Many fitness pros have an interest in blogging as a way to dispense health and fitness content and/or chronicle their own fitness journeys and achievements. But many fitness bloggers could be doing more to package an idea for maximum impact or better explain concepts in a logical format.
Today’s fitness blog environment is quite competitive, so going the extra mile to make your blog look professional and read well can help you stand out and successfully market your brand to a wider audience. Here, three expert fitness bloggers share their tips for making any fitness blog worth coming back to, again and again.
Where Do You Fit In?
Think about the last few blogs you landed on, either for personal enjoyment or to glean info related to your job. What made them interesting—or not so interesting—to you? Now consider how your own blog stacks up. Many of us in the industry post similar information on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more; sometimes success hinges less on what you share and more on how you share it.
“If people want a free workout or a healthy recipe, they don’t have to read a blog post. They don’t even have to read! They can scroll down Instagram and watch a 15-second video,” says Ami McMullen, TRX Master Instructor and ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor in San Diego, Calif. Her blog is fitwithflash.com. “When people actually take the time to read something I’ve written, it’s because they’re relating with either the topic or with me,” she says. That’s not to say you shouldn’t blog about whatever could also be easily broadcast on Instagram. The point is to build up an audience that prefers to receive that information directly from you. But how?
“In order to stand out, you have to show yourself—your real self—in a way that people can relate to,” says McMullen. “I choose blogs of people I know or I’d like to know.” Showing your real self doesn’t mean you unnecessarily over-share what should be private, or painstakingly unpack the minutiae of your everyday life. Instead, showcase your personality through your writing style and choice of topics.
“Ultimately, you are what makes your blog different from all the others,” says Jill Conyers of Cincinnati, Ohio. She owns Jill Conyers Fitness, Health and Happiness blog. “You bring your personal perspective, experiences and creativity to every post you publish. Write about the things you’re passionate about in a way that clearly communicates, ‘This is what’s important to me.’ That passion will naturally come through in your writing and will elicit a feeling of interest and reliability in the reader. Being true to who you are will make your blog feel more alive and more real,” says Conyers.
Why Your Readers Like You
Even though the blog has your name on it, always play to your audience. Who are your readers? Why are they on your blog? Conyers believes people read blogs for reasons such as entertainment, information, an emotional connection and/or a search for shared experiences. “As the writer,” she says, “answer this question: How can I add value to readers’ lives?”
“Put yourself in the shoes of your readers,” advises McMullen. “Whatever’s compelling or interesting to them is what you should try to write about. When I write a post about a fitness subject, it usually stems from a conversation I had with a client or class participant.”
Whether you're sharing your personal health and fitness story or offering expert guidance, beware of “identity management,” where the poster only includes their best, overachieving moments. The fastest way to elicit eye rolls and alienate readers is to over-inflate successes while ignoring rough patches. “Most journeys to change aren’t easy ones and nobody wants to hear that it’s easy,” says McMullen. “Talk about the good parts, but don’t hide the bad. Readers going through the same process will likely have the same ups and downs and will be able to relate more if the blogger is honest.”
Your content should ultimately “teach, inform, engage or even lead the community that you’re trying to reach,” says Jamie King, Portland, Oregon-based founder of Fit Approach and the #SweatPink online community. She blogs at jamiekingfit.com.
Write Like a Pro
Even with good intentions to put forth an authentic voice and connect with readers, your actual writing must still live up to a certain standard. No one wants to read a “word-salad.” Every post should follow a logical flow. If a post becomes convoluted, determine if you’re perhaps tackling too much at once. A simple way to clean up your blog writing is to separate subtopics into different posts. For example, bike fit, cardio training, mindset and pre-performance nutrition all fall under the main category of triathlons. However, trying to stuff all these meaty subtopics into one post is likely to overwhelm readers, and you.
Stay focused and write in a conversational style that reflects your personality—don’t blog in a dry, boring tone. Communicate like you’re talking to a friend or client, but with an eye for good prose. Edit multiple times.
Craft the post’s headline with care, considering both relevant keywords and what language compels people to click a link. If needed, gain inspiration with this web tool offered by Tweak Your Biz that serves up hundreds of headline suggestions for whatever topic you provide.
Although many blog posts are short—400 to 800 words—a longer word count can still work when presented properly. “The quickest way to get a person to close your page is to write a post that contains the dreaded ‘wall of words,’” says McMullen. Pro bloggers use the following formatting tricks to ensure a post of any length looks inviting to read from a computer, tablet or even phone:
- Bullet points or numbered lists
- Strategic subheads
- Plenty of short paragraphs
- One or two callouts (i.e., a sentence or quote pulled from the main text and presented in a slightly larger font)
- Embedded video related to the post’s topic
- Embedded audio track of the blog post itself (e.g., via SoundCloud)
- Nice images, and lots of them
“One of my best practices is to put a photo or a lot of space between thoughts or paragraphs, especially if it’s a lengthier post,” says McMullen. “In a world where many people are turned off by anything that requires too much effort, I don’t want my post to look overwhelming, boring or too time-consuming to read.”
Make an Impact With Images
Part of publishing a fitness blog post worth reading isn’t about the writing at all. “Having great images is key to a successful blog,” says King. “They attract readers who are browsing the web or perusing their social media channels.”
“Quality imagery increases the likelihood the reader is going to read the entire post and return in the future,” says Conyers. “Including high-quality images in the post adds interest and gives the opportunity for the writer to connect with the reader by appealing to their visual nature.”
Posting selfies is O.K., but other types of photos can work just as well, or better. “Imagine a short paragraph, a beautiful image of a sunset seen during a training run or a walk on the beach, followed by another short paragraph,” says Conyers. “That photo may be just the thing that compels the reader to read the next paragraph.”
However, many fitness bloggers lack the photography skills to capture the perfect shot for every post. No problem. First, do what pro photographers do and snap lots of images. Conyers takes 50 to 75 photos per post with the intention of choosing the best ones. In doing so, she considers how the photos might “convey some of the interesting details in the post and give the reader a way to quickly connect with the content of the post, compelling them to continue reading.”
Another pro tip: “Make sure you have good lighting,” says King. “It can be as simple as turning on a light near where you are shooting an object or perhaps even opening up some blinds.” Still didn’t get the shot you want? With today’s mobile apps, there’s usually a fix, whether you’ve taken photos on your phone or used a digital camera. “Don’t be afraid to edit your images!” says King. “In fact, you should edit nearly all of your images before they make it into a blog post.” You can brighten, crop and sharpen photos; create contrast; camouflage mistakes; turn the background black and white or soft-focused; and much more.
Try these photo-editing apps: VSCO, Camera+, Photoshop, Instagram, FaceTune and ColorPop. Web-based services like PicMonkey and Canva offer additional editing features and the ability to watermark photos with your blog’s logo. With the help of Canva or Pablo (from Buffer), you can create attractive title graphics in minutes. Finally, there’s always stock photography if you need it. Search images to publish, for free, on your blog at Flickr Creative Commons and Pexels. (Some require photo credit.)
Your Opportunity to Stand Out
Whether you're just starting a fitness blog, or you want to take your current one to the next level, it’s possible to carve out a niche in this crowded space. “There are so many fitness blogs out there,” says King, “but there are also many opportunities to stand out.” Staying true to your authentic style and keeping your readers top of mind will help you maintain a fitness blog worth reading.