Blog Criteria: 3 Blogging Criteria For Writing Great Posts

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Andy Crestodina

I read a lot of blogs – some good, some bad. A few weeks ago, I read something by Bill Sebald that stuck with me. He said:

“I urge you to start writing content that actually is either
1) actionable, 2) a strong opinion, or 3) proven to some degree.”

These are great blog criteria. Basically, if it’s not useful, if it’s a weak opinion, or if it makes unsupported claims, it’s probably not good. This makes sense.

Then I came across something in a book called Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. Erin explains how good content works by relating to the context of the reader. There are three elements: physical (doing), emotional (feeling), and cognitive (learning).


Sound familiar? The three blogging criteria recommended by Sebald align perfectly with the user contexts described by Kissane.

  • Actionable = Physical
  • Proven = Cognitive
  • Strong Opinion = Emotional

Unless the post connects on one of these levels, it probably isn’t worth the reader’s time (and they’re certainly not going to share it). We all need to make sure that our content meets one or more of these three criteria:

  1. The reader can DO something.
    It’s practical. There are steps they can take. Actionable posts lend themselves to list formats, which makes a post more scannable and reader-friendly. Example: How to Write a Blog Post That Ranks High.
  2. The reader LEARNS something.
    If you want to teach something, you need supporting evidence. Facts, research, and expert input make your assertions more believable.
  3. The reader FEELS something.
    You felt something while you wrote it. It’s your voice and your opinion. It means something to you, good or bad. If you don’t care, why would your readers?

If your content doesn’t meet at least one of these criteria for writing, try one of these tips:

  • Give instructions: The step-by-step instructions (such as this one), a list of action items, or ‘How to’ posts are extremely popular for a good reason: the goal is to help the reader. Example: SEO Best Practices: On-Page SEO Checklist.

“Make the customer the hero of your story.”
– Ann Handley

  • Add examples: If you make assertions but don’t give examples, you may be making unsupported claims. This is why Harvard Business School focuses on case studies. Without proof, it’s just academic. Add examples, surveys, statistics, quotes, screenshots, and any other supportive content.

“The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
– David Ogilvy

  • Add some attitude: Don’t hedge your bets. Edit that first draft and take out all those qualifying words. They take the directness and edge out of your writing. During editing you can tweak the tone and strengthen opinions. Here’s an example:

…if you do it right and a group of sentences like this:
“In many cases, blog posts are vague and may not be useful to readers. This is often because they do not provide enough actionable advice.”

…becomes a sentence like this:
“Vague blog posts aren’t useful, since they just aren’t actionable for readers.”

…or even this:
“If a blog post isn’t actionable, it’s useless.”

Keep your standards high.

Honor your readers’ time by aligning content with at least one of these blog criteria, especially if you’re creating an email newsletter. They may reward you with a return visit.

Got an example of a post that meets these blogging criteria? Share the link in a comment below.

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Comments (22)
  • I agree with your criteria. Please visit blog. I think that blog meets all your criteria.

    Thanks, Freedom2retire

  • Blog writing is an act that helps to provide quality of content for our websites especially for blog pages. But we are just wondering what techniques and quality are being used in a blog writing process by a blogger, so here we can found some best criteria for writing great post, I was really thankful towards this post and I would also like to follow certain guidelines from here to serve a quality blog post.

  • I love this post! It hit all of these criteria and was a good reminder for what great blog content should be. I need to incorporate these three keys into the blogging I do for clients, and myself, 

    •  @CourtneyRamirez Thanks for the note, Courtney. Glad you liked this one. Hope to see you here in the Orbit blog again soon! 

      •  @crestodina Thanks Andy! It’s on my September list and I’m going to use this criteria for sure. 

  • Thanks for this.. i have several blogs and this is usefull information! :)) Kepp up the good work 🙂

  • This definitely applies to any kind of communication, now off to get the book (Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane). Thanks for this post @crestodina  it was most useful! Btw I think you might find it interesting to know that I followed you from your post on Spinsucks ( checked out your google plus profile and then landed on this article 🙂 Funnily we’re connected on G+ and I’m not certain how, I’m guessing it was via a circle created by Dave Gray.

  • Always trying to navigate the world of blogs (writing and reading)– i found this to be sage advice @crestodina !  Thanks. #deadon

  • This is SO helpful!!! Thank you! The Trinity of blogging!

  • Andy, this is terrific and so timely. Very useful as I develop editorial direction for a new publication…

  • Andy/ orbiteers  Good post! Here’s a recent blogpost of mine that I revised based the ideas presented here.
    I removed some qualifying statements and had some fun in warning people about bad spreadsheet development.

    •  @OzData  orbiteers Great post, Oz. I think that qualifies as both actionable and strong opinion. It’s advice given with a bit of attitude. But my favorite part is the image caption:
      “He thought his 3D graphics were the shiznit until his mother couldn’t open the spreadsheet without crashing Excel.”
      Great stuff. And perfect for your audience.

      •  @crestodina  orbiteers  Thanks Andy, and thanks to Orbit. We’re gonna make the internet orderly and useful … with fun and attitude.

  • Great post! Now I want to check out the book by Erin Kissane. Also agree with Andrew the criteria applies to so much more than blog posts. Thanks for sharing.

    •  @Sue Reddel It’s an outstanding book and it’s under 100 pages. Concise and very actionable. Just what you’d expect from a content strategist!

  • Another awesome post as always, Andy. Great job!

  • This is fantastic direction, Andy. And it applies to so much more than just blog posts!  How often have each of us been in a conversation exposed to someone, or even found ourselves, spewing information that had no relevance in these three contexts?  We’re all human !  Great points to bear in mind. #SteinVox

    •  @AndrewJStein Good point. Any content in any format need to align with the context of the reader or viewer, including books, movies, TV shows, newspapers and anywhere else where words and images are trying to catch (and keep) our attention. 
      Thanks for the comment, Andrew!

  • Andy, great post. So much of this applies to general storytelling craft too. Well done.

  • I am going to put this as part of my content checklist: Things to look at before I write!  

    •  @pdesantis I know you’ve already been writing actionable posts. 🙂

  • Good rules to live by for blogging.  Seems like we could apply these rules to many business activities like meetings and emails.  All would be more effective if they were actionable, based in facts, and on topics that got us fired up!

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