Remember when you could simply sit down and pound out your “web log” post in 10 minutes? Well those good ol’ days are over.
Today, millions of blogs and other types of content are competing for your readers’ attention. Slicing through the clutter means taking your content writing skills to a whole new level.
The best way to bring your A-game is to focus relentlessly on the fundamental mechanics of meaningful content.
Don’t just hope you’re writing something worthwhile. Learn to consciously construct great content, step-by-step, and watch your posts gain the attention and reach they deserve.
Ready to get started?
Here’s where you should focus your attention.
1. Envision an unforgettable experience
Take a step back and envision the type of experience you want to deliver to your reader. Weave a story — complete with protagonist, narrator, and villain — to emotionally pull your reader into your post.
You’ll want to plan your post to trigger your readers’ emotions. Use vivid imagery to punch up the power of your narrative. Your goal is to suck your reader into a ride that rockets them from the headline to the last sentence.
2. Stay focused on your reader
Blog readers are savvy and time-starved. If you want them to return to your blog you’ll need to deliver practical information that they can use. You can deliver your “reader-focused” skills by doing a little research on your reader before you outline your post.
Use your research to pinpoint the topics that your reader wants to learn more about. Fill your posts with solutions and your readers will keep coming back.
3. Hypnotize with your lead
After the headline, your lead (that’s the opening sentence or two) is critical to enticing your reader.
Immediately communicate the benefit your reader will get by reading your post. Don’t leave him in suspense. He needs to know why he’s there and why he should keep reading through to the end. A great lead makes a great promise.
The battle is won or lost in those first few sentences, so invest some time in them. Reflect back on the early decisions you made about the emotions you were targeting.
4. Deliver the promise
Now it’s time to deliver on your article’s promise.
Your headline and the lead drew your reader in and convinced her you had something great to offer. Now she’s wading into the deep end of your post. Now you have to deliver the goods.
Great content makes complicated ideas easy to digest with a simple structure.
First, explain the “What” — the big idea, the reason the reader is there in the first place. The “What” shows the reader you’re focused and that you’re talking about something worthwhile.
Next, deliver the “How.” Take that idea and break it down into easily understood chunks. You may want to use some well-written bullet points. You can also use steps and lists to help your readers get their head around complex concepts. And remember to keep the formatting clean and easy to scan.
Third, get inside the head of your reader and answer any questions or objections. Imagine that your reader is adamantly against your idea. What would they say? What would their objections be? Weave smart rebuttals into your content.
Use an outline to stay on target as you assemble the body of your post. This is where you need to ruthlessly edit to make sure you keep your readers’ attention focused on your objective.
5. Ask for what you want
End your post in a way that solidifies the experience. Too many writers work hard on crafting killer content and then end with a fizzle instead of a bang. Great posts push readers out of their chairs with an irresistible call to action, thereby taking an abstract experience into the realm of the real.
You can juice your call to actions by deciding on what you want your readers to do before you start writing. Don’t leave this to the end.
In fact, write your call to action right after you write your headline. This will keep your objective front and center as you write.
For example if you want comments, then you should ask open-ended questions throughout the post. Poke your reader with provocative questions and tease them with the opportunity to speak their piece in the comments.
If you want to sell, write a tightly organized post that pre-sells with vivid benefits. Also give attention to raising and answering objections.
Want retweets? Brainstorm some dynamite punchy (and short) headlines and pack your post with memorable ideas that Twitter curators will grab and tweet.
The key is to spend as much attention on the end of your post as you do on the beginning. This is the hallmark of a compelling post.
Now: here’s your challenge
Pull out your best post to date. Not an “okay” post, I want the one that puts an ear-to-ear grin on your face.
Now check its mechanics. Run through this list of five steps and see how your post stacks up. Pick a section that could be improved, and tell me how you plan to do it in the comments below.
Ok, go to it.
About the Author: Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass. Check out his new Blogging Bootcamp to learn how to whip your blog posts into shape.