform posts need more meat in them. It’s harder to sustain readers’ interest spouting ideas off the top of your head for 2,000 words.
Longform posts need research, or interviews, or both. Good longform posts break new ground and present something fresh. They’ve got case studies and examples. They’ve got screen shots and charts. Quotes and sidebars.
See what I mean about it being like a magazine article? The good stuff that readers have loved in longer wordcounts for centuries, they also love online. Hearing a mix of voices and opinions. Seeing survey data. Hearing a short audio from an expert. Finding out what a trend means to them, or new ways to do something.
These are all useful ingredients for a great longform blog post.
If readers are bored with 300 pedestrian words on a topic they’ve seen 10 times before online, they’re just not going to hang in for 1,500 words of it.
Long posts need not just more information but better writing — a tale woven together with a strong sense of story or narrative flow, so that readers don’t get bored and give up before the end.
Writing well is the best revenge
So what’s the killer skill for 2014? It’s knowing how to write a great article. That’s essentially what long blog posts are — they’re articles.
What’s more, if you have any dreams of earning some freelance writing money, strong article writing skills are in heavy demand. Beyond magazines, more and more top websites and businesses are realizing that article marketing is a more effective compared with placing ads — and are willing to pay handsomely for well-written articles.
I’ve personally gotten more than one $2,000 article assignment for clients who only published the pieces online. It’s the next phase beyond blogging — slick, online magazines with deep-pocketed owners who pay top rates.
How to get the skills
Smart bloggers will be looking to up their game to stand out as strong longform writers. You’ve probably noticed many top bloggers posting less frequently but with more detailed posts.
That’s going to drive a shakeout in the blogging world, where mediocre writers who can’t compete with those higher-value, longform blog posts are going to have more trouble finding an audience.
To sum up: If you want to grow a blog now, you need ace writing chops.
If you don’t have experience writing longer articles, start studying up. The learning materials are all around you. Grab a favorite magazine and look at how feature stories are put together.
Analyze why you found that story so enjoyable. How does the writer use language? What are their opening sentences, and how did those make you want to keep reading?
Then, apply those article-writing techniques to your blog. Take the plunge and do an interview or two. Create a chart. Teach something in more detail. Stretch your limits. Tell a narrative tale.
Making a commitment to deliver more entertainment and more information with longer posts is this year’s ticket to finding more blog readers and fans.
Carol Tice writes the Make a Living Writing blog. For more on how to write great articles, check out her new course with The Renegade Writer’s Linda Formichelli: Article Writing Masterclass.