If you are a blog writer you surely face this dilemma. Will anyone find your post? And if ‘found’ will the viewer actually read your post? As a writer nothing bothers more than finding that people are not reading your posts. The same thought is stalking me as I write this post.
What is the key to making people read your posts? What makes them share your post with others? Is there a secret sure-shot formula that many of us don’t know?
Truth be told, there really is no ONE magic wand for that – at least none that I know of.
But if you ask me I would say that the chance people read your posts rests on 4 major factors.
In order of importance here they are:
Outrageous headlines or post titles
You have heard it ‘n’ number of times. It is the truth! Getting people ‘open the envelope’ is the first barrier to cross. It is tough…so why not arouse their un-taming curiosity with kickass headlines?
Timing the posting
If you write in English as I do and your most readers are in the US for example, it makes sense – doesn’t it – to publish your post when they are awake. And then follow up with shouts in social media.
I always keep this great Abraham Lincoln saying in mind. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. The gist? No matter how inch-perfect you are with respect to (1) and (2) above, the posts you write must offer value to the readers.
People like to put faith on things they see, feel, touch and are able to do them often. That’s important – doing it often. This means the more you write for the readers the more they repose trust in you. The key is of course to write well and also write often. I know this well because I am myself guilty of frequent forced absenteeism.
So far so good. But frankly you heard them before. Are you any better than when someone first told you about them? Let me guess. For many of you the answer would be ‘No’.
So in this article let me don the mantle of ‘problem solver’ and seek the answer to the most burning problem – What to Write?
You are not alone.
We all feel the heat of ‘what to write’ every now and then. The solution is to find out what actually works. Let me further funnel that to this »» what mostly works for others should likely work for me and you. Trust me, this theory almost always works.
A bit of relief now, no? Let us proceed.
Get Abundant Resources
The most essential pre-requisite for ‘what to write‘ is abundance of resources. Make no mistake. You must collect a lot of resources, mostly reports and articles in top websites on your topic. As an example, to write this post I am simultaneously referring to at least 3 recent articles written by others on content writing.
There are 4 issues here to consider:
- When you refer to recent articles you know what the present trend is. It is like having your ears on the ground. You hear the rumblings, the disenchantment as they are TODAY, and you fashion your article to solve them now. As an example, on the topic of SEO no more does anyone write on meta tags, article marketing, keyword usage, and even guest posting. The reason? They are passé long time ago.
- Are you in a way imitating others? Of course you are. And so did they who wrote those articles which you are now referring. In case you didn’t know, original research is to a large extent a myth than reality, and this is true in many fields. The trick is to do something different, something better than the articles you are referring.
- How do you find resources of articles? This is a no-brainer really. There are any numbers of websites on virtually any topic under the sun. You only need to spend time every now and then to search for your topic in Google. When you find some, subscribe to their mailing lists so that you know when new articles are posted. And you also do the next step.
- A critical need to use the resources you collect is a big storage where you can dump them easily and then fetch them equally easily when you want to write. I use Pocket, a free online utility where you can save any article, video and other web items in real-time and then access them from any device – computer, phone or tablet. Pocket (formerly Read It Later) has extension/add-in for major browsers which you must install for conveniently using it.
The good thing about Pocket is that you can tag the articles when you save them. There can be more than one tag for each article you save. How does this help? Among the hundreds of articles I have in my ‘Pocket’ I am using only those I have tagged ‘content writing’ to write this post.
Similarly when I have to write anything about using WordPress, I will select only those articles saved with the tag ‘WordPress’. Get it?
Make a Calendar
This is the second most essential step to solve the ‘what to write’ mystery. You have to have a calendar of scheduled posts you plan to write in the coming days and months. Make the schedule for at least 3 months, and going forward you can always add more topics to write on.
I consider this step so important that I would even suggest that you stop all works and do this first. When you make the calendar for the first time it may take up to a week or even more, but it is worth the time as you will find out later.
Use a worksheet, such as Excel, to create the calendar. My worksheet has 3 main columns. They are for Page Title, Article Title, and Resource (see the image below). For each proposed article I note down a tentative page title, a tentative article title, and all the URLs of the resources I plan to use when writing it.
In my worksheet I have made advanced lists of articles for every category in this blog. This makes my job easy to plan, research and write my blog posts without loss of time. There is another big advantage of scheduling with worksheet.
Its use becomes a habit.
Now whenever I find a great article on which I too want to write, I simply make an entry in the worksheet for a new post and also mention the resource URLs in the last column. At the same time I save the article in my Pocket. Working this way I am completing half the job of a proposed new article much in advance.
If you are not a worksheet fan there is an excellent workaround to help you. It is the Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress. As the plugin authors say, the editorial calendar gives you an overview of your blog and when each post will be published. You can drag and drop to move posts, edit posts right in the calendar, and manage your entire blog.
The plugin enjoys very good rating, so go ahead and use it for making your blog writing easy.
Create Varied Contents
Now consider this.
If you are to write a 2000-word article would it not be better to include something more like a video, or some images, or a few infographic, or at least an audio clip? My personal choice is video and also a few images.
Images are okay but why include video?
Video as you know is a rich medium and unlike other media it combines text, audio, images, slides, and also smaller video clips into a single package. That surely is great, but that’s not the only reason to have it. There are at least 4 important reasons why you should choose video:
- If you notice you will see not many blog writers use video. I don’t know the reasons but the fact is you have an opportunity here waiting to be tapped.
- Making video is easy. No I am not talking about the video clips you take with mobile phones. That’s not for all because after a while you do not know what to say, and many people feel inferior in front of a camera because they think they do not have photogenic face or great voice to make a good video. Instead I am talking about making illustrative / demonstrative / training video that actually help viewers. I make these videos for nearly all my posts, and it is easy to do in PowerPoint. If you want to learn making awesome PowerPoint video just ask for a rebate for my popular video making course on Udemy.
- When you make a video, host it on YouTube or Vimeo. You can then embed the video in your blog post free of any cost, and also you can avoid any load on your host server.
- Hosting video on YouTube can make it a major propeller for promoting your post on social media. No other media offers you such a powerful base to boost your profile on the web than a video.
Write What People Want to Read
This is not a tough call as many would like to believe. Ask yourself – what do you read on the web? More likely than not you read something that either
- solves your problem, or
- entertains you.
There could be many sub-categories in each group, but broadly all that you want to read on the web belong to either of the 2 groups above. With that in perspective here are 3 types of contents that are always liked by the readers.
People Like Stories…And Surveys
Yes, yes it sounds like an overused cliché. And yet we hardly tell stories.
This could be because telling a story is often tougher than writing a how-to or a top-10 article. But know what…stories typically tend to bind people more with your objective over a period of time. How do you write a story?
If you are lucky to be in a place where public events like seminars, discussions take place often, make sure to attend them if only to tell stories of what you see there. You can also weave stories around surveys.
For example if a survey finds that adults are replacing teens on Facebook, create a story around some real (or imaginary…who cares!) people to write your article.
Surveys and statistics draw people like a magnet. The reason I guess is that people want to know about the future. So if your article can give some projections of the future it has the potential to bring large number of traffic.
The Lists & The How-Tos’
The key content writing formula that never gathers rust is actually a twin-edged weapon. They are i) list articles, and ii) how-to articles. They instantly arouse curiosity in the reader’s mind because he is eager to know how he can solve his problem.
The success of how-to articles can be pretty awesome if you keep focusing on translating benefits to the readers. As Copyblogger’s Brian Clark says – the crazy thing about the popularity of “how to” content is the fact that people don’t really want to learn how to do anything else.
Lists too work like a magic.
No matter what, list articles are too tempting to ignore, especially when they are from reputed blogs. Many people though like Loren Feldman, Small Business Editor of The New York Times feel stories are better than lists.
In this interview Loren says – I think list articles tend to be overdone and to have limited credibility. I’m not sure it’s convincing to just say, “Here are the five things you need to do to improve your SEO.”
As this post explains there are quite a few traits that combine to bring the best out of you for writing that must-read article. If there is anything which can make this happen on a sustained basis, it is ‘practice’. Meanwhile, as I write this, I come across yet another highly informative ‘resource article‘ in QuickSprout.
It informs that while texts outperform images in the tweets people send, images perform better than videos. Statistically, users on Twitter tweet images 361% more than they tweet videos…and 93% of all the tweets (we analysed) were text-based.
What is your strategy to write blog posts? Let us know in the comments below.