Imagine you’re engrossed in an action-packed thriller.
You’re close to the end of the book, you’re anticipating a showdown between the hero and the villain, and …
… the villain undergoes a sudden change of heart, and the hero decides to retire and enjoy a quiet life in Florida.
Chances are, you’d throw the book across the room in disgust. The author promised you a thriller, but what you got is an unsatisfying fairy tale.
Fiction genres follow specific formulas. Good blogging and content marketing are no different.
Now, here’s hoping that you don’t throw a gratuitously brutal murder into your next blog post. But nonetheless, you might be confusing readers — and making your own life harder — by avoiding formulas when you should be embracing them.
Here’s why …
Formulas are tried and tested
If you’ve been around the blogosphere for any length of time, some types of posts probably look a bit overdone. There are plenty of well-meaning pundits who will tell you that the list post, for instance, is “over.”
Maybe you’ve sworn that this kind of thing will have no place on your blog.
But realize: these formulas are popular because they work.
Sure, you’ll find plenty of examples of badly-done list posts — but don’t let that excuse stop you from writing a great one.
Head to any popular blog in your niche, and you’ll see that the same types of posts crop up again and again. That’s not lazy writing: it’s thoughtful construction.
Formulas help you write
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank document, struggling to begin a post.
Wait, scratch that. Blank documents are painful.
What’s even worse is spending hours on a post, only to realize that the whole thing is so rambling and unstructured, it needs to be scrapped.
Formulas helps you get started — and they help you finish.
Formulas keep readers on board
Your readers are busy people.
If they come to a post that seems disjointed and confusing, they’re going to head elsewhere. A clear formula holds your reader’s attention.
“10 Ways to be More Creative” lets readers know what to expect, and promises a clear, well-organized post.
“My Random Views on Creativity” doesn’t.
Make life easy for your readers. Deliver information in a straightforward way, and make sure the benefits are clear.
Formulas aren’t rigid
Some writers dislike formulas because they seem boring.
Maybe you don’t want to produce yet another bland “10 tips” post. Don’t worry, a good formula can be tweaked or added to:
- You could include quotes, a practical exercise or a question with each tip
- You could produce a round-up post where each tip is written by a different author
- You could invite comments or tweets from readers and turn the best of them into a post
The formula gives you a framework.
Sure, it places limits on you — but creativity thrives on constraints. If you’re not convinced, give some of these a go …
Three easy formulas you can use right now
There are plenty of popular formulas for blog posts. Here’s three of them:
The How to Post
Headline: “How to …”
Introduction: Explain what the post is going to teach, and mention any prerequisites (e.g. “You’ll need to be familiar with CSS” or “You’ll need an electric drill.”)
Main body: Go through “Step #1 …” “Step #2 …” etc, giving clear instructions for each. You may want to include a screenshot or image for each step.
Conclusion: Tell the reader what they should have accomplished by reading. You might invite them to ask for help in the comments, or point them towards further resources (like an ebook or ecourse).
The List Post
Headline: “21 Ways …” or “7 Tips …” etc
Introduction: Draw the reader in, and make the scope of the list clear.
Main body: Number each item, and ensure that each offers real value to the reader. Don’t pad out the list -– if you’ve only got 5 or 6 items, that’s fine.
Conclusion: Ask the reader to add to the list (or to mention their favorite tip) in the comments.
The Review Post
Headline: “Review: [Product Name]” or “[Product Name] Review”
Introduction: Explain the product briefly, making clear what it is/does.
Main body: Consider splitting this into separate sections. It’s up to you what you use, but “Contents” “What I Liked” and “What I Didn’t Like” could be a good basic structure.
Conclusion: Sum up –- should the reader buy this item? Who’s it best for? Make sure you include a link.
Don’t let simplicity fool you
These are very simple, basic formulas — but they work. Add your own flair, a great metaphor, a strong writing voice, and a healthy dose of useful information, and you’ll find that these aren’t just readable posts — they’re high-quality posts.
Before you throw formulaic blogging out with the bathwater, remember that formulas are tried and tested, make writing easier for you, and reading easier for your audience.
Why make things more complicated than they need to be?
Give these formulas a try, and pop a comment into the form below to let me know how it works out.
About the Author: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. Her ebook The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing helps with every stage of the blogging process from idea-generation to editing and polishing. It also includes templates to help you build solid posts, step by step. Click here to find out all about it.