Why do people write blog posts?
Because they want to:
- Promote a product or service by positioning themselves as an ‘expert’ in their chosen market.
- Raise awareness of a social issue.
- Share their hobby or passion.
Whatever your goal, blogging is a battle. You are fighting against all the other online distractions that clamour for your readers’ attention.
Let’s start with a headline that grabs attention.
Before you start writing, you need a ‘working’ headline. You might re-word the headline once the post is written, but that doesn’t matter. A headline gives you a roadmap to follow. Without a headline your post may lack direction, going off on a tangent confusing the reader and losing their interest. Your headline must tell the reader, at a glance, what your post is about.
- What do your readers want? What is keeping them awake at night? Write a headline that promises a solution to their problem. To find out what bothers your readers do some research by reading post comments on websites that sell a similar product or service. Send out surveys asking your readers what difficulties they face. Use tools such as BuzzSumo that help you to find out what your readers are talking about. Find books on Amazon that relate to your subject matter and read the reviews to discover what really interests your readers.
- Once you know what your readers want, you need to turn your research into a headline that grabs attention. Jon Morrow has created headline templates so you will always find exactly what you need. The most effective headlines are list post headlines (30 ways to…, 20 ideas for… etc) and ‘How to’ headlines.
- Humans are sensory animals – use that to your advantage. Use feel, sight, smell, sound and taste to bring your headlines alive. Have a look at these amazing examples on Enchanted Marketing.
- Evoke your readers’ curiosity. Don’t give away too much too soon. If you write: ‘How to save money on groceries by writing a weekly menu’ then you’ve solved your readers’ problem – why do they need to read more? Try, ‘How to reduce your monthly food bill’ instead.
- Never tell lies. Don’t promise something you cannot deliver. It goes without saying that this destroys trust, losing your readers for good eg. ‘How to get rich in three months – guaranteed!’
- Every word counts. Chop out words that don’t add any meaning to your headline. For example, instead of ‘How eating certain types of nuts can help you to lose weight in a week’ write ‘How to lose weight fast: eating these nuts’. Another point: italics and bold are your friends. However, use sparingly or they lose their power.
- Choose clarity over cleverness. Readers shouldn’t have to guess the benefit of your product or service. Avoid metaphors, rhymes and made-up words unless you are 100% sure your message is crystal clear. Think about those clever advertisements you see on television. They might be entertaining, but if we don’t know what they are selling are they doing their job?
- Write a few different versions of your headline, and then pick the most effective one. ‘To have a great idea, have a lot of them.’ – Thomas A Edison.
You’ve enticed your readers with your headline, now you need to keep them hooked. Do this by:
- Showing empathy with them. Demonstrate that you understand what they are feeling and that you can help them. ‘As teachers we tend to knuckle down and do the work. We ask for little recognition in return…’
- Triggering emotions. Write a list of the feelings you want your readers to experience, mapping out their emotional journey. Get into character and feel those emotions yourself as you write.
- Opening with a question or a short sentence. If you open with a long-winded paragraph you risk losing your readers straight away.
- Cutting as many words as you can without losing your meaning. Economic wording keeps readers engaged.
- Using fear. What are your readers worried about? What is the worst that can happen if their problem isn’t solved?
- Ending your introduction with a sentence or two that lets your readers know it’s in their best interests to stay with you. If they do, they will discover the answers that your post has promised them. Here’s an example from a fitness blog promoting an app to help runners training during their menstrual cycle: ‘Now there’s an easy way to track what’s happening and why…’
Now it’s time to deliver what you have promised in an easy-to-read way.
- Use subheadings. Readers scan. Show your readers that your content is valuable to them. If readers see too much text they feel overwhelmed. Add subheadings every few paragraphs.
- Like headings, subheadings should pique curiosity. Don’t bore your readers with plain labels, don’t try to be clever with cryptic headlines and don’t give away too much information.
- Is your post a real eye-opener? Remember, you are competing with a dizzying amount of information. List the main points you are making in your post and see if you can add a twist or a unique perspective to them. Can you shed new light on an old problem? Your post is only of value if it enlightens your reader.
- Be consistent. In this post every subheading starts with a verb and each section is broken down with bullet points. The more consistent you are, the better your readers’ experience.
- Be generous with your advice and thoughtfulness – wow your readers. Don’t hold back. Keep them coming back for more.
- In this middle section start strongly and end strongly. If you’re offering ten ways to achieve something then put your best tips first and last.
Ending with a bang
Show your readers you are on their side. They can meet their goal as long as they follow the advice you’ve given them.
- Leave them feeling motivated and empowered to take the next step. You don’t want them to read your post and then forget about it. The must take action – today. Stay in your readers’ shoes. Imagine what their life will be like if they follow your advice and communicate that to them.
- Don’t give new information. New information belongs in the middle of your post.
- Is your post as polished as it can be? Leave it to rest for a day or two and then read it aloud to yourself. You will soon hear what needs to be cut, tweaked and changed.
Remember, writing is hard work but your efforts will pay off. The more blog posts you write, the sharper they will become. Your ideas deserve the best possible chance to be heard and the world needs them!