By Danny Iny
Writing a blog post isn’t enough.
Sure, it’s nice to see your words published for the world to see, but that’s a hollow victory if the world isn’t interested.
What you want is a blog post that performs; a post that gets read, gets commented, gets shared, and maybe even gets people to buy your stuff.
And unfortunately, most blog posts don’t fit this description. They don’t lead to action, they don’t evoke interest, and in many cases they aren’t even read past the first paragraph.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be you…
“Why don’t people like my writing?”
The cause of all these blunders is that most bloggers don’t know what the problem really is.
These well-intentioned, hard-working bloggers think it’s all about their writing. Why don’t people like it? Why aren’t people sharing it?
Well, the truth is that it isn’t about the writing – it’s about the reader.
Your writing could be great, just not well-aligned with your target reader. And if that’s the case, it won’t get read, won’t get commented, and won’t get shared (even if it’s great).
So how do you align your writing with your reader?
It starts with homework…
Blunder #1: Not Doing Your Homework
I don’t just mean finding out who your target audience is.
Sure, you need to identify your ONE person, and do the demographic and psychographic profiling that will give you a clear picture of who they are and what they’re about.
But the homework I’m talking about is very specific. It’s homework to research the target blog that you’re going to write for – whether it’s yours, or someone else’s. Here’s how you do it:
First, make a list of the 10 most popular posts on the site, based on whatever metric the site is tracking (comments, shares, etc.). Then, list the topics covered by each of these posts.
Odds are, you’ll find that at least half of the posts are about the same 2-3 topics.
Ta-da: now you know what the blog readers want to read. So pick one of those topics, and get to work!
Now you need to avoid blunder #2, which comes with the headline…
Blunder #2: Bad Headline
Don’t try to be clever, or reinvent the wheel. The headline is too important to mess with!
The best way to get it right is by relying on what you already know is going to work. You can do this with templates, like Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks, but the very best way I’ve found to create a winning headline quickly, easily, and without a lot of margin for error is by copying what works on the blog you’re writing for (again, whether that’s someone else’s blog, or your own).
Go back to the list you just created of the blog’s 10 most popular posts, and look for patterns. You’ll probably find that at least half of them follow the same couple of patterns. For example, on Copyblogger, about half of the most popular posts follow one of the following two patterns:
- [NUMBER] of [SOMETHING] about [SOMETHING]
- What [SOMETHING] can teach you about [SOMETHING]
These are fairly common patterns that will often work well, but the real key is to do this kind of analysis on the blog that you’re targeting (even if it’s your own).
This research shows you what sort of headlines the readers that you are targeting already respond to, and makes it easy for you to grab their attention and give them what they want.
Now there’s just one last blunder to avoid, and you’re off to the races…
Blunder #3: Reader Isn’t Hooked
The third common blogging blunder is jumping straight into the meat of the post, without giving the reader a real reason to care first.
That’s what the hook is for, and it’s critical to write a good one!
The hook is the few paragraphs at the top of the post, whose job it is to get the reader interested enough to keep reading through to the end.
So how do you write a good one?
The answer is by writing about symptoms. Not problems, not solutions, and not implementation, but symptoms – the symptoms of the problem that the reader has, that you’re going to show them how to get rid of (like I did at the top of this post: “…unfortunately, most blog posts don’t fit this description. They don’t lead to action, they don’t evoke interest, and in many cases they aren’t even read past the first paragraph.”).
It’s that simple. Describe the reader’s reality in painful, excruciating detail. That’ll get their attention.
Then you can get to the meat of the post and show them how to fix it.
How to Avoid the Blunders
If you can avoid these three blunders, you’ll be way ahead of the curve – but of course, these aren’t the only blunders to avoid.
There are many, many more – too many for me to list in a single post.
The good news is that they aren’t all that hard to avoid, as long as you know what you’re looking for, and how to navigate around them… as all successful bloggers have learned to do.
There are two ways for you to learn it, too.
- There’s the time-old route of trial-and-error, which is great if you’ve got some time, and you’re good at paying attention to what is working and what isn’t, and improving with every iteration.
- You can adopt a system that guides you towards a successful finish, without having to worry about the pitfalls along the way.
You can probably guess that I’m an advocate of systems.
Not just my own, but any good one – just like crossing on green eliminates the hassle of navigating traffic, a good system will take the guesswork out of the process, and let you focus on great writing, and enjoy great results.
So find a system that works for you, and then fire up your word processor, and start writing!
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) skyrocketed his industry-leading marketing blog to success by writing 80+ guest posts on major blogs in less than a year (earning him the nickname “The Freddy Krueger of Blogging”). Now he teaches others how to do the same in his Write Like Freddy blog writing training program.
Do you have questions about how to earn more from your writing? Learn more in my community Freelance Writers Den – take ecourses, attend live events, ask writing pros your questions in our forums, and use our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board.