Most blogs will never be read.
Roughly 99.99% of all blogs will never turn a profit or reap a readership.
And if you’re “that guy,” it could be because your content stinks.
So what makes written content valuable?
Too often, Internet gurus reduce the value of a blog post to mere word count.
One popular first-page ranking strategy is called “skyscrapering,” where you oust your competition using words as a blunt battering ram. Someone else is writing 2,000-word articles? You write 4,000! It’s crude, but with enough hits, any wall will fall (or so the theory goes).
Other times, the gurus teach you that it’s the multimedia – the Pinterest pins, the Youtube videos, the Instagram chats, the catchy Tweets – that elevate a blog post above average. And while engaging multimedia is a cornerstone for any modern blog, they should amplify and elevate the written word, not supplant or apologize for it.
And, of course, the biggest distraction is SEO. Beginning writers often sacrifice prose for keywords. But when a “writer” can tell you more about keyword density and SERP results than essay outline design and the 5W’s+H, something is out of whack.
Just black words on a white page.
Like this article, I guess.
How do you make those words stand out?
The answer is not “better writing” in a grammatical sense, things like paragraph flow and sentence structure, proper transitions, subject-verb agreement, active voice, transitive verbs, etc.
Let’s ignore all the grammar. The truth is, most blog writers couldn’t diagram a sentence if the fate of the world depended upon it – and that’s (kind of) ok! You can still become a great writer without deep technical understanding (although a little never hurt!).
(And before you point out that I have both an exclamation point and a period at the end of the last sentence, yes, I know. In the same way that Picasso knew the rules of traditional art and broke them, I know, but I just don’t care. Not that I’m the Picasso of writing. You get my point.)
Emotion is the chile and lemon on Flaming Hot Cheetos. Emotion is what separates the frothing, living, angry, seductive ocean from a placid lake. Emotion is the one true universal language.
As writers, we need to be aware of emotion in two different ways:
- What emotion does your Reader bring with you?
- What emotion should your Reader leave with?
Answering the first question identifies the Reader’s needs, pain points, problems to be solved.
Answer the second question is a little harder. Saying the Reader should leave “informed” isn’t an acceptable answer. “Informed” isn’t as emotion. Should the Reader feel relieved, desperate, passive-aggressive, calm, empathetic, curious, or numb?
This applies to all blog posts, any genre.
- Writing a response post about indoor cycling? Don’t you want your Reader to feel “pumped up” about their next session?
- Writing a listicle about debt forgiveness strategies? Shouldn’t your Reader feel relieved/resurrected after hearing about your solutions?
As a blog writer, you don’t just design sales funnels; you design emotion funnels.
Pain Point A leads to Emotional Response B leads to Sale C which makes you money.
I considered the terms amalgamation, accessibility and aggregation, but I believe curation is the most accurate term for this form of value.
What I mean is that a good blog post wholly addresses the Reader’s search intent by curating and presenting the most relevant answers.
When there are no comprehensive blog post resources on a question, the Reader gets caught in a Google vortex, desperately typing in synonyms, clicking through to the seventh SERP page, following outbound links, just trying to nail down a final answer.
If you can write a thorough resource that curates and highlights the most important and useful information from around the web, you’ve done the Reader a favor. You’ve saved them from spending the next 15 minutes spiraling downwards into the Google vortex.
Oftentimes, curation posts show up as FAQ lists or Ultimate Guide posts.
There are some related concepts to consider as well.
How specific is your solution? If you’re writing an article about best smartphones of 2022, do you stop at the make and model of the phone, or do you provide all the specs? Do you provide a Buy Now link?
Generally, more specificity is better. However, as a post gets more specific, it needs more complex formatting. If you’re about to go down the rabbit hole of why the Motorola G7 is the 2nd best smartphone of 2022 and all 73 specifications, then your Reader should be able to skip that section and scan your content for what they’re looking for.
When we say writing is “dense,” that’s usually not a compliment. In this case, I’m talking about information density, not over-saturated writing bleeding out prepositional phrases everywhere.
Which sentence is more “dense”?
- Some alternative deodorants that have shown up in recent years lack the chemicals that help you stop sweating in your nether regions, so they’re probably better for your skin conditions and the environment as a whole.
- Natural deodorants use vegetable glycerin as an antiperspirant rather than aluminum, which can cause rashes and pimples on sensitive skin.
The second sentence packs more concrete information in a shorter space, and it better addresses the Reader’s concerns, which are probably more about rashes and pimples and less about saving the world.
Let me hop on my soapbox for a moment.
Too many writers think that “originality” means avoiding cliches, adding jokes, and talking about things with a “fresh perspective.”
Unless you’re a world-class writer like Joyce Carol Oates who can spin magical yarns out of threadbare facts, I’m afraid “originality” means much less.
I’m talking about facts. Research. Something new. Not something newly presented or newly rehashed.
If “tone” is the garnish on an entree, I’m talking about the entree itself.
Income School, run by Jim Harmer and Ricky Kessler, has been one of my go-to sources for how-to-write-a-blog sort of information. Jim and Ricky are a bit unconventional. One of their strategies is that they don’t do any backlinking campaigns. Instead, they write statistic posts, and they watch the backlinks flood in.
Obviously, this strategy might only work well on a site-basis, not a URL-basis, but my point is that original research kills. Think about it. Your article is now the ONLY article out of a bajillion web pages that contains this unique information! You’ve found a new gem, and you own the mine!
Here are some useful ideas for generating original research:
Asking questions to forums and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Quora is a great way to generate content for a crowdsourced post.
Expert Opinion Roundups
Same idea, but you have to actually track down recognized experts and get them on record.
Personally, I think these are SO underrated. Consider this: Let’s say you want to write an article comparing DSLR cameras specifications. Good luck! That’s a highly competitive space! But if you can analyze those specifications using a unique metric – for instance, optical zoom/weight – then you can conclusively say, “For the best lightweight DSLR camera with the largest optical zoom, choose X.”
This is the boots-on-the-ground, mud-in-the-trenches kind of stuff. Often, you need to measure and compare something. If you’re measuring people’s habits, borrow someone else’s public audience. If you’re measuring stuff, take advantage of Amazon’s free return policies (sorry, Amazon!).