Five Steps to Constructing an
Exceptional Content Experience

image of pair of wrenches

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.

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Comments

  1. Stanford:

    Great thoughts in a five step action plan.

    I’m happy you are continuing the thread that Sonia and Brian started this week.

    Randy

  2. It’s all about the experience.

    Life is a flip book of experiences.

    I like the way you framed creating an experience that sticks.

    It’s always a beautiful thing how just the right words can inspire action, even if that action is simply to read the next line.

    Some people have the gift of gab, and others write with might, but I find that everybody has a special ability to make something interesting … if they decide to share “why” it’s interesting to them (we all got our ways of looking at the world and that’s where magic happens.)

    There are so many punch lines waiting for delivery, so many songs waiting to be set free, and so many insights waiting to hitch a ride on the right story. I think your recipe here is a way to help set them free.

    … and beautiful point on ending with skill.

    A great ending is a powerful beginning in disguise.

  3. be yourself and say what you fill, don’t hold back to just respect an small group of people..if you hate blogs with with pop ups..then let it be know..people will respect you more..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • Interesting…I’ve learned that people notice trouble-shooters but respect (and buy from) the problem solvers. Creating content is all about being useful…so saying you hate pop-ups is a start – you’ll get more action if you can suggest the alternative.

  4. Hey Stanford,

    Thanks for the great advice, I am pretty good at keeping my content good but I always miss out on opportunities with my headlines and then the first few sentences. At least I know I need to work on it!

    Thanks again for the great advice

    Simon

  5. Detail! I tend to leave out details in my writing as my enthusiasm takes over. I need to think more about the reader when I write. I have just the right post to start revising…

    • Get your post out first while that enthusiasm is thumping! Then think through the reader’s perspective and other “details” while editing. Don’t want to bottle-up your enthusiasm by overthinking it.

  6. A bad lead.

    I just reviewed one of my favorites, and I basically wrote a great headline, but skipped the lead and went straight to delivering the goods.

    Great post. Definitely bookmarking this one.

    • Bad Matt! ;)
      I’ve skipped the lead many times myself. However, after studying blogs like Copyblogger, I’ve seen how important they are for getting your post read. I often spend more time on my lead and headline than the rest of the post!

  7. I have had a chance to read a few of your Blogs now and so far you have not steered me wrong with my Blogs. I will try this as an exercise and see how it does. With step 4 “ask for what you want” is it good to only ask for one thing or can I integrate multiple requests.

    Thank you for being you
    Mark

  8. Love the advice to write the call to action right after the headline. That’s a nugget I’ll use!

    Thanks!

  9. Stanford,

    Awesome post. Thanks very much for “leading by example” with this powerful list of action steps.

    I find all too often my posts are rushed. This is something I’m trying to work on. I may have a good idea, but I know I’m not engaging my readers as well as I could because I’m not taking the time to edit and rewrite as needed on every post.

    Ironically, I’ve guest posted several times, and I’m always relentless with those. Apparently I just need to start guest posting routinely on my own blog! :)

    Thanks again!

  10. Thanks Stanford, great post. Storytelling is here to grow! Thankfully!
    All the best,
    Simon.

    • Long live the Story…
      Funny thing is that the great manifesto writers, pamphleteers, and copywriters have always leaned heavily on good storytelling. The art is re-emerging after years of being overshadowed by the soundbite.

  11. Hi Stanford,
    I love #5. Asking is the only way people will give your comments or retweets. There’s no way they will know that they are supposed to comment or retweet. Tell them that you want comments. Tell them to Retweet and they will.
    Nice post, just retweeted.

  12. Great points. As a former copywriter, I find the principles of blogging to be almost identical to those of print advertising. Now if I can just remember to ask for comments!

  13. Just ran through next week’s post to see what I could do to improve it. It always amazes me how switching a sentence around or replacing a word can affect so much.

  14. So much attention is often given to the headline, that sometimes writers (myself included) will overlook the beginning sentence or two.

    It’s so much harder to compliment a great idea with words to match, this is a helpful process to implement. You’re right, getting into a mechanical structure will help write killer content. Thanks for the reminder to pay attention to our first few lines..

    -Ahlam

  15. While reading your post, I can’t help but think that this is A-I-D-A approach.

    Nice explanation.

  16. Excellent content! Thank you. Coming up with a bang ending is always the hardest thing to do.
    The five step process reminds me of the 4 step Law School IRAC method: Issue, rule, application, conclusion, only it is a lot better. I am going to apply your five steps to a legal brief I am writing. I’ll try to boil it down to one page.

  17. Other than straight up technical data posts, which are pretty much my favorite, I find the most compelling posts are ones where the writer is just layin’ it out there (his or her opinion). No regard for correctness or what others think.

  18. Different niches will have different expectations about what is ‘exceptional’ nevertheless, by being a customer of your niche, and by creating what YOU think would really WOW you, then you start to get very well on the way to becoming a market leader.

  19. Some really valuable insight here, Stanford. Lately, I’ve been focusing a lot more on starting off my articles with a pop. I’ll ask a question, bring an image to mind or simply state the obvious about something and the rest of the post just seems to flow naturally out of it. It’s like planting a seed. Plant the wrong thing and you’ll reap what you sow, Cheers.

  20. Hi Stanford,

    I really like how you’ve framed this post.

    As we write our posts we can forget that we are crafting an experience for our readers.
    The quality of that experience can mean the difference between being noticed and being believed.

  21. I like the idea of using a story to convey a message. Trying to figure out how I can incorporate a Villian for a carpet cleaning website. Hmmmm?

  22. i recently posted an article on my new phone 7 blog but ran out of steam at the end due to exhaustion, i guess not blogging while you are tired is something i would like to do better

  23. I love use sub-headlines, bullet points, and pictures when writing post on my blog. It helps the user easily navigate through the post. People have a short attention span so you must allow them the ability to skim and scan through the post.

  24. I really like your five step action plan. Engaging the reader and then delivering seems like a powerful way to entice and get the reaction you desire. A reader and of course hopefully a follow up. Thanks for the article.

  25. As much as we writers want to write what we want to read about – there is a limit. This is something I have a real hard time with… writing for my reader! WHO cares what they want? I want to write what I WANT TO WRITE.

    This is probably why I spend a sick amount of time re-reading everything I’ve written. I love it. Lol.

    Sign of a failed writer – he likes too much what he has written!

    I know I’m not like most of my readers. I’m not even like most of the human race in most respects. Bodily – yes. I have all the parts. Mind? My train’s left the station and there’s nobody else aboard… just me.

    Writing FOR the reader is one of my new resolutions. Good post. Cheers!

  26. As always, this is outstanding content that could be the basis for a book or a seminar. Keep it coming, we appreciate all of this great info.

  27. I have never really thought about these five steps before, however, if I go back and look at the posts I made the really WORK, they follow these five steps. The posts that don’t work are missing 1 or more of them.

    Thanks fo rthe share…it will certainly the change the way I lay out my topics and work on articles!

    Mike

  28. Love this concept!!!

    I just wanted to add a few more points that I learned from Eben Pagan’s Guru Blueprint Course about how to make sure that you eliminate misunderstanding in your content using the 4 Learning Styles.

    You don’t want to try to force your message across. Work to eliminate all possibilities of mis-understandings.

    When you say something one way, Eben estimates that there’s an 80% chance of being misunderstood. If you say the same thing 2 different ways, it probably cuts the chance of misunderstanding in half to about 40%. If you say it 3 different ways, it cuts it in half again, and if you say something in 4 different ways, you have a very small probability of being misunderstood.

    There are 4 different ways to communicate anything and they correspond with the 4 ways people learn, think, communicate and teach.

    Every time you teach something, every time you write a piece of content, every time you make a video, it’s important that it be a complete communication. A complete concept. A complete self-contained concept that is understandable all by itself.

    What do you need to include to give people a clear idea/concept?

    Introduce your idea:

     You must talk about what you’re gonna talk about.

     Then you talk about it and give the conceptual and practical action steps

     Wrap up, summarize, and get the other person into action

    It’s easy to forget that the person we’re talking to doesn’t have all of our experience and they don’t have an on ramp to the ideas that were given to them. And so if we just toss them in the random puzzle pieces, they’re trying to put them together blindly without seeing the cover of the box.

    When we give an intro, we say what we’re gonna talk about and why it’s important to listen, then we give some theory and then give some action steps, then summarize and get the person to take action, that’s when our communication is complete.

    The 4 Learning Styles

    There are 4 different ways people learn and 4 different ways people teach and when we use all 4 of these, we dramatically decrease the possibility of misunderstanding and dramatically increase the chance that the other person fully gets what we’re trying to communicate to them.

    The easiest way to understand these 4 learning style is to think of them as asking a question. Here they are…

    1. Why?

    Why do I need to learn this? You need to get them excited to learn. Tell them what’s in it for them if they learn what you’re about to teach. You also need to tell them what they’re going to avoid if they learn it.

    You need to use both pain AND pleasure.

    Example: If you use what I’m about to teach you, you will lose weight. If you don’t use what I’m about to teach you, you will not lose weight and if fact you will probably gain more.

    For the why learning style, they can’t hear you until you’ve connected up what you’re about to teach them with the benefit or the result that they want. So always explain, the outcome, the result, the benefit that the person about to embark on this journey will get.

    And also explain the pain and the frustration, the fear that they’re going to avoid if they learn what you’re teaching them.

    2. What?

    These are the theoretical types. They want to know what they’re going to learn. They want the concept and the theory.

    This type of learner loves to know the history, the science behind what you’re teaching. If you can talk about a study that was done about the topic you’re discussing, they’ll love it.

    You can also explain the history of how you figured out exactly how the system works. If you can, show them a map of how all the pieces fit together. You want to zoom out and give them a conceptual view.

    The example for a weight loss product would be explaining how the body puts fat on and how it sheds fat; the science behind it.

    3. How?

    They need a recipe. They want specific action steps in order to learn.

    Each of the action step involved… 1, 2, 3…

    4. What If?

    What if I go out and do it? What will happen? This one is where they see themselves using it and the result that comes from using it and that’s how they learn. And ultimately come to understand once they’ve used it in the real world.

    Everyone needs to do this.

    So at the end of your content you would summarize and say, “Here’s what to go and do, right now to get started! As you’re taking action, here’s what to watch for to determine if it’s working, here’s what to watch for that tells you it’s not working.”

    That’s it.

    Thank you so much Stanford for shedding more light on this subject. It’s something way too important to slack on if you’re an information marketer!

  29. Sometimes the weakness of the material can be enhanced by making things up. I recently did a piece on how I believe that Confederate soldiers in the Civil War “ran home to mama” when they couldn’t hack it anymore. The piece was okay, but when I added a “fake” letter home from a Confederate general, asking his mother to tell his sister to prepare a purple cotillion dress for him to hide in, the piece took off.

    [This was a piece of satire, by the way]

  30. Great points. I like the tip on incorporating a story into the message, I always find myself way too direct in the web development world… geek issues… :) Definitely something to implement on my own blog.