Have you ever wondered what makes some blog posts sizzle while others fall flat? Or have you ever wondered why blog posts by Brian Clark
, Chris Brogan
and Sonia Simone
rise above the rest?
You might be surprised to learn that Brian, Chris and Simone all follow specific techniques that make their blogs some of the best in the industry. Admittedly, they each have a sense of tone and style that makes their writing unique, but they also write their blogs using tested techniques that you can use, too.
What follows are seven different approaches that will improve the quality of your writing and the effectiveness of your posts. If you re-visit these techniques each time you start to write a blog post, eventually they'll become habit. And habits (the good ones, anyway) often lead to success.
Ready to learn more about what works? Here we go.
1. Start by Thinking Backwards
A mistake a lot of writers make is that their posts don't take the reader's needs in mind. In other words, some bloggers believe that an eager audience is waiting to read their pontifications about industry trends and events. But the truth is, blog readers don't care about those things. What they care about is information that can help improve their business, their careers or their lives today
The trick here is to always keep your reader front-and-center as you write your blog posts. In fact, it doesn't hurt to pretend that the reader is sitting across from you as you write -- it'll help you stay focused on their needs and their desires.
Which leads us to the second tip.
2. Write Like You're Drinking Coffee
A sure sign of a young and inexperienced writer is someone who writes as though their college professor is going to grade it.
Remember the style you wrote in while in school? Don't do that. In fact, do the opposite.
What readers want is conversation,
They want to hear your personality in the words you write. And they want to get an understanding of who you really are -- beyond what your job title or LinkedIn profile says about you.
The trick here is to write things the way you'd say them if you were having a cup of coffee with someone. For example, you wouldn't say, "What follows are seven best practices verified by industry case studies." Instead, you'd say, "Ready to learn more about what works? Here we go."
In essence, I'm suggesting that you make friends with the reader.
By doing so, you'll ensure they come back for another cup of coffee.
3. Use the First Few Sentences Like a Welcome Mat
The first few sentences are essential because it's when people decide whether or not to keep reading. A technique I use (that I stole from Brian Clark, by the way) is to start with, "If you're like most people, you've probably noticed that (fill in the blank)." It's a great way to telegraph the reader what the post is about and to say, "C'mon in and join the conversation."
Here's another example of that technique along with some variations:
- "If you're like most marketers, you've noticed that tracking social media ROI can be difficult."
- "Many businesspeople believe that traditional marketing is dead. Do you agree?"
- "Have you ever wondered why check-out buttons on e-commerce sites are red? The answer may surprise you."
The opening sentence should be designed to draw the reader into the rest of the post. You can accomplish that by imagining someone at the front door of your house. What would you say to welcome them in?
Use the same technique with your blog posts.
4. A Blog Post isn't Finished When You Can't Add Anymore Words. It's Finished When You Can't Cut Anymore Words.
Jerry Seinfeld says that one of the secrets to his jokes is that he tries to communicate as much as he can in as few words as possible. When you trim excess fat off your copy, you communicate more effectively and more quickly with your reader. The more information you share, the better for the reader. In other words, the better your data to words ratio, the more effective your communication.
I've found that most of my writing can be trimmed by 15% to 20% without sacrificing any content or data.
5. Follow the Rule of Threes
For reasons I don't quite understand, the human brain process information most effectively when it's batched into groups of three. I'm not sure why this is the case, but here's an example to show you why it's effective:
- We traveled north, then northwest, then south, then east, then northeast, then west.
- We traveled north, then northwest, then south. And then we traveled east, then northeast, then west.
By breaking the directions into groups of three, we've allowed the brain to pause for a moment, catch its breath, then process the additional directions. It's important to give the reader's mind a chance to catch up to the flow of your writing. The Rule of Threes helps you do that.
6. Spoon Feed the Finish
This is a trick I learned from Chris Brogan who pointed out that most bloggers provide information, but then don't provide actionable advice at the end of the post. In other words, they simply write a short conclusion and leave it at that.
The best blog posts spoon feed actionable information to the reader at the end of the posts. This technique closes the circle on the information you provided and gives them a sense of what to do next. Best of all, it encourages them to come back for more advice next time.
7. Write Your Headline Last
In most cases, your blog post will evolve a bit as you write and edit it. Because of that, it's often a good idea to write the headline last.
When writing your headlines, think about why people are visiting your blog in the first place. The odds are, they're not interested in your vision of the future, your strategic insights or your perspective on industry trends. What they want to know is how to get stuff done
. As a result, the most effective headlines communicate that information quickly and effectively.
Here are some examples of some of our most recent headlines. These should give you a sense of how to write headlines of your own:
Action Steps for You.
Okay, now that you've read a post about writing posts, what should you do? Here are a few ideas:
- Jot these tips down on a yellow sticky and put them on your computer. Re-visit them next time you write a post
- When you read a blog post you like, bookmark it and read it again a day later. Write down four techniques the blog post used. Borrow those techniques next time you write a post of your own
- Share the blogging tips and techniques you use in the comments section below. Having a dialogue with other people about what makes certain blog posts sizzle is a great way to keep your writing skills sharp
A Final Thought -- Crossheads and graphics like the ones used here are an important feature of a good blog post. I'll write more about why in the future. If you want to know when that blog post is live, just fill out the e-newsletter form at the bottom and you'll be notified.
P.S. If you like what I've said here, feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Pinterest buttons on the side. By doing so, you're letting your friends and business associates know that you're ready to take your blog posts to the next level!
Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with well-known brands and organizations. He is the co-author of "How to Make Money with Social Media" and "Go Mobile" and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.