11 reasons why your next blog post is going to fail.
Let’s be clear, there are very few “rules” when it comes to blogging (every industry is different). Further, it takes time to build up an audience and get to where you want to be.
However, there is also typically the world of difference between a failed blog post and a successful blog post and if you’re one of those people who reads TONS of blog posts and creates popular content, it becomes a bit easier to tell the difference after a while.
- 1 The definition of a “successful” blog post:
- 2 How does that sound? Agreed?
- 3 WHITESPACE. LOTS AND LOTS OF WHITESPACE.
- 4 You’re not just marketing content, you’re selling inspiration.
- 5 Stop talking AT people (all the time).
- 6 Your headline doesn’t exactly scream: “read me!”
- 7 Would you read it?
- 8 You’re doing the same thing. AGAIN.
- 9 You’ve decided to grace us with your presence.
- 10 Build it and they will come (LOL).
- 11 Create assets, not content.
- 12 You’re rushing for the finish line without starting the race.
- 13 Successful blogging isn’t just about great content.
The definition of a “successful” blog post:
Everyone’s definition of success is different, however to me a successful post meets a few of these criteria:
- It drives a relatively high volume of traffic, and more importantly engaged or interested traffic, back into my website (or a client’s website, which is more often the case).
- A relatively suitable share of that traffic completes some form of desirable action (it doesn’t have to be buying something, they could simply share the post across their own social networks, thereby increasing the reach of my client’s brand).
- I’m HAPPY with my own work and it keeps driving traffic, albeit less (relatively speaking), month after month after month.
None of this has to happen immediately, but over time it should achieve these objectives – needless to say, it isn’t always going to work, but that’s life. You just need to focus on getting it right more often than not.
How does that sound? Agreed?
Ok, I hope you share my definition of success but if not, for the sake of this post I’m going to presume you do. If you don’t agree with me, then leave a comment below and shout at me, with caps lock on.
Now, let’s look at why content typically fails, what’s rubbish, what you may be doing wrong and MOST IMPORTANTLY, small, subtle changes you can make to improve the standard of your output.
WHITESPACE. LOTS AND LOTS OF WHITESPACE.
There is no worse blogging crime than FAILING to incorporate sufficient whitespace in your content.
This is the 21st century – people are busy and what’s more, increasingly, people want to chill out a little bit and have you make things that little bit easier for them.
While some may see it as dumbing down, I see it as catering to your audience and helping them out – blog posts are invariably scanned rather than read and people don’t want 20 sentence-long paragraphs. It causes eye-strain.
Let’s just try this again!
There is no worse blogging crime than FAILING to incorporate sufficient whitespace in your content. This is the 21st century – people are busy and what’s more, increasingly, people want to chill out a little bit and have you make things that little bit easier for them. While some may see it as dumbing down, I see it as catering to your audience and helping them out – blog posts are invariably scanned rather than read and people don’t want 20 sentence-long paragraphs. It causes eye strain.
Which was easier?
You’re not just marketing content, you’re selling inspiration.
When it comes to writing “how to” content and creating an engaged audience, you need to remember that you don’t just need to show them how to do something, you need to inspire them to do it.
Honestly, if someone were capable of figuring out the mechanics behind motivating or inspiring people, and then bottle it, that person would be rich – SERIOUSLY rich.
Take a look at some of the more prominent, grass roots “how to” bloggers – the guys and gals who have been around for years.
They go into great depth about their subject, but they also write in a way that grabs the reader and makes them want to do something.
Anyone with experience in blogging can write about “blogging”, however not everyone can make someone want to get up right now, put everything aside, and start writing. By inspiring people, you will keep them coming back for more.
You like to talk about you. No-one cares.
While in some situations it’s appropriate, in most instances it’s not.
Try and get inside the head of your audience:
“I’ve got a mortgage to pay, kids to feed, a car payment overdue and stuff to pay for – you really want me to spend 20 minutes reading about the glory that is you?
The only suitable situation to talk about yourself is where it benefits your readers.
You can build up a community that cares more than it otherwise should, but that’s going to take time – it’s going to take effort and gestures on your part. To begin with and if you’re just starting out, make it about them and be more helpful than anyone can rightly expect!
Stop talking AT people (all the time).
When it comes to blogging, tone is everything.
The BEST blogs encourage participation and interaction – by getting people to interact with your content, you will give them a reason to visit you.
It’s safe to say that some of the more popular pages of content I’ve created for clients have featured a question as a headline i.e.
- Have you ever shouted at your boss?
- Would you leave your insurance details if you clipped someone’s wing mirror?
These titles inspire all sorts of interaction – the most important point is that the post ceases to be about me, or my agenda, or even my thoughts.
Subjective matters make for great content – if you ever want to stir up a debate (rather than risk controversy), ask a question which will prompt subjective answers.
- Try and use “you” rather than “I”, it’s a good way to get yourself into community building mode.
- Ask questions, even if they’re rhetorical – it prompts your visitor to stop and think. Thinking, rather than mindlessly scanning, is good!
- Try and pre-empt their concerns – it’s a great sales tactic; try and get inside their psyche and understand what they are feeling. If you’re struggling, do a survey.
Your headline doesn’t exactly scream: “read me!”
Want shares? Want eyes?
Guess what, you need to share your content across social platforms, or drive visits through search.
Your content is going to be competing against HUNDREDS, THOUSANDS, MILLIONS of posts published by competent, if not remarkable, webmasters.
While you’re in the fortunate position of being a publisher who takes their content writing more seriously than they do (likely), they still represent an extra drain on your visitor’s eyes; you have to FIGHT for attention.
Your headline is THE way to do that – in fact, you should spend a significant amount of time thinking about how best to carve out your headline, it’s pretty much the most important facet of the entire page.
Would you read it?
It’s a straightforward question – would you read the content you’ve just put together? If the answer is no, then use this:
Before your click publish, ask yourself the same questions your visitors will subconsciously be asking themselves:
- I’ve got 10,000 things to do, is it really worth my time and effort reading this?
- Is this going to immediately quench my desire for information? Does it get to the point?
- Can I read a better version of this elsewhere? Have I not seen this before somewhere?
Every audience is different and maybe yours is a little more forgiving – but if your aim is to appeal to a wider audience and attract new visitors, then you need to go in hard and fast. Great headline, great opener, great content…
You’re doing the same thing. AGAIN.
What’s the definition of insanity?
I’m told its doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
By my reckoning, that make most bloggers a little bit “Girl, Interrupted”.
Seriously, just have a look around – your industry is a street, the blogs in your industry are shops; are you all selling the same goods, in exactly the same way? ‘Cause guess what, that isn’t going to work. Invariably, you’ll all just end up competing on price, and we all know how that ends.
It never ends. Page after page of the same content, talking about the same stuff, written in the same fashion, abiding by the same rules, fitting into the same box and playing the same zero sum game. It’s like someone created a rulebook that everyone is secretly following.
When we create content for clients, the very first thing we do is a competitive analysis, and we ask ourselves these types of questions:
- What’s being shared in this industry? What are people interested in reading?
- Do we need to consider marketing hooks? i.e. creating content that’s of interest to our target audience but perhaps not directly relevant to the industry of our client.
- What content has been done to death in this industry? Can we expand and create more authoritative resources around the topics some of our client’s competitors have written around?
DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. In fact, you ARE different – don’t be afraid of it.
Someone doesn’t like it? Someone sees fit to criticise you? So what, who cares, that’s their problem – other people will love you for it.
You’ve decided to grace us with your presence.
In my opinion, there are three different types of bloggers:
- The blogger who posts relatively short pieces, but on a consistent basis.
- The blogger who maybe posts once per week, but creates really in-depth content.
- The 99%, some of whom post about three times a year, and usually after they’ve read a post like this, encouraging them to take to the medium. Consistency isn’t their forte.
That’s just it though, some bloggers have built up a reputation just through being consistent – they post regularly (maybe even every day), to a good or high standard, and their audience expects to hear from them, so they (the audience) keep coming back.
If you decide to grace us with your presence once or twice a year, and expect us all to jump to that post that you’ve put a minimal amount of thought into and is there mainly for appearances sake, then you should probably revise your strategy.
Online is, in many ways, a lot like offline – if you don’t put the time into friendships or relationships, then they go sour.
Build it and they will come (LOL).
If you are looking to the long-term route where you write great content, it gets indexed by a search engine and then, over time, that content naturally starts to attract traffic, then fair play to you – it will likely work.
But that’s not what most people (webmasters) are looking for. Most people want something more immediate.
To give your content any immediate traction, you need to promote it. Not only does it need to attract attention, stand out, be creative and be a little bit different, but you need to get it in-front of INFLUENTIAL eyeballs.
Social is your best option – LinkedIn groups, social profiles, StumbleUpon, e-mail marketing to existing contacts; spread the word about your page as much as possible.
Create assets, not content.
This is a subject I’m going to talk about a lot more in future posts, however have you noticed this?
It’s Google’s attempt to display more in-depth content to users however at the moment it only seemingly appears in Google.com.
However, aside from changes to the search engines results pages (SERPs), big content (assets) is where it’s at – this is the strategy many of the leading content production brands are pursuing.
A standalone blog post will do one thing, an asset will do something else. All an asset is – in this context – is an incredibly authoritative resource (if not THE most authoritative resource) on a particular subject (I have two “assets” in development, for GarethMailer.com, right now).
These are the types of pages which get linked to; the types of pages that people don’t just think about sharing, but have to share.
- I recommend clients produce roughly 3-4 asset pages per year.
- There should be a heavy emphasis on the user-experience and perhaps even a custom design element to the page.
- The posts should feature prominently throughout the site – they will be a marker for their thought-leading position in their industry.
An asset page could literally be anything, like a glossary, a huge list, or a compilation of all the best resources around a specific subject – the overarching aim is to make it the most authoritative page, on a particular subject, available anywhere online.
You’re rushing for the finish line without starting the race.
If you’re bored writing it, they’ll invariably be bored reading it.
If you’re struggling to muster the motivation for creativity, then sit down, take a breather and do something else for a while. DON’T WRITE.
Writing a blog post isn’t about hitting the finish line – it’s about ensuring that the content flows in a logical order and – wait for it – offers REAL value.
If you’re pushing through your content, eager to hit a meaningless word count, then you’ve probably already lost both your own point, and your reader’s attention.
Successful blogging isn’t just about great content.
It’s about your tone of voice, it’s about marketing your content, it’s about your ability to not bore your audience into submission (which I’m guilty of from time to time!) – Invariably, every successful client post or asset we’ve ever created has incorporated most of the above.
If you want to start blogging – successfully – then choose to make the hard choices:
- Be consistent with it.
- Don’t just aim for good, aim for great – create uniqueness in your content, or a perspective that can’t be found elsewhere.
- Remember, the people reading your content are real life, human beings! There’s nothing wrong with adopting a personal tone, or trying to make your content easier to digest.
This post was created by Gareth Mailer.