Improve Your Blog Posts And Grow Your Audience In 7 Simple Steps

Fans in a concert with someone making the heart sign. Photo by

We need to talk. You, yes you, the typical blogger. No, not you regular readers. You guys are cool, because I check your blogs every time you comment. No, this is for those who’ve found this blog through the Reader. I’m writing this for you.

You need to stop publishing every brain fart of yours on WordPress. I mean it. I say this because I want you to flourish. And if WordPress flourishes, then we all do too, right?

But back to the subject at hand. You can’t half-ass your posts and expect your readers to care. So let’s go back to exploring the basics.

What’s this, you may be saying, I didn’t come here to be lectured!

Well, you did publish your post after all, and that means a little feedback is fair game.

Improve schmimprove, you might say, I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

And that’s where you’d be wrong. Yes, we shouldn’t care what people think about our voice, but when it comes to the craft, there are certain standards we should adhere to.

As William Zinsser wrote in his book On Writing Well, “In terms of craft, there’s no excuse for losing readers through sloppy workmanship. But on the larger issue of whether the reader likes you, or likes what you are saying or how you are saying it, don’t give him a moment’s worry.”

Having said that, let’s get on with the list then, shall we?

Draw people in with your title

If you’re like me, you’d probably be no stranger to using titles you came up with in seven seconds. Heck, I even used to do that for my newspaper articles.

Unfortunately, we should be putting in way more effort in our titles, because it’s the sole element that determines whether or not people would actually click on them.

According to Ann Handley in her book Everybody Writes, you should spend as much time on your title as you do on your entire article.

Overkill? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely.

Common pitfalls: Visit the WordPress Reader and you’ll come across a sea of vague titles staring back at you. Sure, some of them may be poems or diary entries, but how likely would you draw in a reader with one-worded titles like ‘Seascapes’ or unclear ones like ‘At The Restaurant #38’?

Up your game: A good place to start with your titles is a promise or solution, like ‘How To Write More And Procrastinate Less’. Be honest with what you think your audience would like. Or emulate titles that you like. You can also try a copywriting classic, which is to write a hundred titles before picking the best one.

Woman writing on notepad in front of a laptop

Seriously, try the hundred-title technique. It’ll surprise you. Photo: J Kelly Brito

Hook ’em with your introduction

On the WordPress Reader, the introductory paragraph is a chance to salvage a reader if your headline didn’t work. Done correctly, the introduction should act as a gateway drug to your story. In essence, it should be the literary marijuana to your cocaine.

This section of your blog post needs to be as direct and interesting as possible, because it comes second in the line of priorities, right after your title. You’ve worked so hard to get them to click, now make sure they stay a little bit longer.

Common pitfalls: Starting off with acronyms, names of societies, or a friend’s name that your reader isn’t privy to. So openings like ‘Today’s MMM is brought to you by the Writers Of This Generation. And isn’t Jenny such a darling?’ are out.

Up your game: Establish rapport early. Is your article about back pain? Then highlight the common problems such as not being able to sit at your desk for prolonged periods. You can also make sweet, sweet promises to your audience, such as a list of stretches to ease said back pain.

Allow easy skimming with subheadings

Just because you’ve written short paragraphs doesn’t mean it’s easy for your audience to skim through your post. It may be easy to read, but they’ll have to work extra hard to figure out the structure of your story.

I’ve been guilty of this. If you look back far enough, you’ll see how much I used to neglect formatting, and how little people cared when I used to write for myself.

This does not apply to you if you primarily publish poetry or fiction on WordPress, however, so do exercise your own judgement.

Common pitfalls: Don’t use your subheadings as placeholders for your SEO keywords. That means no shoehorning weird phrases where they don’t belong, because your audience can tell what you’re up to, even if they’re not technically inclined.

Up your game: Your subheadings are another way of drawing your readers in. Treat them like mini titles. Your aim is to give your readers a rundown of your story, solely by skimming. Likewise, you can evaluate your own story structure through the flow of your subheadings alone.

Increase reading comfort with whitespace

Speaking of readability, you’ll also need to fill your article with tons of whitespace so that your readers won’t feel like they’re playing Word Search. These can exist in the form of:

  • Lists (ha)
  • Shorter paragraphs
  • Images
  • Quotes
  • Buttons

Basically, you’ll want to break up large chunks of text in a tasteful fashion, particularly for digital writing.

Common pitfalls: Don’t think you’re doing your readers a favour by writing only in one-sentence paragraphs. This’ll fill your readers’ minds with staccato thoughts instead. Vary the paragraph lengths a little.

Up your game: On sentence length, try reading them aloud to see if you can complete each sentence in one breath. Shorten them if you can’t. Create paragraphs consisting of said sentences, and try to keep each paragraph below four lines in height. Picking a theme with a slimmer body section helps too. Going too wide fatigues the eyes.

Spice up your posts with visuals

Yeah, we’re still in whitespace territory. But images warrant their own category because there are tiny nuances related to them.

Besides the beautifying your posts, visuals are also important for SEO because image search is a thing now. For instance, a yoga blog would benefit from readers searching ‘what is forward bend’ and clicking on the images tab.

Common pitfalls: On WordPress, one thing that kills the user experience is using the same featured image as your first visual. What this means for the reader is seeing two similar images back to back. That’s not very pleasing to the eye. Always be mindful of how your final draft looks like.

Up your game: To better your chance at appearing on image search, make sure to fill up the ‘Alt Text’ field every time you upload a picture. If you’re unsure what to include, just try to describe the image to a blind person (because that’s one of the actual uses for alt texts).

A woman standing below tens of colourful paper lanterns

Here’s an irrelevant visual to break up the text. Photo: Ethan Hu

Help your readers exit with a conclusion

When all is said and done, you’ll want to sum everything up for your audience. What did they just read? Have you made your point? What ONE idea do you want them to reflect on once they close the browser tab?

This is where you can throw in your CTA as well. Do note that your call-to-action won’t work if your post didn’t meet their expectations.

So don’t expect people to sign up for your newsletter just because you have a shiny little button embedded *cough*like the one below that you should definitely sign up for*cough*.

Common pitfalls: Bloggers have a tendency to ask readers to like, comment, subscribe, fill up a survey form, join a newsletter, and buy their new book—all in one sentence. Remember that getting your audience to just click requires a Herculean effort, so don’t overcomplicate things.

Up your game: Focus on the power of one. One question, one request, one link. Make it as clear as possible. That means displaying your links in bold, or laying out any—short, hopefully—extra steps they should take. Leave your readers with one conclusion to think about too. Not two, not seven, just one.

Turn your posts into a journey

When it comes to the meat of your story, you’re going to want to provide something meaningful. That means that your readers should leave your posts feeling like they’ve consumed something of substance.

No matter the length (which, by the way, should ideally be at 2,100 words, according to Hubspot), you should have taken your reader through the typical intro-body-conclusion by the end of your post.

The best thing you can do here is to look up your favourite bloggers. How long are their articles? How do they present their points? And how did you feel at the end of it?

Common pitfalls: Don’t get too caught up in the long-versus-short post discussions. There are people who thrive on long, well-researched posts, as well as those who’re known for their short content.

Up your game: Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Don’t just copy and paste a quote as an entire post. Explore why that quote matters to you, or why it should matter to your readers. Because if all they wanted was one quote, they’d visit BrainyQuote instead of WordPress.

Common tips, but not commonly used

I know you’ve read posts like this a hundred times before. After all, every ‘best blogging tips’ post never fails to include these elements: a killer title, an interesting introduction, subheadings, images, and CTAs.

But click on the Reader button right now and you’ll find that even the most talented writers still put out content that’s hard to consume due to their appearance alone.

Having said that, I also want you to know that you shouldn’t simply take writing advice from strangers on the internet, yours truly included.


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116 thoughts on “Improve Your Blog Posts And Grow Your Audience In 7 Simple Steps

  1. Thanks for the advice, I want to start using subheadings since it creates a better reading experience. I like the William Zinsser quote you shared because that’s the paradox of writing: we have to care but also not care at the same time.🙂

    • I have to be honest, me too. It’s almost like judging a book by its cover. I don’t want to be so ‘surface’, but some formats just do better with certain modes of presentation. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great advice as per usual. I’ve been floundering a lot and forgetting what the point of it all is. I like how you set up this article with your point, pitfalls, and how to improve. Very practical.

  3. Well… we all hate clickbaits but we still often click on them, we don’t want to be treated like idiots but we get bored fast with large block of text… so… yeah you’re totally right! Putting all that advice into practice is a different story though!

    • Isn’t that weird? It’s almost like what we want and what we need are totally different things. And you’re right about practice being harder than just knowing. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. This paragraph made me laugh so much….’….Done correctly, the introduction should act as a gateway drug to your story. In essence, it should be the literary marijuana to your cocaine.’……genius 😆❤️👍

      • Hey Stuart! Thanks for stopping by. I so appreciate it. Hey, always revamping right. There are always tweaks needed. I really enjoyed that post. I shared it up on Twitter. I hope it get a few looks because those tips are so valuable to all.

  5. I think we’re beyond saying hello and the expected ‘Great post!’ so I’ll just get into it. Thoughts:
    – Lol, saw the reference and I couldn’t help saying … I’m reading Everybody Writes right now!! It’s literally the best recourse about internet-writing-blogging sort of stuff. Glad you’re citing it.
    – Okay, okay, what the hell?? YOU SHOULD WRITE MORE POSTS ABOUT WRITING. I was, honestly surprised by the lack of creativity in your subheads — write an irresistible headline, draw people in with your intro, close strong, etc. But you know what? When I actually read the stuff inside — Damn, these are really valuable tips. REALLY valuable. Extremely well-said when it comes to the typical Reader headlines.
    – Hmm, helpful … true … Oh, yeah, true …
    – [I literally clicked on ‘if you look back enough’. A double like today.]
    – “Increase reading comfort with whitespace” is literally why one of my most popular posts, 2021 Writing Trends: Yay or Nay? (which was written WAAAY earlier this year) got popular. Or at least a factor of it, to excuse the clickbait headline. It had pictures, buttons, bold text, you name it. Important, def.
    – HELL, HELL, HELL I was literally thinking of counterarguing your length idea with Seth Godin’s famously one-million-strong blog, and then I clicked the link, and boom. You sure I’m not your lost twin?
    – Ah, should’ve considered Wait But Why. After all, you did share Why Procrastinators Procrastinate on social media a few weeks back. I’m weird for remembering that.
    – LOVE YOUR ENDINGS. I don’t know, you’re a little bit of a Nikolai Lantsov to me. Caught the reference?
    Aaaand, cut. This was a great post, better than most of those you put out. Maybe not as good as THE post that got me into Stu’s work (brain test: and what would that be?), but good enough. Thx for making my morning before I rush down to French class soon enough. J’adore tes blog posts, I suppose. As always (or maybe not), stay happy and healthy.
    P.S. I’m the freak who DMed you on Insta to tell you I’ve loved your content for a while. Wanted something more direct than a comment, I suppose. And also, the freak who writes 300-word comments for fun. Lol.

    • Lol, am always loving the energy you bring to the comments, though I probably won’t be able to do them justice in your replies.

      Your rundown is awesome though, and I hope readers will benefit from it when they go through it.

      Sadly, while I hope I’ll always be able to put out good work, I don’t think I’ll always hit a home run like the micro-writing post :P

      And yeah, I’m pretty familiar with you by now, so you don’t need to explain yourself whenever you DM, lol. I’m always thankful for your support!

      And today I learned about Lantsov. Is it because of his multi-potentialiteness?

      Anyhoo, great comment. Thanks so much for always spicing up these blog posts!

      • Lolol, the micro-writing post shouldn’t be as idolized as you think. You did get pretty close to its greatness several times.
        Lol, I have no idea what “multi-potentialiteness” means, because I don’t think I make a third of your age (I’m the young one, you’re not Grandpa) and none of your real-word experience. Lol, I just love Lantsov and I think he’s funny. We’re both on the same page if you’re talking about the fictional character.
        Lolol (because every paragraph needs to start with a big big LOL), I don’t write these comments as summaries or whatever. I don’t put any more effort than what you put in your work. Actually, I don’t think I would’ve continued keeping up with your work if you didn’t answer comments so transparently, even if with just a ‘And thank you for your kind words Emily!’ or whatever (which, of course, is not what you respond with to effortfully made comment like mine). Interaction, in my opinion, is important to accompany good writing. Should add that to your blogging tips.
        Lol (I think I’ve got the lol plague, even though I barely use this word in texting or the like – it’s a cheap way to portray digital laughter in most scenarios, but not in this one), I just realized you could easily guess THE post that got me into Stuart’s work. Lolol, it’s not that much of a home-run, but it was a very personal post (here’s something you probably already figured out: people want to write books, so they like to read stuff about writing books!) to me, idk why.
        Write on,
        Emily Clarc, Rdoubtable Writing, Kate Kane, and all the other pen names I ever used.

  6. Thanks for these tips! To be honest, I’m often of 2 minds: Should I go ahead to apply tips like these or more to attract more eyeballs? Or should I hold back from “marketing myself” until I feel I really have written stuff of value and worth someone’s time to read? Sighhh….guess I still feel I’ve got a long way to go to write well and to write stuff good enough for readers to keep coming back.

    • But there lies the paradox—everything you write IS of value, because only you can write it through your eyes.

      And your posts already have all the elements of craft (structure, format, a story) so you don’t have many tips to apply.

      Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Kelvin!

  7. great advice, and I am guilty of some of the problems you note.

    I do publish every brain fart I have. One of my goals, for whatever reason, is to publish something every day. Somedays, that results in a brain fart :)

    I never thought about using a different image for my featured image and the first image at the top of my post. I’ll give that one a try.

    I don’t think I could write a 2100 word post, at least not every day. Perhaps when my obsession with publishing every day is over, I’ll give it a shot…

    • Thanks so much for your constant support! Btw, a heads up, the link in your Gravatar profile doesn’t seem to be forwarding to your blog (maybe it’s an old address?).

      I mean, I already know your URL because I recognise you, but those who find you through the comments may not.

  8. Great tips, friend! You made some very interesting points. Even I find it funny that bloggers sometimes conclude with “Like, share, subscribe” like it’s a YouTube video 😜

    • Lol. I surely don’t mind that bloggers want their readers to take action at the end of every post, but some posts I come across are just too much. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Sometimes when I write my posts I think of Critical Drinker or Jacksepticeye. Which is interesting since I haven’t watched a Jacksepticeye video since January…..
    I really don’t have a plan when I do my posts, though. I have an idea and a title, and then it is word puke followed by days of tweaking and then the “Oh crap!” moment when I realize it is Thursday. So it is safe to assume that style of things is why some of my posts are semi-organized and others are a “Dear God, man” mess.

    • Hahaha, I totally understand that ‘oh crap’ moment, because I often find myself there too. At least we feel that way because we want to constantly put out content. Much better than not caring or adhering to a publishing schedule. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  10. I assume this post was meant for me, I was just scrolling down wordpress reader. I’ll take a stranger’s advice only this once since the last paragraph warns us not to take blogging advice from strangers.
    Nice tips👍

  11. Wow that’s some good advice, thanks for sharing this with me, or rather, with us, your readers! I’ll do my best to create a challengibg but entertaining blog site. I share my journals but also try to share health tips, stuff about series and movies, games if I’m able to play some… I try to be diverse but with the steady posts of my journals…. 😊 Thanks for letting me learn ore to I can even make those a wee bit better!

  12. As basically an absolute newbie blogger, you made some points that I hadn’t even considered before! Things like titles and introductions are my own kind of nemesis, because for every post I write it’s another battle to see which title fits best, which introduction will convince the reader to click.
    But whitespace? Subheadings? Images?? You basically spoke to me in an entirely different language. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ll have to save this post and read it again whenever I write next.
    But thank you for writing this post anyways! Even if it seemed obvious to you, it was new to me and it is so helpful to read anyways!

  13. Being a new blogger I did consider having a catchy title for my post but, I never thought about the format. Thank you for this worthy piece of advice! I’ll surely consider all that you’ve mentioned. :)

  14. Thanks for this great roadmap for creating better blog posts! I know with titles, I often think my first idea for one is clever, but when I let it sit for a bit, I often come up with better, more concise versions. Of course, it’s best to keep working on something else while you’re letting another part sit. Otherwise the momentum kind of lags. At least it does for me. 😅

    • Losing momentum is real. The more you rest after completing something, the harder it is to get back into it. Almost like trying to get back into a Monday after having a weekend off. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  15. LOL! :) I love you opening paragraph and yes I found you through the reader! :P

    And then your second paragraph made me laugh ridiculously at myself because I’ve been going for the gold on publishing my own brain-farts, on so many different subjects, that I should probably get a PHD in it!

    Have an Awesome Day!

    • I’m so glad to see you here! Well you know what they say. Your opening paragraph is worth more than the entire article, and the title is worth more than that opening paragraph.

      Thanks so much for sharing your kind words! I truly appreciate it.

    • Aw yis. It’s like a cheatsheet or a TL;DR of sorts. If they’re not going to read the entire article, the least we could do for our audience is to give them something to skim through. Thanks so much for dropping your comment!

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