What makes a good blog post?

great stories

There are great stories in each of us

There have been many interesting discussions in recent months that are related, in some way at least, to this question. Whether it’s the journalist vs blogger debate, or the controversy over press trips and the value of the content that results, the subject sparks strong opinions on all sides.

I did read one sentiment that stuck in my mind although I can’t recall who wrote it (speak up and take credit and I’ll add your link), and it’s hard to disagree with this as a principle. It is this: if you’re going to add something to the mass of content that’s already filling the online world, make it something that is of value to your readers. Good advice I reckon. So let’s probe this a little deeper. What gives a blog post (or any online content for that matter) that necessary value? Here are a few of my suggestions.

1. Tell a story. Yes, it’s my favourite subject, but a simple point to remember that makes any post come to life. We are all storytellers, and we all love to read a good story. Think about the great speakers from history or your favourite lecturers, and they’ll almost certainly be connected by one trait: their effective use of stories to paint a vivid picture of what they want you to take away.  The blog should be the perfect medium for a good story. A typical post only takes a couple of minutes to read and you can even add a few photos to illustrate the message. A good post will put the reader in that place and time, and for that short time make them relive your experiences as if they were there.

2. Be original. It can be very hard to come up with an original topic, but it’s not so hard to add your own angle to a well worn subject. Thousands of people write about a day out in Paris, and describing a trip to the Eiffel Tower is not original. Your experiences of talking to an old lady on the Metro who invited you into her home and showed off her photo collections from her younger years as a showgirl at the Moulin Rouge will make one hell of a story. It’s certainly harder to create original material without straying off the beaten track.

3. Challenge commonly held beliefs. I am often far more drawn to a headline that makes me uncomfortable than one with which I instantly agree. Seeing a title of a post about ‘Why I hate the British’ will immediately draw me in, and I’ll want to know what bad experiences this person has had in my home country. A headline of ‘Thai meal for $1′ on the other hand, will not grab my attention.

4. Make it relevant. ‘A walking trip around Lima’ will be relevant to those who live in Lima, have just been there or are planning a Peruvian trip. To others, this story might have limited appeal. The post could however describe what made that walk around Lima so special, the sounds, the smells, the reactions of others and why it’s so different from a walk around London. That way it will start to draw in those people who might never intend to visit the city, but who are captivated by the quality of the story.

5. Provoke a discussion. Sometimes the strength of a blog post is not in the author’s words, but in the discussion that follows. If the sign of a good blog post is that it touches its audience in some way, what better evidence of this than in a string of comments that agree or disagree with the author. If I see a post has 10+ comments, I’ll be more inclined to find out what it was that motivated others to add their opinions.

6. Give useful information. Many blog posts focus on giving tips rather than telling stories. This can be very useful if the reader is planning a trip to that place. But even in a factual post, the message sticks in the mind so much easier when there is a story attached to it. Karen Bryan’s post about a stay in a York hotel is an example of this. I still remember the name of the hotel instantly, and it’s purely down to the way Karen shared her adventures  using words and video.

I remember attending a presentation some years ago on ‘How to deliver a great presentation’. I left the room thinking the speaker had been ok, but not great. But I did take one message out of that session. He said that as a speaker you should have one aim when preparing your presentation to any audience: that they leave the room having changed their thoughts in some way. Maybe they’ll be more accepting of a situation of which they had been intolerant; maybe they’ll feel inspired to change their habits or behaviours or challenge their fears; maybe they’ll enroll in a public speaking course. As long as there’s a way in which you’ve made one change, however small, then you have served a valuable role. Surely that same rule applies to blogging?

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

14 Responses to “What makes a good blog post?”

  1. I suppose it depends on the overall purpose or intention of your blog or website. Personally, I like to tell a story. If, when reading my blog you are swept momentarily into a time or a moment or experience of mine, than I have succeeded.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm
  2. Ana Mamic #

    Thank you for this post. It answers most of the questions I’ve been asking myself in recent contemplations of perhaps starting my own travel blog. How to make it relevant? What will make it worth reading? Do I travel frequently enough to keep up a more or less regular stream of posts? And what are my motivations for writing – does it matter to me if people read it, or would I be writing it just to satisfy my own urges? Perhaps I’m overthinking it, as I always do, and should just start writing and see where it takes me. In any case, thank you.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm
  3. great post! i try to tell a story + provide helpful informations. started few months ago so have to try, think more. i think you have to think hard for what you write and thinking about people who reads your blog. bit hard too express all my thoughts in 2nd language though. :)
    anyhow, another great post Andy!

    March 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm
  4. Great tips! I started a blog a year ago, and I’m always looking for helpful insight to draw readers. Thank you!

    March 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  5. This is a really interesting question. For me, I guess i’m not all that emotional a traveler or art viewer, so, when I write about art in Tuscany, I try to think about what people need to know to understand better what they are looking at. I believe in accuracy and thoroughness. This probably makes for blog posts that are rather longer than most people want to read, but I think that those who stick it out will come out enlightened. Or rather, I really hope ;-).

    March 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm
  6. You have articulated the very reasons I get all warm and fuzzy about some posts and not others (both my own and other blogs). I’m always drawn to a first person story and try to share my experiences with others in the same way. Thanks for the great advice.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:07 pm
  7. Thanks! I agree – those are the blogs that make me want to read more. I think, especially in travel blogging, too many people report just the facts, just the list, and don’t tell the stories that really make others want to travel – it’s not just about the places, it’s about the experiences & the people. Great post.

    March 11, 2010 at 6:49 pm
  8. Thank you to all for sharing your thoughts. I think we’ve all highlighted different ways in which a good blog will give something valuable to the reader, whether it’s useful information or a temporary escape through an entertaining anecdote. All things I will now try and take on board for my future posts.
    Good luck with the new blog Ana.
    Juno, you’re doing a great job and I’m enjoying your early posts. Are you writing a Korean blog too?

    March 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm
  9. haha i wish! i tried to made my blog in bilingual system. you know two platforms in one blog. you bush the button then it changes to Korean one. i had in mind but i’m too biginner for all of that so i just write in not-very-good-English only. my korean friends always complain about it. so i hang on to twitter friends! haha sad.

    March 12, 2010 at 2:03 am
  10. Excellent points. Most of the time I try to stick to my tagline, so hopefully each post helps people travel smarter in some way or learn something about a place or culture they might not have known before.

    March 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm
  11. Thanks Anil. It’s a good plan to draw each post back to your central theme. I enjoy your posts – always something new, even when the destination is familiar.

    March 13, 2010 at 8:58 am
  12. Point 6. is enlightening for me …in fact as a blog beginner I post articles with good tips and info but tend to leave behind the story related to it…which would draw the attention of readers and sticks it in their mind much easier. So now I know where I have to work on! thanks for sharing :)

    March 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm
  13. This was a great post Andy – and now to incorporate your suggestions in my future posts. I know I can visit your archives and always find something interesting to read. Your headlines grab me everytime.

    March 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm
  14. How about just being yourself. If seeking “popularity” through the internet is your main motive for making a blog then that’s not very healthy. Just be yourself let your creativity expand through your blogs.

    I’m sure people will read it. But popularity shouldn’t be your ownly motive on getting views or “a good post”

    Just my 2 cent. Interesting post.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm