Originally published at https://actionblogger.com.
Well-written blog posts that solve a problem, entertain, and ultimately help the reader do what they came for is the mission. Blog posts should hook the reader, keep them glued to the screen and feeling like they’ve accomplished something after reading an article.
How do you write such a blog post? Strengths.
What are Strengths?
Strengths are what I like to call themes or overall goals of a blog post. They are what make up a blog post on my adamtheautomator.com blog.
When you write a book for a publisher, you’ll undoubtedly go through many different layers of editing. You’ll first work with a developmental editor to work on the structure, section placement, and overall flow. Next, you work with a copyeditor then proofreading, and so on.
Editing has phases to ensure your writing adheres to specific standards.
Blog post strengths are what you can think of as the reasons behind development editing or structural editing. I define Strengths as all-encompassing attributes of a blog post that, when combined, form the perfect blog post.
Strengths aren’t detailed, granular, grammatical, and analytical attributes of text. They are more like a blog post’s overall ideas and contribute to how the reader should feel when they finish a blog post.
When to Use Strengths for a Blog Post
Always, always, always.
If you’re serious about writing a great blog post, you need a guidepost. You need a set of goals to shoot for. Even if you’re writing on a personal blog, you need to define what that blog post is supposed to do and how.
Strengths standardize your posts and give you a checklist to review after you’re done. They are like tests you can run as you write and before you publish.
Whether it’s Enterprise Company X writing to promote their next product or Joe Blogger writing about his experience in washing a car, every blog post should have Strengths.
If not, the post will appear disjointed, hard to read, and ultimately not give the reader what they want. The blog as a whole will suffer too from the lack of standardization and quality, leading the reader to not know what to expect from your blog.
Strengths Vary by Post Type
You should assign a set of Strengths to every blog post. But not all blog posts are the same. For example, a blog post’s goal could be to:
Depending on the goal of each type of blog post obviously depends on the Strengths they should have. All of the Strengths covered in this blog post were built for blog posts that aim to teach. They are aimed at how-to blog posts.
However, nearly all of these strengths are universal. If you intend to apply any of these Strengths to other kinds of blog posts, you may have to remove or tweak their definition based on the goal of the post.
Each post should show action and direct the reader where to go as they build, configure or do something.
Have you ever read a blog post and thought, “OK, so now what?”. If so, you’ve just read a post that didn’t have any action. Actionable blog posts should show some kind of action and get the reader closer to where they want to go.
For example, if you’re reading a blog post on how to dig a hole and the blog post spends 500 words explaining dirt and the concept of a hole, where’s the action? It will put the reader to sleep and won’t get them closer to that hole.
This Strength is mandatory for how-to blog posts.
A blog post should tell the reader to do something whether it’s via a step-by-step hole-digging tutorial or simply a call to action to check out a new product. Actionable blog posts should convey some form of forward momentum.
The writer should always appear authoritative. They should be looked at as an expert in that post’s scope. The writer should never seem hesitant and appear like they don’t know something (even if they don’t). If proven wrong, the writer should always receive feedback and correct the mistake.
A blog post that reads as a wishy-washy, “in my opinion” or “if you want to” kinda way will immediately erode your reader’s trust.
Compare these two quotes:
If you want to, go ahead and click on this link to learn more. In my opinion, it is the best resource out there for X.
The best resource, hands-down, for X is Y. Click here to learn more.
Which one would you click on? The first quote that seemingly asks for your opinion first or the one that’s confident, direct, and authoritative?
Not only does a more authoritative blog post build reader trust, but it also removes wordiness by deleting all of the him-hawing around that comes with a lack of confidence.
Posts should be crystal-clear. Posts should be written in natural, everyday language that anyone can understand; not just senior engineers.
Even if you’re a subject matter expert in your niche and tell the reader exactly what they need to do, your message won’t be heard if it’s laden with jargon and knowledge assumptions.
Write with crystal-clear words and never leave an important subject to the reader’s imagination. It is your job to convey information; it’s not to make yourself sound smart.
Clarity also comes with understanding your reader persona. Think about the person that’s reading your post. Why did they click on your title? What does that say about their knowledge level in the subject you’re writing about?
If you’re writing for senior IT engineers, you may not have to include a brief explanation of the domain naming system (DNS). You can make safe assumptions based on reader background. But don’t expect 90-year-old grandma Judy from Nebraska to know the difference between a left and a right mouse-click.
Always write to the level of your reader leaving no questions in the reader’s mind.
Posts should never cover more than what the title conveys. The title and keyword assigned define the scope. If a reader types in a Google query, clicks on the title, they’re expecting only what that title conveys; nothing more, nothing less.
Rabbit holes. We, engineers, love our rabbit holes. We love to explain the nuances of every detail regardless if you need to know it or not. That’s being clear, isn’t it? Yes, but you can be too clear.
When asked how he created the statue of David, Michelangelo responded with a famous quote.
It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David. Michelangelo
Think of a blog post as your own personal David statue. Remove all of the unnecessary chatter and words. Stick to the scope. How do you know the scope? The title and reader intent.
Imagine you’re in your reader’s shoes. You’ve sat down at your desk and typed a search query in Google. A page shows up in the top result (nice job on the search engine optimizations by the way for that!). The reader clicks on your page.
At this point, the reader hasn’t read a single word of your blog post. They’re coming in wanting to learn how to do something, be entertained, or be informed on a subject.
What is their intent? What kind of content are they expecting? That’s the scope. Anything that doesn’t measure up to that original intent is the extra rock on your David statue to remove.
You should include ancillary information related but not in the post’s scope. If you do so, add it as an aside or callout. Don’t include these potential rabbit holes in the main content.
Juxtaposed against the Concise attribute, posts need to be in-depth. Every post should leave no stone unturned (as determined by the scope). It’s possible the reader does need more detailed information about a piece of the post. If that’s the case, posts should always provide a link to follow for more information out of the post’s scope.
A blog post should be concise but also deep (if applicable). This Strength screams of an “it depends” answer I know everyone hates so let’s break it down.
Define your title and scope well because if you define it too broad, you’re bound to be writing for days if you adhere to the In-Depth strength!
Specifically meant for how-to and informational blog posts, this Strength is significant. No one ever said, “I want to learn or be informed about a topic by finding and reading 10 different websites that I had to find with Google searches.”
Blog posts should answer every question the reader has in that scope in every way possible. Your blog post should be the most in-depth article on the Internet, leaving no stone unturned.
Your blog post should leave the reader feeling like they don’t have to search anymore; they’ve found exactly what they’re looking for in your post.
A blog post’s scope will always be limited; that’s the purpose of a scope. The reader may not even know what they’re looking for yet, and your post may not answer their questions. If so, don’t let that stop you from helping further.
Leave as many external links as necessary for the reader to go deeper or sideways to other great content related to yours. A reader should never have to go back to Google while reading your post if it doesn’t fit their needs. Help them on their link-clicking journey until they get to where they need to go.
Every post needs to flow. A post should read like a story from beginning to end with transitions throughout. There will be no sudden cutoffs and starts. Every section should seamlessly transition to the next.
Think of a blog post like a calm river. A calm river gracefully flows along, meandering around bends and over rocks. It’s a long, continuous event until it hits a bigger body of water. Your blog post should be a river.
There are exceptions to this Strength such as posts primarily made up of lists called listicles.
A blog post should read like a story timeline with a beginning, middle, and end. Each section header should build upon the next and encourage the reader to read to the next section.
It should “tease” the reader to read the next section by alluding to the greatness coming up next. The Flow Strength encourages a more natural read from top to bottom and motivates the reader to continue reading.
Include transitions as the first sentence in a section summarizing where the reader is and what they’re in for next such as:
Up to this point, you’ve learned about X and how you can apply that knowledge. Let’s now dive into Y which will take your expertise to the next level.
Every post should act as a guide to the reader. The writer should disappear completely and simply be a mentor to the reader performing the actual “work” of reading the content or performing the action.
Primarily meant for how-to posts, the Guiding Strength enforces your role as a guide to the reader and not the center of attention.
Personal blog posts are all about you and will always contain references to “ I did this” or “now, let’s do that.” For a how-to blog post, the writer should serve as a mentor guiding the reader through a process. They should look over the reader’s shoulder as they perform the tasks rather than seeming like they’re performing tasks themselves.
If you are an expert in the post’s scope, it’s acceptable to occasionally speak to your personal experience to show authority but it should be kept to a minimum. The reader doesn’t care about you; they care about learning how to do something.
Think back to the last time you wanted to learn how to do something and accomplished it all on your own. How did it make you feel? Pretty good, I bet! Now think if an expert was with you and just quickly explained it, did it for you, and left? Not so good.
The reader should feel like they are the ones accomplishing the task on their own even if you’re telling them how to do something every step of the way.
Every post should be written on a topic that’s in demand that a reasonable number of people may benefit from.
You can write a blog post on how to sell igloos in Florida or the best vacation spots to stay in Syberia, but you won’t get too many readers. Most people write blog posts for the most people to read. If that’s the case, you can’t write on topics no one wants to read about; not matter if you enjoy them or not!
This Strength may be hard to digest especially for those Floridians that love living in huge freezers. But unless you’re writing for fun, you must write on topics that people want to read about.
Depending on your blog post’s main goal such as brand exposure, ad or affiliate sales, etc, nearly all metrics stem from reader count. You must have people reading your blog to achieve nearly every goal you set for a post.
Every post must be created with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind and should be shared across all channels as much as possible.
So you’ve created a phenomenal blog post that hits on eight of the nine Strengths. This blog post is the best in the world and you are extremely proud of it. You publish it and nothing happens. No one reads it and it just sits in the abyss of the Internet to die.
Why? Because no one can find it!
You must actively promote the blog post through various channels like social media or passively via Google.
Even if you’ve written a blog post outlining, step-by-step, how to cure cancer, it means nothing if no one can find it. You must learn how to perform keyword research and use various SEO techniques to encourage Google to rank your post higher.
You must also work on promoting yourself and your brand as much as possible and dropping your link where applicable but not blasting SPAM to the Internet.
Focus on Strengths
Every blog post should have Strengths. Whether you explicitly define them or not, every post on a blog should adhere to specific rules that define how a writer should write.
Standardizing a way of writing and building that standard on proven techniques will help you build phenomenal content that people want to read and ultimately build your blog into something great.