5 Keys to Getting Your Blog Posts Read
I recently registered @WhiteboardDerek on Twitter and was absolutely blown away. It was like I figured out a secret knock, opening a door to an entirely new world that was operating beneath my feet all along. For as long as I can remember, I’ve naturally spotted and recognized patterns; seeing beautiful patterns in seemingly ugly chaos…and the Twitterverse is an all-you-can-eat buffet stream of patterns.
One construct I noticed was how to structure a blog post in a compelling way that commands readers’ attention, even in a 140-character ADD world. Here’s the guidelines to the format that I’ve seen work most effectively time and again:
The headline is 100% the most important part of your post
“if a tree falls in the woods…” can be repurposed here to, “if no one reads a blog post…”
We are inundated with so many marketing messages, so much content that we have developed highly astute filters preventing only relevant matters to pass [link to Reticular Activation WBW]. The only way these filters will allow your content to pass is if your headline can strike a chord with something I’m interested in or struggling with…all in 5-7 words. So, don’t mince words and don’t get too cute; cut to the chase and tell me how you are going to make my world better in exchange for 1-2 minutes out of my busy life. This is why “How to…” and “7 Tips…” headlines, as cliche as they may be, get clicks. No BS, just value.
Your headline gets you a click, your introductory paragraph gets you a skimmer.
If they headline gets the door cracked open, the introductory paragraph determines if doorman will invite you in or slam the door firmly in your face (see: Bounce Rate). You’ve got 75-100 words max to prove the headline wasn’t a farce, your writing style & personality mesh with mine, while creating mental tension by exposing a gap in knowledge or expertise.
How do you turn skimmers into readers?
We’ve all done it, especially on our phones. Read the headline, open the post, skim the intro paragraph, scroll down…anything interesting…scroll down…how long is this post…scroll down…nothing really caught my eye…back button. Rinse & Repeat. You have no chance of stopping this (without medical assistance), so embrace it and leverage it. Give the skimmers what they need, visual hooks and brevity. Not every person is going to read every word of every paragraph of every post you write, and it’s not your job to get them to do so. Your job is to get them to buy in to what you are saying in the least amount of time possible…so, how do you accomplish that?
Each paragraph is a mini-blog post within your post, which means you’ve got to have a compelling headline and introduction to each paragraph.
Blog posts are not books or dissertations. The number and depth of concepts should be kept to a minimum. I’ve noticed my attention waning and my scrolling speed increasing beyond 3 concepts. The best way I’ve seen this executed is to have the first line of each paragraph be an attention grabbing sentence/phrase that is set off by being made bold. Your reader then gets to choose if this mini-post (paragraph) should be read or not. Your mini-headlines should be good enough that if those were the only things a reader looked at, they still could walk way with a cursory understanding of the intent your post.
Leave your readers with a good taste in their mouth and thirsty for more.
The final piece to a great post is a closing paragraph that compels your reader to do something. They should want to dig deeper with more research, change something in their business/life, or even as simple as sharing the post with someone else. The most best way I’ve seen this done is to provide a summation of the knowledge gap pointed out in the headline or introductory paragraph in a way that makes me feel good and complete.
I know writing this post has helped me identify and clarify even more subtle nuances great blog writers use that I will continue to try and tinker with, and I hope reading it has done the same for you. You owe it to yourself and the people you could help with your ideas to make yourself a better writer, because no matter how great your experiences are, only well-written stories get read and shared.