Warning: Contents Are Hot

Flame Tango

Sure, your content needs to be useful. Yes, absolutely, it needs to improve your readers’ lives. And without a doubt, it needs to strengthen your relationship with your content community.

But sometimes, you just want to get some sizzle going.

Here are some ideas for when you want to create content that’s hot enough to burn your readers’ fingers.

Set the mood

Nothing sets the mood for a hot post like an absolutely perfect picture. Find an image that grabs your reader by the collar and won’t let go.

By “perfect,” I don’t mean pretty. Sunsets and smiling models set your audience up for a lukewarm post they can safely ignore.

I mean shocking, startling, touching, intriguing, or just magnificently silly.

Just like you should keep running lists of post ideas, make sure you’ve got a stockpile of terrific free or cheap images you can use for your posts. The mood, tone and energy of a riveting image can be the springboard for a smoking hot piece of content.

Get your rant on

The next time you read something online that makes your scalp go all prickly and the blood rush to your face, get your fingers to the keyboard.

Nothing gets people moving like a good, old-fashioned barn-burning rant. Get passionate. Get over the top. Don’t think about anything while you’re writing, just get your fine sense of outrage down into pixels.

Once you’ve got the post written, sure, it might be a good idea to let it cool off a little. If you’re downright attacking someone, or being mean or unfair, you probably want to cut a few lines. (I guarantee they’ll be your best lines, but that’s how it goes.)

But don’t neuter yourself–leave some crackle in your post. The occasional rant will bring your best audience closer to you, and it’s a great way to pull in a crowd.

Flaunt your dirty laundry

Naomi Dunford had a solid, useful blog with Ittybiz, but it didn’t take off until she started posting about things like getting her hand stuck in a wine box.

The more bossy and authoritative you are (and Naomi has no problems in that department), the more entertaining it is when you talk about the completely moronic things you do sometimes.

We’re all idiots. It’s wonderful to know that we’re not alone. Making a total spectacle of yourself every day is probably a bad idea, but once in awhile, getting in touch with your inner class clown can heat things up nicely for you.

Get over yourself

I know you hate number posts. We all hate number posts. If we have to write one more “8 Content Mistakes that Make Your Blog Look Fat” post we’ll barf.

So kick yourself in the pants and figure out a way to write one that doesn’t suck. Pour your heart into it. Overdeliver. Come up with a wild angle. Create the resource no one wants to live without.

Try using a tired format like a number post to surprise, delight, and maybe even overwhelm.

We hate number posts because bloggers crank them out when they don’t know what else to post. Don’t do that. When you don’t know what to post, write a page or two of utter garbage and then save it without posting.

Is there a particular blogging cliché you can’t stand? Figure out how to create something exceptional with it. Push the format, and push yourself. Go for the burn.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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  1. “Go for the burn.”

    Oh man… gotta get to the gym….with my content too.

  2. 100% agree with the image tip… I use that for my blog all the time.

  3. When you carefully sanitize your posts and pictures – you end up with a “Pinocchio blog” – one that is wooden and longs to be “real”. Definitely NOT the way to make a “splash” in the blogosphere or anywhere else for that matter.

  4. Haha, nice. Frankly, if the picture at the top isn’t great, I have a much harder time reading the post. If you don’t have a good picture, you’d better have a smashing title. I can’t take pictures, I can’t edit them, I don’t know a lot about them; but I know that I very much enjoy looking at them, and no post is complete without a terrific eye-opening picture at the top!

  5. Kathy, I love that term, a “Pinocchio blog.”

  6. The majority of blogs that I subscribe to are all unconventional (including Naomi Dunford’s). They’re interesting and captivating. They not only hold my attention long enough to read a whole post but I can remember specific posts that were published months or even years ago.

    Who doesn’t like reading about other people’s dirty laundry? Kudos to anyone who can turn their dirty laundry into a learning and teaching experience for their readers (like Naomi Dunford!).

  7. Ouch, my rump is hurting from the kick I just gave myself in the backside! Butt….I know my readers are going to thank me…and YOU! :)

  8. If cheesy pics are all that is available – due to budget – then is it best not to have a pic at all?

    I love Dosh Dosh’s approach to images – Japanese manga pictures which bear no relation to the content but it works and differentiates his brand nicely.

  9. Good stuff. As my readership grows I attempt to maintain some balance between bursting topics into flame and presenting an authorative, stable voice.

    Sonia, I gravitate toward your slowblogging advice. Several bloggers in my arena (martial arts) write and write and write and they reference my works. I need ambassador more than I need intern articles.

  10. Very good! I find myself writing “numbered blogs”, and never really considered it was overused. I agree with you, though – I’m going to start writing more exciting!

  11. “So kick yourself in the pants and figure out a way to write one that doesn’t suck………..”

    This quote really boost up my brain. Wonderful post!!! I’m going to do same as you have mentioned…

  12. I found it quite amusing that the post after this in my RSS reader was a number post, “5 universal writing rules”.

    An enjoyable read, Sonia. Thanks.

  13. Excellent post Sonia, I love the idea of overdelivering. I’ve been using images in every blog post but I definitely think I could be using ones that jump out at the reader a little more.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


  14. Great insight. I recently changed the tone of my posts and have been pleased with the way the articles read. Your tips on images are great and definitely an area I know I could work on. Too often my images are boring or I just do without.

  15. @Peter, there’s no shortage of incredible images available for free under the Creative Commons license on Flickr, so budget isn’t really the question. But even with that said, no, I don’t think a “just ok” image hurts a post. Breaking the page up with a little color is still a good idea, even if the image isn’t striking. A remarkable image can give your content a nice boost, though. It can put the reader in the right frame of mind.

    @S.Smith, I try to mix up a little “hot” content with plenty of solid, “slowblogging” content. Sometimes it’s great to just have something that’s entertaining and enjoyable. The master of this is Frank Kern, IMO, even though he’s not considered a “blogger.” He mixes entertainment with usable education in a way that’s well worth studying.

  16. I really liked your advice about ranting (could be because I am a fairly rant-prone person).

    As a vivid example, I used to run a blog covering Web 2.0 industry news. However, as with all my blogs, I would periodically make a detour to rant and rave about what’s going on in my life. It could be anything, really – the point was to unleash that so-called stream of consciousness, stop thinking and keep typing no matter what.

    Afterwards, some of my regular readers commented that they actually enjoyed my rant posts much more than they did my standard ones, simply because they were so much more personal and felt like they were written from the heart (there’s only so much passion you can put into a blog post covering Google buying YouTube!)

  17. I like the way this article is written. Good writing, thanks for sharing.!

    Eddie Gear

  18. I also have been using the numbers in my posts. I will stop and try to create sizzling material.

  19. Guys, don’t get too hung up on the numbered post thing. Sonia will end up writing one next week when she wants more traffic. :)

  20. I have been using number post on some of my blogs, and have not incorporated many pics. I am in the process of stepping that up. I just recently changed the tone of my post, and I am starting a image folder.
    Thanks for the insight

  21. Hey, I said to write numbered posts! Just make them not suck and you’ll be fine. :) Believe me, the numbered post has been good to me.

    There are a number of bloggers who make a point of not doing numbered posts, or whatever the cliche of the week is, because they’re overdone, and IMO that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. Use the techniques, just don’t use them in a boring way.

  22. I’m new to the whole blogging world and this post helps out a lot. The tone of a story I think is everything. If you’re boring no one is going to want to read your posts. Like you said, we need to get some sizzle going and the way you write will determine if your post is on fire or cold as ice.

  23. Thanks for the jolt. I agree, but my site would be hard one to make sizzle. Don’t read the blog I have up right now, because it will gag you with it’s smarminess – sincerity & sentimentality can get that way, way to easily. I’m going to see what I can drum up to apply some heat. Good post!

  24. @Story Woman, just think of it as a work in progress! These things can take some time to get to where we want them.

  25. I do ten stupid things before breakfast. Maybe I’ll share some of them! :)

  26. Great instructions for thinking outside the blog. I love the idea of taking something you find boring and making it awesome. That almost defines a professional.

  27. Yeah – the numbered post thing. I’ve over it.
    But hold on, it could be just the ticket for the article I’m currently writing. It’s about generosity.

    Let’s see:
    10 Ways to Stop Being a Mingy Bastard
    11 Ways to give the Shirt off Your Back

    Now the sizzling photo to match:
    Maybe a full-frontal stripper dangling her bra in front of a punter? Hot!

  28. Funny thing – most of our clients ask us to write list posts with lots of numbers!

    Copywriters may hate list posts but the internet still loves them. Even bloggers like ZEN HABITS still use them but they expand out on the lists more. Pad it.

    Great article.

  29. nice post:)

  30. @Sarah, brilliant, a numbered post *and* stupid things!

    @Mary, (laughing) By George, I think she’s got it! 😉

    @premium content writers, exactly. The Internet still loves them. Instead of being too cool to write ’em, we just have to make them great.

  31. Seth Godin is famous for telling businesses and marketers to give customers what they want. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to just leave. Great post!

  32. @Sonia. Thanks for the tip. I have started to use Creative Commons pics on Flickr for my blog.

  33. true – all about authenticity. I’m thinking about a post about my massive typo in the email version of my first post. Hah!

  34. Sonia,

    As I looked at the words that you chose to use in writing this post this close to Feb. 14th, I could not help but wonder what the Google Bounce rate is going to be for this article. LOL

  35. Fantastic article!

    Takes me back to the reason I started my blog in the first place. For me, it was to be authentic.

  36. Passion rules. It sizzles, it shows.

    Emotion is the wonderful key to making posts that people will make viral.

    Without it, the post won’t go far.


  37. Thanks for the great tips! I’ve bookmarked it for the inevitable time I need a kick in the pants:)

  38. Write with passion. Write with emotion. People are emotional beings. Connect with their emotion and you are in business.

  39. I just came from a weekend at San Fran Writers Conference, and, Robert, I heard your words repeated again and again -emotion & passion floats blogs. Nice to hear it again here.

  40. Sonia,
    Right on! This post really gave my brother and I a jolt to spice up some of our content. We just put up a Rant Post recently on our blog and it sparked some conversation!

    It’s tough to sometimes put it out there, but I can totally see how it can bring the target audience closer. After all those who unsubscribe weren’t in the target market anyway :)

  41. This has been an interesting post – good job! Since my site is not the type to use too much sizzle to gain interest, I bent the sex angle to fit my content, and am anxious to see the results. I’ll post them here. Thanks, again.

  42. Ace work, Sonia. It’s 6:08 pm here, but I couldn’t log off without reading your fine article. Inspiring! P. :)

  43. Thanks for permission to rant. I have been studiously trying to keep my rants out of my blog posts. I’m always afraid of appearing too unprofessional if I write what I really think sometimes. Okay, time to get in touch with my inner rant.