You may remember my piece on the current state of blogging. “Has blogging reached a point of no return?” led to a great conversation with some of my favorite bloggers, including Danny Brown, Mally Hart, and Suzan St Maur.
I wanted the conversation to continue, so I asked members of MyBlogU to share their two cents with me. Here is what six of them had to say.
Don Sturgill (DonSturgill.com)
In my book, there are two primary reasons content fails to engage and satisfy the reader:
1. The Headline/Subject Line/Title is written to get attention — but the promise it makes isn’t delivered on in the article.
Standard best-practice writing advice is to be sure your titles or headlines get visitors to stop and take a look at your work. Every student of journalism has heard that “Man Bites Dog” is a much stronger headline than “Dog Bites Man.” You need to be different. You need to stand out. You need to assure the potential reader that the content is interesting and worthwhile. And those fundamentals are undeniably true.
At the same time, though, you should never over-exagerate or lie. “Heres’s How to Skyrocket Your Facebook Likes TODAY!” may get your readers to stop and investigate — but, if the content is weak and doesn’t deliver on that promise, you’ll lose trust and credibility. And once readers figure out you write punchy headlines and nothing more, they won’t pay attention… even when you DO write something of value. It’s better to go with a TRUE title than to fabricate a sensational title. (By the way, punchy titles can definitely get plenty of shares — but few reads.)
2. The content rambles or is not directed at the chosen audience
We’ve entered the world of the specialist. I want microwave-type results from my reading. Articles need to be focused and effective. If I’m looking for info on how to use Facebook Boost Post, I want an article from a site that specializes in social media, and I want it to hone in on the Boost Post feature. Once I begin reading that article, it needs to give me clear and effective directions/ideas about Boost Post.
Here again, the fundamentals are at work. Writers must know exactly what they want to accomplish, who they are speaking with, and how to best communicate their thoughts. Normally, that means beginning with an outline. Better yet, start with the title and make everything in your article provide the value promised in that title (see #1). If you’re an SEO freak, start with a keyword.
Listen, I’ve been known to miss on both of these principles. I’ll write without an outline (thinking that’s going to save time), then do some keyword research to combine SEO and sensationalism to come up with the title. I’m not saying I LIKE to do that, but there are times when a client wants to publish NOW and insists on doing that. Or there are times when I just want to get some content up, so I cut corners in order to make it happen.
And every time I miss the target, I not only hurt my reputation… but yours. Readers are getting burned, big time, in our insane rush to crank out more content. I’d rather prepare one worthwhile post per year than to serve up an over-hyped plate of confusion DAILY.
Writers, your first job is not to write. It is to think.
Phil Turner (maXXers)
1. Be different
With nearly 1 billion websites in existence, bloggers and content creators need to raise their game. Grammar must be better, spellings and homophones checked and punctuation accurate. That is only a start though, the minimum acceptable standard that mst apply to all content. Blog posts must be personal and say something unique and helpful to the reader.
2. Speak from your own experience
Each one of us is a unique person with his or her own unique set of life experiences and skills. Every writer must use that unique knowledge in their work. Bloggers should only write about things they know about first-hand.
David Leonhardt (SEO-Writer.com)
Quality starts with originality. If it’s been said before, there is no point in saying it again. You can just point to where it’s been said before and save everybody the trouble. Or you can just blog “Me too!”
Of course, if you are making a pro or con argument, there are only two positions you can take. And both have surely already been taken many times.
That’s fine. But you’ll probably want more than one sentence in your blog post, and the more than one sentence should be your own opinion or your own experiences or your own observations or at least a brand new argument or a new way of framing the topic, or even perhaps a brand new analogy. You can’t go wrong writing about a client experience that personalizes a topic and subtly lets readers know what you are capable of without even having to brag.
Quality continues with visuals. If your blog is littered with stock photography, plenty of “readers” will assume that it’s also littered with stock text before they have the chance even to become readers.
My favourite way to up the quality of images is to add text to them. In some cases, I just add a title, so that the image acts to introduce the topic, such as I here in this post.
But more often, I add a complete thought to the image, so that it can stand alone on Pinterest and elsewhere, as well as inspire curiosity to (hopefully) click through to the post itself, such as I did with a couple pics in this post.
David Trounce (Mallee Blue Media)
A common challenge for content creators and bloggers, especially business bloggers, is the challenge to stay on topic within a given niche. In today’s crowded market place of “experts”, it simply isn’t efficient to try and cover every conceivable angle of an industry sector.
1. Tighten your focus
One of the solutions to this problem is to select a single parallel niche in your industry to guide your content strategy. People worry that if they leave anything out they might not engage part of their demographic. But do real estate agents really need to be talking about school bus timetables? Probably not.
Those succeeding in their content strategy are proving that less is indeed more.
Take Red Bull as one example. They have created a natural association with a drink that gives you a buzz and recreation that gives you a thrill. Their content strategy is remarkably simple – and tight.
They produce thrill seeking content that is engaging their number one demographic. Are they running out of ideas? Not at all.
2. Master a single media channel
The second piece of advice I give my clients, and it’s related to the first, is to master one marketing channel before trying to master a second.
Using the example above, what is the channel that Red Bull uses to market its product? Video.
No long form content. No Infographics or research papers. Just video. That’s not to say that long posts or other forms of rich media won’t work for you. They may be the perfect choice.
But the challenge is to settle on one niche, one form of shareable content – suited to your demographic – and master it.
Avik Sarkar (A2Z e-Solutions)
It is very important for the blogger to treat himself as a reader and start identifying the elements which he himself brands as “crappy” in a content. What is it that turns you off the most when it comes to blogs? Repetation? Irrelevance? Bad grammar? Or just bad images? As far as these four points are concerned you can blissfully go on to exclude them from your content.
But wait! Do you hate webinars and podcasts in blogs too? Are you more comfortable with texts? Even if you are, you cannot really think of “not” including webinars, videos or podcasts in your blogs — since they are clearly more effective than plain texts when it comes to engaging audience.
Another way to engage readers is to use simplistic and minimalistic designs highlighting quality content- simply because your readers are not interested in “design” clutter any more.
Anil Ramsey (Planet Asia)
The current Internet landscape rewards bloggers for generating clicks. This is why we see so much clickbait out there (sensational headlines backed by weak generic content). In addition, a lot of poor content on the Internet is keyword-driven (often spun) text that is not designed for human reading, but rather to generate link juice.
Against this landscape, authentic bloggers feel the need to keep up. What’s the point of writing a meaningful article if it doesn’t get any clicks?
When auditing company websites, I often come across the remains of old blogs. These tend to start out strong with lots of articles in a short amount of time. Then more time passes between posts until posting stops completely. A big problem in these blogs seems to be that the writers have no intent, other than to stuff keywords into an article.
One example is a printer repair company site I did an overhaul on. Printer repair keywords are limited, so the blogger pulled whatever keywords possible and built generic text around them. There were articles about paper jams, running out of toner, and other extremely mundane topics. None offered any actual information.
Advice #1: before writing your article, plan it. You should have an idea of keywords to include, but you should also have an idea of why you are writing the article. It should never be about pushing keywords, and always be about creating information that helps support your organization’s goals. If you can’t clarify how you article will help your business or customers, it’s not worth writing.
Advice #2: make it circular. Just like they teach in primary school, an article should have an introduction, a body and conclusion. The introduction should present the topic, lay out what the article will show, and explain why it’s worth showing. The body should contain the meat of your information.
In the conclusion, it’s important to wrap up effectively. Refer back to the introduction, which explains why this topic is worth covering. Write a few concluding lines reinforcing that point. This justifies the article being published, and it also gives readers a satisfied feeling: The article stated a purpose and fulfilled it.
* * *
Intro: Here’s what I’m going to write about. It is important to you because…
Body: Here is the information…
Conclusion: [topic] is important because [reason]. This article was worth your time to read, because you acquired knowledge about [topic], which will help you to [a benefit].
* * *
Over time, this method will ‘train’ readers. If your articles make them feel satisfied, they will come back for more, and spend more time absorbing your content. If you just post lots of keyword-driven sentences that don’t lead to a clear conclusion, your readership will eventually disappear altogether.
It’s your time to speak now. What are your tips to craft quality content?