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Name 3 Writing Tips You Wish You Had When You First Started Blogging

Michael Tharrington (he/him)
I'm a friendly, non-dev, cisgender man from NC who enjoys playing music/making noise, eating veggies, and hanging out with my best friend/wife + our 2 cats + 1 dog. (he/him)
・1 min read

If you could travel back in time to when you first started blogging and give yourself 3 writing tips, what would they be?

Discussion (18)

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helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson • Edited

Love this thread and the great advice coming through :D

My three are:

1 - Think about your audience. Are you writing for a complete beginner or someone more experienced? What prior knowledge do you expect your experienced reader to have? What problem are you trying to help them solve?

2 - Don't post it right away. Once you are happy with the final version of your post close your laptop and wait till tomorrow. With fresh eyes you often spot mistakes you wouldn't have seen initially.

3 - Don't worry about post views and other vanity metrics. Post views don't tell you if your reader has even read the post, they simply clicked a link. You should be aiming to create genuine conversations and helping others with your post, not chasing internet points.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him) Author

3 - Don't worry about post views and other vanity metrics. Post views don't tell you if your reader has even read the post, they simply clicked a link. You should be aiming to create genuine conversations and helping others with your post, not chasing internet points.

So, so true! I think that this is excellent advice. 🙌

So much gets lost in metrics like post views. Like you said, a post view just tells you that someone clicked a link. Maybe you had a genuinely good title or maybe you just created enough shock/intrigue to get a click! 😅

Anyway, as you pointed out, when writing for views alone, the writing generally suffers because it isn't coming from a genuine place and it's so clearly self-serving. On the reverse, writing about what you are interested in and trying to make real connections with others who are interested in the same thing is so, so much more rewarding than a post view.

Side note, I love the phrase "chasing internet points" and now I got TLC in my head! 😀

TLC Waterfalls

🎶 ... don't go chasing internet points... 🎶

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helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson
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mitchellclong profile image
Moe Long

THE PROBLEM WITH VANITY METRICS! PREACH! As a writer/editor, I'm constantly trying to help people understand this. Excellent write up!

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

I just wrote a whole article about it :)

If I had to pick only 3, those would do:

  • 2. Do not bury the lead
  • 12. Originally published on your own blog 🔗
  • 18. Publish Early, Publish Often 💡
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wanderingsoul profile image
Jameel Ur Rahman

I really like #20. Don't focus on vanity metrics. I just caught myself doing exactly that after posting my first blog post.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

I also struggle with that, it's a constant battle. Writing it down was also a reminder for myself.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him) Author

Bookmarked! Haha, talk about perfect timing. 😁

And these are awesome tips too! Thanks for sharing and providing the link.

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

1) Document things that provide value to your readers instead of being a one trick pony.

2) Publish your full article on your websites first before posting it on other platforms.

3) Have a backlog of article topics that makes researching and creating a outline much easier.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him) Author

These are excellent tips! Really appreciate you sharing them.

I love the one about creating a backlog of article topics to pull from (I've done this with songwriting!)... a little curious about your methods here. Do ya write down a title idea and brief synopsis? Use a trello board to organize them? Or are ya more informal about it all?

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

Most of the time I just brainstorm ideas to have 50 topics surrounding my niche. So when I'm left with 30+ topics, I just refill it.

I usually have a outline creation phase which I just focus on 3 points I want to deliver for the article. Then I just do more research for each point in my research phase for the articles I'm publishing for the week.

I find that tutorial articles is the hardest to write so I usually focus on other topics that doesn't require a additional phase of me doing a code review before I publish it.

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petermortensen profile image
Peter Mortensen • Edited

How do you organise the information? In a (simple text) document? A database? An Excel sheet? Some web application or mobile app? An outliner by Dave Winer? In some specialised tool for this purpose? Something else?

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I usually put the outline into a document in Grammarly for each topic.

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mitchellclong profile image
Moe Long

Great question @michaeltharrington ! In no particular order:

1) Don't worry about how it sounds. As an English major that concentrated on English lit/Creative Writing in uni, when I started blogging I felt compelled to make my writing flowery. There's definitely a time and a place for that, but with blogging, often simple is better.

2) Start your own website! In addition to my day job, I've got a modestly successful consumer tech website, Tech Up Your Life that I wish I'd started sooner. Writing for other sites, whether freelance or full-time is great. But investing in your own site (and then syndicating on sites like DEV) is an awesome idea.

3) Learn SEO. If you want your blog posts to be seen, they'll need to rank well in Google. Search engine optimization is a complete game-changer that helped me grow my site from scratch to over 100K pageviews (#ShamelessPlug but I teach those strategies in an online course that I created). Of course, you need to make sure your blog posts are high-quality and informative, not mere keyword spaghetti, but an SEO-first approach helps you figure out what information you need to include in an article in order to get your articles to rank.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him) Author

Moe!! Hey real-life bud 👋

Thanks for pitching in these tips!

Big fan of "Don't worry about how it sounds..." I found that my style got more and more casual the minute I left school. The reality of it is, I like to read stuff that is more casual — it feels more real to me.

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mitchellclong profile image
Moe Long

I totally agree - casual writing does sound more real, and therefore more trustworthy. And I'd guess that's true for most folks. To quote one of my poetry professors from university, "we learn the rules so that we can break them properly." Formal writing guidelines are suggestions rather than laws.

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petermortensen profile image
Peter Mortensen • Edited

Can you summarise the SEO part here? What is the gist of it?

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mitchellclong profile image
Moe Long

Absolutely, @petermortensen ! Basically, before I sit down to write an article, I do research to figure out what topics and sub-topics I need to cover in an article in order to fully convey a topic or answer a query. A good place to start can be looking at the People Also Ask and Related Searches sections in Google.

After that, I'll use a keyword research tool and look at monthly search volume as well as keyword competition. While volume is great, keyword competition lets you know how hard or easy it is to rank for a particular keyword. Ultimately, I'd rather rank really well (top 1-3 spots in a Google search) for a lower volume keyword than lower in the SERP (page 2, for instance) for a high volume search. There's that old SEO joke, "where's the best place to hide a dead body? Google, page 2." Click through rate (CTR) drops substantially even with the page one 4, 5, 6, etc. slots versus 1-3.

Then, I outline my article, integrating different keywords I'm targeting. And I optimize my content extremely well on-page, i.e. using a keyword-friendly URL, having my focus keyword as the headline/H1, using appropriate keywords as image alt text, incorporating keywords into my meta description. Of course, it's important to do all of this organically rather than forcing it. A lot of my SEO approach is just creating really high-quality, long-form, evergreen content that's keyword-rich and provides a lot of value to readers.