There's a lot more to writing a blog than the actual content itself. But who has the time or the patience to write a blog if nobody is going to read it? After all, you've got a business to run! As a former CBS Radio Reporter and TV News Producer for all the major networks, I know what it means to crank out stories under a tight deadline that people will actually care about. So, I have a pretty good idea what makes people stick with a story. It's not brain science, but there are a few critical elements you need to learn to easily write a blog that people want to read.
How To Easily Write an Blog That People Want to Read
Visual Content Rules!
Yes, video is king in terms of content marketing. However, using visuals in general is a surefire way to get readers engaged in your content. Here's a few findings in a recent report by Social Media Examiner that proves my point:
1) 37% of marketers said visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging (38%).
2) 74% of social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, ahead of blogs (68%) and videos (60%).
3) When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
What do Your Readers Want?
Hubspot surveyed more than 1000 global internet users in 2016 on how they access news, business and lifestyle stories online compared to 2 years ago.
This graph gives you a good idea why traditional news providers like newspapers and television news are going by way of the dinosaur. No longer are users forced to read only what an Editor or Reporter think is important or engaging news. We now can access what we want, when we want on multiple devices. You can even see this in the magazine industry with the specialization of magazines on everything from hobbies to religion to pulp fiction to politics.
Headlines: The 80/20 Rule
So where do we start? When there are millions of blogs that are posted every day, billions of emails that are read (or in my case discarded!), and millions of tweets, it takes more than just good writing to stand out. In fact, did you know that according to some sources, 80% of people don't get past the headline. Only 20% actually read beyond it. Your goal in writing a blog is to get them to read the next sentence, and then the next sentence after that, and so on.
So, your title or headline is your first step in sucking those readers in. If your blog is important to generating leads and growing your business, it's even that much more important to turn that 80/20 rule into 20/80.
How to Write a Whiz-Bang Headline
Sometimes when I write a blog, I don't always know what my headline will be until I'm half-way through writing it. As the words begin to flow from my head to my fingertips, little nuggets begin to form and suddenly a headline is born. Sometimes it takes a great photo to really give it the punch it needs, like the sleeping woman above. The point of the photo is to suggest that someone fell asleep while reading a boring blog. (Hopefully that won't be you while you're reading this blog!)
Here are 3 key elements to create an engaging headline:
Adjective + Call-To-Action Words + A Number
You don't have to use all 3 or in that order. Take this blog for example. The headline, "How To Easily Write a Blog That People Want to Read," explains what the article is about, but points to a source of pain we all live through. The pain is that we know that a blog is essential to providing useful content for our business, but we want to make sure it's worth our time to write it. It also can be very time-consuming. Using the adjective, "easily" speaks to those who dread taking time away from their business to write a blog. "That People Want to Read," is the call-to-action.
Know your audience
It's a similar principle you would apply to your business. First, identify your ideal client (reader), know what problems they have and then how are you going to solve those problems? Your headline should identify the problem of your ideal client (reader). Then it's your job to give solutions to the problem in your blog in an engaging, interesting way.
Your First Paragraph
Ok, you wrote a snappy headline and peaked their interest. Now you need to write an intriguing introductory paragraph. In news, we call it, "the lead." Don't bury the lead! This is what will keep them reading. Remember, all you want to do is to get them to your next sentence. Your introductory paragraph should say exactly what you are going to tell them about and why it's important for them to read on. Here is where you can elaborate on your headline. What is your reader's problem and how are you going to solve their problem? Other ways you can grab your reader's attention is to tell a story or a joke, be empathetic, or grip the reader with an interesting fact or statistic.
The K.I.S.S. Principle
Keep It Simple Sweetie! If you want to reach a large audience, write so an 11 year old can understand it. That means short sentences, simple explanations and don't assume that your reader knows what you're talking about. Literally, spell it out for them. Use lots of bullet points and pictures to tell your story. You're not writing a white paper here. You want a large reach, so you need to dumb it down a little bit (although these 11 year olds are pretty dang smart these days!) Now that doesn't mean you write poorly. You can still tell a compelling story that is easy to ready with proper grammar and accuracy.
The other advice I would give you when you create content, either written, visual or audio (podcasts), is to be yourself. Write like you talk. If you're on camera or recording a podcast, show your true colors. Allow your personality to come through. If you're funny, be funny! If you're sarcastic, throw some sarcasm in for good measure. Be passionate about what you're writing or talking about. Don't be afraid to let the world know who you are and what you stand for. If you're excited about your topic, so too will your audience.
When writing a blog, it doesn't have to be Shakespeare. As you write, imagine you're telling your best friend a story. You wouldn't tell them in long prose. You would speak with emotion. Write from your heart. What speaks to you will speak to others.
Click here to access Sandra Yancey's Building Blocks to a Brilliant Blog audio recording.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization
SEO is less about what you write as it is about how your write it. Yoast is a great plugin that I like to use, which gauges my SEO based on a series of elements including how often I use the title key words in the article, the use of headers and how easy it is to read. Click here to learn Yoast's top 10 SEO generators.
Find the right Social Media niche
In our blog article, "How to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms," I provided you with a chart based on Pew Research that shows you the demographics for each major Social Media platform. For example, the average age of Facebook users is 25-34, whereas the average age for Twitter users is 18-29. There's other demographics to consider as well, such as gender, geographic location, income and education. The important takeaway here is to know your audience. Who are they and why should they care? Know their pain points. How are you going to solve their problem?
And finally, all of your content should have a CTA, a call-to-action. First, decide the intention of your blog? Do you want to build your prospect list? Are you selling something? Do you want to develop a trusting relationship with your audience, so when you do have something to offer they will be more likely to buy from you? Remember, people buy from those they know, like and trust.
Let's face it, we're all busy. So when we create content, we want it to be effective. We want to inform, entertain and engage our audience. It's not just for our ego, it's because we have something fabulous to offer and nurturing our customers with some game-changing content is a noble first step to gain a loyal following.