If you’ve ever spent weeks writing a blog entry that never got further than the page you pasted it on, then you’ve come to the right post.
While there’s no perfect formula for success in writing, I’ve been writing on the web for a while (yeah, see that self-promotion
? Man, I’m so good), so I’ve put together a list of the best tips and tricks for engaging content writing that I’ve been given.
You want your next blog post to find its way to a bigger audience? Use these tips. I swear they work.
– Talk it up
. Content promotion doesn’t start once the post goes live. So, take the opportunity to spread the word. Toot your own horn
. Talk about how awesome your next post is going to be. Spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, whatever. But be sure you’re being authentic. If you do this for every post, you’re going to wear out your social network very quickly.
– Go deep. If you have a few blog posts in mind that all cover the same subject, toss them together in a single article. It might seem counter-intuitive–you know, you can draw it out more with a bunch of smaller posts than one big one–but what are you trying to accomplish here?
If you’re trying to create a lasting, influential blog, you’re going to have to spend more than an hour cracking out a post.
Go deep man, this one's buzzing Tehran!
A blog about an interesting tactic in ~500 words gets a cursory glance. A 1000-word article that presents a new, unique idea might get a social share. A behemoth post that thoroughly threshes out an innovative tactic, presents ways to implement the strategy and provides a selection of tools to put it into practice gets a few social shares, a blog comment, a bookmark and a link from their blog.
Want to become a trusted resource? Put more into each post.
– Personas. Take ten minutes and write a description of exactly who you’re trying to reach. What do they do? What other interests do they have? What motivates them? What makes them read another article? What does it take for them to change?
If you don’t think demographic targeting is important, you deserve your place at the bottom of the blogging barrel. You’ve got to know who you’re talking to and write to them. You don’t talk to a group of cat groomers like you do a room full of web developers, and you don’t talk to designers like you do to content writers.
You’ve got to know who you’re talking to. Write a out a little sketch of your ideal reader, and talk to them. You’ll see a huge improvement in your engagement.
– Establish your objective up front. Before you even start writing, write down your objective. What do you want people to do with what you’re giving them? Answer this question up front and write with your objective in mind. Your post will be focused, clear, and concise. And, yknow, everyone loves brevity.
Before you start writing, answer this question: If your reader gets one thing from your post, what do you want it to be?
– Let your personality shine through. As much as some people like reading master’s theses or dissertations on accounting, chances are you’re not targeting that demographic. Not all writing is clinical and dry, in fact, the web would be a whole lot better if there were less of that.
More effective than just telling you what to do, here are two of the best examples of writers that stay true to their personality: Why
and the Everywhereist
. Why can turn learning Ruby into an exercise in maintaining sanity, and the Everywhereist is just plain fun to read.
Take a page from each of their books (blogs) and let your personality seep into your writing.
I bet this guy LOVED rollercoasters.
– Be passionate
. If you’re writing about something that doesn’t thrill you, you’re writing about the wrong topic. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about budgeting
or white-water rafting or euthanasia roller-coasters
or even dog food processing plants. If you have a love for the topic, your content will grab your audience if they can tell you care about it.
– Show, Don’t Tell
. It’s easy to tell. It’s easy to throw out theories and postulate and spout out “What ifs” until your servers go down. But once you learn how to show someone how to do something, you’ll be successful.
Use real numbers and real statistics. Back up everything you can with facts. If there aren’t any facts to support your topic, conduct your own study. If it’s well done, it’ll be easy to gain traction in your community.
– Be transparent. Your average reader can tell if you’re not being honest with them. If you’re trying to put one over on them, either by writing about a topic you don’t really have any real experience with or by trying to trick them into doing something, they’re going to be turned off.
Well, yeah, kinda like that.
Overbearing advertising has never worked. People can tell if you have no idea what you’re talking about. They can also tell if you’re just trying to sell them something. Just be up-front about what you’re doing; if you drop a self-promotional link, say so. Have a personal relationship with one of the businesses you mention in a post? Let your readers know about it. We’ll all appreciate your honesty.
(Oh, and if you have to call something a “shameless self-promotion,” there’s obviously some element of shame there, so knock it off.)
– Put a Call To Action in each post. Remember back when you wrote down what you wanted your blog post to accomplish? Tell them to do it at the end of your post. Give them the tools to do what you want them to do and then TELL THEM TO DO IT. Sometimes the only thing someone needs to act is to be asked to act.
If you tell them about a new tactic for link building, tell them to put it to the test and report back with their results. Make a guarantee. If you’re not sure about this portion, you haven’t adequately tested your technique. Which means you need some hands-on experience (see tip #7).
Use this pattern: tell them about an experience you’ve had with the tactic you’ve recommended. Tell them how it worked for you. Tell them what results they can expect. Again referencing tip #7, use real numbers. Ask them to report back with what they find, maybe even invite some of your readers to create a post on their experience and then link to them.
– Simplicity and Brevity. Being smart is not about sounding smart. It’s not about perfect phrasing or big words or a fantastic allegory. That’s being flashy. Being smart is conveying a complex idea simply.
The feds man, they're everywhere
So what does that mean? Don’t puff yourself up; explain your idea in simple terms. Be brief. State the main point up front and then elaborate.
Don’t assume competence. Even if you’re writing directly to a team of astrophysicists, chances are you’re going to have an undergrad stumble on your post in the middle of a hazy Spring Break. If you can explain your idea so both audiences understand your point, you will be an Internet deity.
Alright, with all that said, tell me what YOU think! Have better tips for writing and engaging post? Send me a link to your post on the subject and I’ll drop you a link.
Keep an eye on this space. I’m working on an infographic: The Ultimate Template for Engaging Content. And hey, if you’ve got some great ideas, I’d love to include your ideas in my infographic.
Keep the faith, brethren.