#1 Know who are you writing for?
Of course you’d like tens or hundreds or even thousands of people to read your blog. But a reader wants to know you empathize with her; that you can help her; that you’re writing for her; that you understand her fears, her struggles, and her dreams.
Visualizing just one ideal reader makes your blog posts more vivid and more personal. When you write, imagine having a conversation with that one person. But don’t think that means only one person will read your post. Whoever closely matches your ideal reader feels that your content is written for him. That piques his interest and engages him.
Describing your ideal reader also helps you generate better blog post ideas because you know exactly how you can help your reader. You know the challenges he’s facing. You know what he’s struggling with.
Start with visualizing your ideal reader:
- Is your ideal reader a man or a woman?
- What age?
- What profession?
- What income?
- What education?
- Who does he live with?
- Does he have children?
- What car does he drive?
Now, think about the other sources of information and entertainment your ideal reader enjoys:
- What is he reading?
- What social media platforms does he use?
- What are his favorite websites?
- What are his favorite movies and TV programs
Lastly, sneak into your ideal reader’s mind, so you can learn how you can help him:
- What does he dream of achieving?
- What keeps him up at night?
- What is he afraid of losing?
- How does he make decisions?
- Who does he trust and ask for advice?
- What’s important to him in life?
Position your blog as a voice of authority
Most people aren’t interested in your sales messages. Most people aren’t even interested in your business. They want to know what’s in it for them.
Readers like to share content that’s helpful and practical rather than promotional. In his book Contagious , Jonah Berger describes practicality as one of the triggers for content to go viral.
To gain business with your blog you should stop thinking like a salesman and start acting like your reader’s mentor. A salesman wonders how to get his next sale. A mentor cares about his students. He wants to help them get ahead and live a more fulfilled life. Your reader will immediately notice whether you’re an eager salesman or a mentor-style blogger.
When readers sense you just care about your company and your bottom line, they switch off quickly, because they don’t like being sold to—even less so when it happens in a sneaky way. In contrast, when you show you genuinely care about your readers, they’ll come back to read more tips, to learn from you, and to “hear” your voice. That’s how you earn the opportunity to sell to them.
#2 Develop a unique voice
Hundreds—maybe thousands—of bloggers write about the same topic you write about. You can safely assume that everything about your topic has been written already. However, nobody has said it yet in the way you can say it.
You can differentiate your blog by becoming a unique voice in your industry.
Even when you share the same tips as other bloggers, your personality and your voice help you stand out and connect with your readers. Readers don’t like textbook-style writing because it’s drab. They like “hearing” your voice. Readers don’t like me-too blogs, they want to be enchanted by your spark of energy.
Your personality helps you stand out from the competition. Your personality helps you develop connections with your readers. Your personality allows readers get to know you, like you, and trust you.
But what’s your personality? What’s your voice?
#3 Generate blog post ideas
To generate ideas for your blog, start with re-reading the ideal reader profile and then answer the following questions:
- What are your ideal reader’s business or personal objectives? And how can you help achieve them? What practical advice can you give?
- What are the stumbling blocks that prevent your ideal reader from achieving his aims? How can you help overcome these stumbling blocks? Consider whether your ideal reader lacks confidence, knowledge, or skills.
- What questions does your ideal reader have about your product, service, or industry?
- What decisions does your ideal reader have to make? How can you help him make those decisions?
- What mistakes is your ideal reader making and how can you help her avoid these mistakes in the future?
- How can you help your reader turn his weaknesses into strengths?
- Which simple tips would make life easier for your ideal reader?
As an expert it’s easy to forget that your reader doesn’t know as much as you do. It’s the curse of knowledge— you forget that even basic advice can be useful. As an IT consultant, you may forget that potential clients don’t know the difference between a Linux and a Windows server. How can you explain this in simple terms? And how can you help your ideal reader choose which server is best for her?
The secret to generating an endless stream of blog post ideas is to think about your ideal reader. How can you help her? What questions does she have that you can answer? Try to be as specific as possible.
#4 Write compelling headlines
Magazine editors have been studying headlines for many years, and they know exactly which headlines make people buy their magazine—these are the headlines they put on the magazine covers.
Using a headline template means that you follow a blueprint that’s been proven to work. This doesn’t mean your headlines become boring and run-of-the-mill. The template only guides you—it’s not a straightjacket. You select a specific benefit and choose your own tantalizing words to create a unique and seductive headline.
Let’s first have a look at 7 different headline templates with examples.
Template #1 How to [achieve something]
- How to Write Seductive Web Copy Like Apple
- How to Get a Girlfriend (Even When You’re Shy)
- How to Slash Your Breast Cancer Risk Now
Template #2 [n] Ways/Tips to [achieve something]
- 37 Tips for Writing Emails That Get Opened, Read, and Clicked
- 28 Ways to Woo Your Followers With Enchanting Tweets
- 98 Simple Tips to Save Money When Shopping Online
Template #3 [n] Lessons [famous name] Can Teach Us About [something]
- 7 Lessons Apple Can Teach Us About Persuasive Web Content
- 9 Lessons Lady Gaga Can Teach Us About Wooing Your Twitter Followers
- 11 Lessons Amazon Can Teach Us About Shockingly Good Customer Service
Template #4 [n] Warning Signs That [something bad might happen / something is bad]
- 13 Warning Signs Your Web Copy Stinks
- 21 Warning Signs Your Pension Fund Sucks
- 79 Warning Signs Your Husband Is Cheating
Template #5 [n] Mistakes That [cause something negative]
- 11 Common Blogging Mistakes That Waste Your Audience’s Time
- 13 Little-Known Mistakes That Increase Stress at Work
- 25 Gardening Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid
Template #6 The Truth About [something]
- The Simple Truth About Becoming a Better Writer
- The Harsh Truth About Your Pension Fund
- The Truth About Work-Related Stress Among High-Flying Women
Template #7 The Secret to [achieve something]
- The ‘Secret’ to Turning Casual Blog Readers into Avid Fans
- 7 Secrets to Reducing Your Small Company Tax Bill
- The Secret to Long-Lasting Weight Loss
How to practice your headline writing
Mastering the art of headline writing takes practice. Follow the steps below to accelerate your learning:
Create a swipe file of headlines that attract your attention. Collect as many as you like and start analyzing why you like them: Which words attract your attention? How do they arouse curiosity? A compelling headline usually promises you a specific benefit to reading the post.
Create a swipe file of fascinating words—especially emotional and sensory words. Headline templates and power words are the killer tools to nail your headlines. We discuss word choice in more detail in the next chapter.
Practice writing headlines. Don’t expect to dash off a headline in a few minutes. Start writing your headline at least a week before your post goes live. Play with templates and words. Write a dozen variations a day. The more headlines you write, the more compelling your headlines become.
The biggest mistake you can make when writing headlines is to think that the first headline you come up with is your best. Surprise yourself—I bet you can come up with a better headline if you write a few more.
How to write subheads
You might think that once your readers start reading your post, you’ve hooked them. But unfortunately, this isn’t true.
Readers get distracted. Their phone is ringing. Emails are popping up. Or their mind wanders off to their grocery list or the fight they had this morning.
Just like headlines, subheads need to arouse curiosity. You need to tempt scanners to start reading, and you need to entice wandering minds to concentrate on reading again. Intrigue with a bold statement. Arouse curiosity with a surprising idea. Or promise a delicious tip.
Subheads are simply shorter versions of headlines. Don’t miss this opportunity to seduce people to read your precious words and valuable advice. Before you publish a post, read your subheads one-by-one. Do they entice readers to get back into reading? Have you used a sensory or emotional word? Or have you presented a benefit to reading on?
#5 Compose delicious sentences
Rule 1: Be conversational
Conversational content makes your reader feel you’re talking WITH him—NOT talking AT him. You’re engaging him in your conversation. Your reader feels like you’re having a chat together.
Writing conversational content doesn’t mean you write like you talk. Instead, you edit your text so it doesn’t sound like writing:
Remove gobbledygook such as cutting-edge solutions; use the same simple phrases your reader uses when he talks.
Use contractions like you’ll , he’s , and they’ve because they sound more informal.
Address your ideal reader directly by using the word you . Talk less about yourself and more about your reader.
Ask questions. When your reader is gliding through your text on auto-pilot, a question slows him briefly down as his brain starts thinking about the answer. Questions make your reader pay attention again and give him the feeling you’re having a conversation.
Rule 2: Choose precise words
To understand what precise words are, let’s look at an example:
She struggled to write her next blog post is a rather bland sentence.
You may want to check your thesaurus for alternatives for the word to struggle . It comes up with phrases like: to slave over, to fight hard, or to work like a dog . Each of these phrases is stronger and more precise than to struggle , but each has a different connotation:
- She slaved over her blog post, reviewing her sentences one-by-one.
- She fought hard with her demons to write her most inspirational post ever.
- All day she worked like a dog on her blog post; at 2am she finally finished editing.
Rule 3: Choose sensory words
Sensory words are more powerful and memorable than ordinary words because they make your reader see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something.
When you’re reading non-sensory words, your brain processes text. But when you read sensory words—like bland or sickly sweet , dazzling or silky smooth— different areas of your brain light up.
Let’s have a look at the 3 sentences again, and see how we can make them more sensory:
- She slaved over her blog post, polishing each sentence and fine-tuning each word.
- She fought her demons and silenced them to write her most inspirational post ever.
- The curtains were drawn. The house was quiet. At 1am she heaved a deep sigh and finally sat down to edit her blog post.
Rule 4: Make each word relevant
Is less always more? Hell no!
When you add a word to make your sentence more specific, or to paint a more vivid picture, then more words can boost your writing.
But many words don’t add meaning, and these are the words you can cross out. Words you can almost always delete include: ought, perhaps, in my opinion, just, actually, truly, and very. These words just slow your reader down. They’re filler.
Some words are wishy-washy or vague, and these are the words you need to try to replace. Words like nice , effective , essential , and bad are rather bland—they don’t help your reader feel your words. Try to use more emotional and sensory words. Don’t describe a tool as essential —refer to it as critical instead. Don’t talk about a nice presentation—refer to a dazzling or spellbinding presentation.
The art of composing great paragraphs means interjecting long sentences with a few short ones and paying attention to the white space on your web page. Dense blocks of text don’t welcome readers—they may even put readers off. White space gives your readers a chance to rest their eyes. It frames your content and helps your reader glide through your content effortlessly:
- Try to limit each paragraph to 6 lines max when read on a full-size screen.
- Aim for a maximum of 14 words per sentence on average. Too many long sentences make your text difficult to read. I checked my last few blog posts on Enchanting Marketing and they have between 9 and 12 words per sentence on average.
- When summing up 3 or more items, turn them into bullet points—just like I’m doing here. Bullet points create extra white space, and even skimmers pay attention to bulleted text.
- Use a one-sentence paragraph occasionally to stress a point.
#6 Captivate your readers with your blog opening
What is the aim of your first sentence? It’s really simple. You only need to get people to read your second sentence. Yep, that’s all.
This means you have to keep your first sentence short. Ultra-short. And simple. Super simple.
There’s only one exception to this rule. And that exception is for literary geniuses. So if you’re J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, or Jane Austen—go ahead. Write a long, beautiful, and undulating first sentence.
Otherwise, follow advertising legend Joe Sugarman’s advice. And write ultra-short first sentences. Such as:
- It’s an easy mistake.
- Let’s admit it.
- Tut tut. Can we be honest?
- Let me guess…
- What makes your blog popular?
- Imagine you see a great headline on Twitter.
- Ever assembled a flat-pack bookcase?
- I have a confession to make.
- It happens to the best of us, you know.
A short sentence is easy to digest, and that makes your readers feel good. They can gobble up your first sentence and quickly move to the next. The less effort it takes your readers to get through your first sentence, the easier it becomes to draw them into your story.
There should be no turning back or clicking away after the first sentence. Your reader should be hooked—craving to read your next sentence and the next and the next until they’ve finished reading your post.
#7 Inspire with your conclusion
A blog post isn’t an academic essay in which you sum up the findings of your research. This is your chance to inspire your reader so she can take away your advice, remember it, and act on it.
When you reward your reader with an incredibly useful tip each time she reads your blog posts, she’ll come back again and again for more tips. But serving up a useful tip isn’t enough. You have to inspire your reader to act
How to practice writing closing paragraphs
The next time you sit down to write an inspirational conclusion, think about your ideal reader. What would you like her to do? How can you help her overcome the obstacles that prevent her from following your advice? Is she feeling overwhelmed, suffering from a lack of confidence, or does she feel it’s too much trouble to follow through on your advice? Address the biggest stumbling block in your closing paragraph.