Think you know how to write articles and blog posts that delight?
Are you sure?
See, the internet is noisy, and there are 30580348503458 other sites and platforms vying to grab your ideal reader’s attention. (I’ve counted.)
Translation: you need to stand out. You need to delight readers by writing articles and blog posts that are lip-smackingly good.
When you start doing this, it’ll massively improve your reader engagement, subscribers, fans. Win!
The reason I’m confident this can work for you is that most other people aren’t doing it. They’re writing content that’s stle, rehashed, often full of fluff.
But not you.
Not after today, at least.
I’m going to bust a few common myths flying around about how to write delightful content
I’ll share exactly how you can do it (even if your grammar stinks and you flunked 11th grade English. Twice.)
To share how this works, I need you to quickly remember the last time you were hot, sticky, sweaty…and lost. Remember that time? Clear picture in your head? Good. Hold that thought. It’s relevant.
Last summer I headed to a friend’s house. Let’s call her Sandy. She’d moved to a new place on the outskirts of London, and I got lost on the way there. Did I mention this happened to be at the height of a record-breaking heat wave?
With the back of my shirt clinging to me and my throat dry as sandpaper, I finally reached Sandy’s door after going in circles for an hour. No fun.
As I stepped inside, she offered me lemonade. Yes! I’d been craving something to kill the thirst and calm my nerves.
I raised the glass to my mouth and she began telling me how she’d started a new diet and made the lemonade to her new diet standards. Well, I would’ve never guessed any diet would (have the nerve to) suggest making lemonade…
No, it didn’t have a sugar substitute. It was just lemonade. Without sugar.
Let’s just say, I didn’t take another sip (and it took me a while to forgive Sandy).
Here’s why I mention this
You may not realize it, but perhaps you’re Sandy.
Well, your name isn’t Sandy (or maybe it is), but are you serving up your content kind of sour, without sugar?
Are your readers tasting a sip, spitting it out, and clicking away?
You spend time on traffic tactics, but how much time do you spend creating binge-worthy content?
Tactics do work, of course. The right ones. You need to get people to your site.
Traffic tactics are useless if …
When the traffic gets to your site, they don’t stick around to read, sign up, buy.
When I got to Sandy’s I was thirsty. Just like your readers. But I still wanted to be delighted. I wanted something to go down smooth.
See, no matter how hungry your readers are, if you don’t serve something tasty, they’ll click away.
Your readers are like I was on that hot day, circling around the internet, searching for answers. They arrive at your door (err…website) looking for your words and your offers to be that cool, yummy glass of lemonade. Are you giving that to them?
Here’s step-by-step guidance
I’m calling this the Content Sugar Plan (as you can tell, I’m on a roll with the sugar analogy. No stopping me now).
There are specific steps to writing delightful content. But you should know that even if you can’t implement everything at once, I have total confidence that everyone (yes, including you) can do this.
Step 1: Choosing your topic
(aka sleep with your ideal readers)
Get your mind out of the gutter here. Not literally sleeping with your readers. But how well do you know them?
I’m talking stalker-level (in a non-creepy way, of course). Get into their beds heads to know what’s keeping them up at night, what problems do they have that you solve? How will your blog post/article help them? Be specific and get clear on this before you type a word.
If you’re blogging with monetary goals in mind (affiliate income or ads or selling your products/services), you’re likely solving a problem. Each post you write should be tied to that overall problem or an aspect of the problem.
Once you know who you’re writing to and you’ve laid a foundation of your angle and how your blog/products/services meet their needs, your content needs to align with that.
If you don’t already know these things about your audience, and specifically, your ideal reader, find out.
If you’re already engaging with your audience ask them (surveys, ask them to reply to emails, post questions in forums and to your social media following).
Look through your content for clues. What have people engaged well with before? Which of your posts get the highest traffic? Which have the highest conversions (signs ups/sales)?
You can track using tools like Google Analytics. If you don’t already do this, start. It’s non-negotiable that you know the pages and posts on your site that are getting the most -and least – engagement.
You must keep the following two concepts in the back of your mind (always):
- What are my readers looking for?
- What are they complaining about/struggling with?
I’m going to give you a thorough list of tools and strategies for getting clear those questions.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a search tool where you type in a topic (something you think yor audience might be asking) and it displays a (gorgeous) graphic of related searches.
In the image above, you can see I typed in ‘how to hem jeans’. It spat out tons of related search results.
It’s quite sophisticated search insight and data visualization. They even have a free course on ‘How to Search Insight’.
Quora is a useful bank of people asking questions, looking for answers. Check out Digital Marketing Strategist Lori Ballen’s video if you need some help with finding ideas on quora.com
Reddit is another forum of people asking and answering questions.
Want some guidance for using Reddit to find topics? Here’s an article on Coschedule about finding topics and inspiration on Reddit.
(A clever spin on using) Facebook groups for intel
You can use Facebook groups to see what your ideal readers are asking questions about. (See the search bar in the image above).
Remember above that I mentioned there are two things to keep in mind when deciding what to write about? The second thing is what are they complaining about.
Facebook groups are a goldmine for ranting. Bingo! If you’re in relevant groups (where your ideal readers are), pay close attention to their complaints, what they are struggling with. These types of posts are g-o-l-d-e-n information for you to create from.
Sometimes people will even ask a question so specific that you can use that exact question as a topic or headline (more on headlines coming up).
Keyword research tools
I don’t keyword research every post I write. One reason is that a good number of my posts are inspirational and the topic won’t necessarily match keyword searches.
That decision is related to my brand, but even more so, it’s about me being authentic to myself and my overall vision with aliciajoy.net.
It’s up to you to make the right decisions for your website of course, bearing in mind that some of those decisions may impact traffic, etc.
Still, keyword research can be powerful, especially for figuring out what your readers are asking – and for boosting your Search Engine Optimisation ranking, of course.
I (sometimes) use a Chrome add-on tool Keywords Everywhere. It’s easy to add to Chrome and simple to use. It installs right onto your Chrome toolbar (see screenshot below). There are tutorial videos walking through the steps and how best to use.
When you search for something on Google, it tells you the volume of searches for those words and also ‘Related Keywords’ and ‘People Also Searched For’.
Now for something few people are talking about
Do you remember in Step 1 I explained the importance of stalker-level (in a non icky way) knowing your ideal reader?
You’re only going to do this if you really do care about them.
Care about your readers.
No, really, this isn’t gushy mumbo-jumbo. This is the most important ingredient in the mix.
The more you care about your clients, the easier it will be to get ultra clear on what they need you to write about. You’ll already be ‘internet stalking’ them, talking with them, hanging out where they are.
Current Client Intel
If you have clients (design, coaching, web development, etc) current (and past) clients are a source of so much valuable topic inspiration.
I used to coach fellow nurses. I noticed over time they were asking similar questions and expressing much the same frustrations. When I started a website I already had a bank of ‘problems’, which were topics to write about.
Once you’ve picked the topic, if you’re stumped for how to get started, using prompts may help. Lily at FindingBalance.com shares 108 blog post ideas. Some of these may help.
If you’re still lacking for blogging prompts and ideas, my Pinterest board How to Blog has tons of top pins on finding inspiration and ideas for posts.
Step 2: How to use the science-backed – art approved – method for captivating readers
What is a science-backed method for captivating readers: STORY
Stories engage multiple parts of the brain (and heart).
Storytelling is hard-wired into physiology. It’s how we learn, assimilate information, remember events, and most of all, it’s how we connect and relate to each other.
I’m a story nerd. I write short stories, I’m a performance storyteller and I teach people how to use story in non-fiction writing (ie web content). Story is my thing.
Where you can, weave the powerful concepts of story (such as conflict and intrigue) into your content.
Think of situations and events in your every day life that relate to the post your writing. How can you add a story that’s relevant – and interesting- to your post?
It’s not hard to do, but there’s a knack to doing it well. If you’re struggling to write compelling content, sign up for my Story Hackers newsletter. I give detailed, guidance because I believe it’s just that important if you want to write captivating content.[convertkit form=927351]
Step 3: Hacks for writing powerful headlines and gripping introductions
There’s no use writing a great post if people don’t even click through to read it. From Copyblogger:
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.–Copyblogger post on Magnetic Headlines
People don’t click through to most blog posts and articles they come across on the net. You have a fraction of a second to convince them you have something worthy of their time. Headlines are that important.
Two quick hacks for supercharging your headlines
- What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). That’s what your reader is thinking when they see your post headline. Imagine they’re scrolling through Pinterest, Facebook, wherever, does your headline scream WIIFM? Does it answer that question? No? Go back and brainstorm some more.
- Use words that persuade. There’s a science to persuasion. And it’s powerful.
If you struggle with writing catchy headlines, and a content + copy makeover is not in your budget right now, check out these resources:
*Copyblogger headline article
*Use a headline analyzer like Sharethrough:
You enter your headline and it gives it a score, along with strengths and suggestions.
When you come up with a blog title, try variations. Don’t just stick with the first one you come up with. Brainstorm many variations.
Bonus tip: If you’re active on Pinterest and you make several pins from each blog post, you can experiment using different headlines on different pins all leading to one blog post (leaving the blog post permalink alone, of course).
A quick writing tip about your introduction
Spend time on your introduction. I used to do copywriting for clients. There’s a basic copy principle: the purpose of each line is just to get the reader to move on to the next and so on down the page. Each line enticing you to read the next.
The introduction has the most important lines of the entire post. If people aren’t interested in the first paragraph – or two – you’ve lost them. Those first few lines need to grab your readers and draw them in. Don’t skip this.
Your introduction is where your reader gets hooked or bounces. Make your introduction short and sweet. I typically size up my posts and make the introduction no more than 1/3 the length of my entire post. Maximum.
A good portion of my editing time is spent tweaking my introduction and headline, of course.
Step 4: Be conversational
(+ busting a myth)
I’m sure you’ve heard this before: you need to write conversationally.
But what exactly does it mean? How can you translate that to write a delicious article/blog post?
Can you just write as you speak? That’s the poor advice going around. Unless you want your writing filled with ums and ahs, unfinished sentences, and cliches..best not.
The intention behind ‘write like you speak’ is golden. It’s just that the translation from idea to reality doesn’t work.
You don’t need to write exactly as you speak, instead imagine you’re writing to one person, your ideal reader. Imagine that person down to the detail.
Take a moment to think back to how you were taught to write essays, perhaps in High School and University. Do you remember the steps and the rules? Good. Now, forget all of that.
Academic writing is not the same as web writing.
Your teachers had no choice but to endure reading your writing. Your readers have a choice. They have a ridiculous number of choices. Always remember that.
Inject your personality
Imagine you were having that one-on-one conversation with your reader.
If so, your personality (hopefully) would come through.
This is easiest to do when you’re clear on your brand personality and brand voice (stay tuned, I have a few articles on this coming up).
Think of aspects of your personality you’d be comfortable sharing. You do need to be mindful of your industry, of course.
For example, I have a silly personality at times. That comes through on my blog. I also love to encourage people. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. It’s almost difficult for me to write something that isn’t encouraging. So my posts tend to be on the inspirational side. And my products do, too.
Another simple way to do this use story (see step 2). Again, story works.
The key is to do what feels natural to you.
Don’t force it. And whatever you do, don’t be fake. I’ve seen people find a blogger they think is funny or cool or whatever and try to imitate them…um. that doesn’t work. It feels forced and will be tough to keep up.
This is the fastest way to build connection with your readers. For the times you may be thinking you aren’t unique enough or different enough, please read (and re-read) my short post on being confident in who you are and eliminating the fear of competition.
“you can’t please all the readers all of the time.”-Stephen King
Will some people not like you? Yes. Good. Those aren’t your people. Adios!
Remember that cliche ‘you can’t pls everyone so don’t try. For some reason, we start blogging and think we’re Amazon.
Amazon can please everyone. You’re not Amazon. Don’t try to be Amazon. It will not work.
Be you and focus on your specific, ideal reader.
Step 5: Formatting your articles/blog posts: headings, shorter paragraphs, easy to read text
Space the text on the page so there’s plenty of white space. During the editing phase, break up your paragraphs.
Then break them up again.
See what I just did there? It’s better to have paragraphs of just a few sentences (or even one) than big blocks of text.
People don’t like reading blocks of text; they’re intimidating. Remember, you’re not writing a manual or academic essay. You want people to be able to scan the text, pick up key bits of information, and dive in as they choose.
Use headings, images, bold text here and there to provide contrast so the eye can scan the information easily and it feels more digestible for the reader.
Vary it up
Vary sentence length. some short, some long. This creates a better rhythm for your reader. It’s also more visually appealing.
Step 6: What to do about grammar?(+busting another common myth)
Many of us struggle with grammar. These tools (and tips) will help:
- use tools like Grammarly.
You can add grammarly right to your chrome toolbar so that as you write, it underlines spelling and glaring grammar errors! (Take that Sophmore English class teacher! You didn’t see Grammarly coming, did you?)
It’s also possible to copy and paste text right into Grammarly, for editing suggestions.
A few other options if you’re not in love with Grammarly:
4. And finally, brush up on your grammar. I do this. Constantly. Here’s a great resource I love (and refer to often):
Quick and Dirty Tips (Grammar Girl)
Psst… here’s a secret (and another myth-buster)
Do you know you can actually admit to being typo-prone? A few of my favorite bloggers often mention this. Some even turn it into a joke and ask readers to spot typos for them.
As the wise philosopher Tyrion Lannister once said:
Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.
Granted, he wasn’t talking about grammar, but the concept is the same.
My thoughts when reading one of my favorite bloggers and I spot a typo:
Oh, look. she made a mistake. well, I know she’s pretty busy. so glad she still had time to write this blog post. It’s useful for me.She’s awesome. And real and relatable. Sometimes I feel like I know her. #fangirl
Yes, there’ll be the grammar police. The people who’ll click away because you have a typo or used a comma splice (or maybe they’ll write to you to tell you). But, guess what? If they’re mean about it or make that decision based on a typo or two?
Those aren’t your people, anyway. Unless you’re selling to academics or in technical writing or something similar, the people who are highly critical and just looking to pick at things are.not.your.buyers.
They will not become raving fans. Parting ways with them early is good. For them and for you. Adios!
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be on point with your grammar. Of course. Use the tools above, use spell check, have posts and digital downloads proofread if you can afford or if you have a business bestie who can do it for you.
Do not sit and pick at your posts for weeks and worry and overthink this.
It’s wasted time and energy. You have a lot to do. Focus on what matters most.
A rule I live by:
Done is better than perfect
Step 7: Bring your post to life during the editing phasest does not come to life while writing. Your first draft should be crappy. Do not try to write and edit at the same time.
Perfectionist tendencies and self-criticizing will have you deleting and refining and revising and going in circles. You have too much to do. I’m not psychic, but I know this. Write. Then edit.
This is where you make your post yummy
Like chocolate chip cookies, your post needs to sit before you bake. I never hit publish immediately. Most times, I write, then, edit. Let it sit. Come back to the post (usually a few days later, depending on my schedule for the week) and then do the final edits.
When I come back to the post, I have a different eye. There are things I see that I didn’t catch the first time, word choice tweaks that make the whole post sizzle and pot.
Read your post out loud and asses:
Does it flow?
Do the sentences and paragraphs transition well, or do they feel awkward? These are things you notice more when you read something out loud.
This is also a good time to notice if you’re using stuffy or fancy words you wouldn’t use in a one-on-one conversation with your reader.
Editing is the time to take your post from ‘meh’ to memorable. It’s that important.