With big hopes and dreams, I decided to start blogging. I enjoyed it at first, but I wasn't making any money. I was spending a lot of time on valuable content, for no pay off. I was promoting my writing and at best, only getting a hundred visitors to my blog for each post.
What was I doing wrong? I only had my free time on nights and weekends and I didn't want to waste it doing so much extra work, when I was already putting in a lot of my free time. So I didn't have the time to take my posts from being good and make them great.
Despite what my Google Analytics showing little signs of hope, I was determined not to quit.
What I noticed though, was that I wasn't the only one out there blogging. There was a lot of competition. If I was going to compete, I had to figure out how to come up with amazing content, and consistently, too.
Once I did, I started seeing the results that made looking at my Google Analytics a little less depressing. Here's what I'm doing now...
1. Bleed on the First Line
Now more than ever, everyone has short attention spans. What we read is largely dependent on an enticing headline and even better introduction that inspires the reader to keep reading.
How is this done? I've noticed that many writers tend to make their first line a bit shocking.
For example, in James Altucher's "Ten Lessons I Learned from Shark Tank," his first line read, "I just gave up all parenting responsibilities this weekend to Mark Cuban. Meaning, my kids and I watched eight straight episodes of Shark Tank."
I don't know about you, but this caught my attention. How many fathers would openly admit to throwing aside responsibility?
Furthermore, how many kids could be convinced to watch the same adult television show for 8 straight hours? I had to find out, which is to say, I kept reading.
How did I capture your attention at the beginning of this piece? I told you a little bit of my own story to let you know that I've been where you are. Hopefully me baring all to you was enough to get you hooked enough to read on.
2. Get Personal
Other than a great intro, there's more to it when it comes to what compels us to keep reading. I've talked before about how I used to write really boring blog posts.
Sure, they were informative and provided the reader with value, but they were a drag to read. Dry and not enjoyable.
As I became more involved with blogging and content marketing, I became inspired by writers like James Altucher and Mark Manson. How are they able to hook their readers into being so invested in a piece? I found that the best way to do this is to tell stories.
The facts become commoditized. Your personal stories can never be commoditized.
In order to bring your reader value through your post, you want to give them something they aren't getting with just the information, and that's authenticity.
Altucher uses his writing as an opportunity not only to provide his writers with valuable advice but to tell them a story relating to his own life which intimately connects with his readers and illustrates his learnings.
In "Don't Forget to Do This When You Deliver Value," Altucher uses an entire post to tell a funny story about how his intentions were misinterpreted. While he intended to give a man's children advice on how to play chess, he approached the situation all wrong. He leaves his reader with the mental note to always make sure to establish your authority from the get-go.
I do this with each of my books and blog posts now too, always making sure to relate what I'm teaching the reader to my own experience. Authenticity Is so scarce in our society, that readers really appreciate it when they feel a piece of writing is authentic. Stories allow us to do that.
3. Provide Value
When you put being entertaining aside, we all know what's really important when it comes to a great blog post, and that is to provide value to readers. Your readers don't want to invest time reading you if they aren't getting anything useful out of them.
How do you provide value? My ebook, How to Create Awesome Content mentions everything you need to know about providing value. Below are a few examples:
Listen for Questions
It's important to pay attention to what your audience wants to learn. Be sure to read your emails from readers and pay attention to what people are asking you.
Do you have answers for these questions? If so, is there a way you can deliver these answers through your blog? Paying attention to the questions that communities have is a great way to assess demand and know which content to deliver.
Use the Keyword Planner
A great way to get started when thinking about what to write about is to do your keyword research, and a great way to do this is to take advantage of Google's Keyword Planner.. Doing this allows you to cater the content you're going to write to what your intended audience is searching for.
Do What's Working
Just because someone else has written about it, doesn't mean you can't put your own spin on it. Of course, you'll have to find a creative way to make your post different than the others out there (never ever plagiarize), but it can definitely be done.
There are sites you can use to check out what sort of content is being shared and how posts are ranking. Buzzsumo is a great tool for this and offers a trial plan if you're curious to see how it all works. Not only can you use Buzzsumo to search for related sites with similar content, but you can use their analytics to measure how your content is ranking compared to a competitor.
4. Strive for Length
Another way to provide value is with length. You want your article to be long enough that it ranks well for SEO and provides adequate information.
Neil Patel makes a case for longer-form content proving that most articles with a word count of 2,000 or higher are more likely to be searchable and have a higher result on an SERP (search engine results page) and more likely to increase the amount of back links you receive also. If you have a piece that is 1,500 words or more, it's more likely to become shared on social media--another plus.
5. Cite Sources
Speaking of sharing, it's important for your readers to know you didn't take what wasn't yours. Citing your sources is a great way to establish credibility and prove to your audience that you did your research. Neil Patel discusses in his article "How Long Should a Blog Post Be? A Driven Answer," sources also increases your SEO.
6. Use Relevant Keywords
Using relevant keywords is of course good for SEO. And just like you want to assert your authority as a responsible writer by citing your sources, you want to use relevant keywords so that your article is relevant to your readers and findable by search engines.
You want to use keywords contextually and not just to heavily sprinkle them into your content for the sake of getting noticed by the search engine.
You want to keep your keywords not only relevant, but varied, as Google not only ranks keywords that match exactly but as Neil Patel also points out, semantically related as well.
7. Format like a Boss
Just because you're writing a lengthy blog post which delivers value to your audience, doesn't mean you have to serve up a big steaming block of words.
Use different elements to break up your blog post to give the reader's eyes a break and their brain the time to absorb the information they're reading.
One great way to do this is with images. Images are specifically helpful if they're the sort that contain relevant data like graphs or tables. You see what I did here with the photos above? It's not just because typewriters make me nostalgic or I have a soft spot for cute animals with big ears.
Another element to use to breakup your blog post are subheadings, which help to break down the blog and make it less intimidating for the reader. This way, when a reader approaches a blog post, they see several short sections waiting to be read, rather than one big block of text.
Finally, it's always a great idea to bold key ideas throughout your post. Not only does this help make sure that those who are just skimming your blog still retain the intended value of the post, but it also helps to bring together your key takeaways.