Sam Holstein

4 Qualities Every Successful Blog Post Has

4 Qualities Every Successful Blog Post Has

I’m a professional, full-time blogger who’s published over 500 articles and survives solely on the income from their blog without any freelancing gigs or side work.

I’m a firm believer that the only thing you need to do to become a successful blogger is to write good articles and publish regularly.

But the more I work with new writers, the more I’m learning they regularly misunderstand what it means for an article to be “good.”

Every good article has these 4 qualities:

  1. They are written with technical skill. This has less to do with grammar and typos and more to do with sentence & paragraph organization.
  2. They tell an entertaining story or take the reader on an emotional journey.
  3. They give the reader value. This can be literal information, like teaching skills, or an emotional realization, like empathy or solidarity.
  4. They are productized and marketed well. They have a headline that describes what the article is about and attracts attention, they have a feature photo that will make readers want to click, they are tagged and/or SEO optimized, and are otherwise prepared to sell well as a product.

Many writers think they write good articles… but they don’t. They are usually missing at least one (but usually two or three) components of this important formula.

It’s possible to have a great writing career without nailing this formula. This formula is only for writing blog articles, after all. Journalists employed by a magazine or newspaper have entirely different standards. Ghostwriters and novel writers have yet still different standards. There are plenty of highly skilled writers out there whose blog posts languish because they do not have these 4 qualities.

Let’s go over each one in detail.

They Are Written with Technical Skill

When people think of writing skill, they tend to think of grammatical errors and typos. New writers often say “My writing is good! I don’t have any typos or errors!” But this is the least important aspect of technical writing skill and the easiest to do. For christ’s sake, a computer can do that!

What a computer can’t do (yet) is developmental editing. Computers can’t tell you whether the ideas in your article are organized in a way that would make sense for the reader. Computers can’t tell you if the sentences you construct flow well one after another. Computers can’t tell you if something could be expressed with a shorter sentence — nor can they tell you if more length would enhance the reader’s experience.

Good articles are written with these skills. Their paragraphs are organized in a way that makes sense and flows well. The sentence length and arrangement are carefully chosen, as well as the clausal arrangement within those sentences.

I read a lot of articles that look good on the surface but end up being difficult to read — or simply boring and unengaging — because they are not written with these skills.

If you want to get better at your technical writing skill, read The Sense of Style by Stephen Pinker. This book is responsible for single-handedly teaching me these skills and taking the quality of my writing up a notch overnight.

They Tell an Entertaining Story or Take the Reader on an Emotional Journey

Not every blog article explicitly tells a story. Most articles I write do not involve explicit stories of every kind. But every good blog article does take the reader on an emotional journey.

Consider this article. The emotional journey it is taking you, presumably, is this one:

  1. You are a writer who thinks you write good articles but can’t seem to get any traction. (Sad, confused)
  2. You learn what it actually means for an article to be good. (Hopeful)
  3. You analyze your previous work with this knowledge and see “Oh, I too have missed some of these qualities!” (Even more hopeful)
  4. You decide to learn how to put these qualities in your work. (Motivated, satisfied)

This article could be written without invoking an emotional journey. I could give it some canned introduction like “It’s difficult to write a good blog article. Many people struggle. But good blog articles stand out from the rest. They have these 4 qualities. Let me tell you about them.” But it would be a less engaging article, and fewer people would have gotten to this point in reading it.

You don’t have to explicitly decide what the emotional journey is. I didn’t sit down prior to drafting this article and consciously decide that was my reader’s emotional journey. But you do have to remain aware your reader is a human and speak to their emotions just as much as their mind.

Many writers explicitly place short anecdotes or full stories in their writing to achieve that effect. They have a clear formula: Case study + rote, factual information = complete article. This formula does very well, and I encourage you to use it if you like it. But I personally don’t find using this formula fun, and it is self-evidently possible to write an article that takes a reader on an emotional journey without it.

They Give the Reader Value

We’ve all heard this one before. Good blog articles give the reader value. They can give the reader value by being entertaining, they can give the reader value by teaching them a new skill, they can give the reader value by bringing them emotional peace or soothing, they can give the reader value by raising their awareness of a problem, they can give the reader value in a million different ways… but they always give the reader value.

There is a kind of blog article that is a diary entry. They are a collection of loosely related thoughts and feelings of the author about a particular subject. These blog articles usually don’t do very well because they don’t provide any value for the reader. The reader asks themselves, “Why am I reading this?” These writers will benefit from adding value.

Most people who struggle to get traction with their blog articles are not writing these kinds of articles. It’s very rare for me to work with a writer who does not understand instinctively that readers need value. Unless you are doing diary-style entries, I wouldn’t worry overmuch about this component.

They are Productized and Marketed Well

The number one problem keeping most writers I work with from doing well is a failure of productizing and marketing.

  1. They have a headline that makes them happy, not one that communicates clearly to readers what the story is about.
  2. They have a feature photo that makes them happy, not one that grabs readers’ attention and makes them click.
  3. They treat tagging and SEO like a boring after-thought, not a crucial part of their business strategy.

Writing a good blog article is an act of artistic expression, especially in your body copy/prose. Often, though, the artistic expression should end there. Your headline, feature photo, and tags are not a place for artistic expression.

If your blog article is a painting, the headline and feature photo is the frame. A frame is meant to bring out the best in a painting, not attract attention itself.

So often I work with writers who ask “Why are my articles not getting views?!” Then I visit their articles and find vague or ugly headlines, feature photos that look like generic stock images, and badly tagged stories. That’ll be a solid portion of your problem, friend.

This is not an article about how to pick a good headline, feature photo, or tags. There are a million articles about how to do that already. But if I had to make a guess about what your problem is without knowing you or your writing, my money would be on these issues. Double down on your headline writing skill, double down on picking beautiful and clickable photos (not “relevant” ones), and watch your views rise.

You should understand a little more now what goes into the writing of a good article. “Good” doesn’t just mean decent, adequate, performed well on other platforms or in other contexts, or impressed your friends. Good means gets results.