Quick and to the Point
As described earlier, the use of a conversational style and visuals makes a blog more scannable. But much can be done with writing structure to make it even quicker to digest. That is why expert bloggers spend considerable time on the first few sentences. This opening must spell out why the topic benefits your audience and what you plan to say.
The first point implies that the fewer points made the better. The concept works much like an ad. You have a limited number of seconds to convince your readers that the one pain point or passion they have will be well covered in your post. And there will be nothing else to distract them.
The second point means you have to “tell them what you are going to tell them”. Then “tell them” in the body of your post. And then “tell them what you told them at the end of your post”. Progression of the post should be quick and to the point if you want today’s reader to stick around.
To accomplish this, leading bloggers like Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman offer the following advice:
- Use bullets and lists to edit out unnecessary words
- Make sentences and paragraphs short (< 6 lines paragraph)
- Break up text with headings and subheadings
- Highlight key points in quotes or bolded phrases
- Use easy to read fonts
What distinguishes true journalism from the average blog post is the information vetting process used to validate findings. Few would argue that traditional journalism is based on far more rigorous standards for source accuracy than what is found in the blogosphere. This does not imply you shouldn’t express an opinion. But it does suggest that readers appreciate content that is unbiased and backed by either well documented evidence or well respected insights.
So for content to be considered high quality, the information offered in your post has to be accurate and reliable. Among the best ways to accomplish this is through empirically tested results or the insights offered by recognized experts in the field. This is why leading bloggers regularly post interviews with leading authorities often in the form of a playbook of insights from many experts.
Survey results from your own client sampling can also remove this biased perception especially if the sample is large, representative and empirically tested with at least a reasonable methodology. This can be done without laying out the entire testing procedure in the base of the post. It merely requires a brief explanation or reference to the study background.
As an example, I released fifteen blog posts on ways to create entertaining content from a study conducted on viral videos. Each post made reference to the study posted on SlideShare and included the following closing paragraph on the study background.
A total of 3351 high performing videos (> 50K views) were examined in this ranking of top YouTube videos. These viral videos included re-casted television commercials that were posted on YouTube as a social media video back channel. Statistics were then recorded on the number of likes, dislikes, comments and views, where an exploratory study was subsequently published with the Academy of Marketing Science and 2013 Cross-Cultural Research Conference.
Blogs are used primarily as top-of-funnel content. This makes them ideal for capturing audience attention at an early awareness stage. But much of that blog traffic may not return unless readers are encouraged to take immediate action after reading the content. This requires that your blog content host actionable calls to action (CTA) such as:
- Registering for free webinars
- Downloading white papers, case studies, reports or eBooks
- Joining live events
- Following on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest
- Sharing with friends
- Subscribing to newsletters and blogs
- Offering comments
- Posing questions
- Requesting demos or more information
- Buying through shopping carts
These CTAs not only provide an avenue to maintain engagement, they help escort your prospects through the sales funnel. A compelling CTA, for example, represents an opportunity for you to analyze data from the downloaded content or subscriptions and measure which topics had the greatest impact on conversion. And by encouraging your prospect to take the next step, you stay in the loop. This allows another opportunity to demonstrate your trustworthiness while keeping the prospect from researching elsewhere.
As blogs invite far more interest than websites for an audience to link their content to yours, it is important to make your content link-worthy. This goes beyond a desire to share your content. There must be something of value that adds to their own content.
This value could include a source of validation for some of their expert claims or positions taken on a subject. This is why the display of study results in your blog post from new empirical research can attract links. The same applies to ratings, top rankings and reviews that validate someone’s credentials. Finally, audiences often link to their own guest posts on someone’s blog as a way to validate their expertise or popularity.
Image Intensive Content
A clear drawback of predominantly textual content in a blog post is its often overwhelming and impersonal appearance. Graphical and photo based imagery not only require less mental processing, they strike an emotional chord that even the best of written poetry cannot accomplish. Moreover, imagery allows you to mix up your content as a diversity tactic. Audiences often appreciate the change up.
It is no secret that images are the most shared media on the likes of Facebook. That in itself is testimony to its appeal as a content element. But the rise of photo messaging apps (e.g., Snapchat), mobile photo-sharing services (e.g., Instagram) and visual discovery tools (e.g., Pinterest) attests to how dependent social media users are on viewing something over reading something. Pinterest, in particular, has become one of the leading drivers of traffic to websites. Your benefitting from this traffic, however, assumes that your blog post accommodates photos to be pinned.
Besides photos, SlideShare decks can be embedded into your blog both as a site traffic builder and a preview of deeper content. Notice from this example on my own blog where an embedded slide gives you a preview of the content from SlideShare right on the blog. A downloaded eBook, on the other hand, would not give you this built-in preview.
For blogs to engage with your audience, they have to invite a dialog. Some refer to this tactic as making your content REMARKable (by inviting remarks) or Talk-worthy.
This may not be the same incentive they have to share or link to your content. Share-worthiness and Link-worthiness have more to do with leveraging your bragging rights or backing your story. The intent of making your content talk-worthy, on the other hand, is to stimulate a conversation or invite feedback as a method to keep your readers involved.
Some of the most popular techniques for accomplishing this is to include open ended posts that fuel a debate. Rather than solving the problem, you could engage in a series of points and counterpoints enlisting your reviewers to share their own thoughts. More reputable bloggers often engage their viewers for crowdsourcing (i.e., the process of gathering content by soliciting contributions from a large sample of followers). But even a simple request for feedback or response to a poll can often spur a dialog.
One of the most common responses offered by blogging experts on tips for drawing in an audience is to be authentic and enthusiastic. This starts with writing about something you are passionate about; but, more importantly, doing it in a voice that best reflects who you are. As leading blogger, Michael Hyatt, points out, many bloggers attempt to be someone that are not when building a blogging platform.[ii] Instead, he prescribes one of three possibilities (authority, empathy or transparency) to examine in defining your own authentic voice:
- The Sage. This is a recognized expert in the field who can speak with authority.
- The Sherpa. This is the trusted guide who has learned from their mistakes and who speaks with the voice of confidence and empathy.
- The Struggler. This is a fellow traveler who merely shares their own successes and mistakes as they embark on their journey. They have the voice of transparency as they tell it like it is.
Once you determine your role as Sage, Sherpa or Struggler, you have a clearer path as to how you want to solve your target audience’s problems. The Sage may entertain an interview or FAQ format while the Sherpa chooses a more talk-worthy approach where the two-way dialog permits more shared experiences. The Struggler, on the other hand, may elect to be more visual in their approach so the reader gets a more intimate look at what works and what doesn’t.
Regardless of the chosen role, upholding this authenticity requires that you stay consistent with the voice. Too often we read blogs written by someone with a low key blogging tone only to hear a motivational speaker when they are interviewed in a podcast. By resorting to these pumped-up impersonations, you run the risk of tarnishing the connection your readers, listeners or viewers may have had with your candor and personality.
Finally, consider how you will impart this voice. A great way to set the stage is to get personal with your audience. That is why the world famous Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has achieved astounding results on her blog. She started with a personal story.