Blog posts are an inexpensive way to share expertise, demonstrate your credentials and give your readers value in return for their (precious) time.
As it happens, we’re in the midst of the information age, and this whole Internet thing gives us a broad-reach, low-cost, yet high-value platform for sharing useful things with people (by ‘people’, I mean prospective clients or customers).
Typical blog posts can take the form of:
- Advice: tips, tricks and expertise
- News: announcements, comment and analysis
- Interactive media: entertaining video, music and animation
- Special offers: voucher codes, exclusives
We’re going to concentrate on advice because it’s a good way to give practical value in a blog post.
Often appearing under the guise of “How to…” or “5 quick ways to…” these insightful blog posts position you (the writer) as an authority. So next time a reader (or someone they know) has a similar or related issue – guess who they think of first…
How to keep a reader interested in three easy steps
At the risk of giving a lesson on copywriting (and doing myself out of a job), your copywriting could benefit from some basic scaffolding:
1. Empathise with a reader’s problem in their terms
People are trapped in their own bubble, inflated with dilemmas, problems and challenges. So you can burst that bubble with solutions to their problems, or stories about people in similar circumstances.
When writing your blog post, it helps to set out with the intention of genuinely solving a particular problem. Try not to expect anything in return.
You may ask what’s the point of solving a problem if that does me out of a job? Well, we’re only human – sometimes it’s just easier to let someone else take the strain. Problems can often be more overwhelming than we initially thought too. That’s when people reach out for a consultation
2. You must deliver on a promise
If you write a “How to…” style article, you must fulfill that with an explanation of a process or a step-by-step guide. The alternative is a bemused reader, lured in by a provocative headline only to be left none the wiser and cheated out of their time.
3. Write about one main concept or idea
Your reader is busy. Get straight to the point and don’t save your best fireworks until the end. Introduce your central theme then talk around it.
Sometimes it’s useful to follow a journalistic structure and summarise the main facts at a high-level before you explore it in full detail.
It doesn’t need to be long either. A typical blog article is between 300-500 words. When you consider that an average email with a few paragraphs is roughly 100 words long, it’s not much more effort to string together a rough article to be polished up later (by a talented copyeditor).
7 ideas for writing interesting articles
To stimulate your creativity, here are some techniques used in blog articles that caught my eye.
- News is much more interesting if there’s comment and analysis to go along with it. Add your (perhaps controversial) opinion to a recent industry announcement and incite a little debate. The facts are already written for you, just re-purpose the story and add your own personal twist.
- A “Did you know that…” style piece is a chance to challenge convention and accepted beliefs. It’s also a great way to extend your reach because people love to flaunt exclusive or unique information amongst their peers.
- People care about what’s going on around them, in their locality or industry sector. It may be tempting to keep an article broad in its subject matter or geographic context but don’t be afraid to target a specific group and make content more relevant to them.
- Reflection upon “something someone said to me” is a fantastic way to show you really care about a subject. Even to the point where it’s preoccupied your thoughts beyond the remit of your day job.
- An eye-catching article with an off-the-wall topic will leap out from a page draped with bland corporate announcements. The weirder the better, as long as the underlying message makes a relevant point. Plus it makes writing headlines much easier.
- Keep an eye out for frequent asked questions or common problems that your audience encounter. Then solve them for a guaranteed readership.
- Psychology pieces indulge curiosity in our own behaviour and that of others around us. They’re thought-provoking and stay with a reader after they’ve finished reading (which is your nefarious goal).
Even if you feel like you have nothing to write about
That’s subject enough for a post in itself. What do people like you do on down-days? How can people reignite their creative flame? Are you focused on something else more exciting at the moment – if so, what and why?
One final petty grievance
Don’t be afraid to express personality in an article.
Writing in passive voice (“It has been decided that…”) or corporate third-person (“Widgets Ltd believe that…”) undermines any sense of authentic connection between reader and writer. Writing is about talking to people, just in another medium. So it’s OK to use “I, me, my” or “we, us, our” if you’re talking collectively about your organisation.
My favourite foolproof acid test is to read your article out aloud and ask yourself “would I deliver help like this to someone in real life?” If the answer’s no; get your red pen out (or hire a freelance copywriter).