My Definition of a Good Blog Post

This post is the conclusion of how I answered the questions raised in the post Feeling Destructive.

Shortly after that post I deleted 750 blog entries from this site. Mostly they were the type of disposable content you now see on Twitter or Facebook. Nothing of lasting value. Noise.

What makes a good blog post? It will vary from person to person, but as someone who has been at this since 1996, here is how I would answer that question today.

#1 “Entertaining, Inspirational, Educational”

This is an idea I got from Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity. Good blog posts will meet one or more of these criteria. Not that my posts are super educational, but I do like to raise questions and extend the discussion.

#2 Novel in Some Way

There are so many blogs that are basically rewriting the same ideas over and over again. Ponderous.

#3 Concise

This is so common. As time passes bloggers tend to take more and more words to get to the point. I stop reading and start skimming.

#4 Lasting Value

I’ll let other bloggers tackle the topic of the day. I’d like my posts to stay relevant longer.

Going Forward

I’d like to meet those 4 criteria as much as possible before hitting publish. And if that means publishing fewer posts, that is OK. What are your thoughts on what makes for a good blog post?

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Photo by Dimitar Nikolov

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MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

10 thoughts on “My Definition of a Good Blog Post”

  1. I’m twisted about the “inspirational” characteristic. Sure, I *love* inspirational content (both reading and writing it), but I also believe it’s dangerous territory, as there’s simply too much of it. I have met far too many people who click from one inspiration to the next while the day passes without them noticing. This is also the reason why Chris’ change of publishing schedule (biweekly to daily) for me was a bit of a mixed bag.

    Totally agree about the aim of “lasting value”. That said, I can see myself sharing more daily minutiae and/or links as well, as some of my favorite bloggers do. Even though these posts don’t necessarily provide lasting value for generic visitors, they still could do so for both the author and his friends/peers. I’d then make sure to offer readers access to both the full stream *and* the “best of” in that case, though.

  2. @Fabian – I agree with you about the inspirational area. I personally don’t care for Chris as a writer. His stuff is shallow and reads like marketing content to build the site brand.

    My issue with links is that if I want to create lasting value, I need to be confident that those I link to won’t go away or take down their content. Sometimes when the link goes away, our blog argument falls apart if we didn’t quote enough. Matt Stone took down his site, which left me scrambling to fix the dead links and find archived copies of the article.

    When you have posts going back 9 years, every week I get some alert of a broken link to once valuable content.

  3. Some blog posts omit basic background information, or a lack of the “basics.” For example, if the blog talks about gut flora, but dismisses a discussion of the basic anatomy of the intestines….”the tube of life,” the reader may have gained information, but be unable to benefit fully from the information. Furthermore, rehashing, or “parroting” other’s thoughts is quite boring and irritating to the reader. One should only comment on a subject if their unique experience adds or subtracts from the basic premise of the blog information. It all boils down to facts, errors, and omissions of information.

  4. Michael,

    I always find myself in a crossroads when it comes to these things. I hate to write long posts as well, because they’re just full of fluff, but bloggers strive to write 2,500-3,000 word article these days because people like it, and more importantly, share it.

    It has been shown that the average word count for the typical top 10 Google result is above 2,100 words. It also has been shown that pop-up works like a charm for email capture. I hate it too, but if you had a business that depended on people signing up for your email list, you’d have to leave your ego aside (just like I do) and put that pop-ups to show up.

  5. This sounds like the classic argument for quality vs. quantity. “Good” blog posts will always be better than blog “noise.”

  6. @Marc – I agree. A few years ago I stopped stating health benefits or risks myself. I started qualifying any references to where I learned them. I got burned a few ties early on. In my eagerness to share health info I picked sources that had cherry picked studies or drew false conclusions. Instead of digging deeper, I decided to step back.

    @Arthur – A handful of people can write compelling content for 2-3,000 words and do it a way that inspires people to share their words. What we are seeing now is other bloggers chasing this method for building traffic, but they are not good writers. They stretch a 700 word blog into 2,000 words to give it a voice a of authority. I can’t speak for other readers, but I see through it. I end up skimming more on longer articles, because so few long articles are of value.

    Pop-up newsletters do get more subscribers, but newsletters are more than just a numbers game. Who is the type of person that blindly gives their email in a pop-up? I’d rather have those bright enough to seek out the newsletter box on the right. Of the newsletters sent out, only a percentage will ever open it. And an even smaller percentage will click on any link inside.

    Let us run the numbers for this site:
    In the last month: 81,000 page views and 70 new subscribers. Only 50% will open those newsletters and just half of them will click a link. So you can see there is NO WAY IN HELL I would ever use a pop-up newsletter window covering my content 81,000 times chasing 17 new page views a month. I have zero respect for sites that do this.

    But let us say I can trick another 300 people to sign up by hammering them with a pop-up. These people are less likely to value in this site than those that looked to the right and signed up. They are less likely to open the newsletter or click on the link. If they do go to the site, they will leave or “bounce” quicker. Get a high bounce rate and the search engines start pushing you down the search results.

    @Becca – Yep.

  7. @Michael

    That CTR of 50% is a real number or just a guess?

    I always had the very same opinion as you, but I think we both can’t give a clear answer until we start tracking the clicks or any revenue it might get over a considerable amount of time.

    Just for fun sake’s, let’s treat email capture as an investment and, in case we’re talking about a business, a sale at the end of the sales funnel as our goal.

    So if you consider all costs of acquiring and having someone in your email list and calculate your ROI and it goes up over time even with a slightly higher bounce rate or any other cons, I would say it’s safe to assume that pop-ups generates more revenue for a business even if the people on your list aren’t the brightest (i.e., all is well).

    It seems that you’re just assuming that because they didn’t see that box on the sidebar, they aren’t the brightest people on your audience, or they aren’t interested in your content or you or wouldn’t give you their money.

    For instance, I have developed a blind eye for ads over time. I have AdBlock installed and I use Stylebot to block any pop-up or any element I find annoying in websites that I visit frequently. I don’t even bother reading them. If it’s out of the layout, I automatically block them. I haven’t noticed that email sign-up box until you wrote about it. Until then, I just ignored its existence as I have done 99.9% of the time.

    Maybe they’re in rush and didn’t see the opt-in box. Maybe they’re not in a rush, but didn’t see the opt-in box. Maybe they don’t how to do it. Maybe they don’t why it would benefit them to give their email to you. I don’t know either, you may be correct as well. All I’m saying is that we can’t assume anything until we test.

    That said, I absolutely hate to my guts anything that would annoy me. I hate traditional, gimmicky-looking sales page even if they convert well, I hate pop-ups even if they convert well, and I hate when people just use my email to promote their products even if they convert well. I would try to avoid these at all costs. But I can’t blame people that have actually zero problems with it, because it might just work.

    Yes, I think you’re better looking at the highest ROI possible as opposed to gross revenue. But I haven’t tested it extensively yet, so I can’t provide an answer to this. But maybe it just works and we’re missing a lot neglecting them.

    P.S. As a personal blog, I don’t think Critical MAS would benefit for having a 3,500% increase in email sign-ups, so please, don’t test them here! They’re really annoying. (But in business… well, you gotta do what you gotta do.)

  8. @Arthur – All those numbers are real. For the INeedCoffee newsletter, which has more subscribers less than 20% even open the newsletter.

    There are ways to display the newsletter signups in a way that they are easier to see than my right column box and less intrusive that the pop-ups. Some people are doing clever things that respect the reader. So there is no reason to annoy your readers with pop-ups.

    It is 2015 and for the last few years the message has been build the newsletter. Like every other web trend, this will get played out. There will be a handful of sites that do a great job with the newsletters, the rest will become noise.

    On the web everything works until it doesn’t. People are starting to have newsletter fatigue. I expect it to get worse. Growing a newsletter list at the expense of annoying your existing fans IMO is bad business.

  9. Hi MAS – I’ve always loved the holistic sort of approach you’ve had on your blog. When you review books, debate health topics, discuss economic trends, and describe personal fitness/food journeys, I feel like I’m getting a complete picture of your point of view. Many blogs focus mostly on carbs, or paleo, or fitness – just a small slice of pie. I look forward to your book reviews, etc., and am able to see how different books you read and personal experiences you have (getting rid of squats, weight loss contests, etc.) influence your perspective in the big-picture sense. This is my long way of saying, I think you’re doing something really good here.

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