Most bloggers write about whatever’s on their minds that day. If you’ve tried that, you’ve probably noticed it isn’t very effective in growing your blog audience.
To build your blog into a serious business (or just a great writing sample for getting freelance gigs), you’ll need to change your approach.
It’s also essential to know the popular post types if you’re blogging for paying clients and want the project to be successful, so that they keep paying you to blog for them. More and more clients want to at least partly base pay on traffic, so better results will grow your writing income. And of course, more readers on your blog gives you more chance to get hired or to sell readers your products.
Below are a compendium of my most successful types of blog posts that grab attention and get you more readers, shares, and comments. This list combines the most popular post types I’ve used on this blog, and the types that I’ve used to drive a total of 2 million pageviews on my Forbes blog, posting only 3-4 times per month, over the past 2 years. I’ve also thrown in a few great formats I haven’t used yet as well (but hope to soon!).
- Feature your readers. Ask your readers to share their wisdom, and you have an instantly popular post. Everyone loves to be considered an expert. Readers love taking over the post and being the expert, or getting to share what they do and post their link in a link party.
- Give something away. Contest posts are guaranteed to get a ton of comments. One downside I’ve found, though — they don’t tend to get a lot of shares. Readers don’t want to worsen their odds of winning! But these generate a lot of excitement among your subscribers.
- Long lists. Exhaustive list posts are great for skimming and brainstorming ideas, and readers really appreciate the effort.
- One-point lists. Other readers feel overwhelmed, and love posts where you make it clear in the headline you have only one important point or insight to share.
- Use fresh data. Dig up some new research to back up what you’re saying, and you give your story instant credibility. Data is behind most of my most popular Forbes posts.
- How I did it, step by step. Tell readers exactly how to do something they urgently need to get done, complete with detailed examples of how to do every aspect of it. Readers crave details. Take them by the hand.
- Answer their questions. Do your readers have pressing questions? Set up a post where you answer them on an ongoing basis.
- Make them money. Can you point out a good business opportunity for your readers? Posts that help them decide how to spend money wisely are a proven winner.
- Mention public companies. Here’s a Twitter tip: Hardcore investors track the companies they have stock in through $-stock-sticker Twitter hashtags, not # ones. So if I have a story with, say, Starbucks and Chipotle in it, I can get a lot of visitors by tweeting that post out with $SBUX $CMG. Don’t forget to also send it out with @Starbucks and @Chipotle — sometimes the companies will retweet it, too, or post it to their Facebook page, and they often have enormous followings.
- Mention celebrities. If there’s a celebrity tie-in to what you want to talk about, use it. These pop-culture references give your post instant accessibility. And you never know, that celebrity might just share it, too. They don’t even have to be a major celebrity, either — has-beens and cult faves are great, too.
- Interview interesting people. Speaking to ordinary humans who’re doing something unusual gives you exclusive content and a personal story to tell that might inform or uplift your audience.
- High-value thought-leader roundup. Let’s face it: Celebrity-blogger advice roundups have been done to death at this point. To succeed with yours, think of a truly vital, contrary, or unusual question. And don’t ask the same 12 experts that seem to pop up everywhere — bring us some fresh voices. Consider making it a personal list, such as your mentors or the bloggers that inspire you most. Then, don’t forget to tweet it out to all those A-listers — hopefully, they’ll share it with their larger crowd, and could help you build relationships.
- Think multi-media. Many of my most popular Forbes posts have slideshows I built for them, too, including my most popular ever, which has gotten over 770,000 views. And I’m seeing many bloggers do well by creating an eye-catching, pinnable graphic (or 18 of them, as in this Guest Crew post) for their post. Add a video or audio file. It doesn’t always have to be all words.
- Ride the news. Is there a piece of breaking news in your field — say, a merger of two big companies that affects your readers, or the implosion of one big employer? Be the one to help readers understand what it means for them. Use Google Alerts, scan your local newspaper or national magazines — know what’s going on.
- Trend mashup. If you’re noticing some odd new ideas or trends, save them up and do a big roundup of them. For instance, I kept getting press releases about weird/unusual new foods, so I saved them and created this post.
- Write about hot topics. For my Forbes blog, I recently discovered one startup sector that’s under a microscope right now: legal cannabis businesses. Here on this blog, social-media topics and analyses of pay on popular writer sites have always gotten exceptionally high traffic. Guess what I’m tracking news on and prepping more posts for?
- Daisy-chain it. Another way to get great traffic and build reader loyalty is to write additional posts on a similar topic. Link back and refer to the previous posts to create a virtual daisy chain that connects these posts, so readers can click through and read the older posts as well. Check out how I’ve seeded my other legal-weed posts into this most recent legal-cannabis post, and also featured the previous related posts in the sidebar. Daisy-chaining can be a quick way to double or triple your pageviews.
- Follow ups/updates. If you wrote about something that was big news a year ago, make a note in your calendar to come back in a year and see what happened. Few bloggers ever update their stories…and creating a follow-up story makes for easy daisy-chaining.
- Riff on a popular post/person’s ideas. If there’s a person or a pronouncement that’s been the talk of the blogosphere, offer another take — especially if it’s a contrarian one.
- Popular-topic themed link roundups. Have you noticed a particular word or phrase in your analytics that’s bringing a lot of readers? Or do you have one tag or category on your blog that always does well? Organize the best posts on that theme into a link-roundup post. These are some of my most consistent top traffic drivers. (I find they don’t get many comments, though — people are too busy reading all the linked posts!)
- Review tools or products. Kristi Hines does an amazing job with tool roundups, and even includes detailed comparison charts. Everyone wants to know what solution is best for what they’re trying to do. Readers super-appreciate your doing the tough legwork for them.
- Tell the future. Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen next, so anytime you can forecast a trend or event, go for it.
- Combine more than one of these. Think of this as a mix-n-match list. For instance, that GuestCrew post in #12 is a mix of thought-leader roundup and highly graphical, pinnable/tweetable snippets. Besides daisy-chaining to past posts on the topic, that new legal-pot post is also based on newly released industry data. And this post mentions public companies that can be $-hashtagged for Twitter, includes a slideshow, and is based on data.
Use two or three of these techniques at once, and you’re cooking with gas. When you’re guest posting on popular blogs or writing for a client, it’s especially important to use and combine proven approaches, so that your post is a hit.
What types of blog posts are most popular for you? Leave a comment and share a link to your example.