So, you’re interested in writing a guest post for Northern Lights? Welcome! Whether this your first experience as a bloggger or whether you’re a seasoned author, the following are a few tips and ideas to help your messages speak to as many people as possible, and to outline some “best practices” that will help us maintain a certain level of continuity and professionalism on the blog.

Content Guide

When it comes to blogs, titles can be just as important as the content. The title catches the reader’s eye and draws them in. Something like “My journey as the mother of an SSA man” can be “When my son told me he was gay” or “How I learned my son’s SSA wasn’t my fault—a mother’s prospective.” Think of the same rules as naming a dog—it should be short, catchy and not something you’d be embarrassed shouting across a park.

Our WordPress template allows for both titles and sub-titles, and we recommend that the total length of both Title and Subtitle be no longer than 100 characters.

According to statistics, the best length for a blog is between 700-2000 words, or between 5-10 minutes. Research stats seem to suggest that the “sweet spot” length is 1500-1600 words, or about a 7-minute read, and that posts between 1500 and 2000 words receive up to 68 percent more tweets and 22 percent more Facebook likes.

Remember, your post is competing with the whole of the internet when someone is reading it, and even the biggest fan isn’t going to sit down and read an entire novel in one sitting. If needs be, break it up into a series. Readers are more likely to come back for a sequel then stick around for an epic.

In journalism there is something called the “hook”—it’s the thing that’s going to grab the reader and keep them in through the entire story. The hook should be in either the first or second paragraph, and should make the reader want to read the rest of the story. Make your hook interesting. Tell a joke or a story that leads into your subject. Ask a question, or offer an interesting insight you want to expound on. Find something that’ll make the reader want to know more.

It’s hard when you’ve wanted for so long to talk about your thoughts and stories to not try to tell them all at once, but if you clog your blog with too many ideas you may lose your reader before they get to the best part. Try to stick to one, maybe two ideas. Ask yourself: How would I describe my story in one sentence?

No matter how short or punchy your blog is, having places to rest the eyes or skim to help readers remember the information you’re trying to convey, as well as gives them the chance to skim if they need to. Not every blog post needs subheadings, but if you’re going for a longer post it wouldn’t be a bad idea at about every other paragraph, if not every paragraph.

No matter how long it is, a picture is always welcome. The more things you can use to connect to a person’s memory the better. Images are utilized greatly throughout the website, not only in the background of the individual post header, but as a thumbnail in post listings, and as the background of the main slider at the top of the homepage.



Because of this…

RULE: It is required that you designate a FEATURED IMAGE.

Because having a Featured Image is integral to the design of our blog, we will only accept posts that include a Featured Image with the submission. Having additional images in the post is optional. Until we have a chance to narrow down 3-5 good free photo-sharing sites where you can search for and use images for free, here’s an article outlining 53+ free image sources that you can pick from and us, AS LONG AS attribution and photo credit is given. Or find another source that works for you. Wikimedia Commons is another site where you can get free media.

PREFERENCE: Images used as a Featured Image should be no smaller than 800 pixels wide. This will cut down on how pixelated these images might appear.

Whatever images you use, your own images are often best, just for the simplicity of not having to appeal to the overlords of fair use.

As one social media expert has noted, “People love to share quotes on social media. Make your perfect blog post as quotable and shareable as possible.” One good way to do this is to pull out the best bits from the content you’ve written into either Pull Quotes (you’ll have to designate these). We will share your posts via North Star social media, but we also encourage you to share via your own social media networks.

Before you publish your post, stop and read what you’ve written from beginning to end out loud, even if you’re just mouthing the words. Anywhere you stumble or have trouble reading it, that’s a good place to do a second draft. Don’t be afraid of a little editing, either. Even the greatest masterpiece had to go through a few rewrites.

Think back to before you had a community, before you knew about North Star or other helpful resources—or before you even heard about SSA. What is it that you needed? What is it that you wanted someone to talk about, or explain to you, or even wanted someone else to relate to you about? Did you need to know you’d be okay? Did you need to know that the shame would stop, or that the bullying was temporary, that you just weren’t alone, or that other parents of family members have loved ones in these circumstances? Write what that version of you needed to hear. Or if you need to hear something right now, write about that.

While different experts on blogging and social media have slightly different beliefs about what is “ideal,” has released an infographic on how you can get your readers’ attention. It covers topics about the importance of your post title, eight ways you can creatively word your titles for the best form of response, how to lure readers in with the opening sentence and keep them on your post for the rest of the article, etc.