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3 Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Next Blog Post

This guest post is by Eric Transue of erictransue.net.

“Warning: this post may cause dizziness.”

This is not a warning you want to put at the top of a blog post. But guess what? Many should.

Why? Because some blog posts leave visitors feeling dizzy and confused.

They come in with the intention of either being entertained or learning something. But they leave saying, “What the heck was that?”

Part of the reason readers feel this way is because the author has “Lost syndrome.” What is it exactly?

Well if you watched the series Lost, you probably felt exactly that at the end of many episodes. Lost. Why? Well I have a few theories. But the top one is this. I think the writers were creating the story as they went along. That may or may not have worked for them, depending on who you ask.

But for bloggers, this is not a good idea.

You want to have a focused message that you can deliver to the focused eyeballs on your site.

Focused eyes on an unfocused message? Not only will your readers feel confused, they’ll possibly be a bit dizzy from trying to piece together your message. That is, if you even have a message.

So before you hit Publish on your next blog post, here are some questions you can ask yourself to increase the chances of getting your message across.

Question 1: Who is the target audience for this post?

Knowing your target audience will help you create a clear message that directly addresses them.

It’s far better for a few targeted readers to read your content and take action than it is for many un-targeted readers to read it and do nothing.

Fix your sights on your desired audience and speak directly to them. Address the emotions they are feeling and the questions they have on the subject you’re writing about.

Build a bond with them. Put yourself in their shoes and then speak to them directly. Address the emotions they have towards your subject. And answer the questions that are burning inside of them.

When you can bond with a person to the point that they say, “This person actually gets me,” you have taken a huge step towards getting that person to trust you and listen to what you have to say.

Question 2: Why am I writing this post?

In order for your readers to clearly understand your content, you should clearly understand why you’re writing it.

It’s great to do a brain dump into your notebook or journal, but that’s probably best kept for your eyes. Remember, just because something you write makes sense to you, it won’t necessarily make sense to your reader.

Understand why you are writing the post. Then, as clearly as possible, present the content to your readers.

If you aren’t sure why you are writing your post and want to do it anyway, it might be a good idea to let your readers know beforehand. That way, they aren’t left scratching their heads when they get to the last word of what you have to say.

Question 3: What action do I want my readers to take?

Your readers shouldn’t need a secret decoder ring to decipher what you want them to do after reading your content. Clearly state the action you want them to take. If you leave it up to them to figure out, they probably won’t.

What do you want them to do? Click a link? Buy something? Leave a comment? Share your post?

Let them know in simple terms. People are much more likely to take action when they know exactly what to do and how to do it.

By asking yourself the three questions above you’ll deliver a clear message that your readers can understand and take action on. This will help separate you from the pack of blogs that leave people scratching their heads and wondering what just happened.

How does your most recent post perform in light of these three questions? Let us know in the comments.

Eric Transue is a part-time blogger and product creator focused on showing you how to succeed online without all the BS. Download his free ebook on How To Create Your First Product Online and visit his blog at EricTransue.com to learn more about him.

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Comments

  1. Eric – Nice article. I have something similar, actually a checklist before you publish your post here – http://www.dailymorningcoffee.com/guest-post-for-suesss-pieces/

    Let me know what you think of it.

  2. Many a times I write the post after selecting the topics which I’m specifically writing for my subscribers and readers, so I have to read the same above points while selecting the topics itself. Before publishing, I have a rather long checklist of things which I should not miss thinking about, and working on, before the Publish button is hit.

  3. Farshid P says:

    I think number 1 is of the upmost importance when it comes to writing blog posts. And many fall into the habit of writing a ‘journal article’ rather than a blog post for an audience. I have been a victim of this my self.

    It is pretty easy to forget who you are writing for while you are writing the content because you focus on the content (content being king and all) and polish it to quality. What I am teaching my self to do is I constantly imagine a single person in front of me whom reflects my target audience as a whole and I talk to him/her … and I write the way I talk to him/her. So far it seems to be working for me. :)

    • Eric Transue says:

      Farshid, the imagining a single person technique is awesome and something that I do when writing my emails, but could do more of while writing my blog posts.

      Creating an “avatar” of exactly who you are trying to reach is extremely helpful and really lets you get laser focused with your writing.

      • That’s the only way to write a blog! If it sounds really informal and I feel like im reading the Wall Street Journal, then I’m outta there!

        Blogs are just a way to give people information clearly and efficiently. Most people find blogs by searching for a answer to their problems through search engines, and the last thing they want to read is a “Journal Article” as you put it.

  4. Justin Dupre says:

    What also matters is that you post articles that’s relevant to what your blog is all about. If it’s a tech blog you have then write about technology but if it’s a food blog then concentrate on food.

    • Good advice. This is exactly why I have 4 blogs I work on. I noticed some had higher bounce rates. Like talking about school counseling on a cake blog wasn’t work out for me. :)

    • Eric Transue says:

      Justin, I couldn’t agree more! Posting articles that match the interests of your target audience is essential to boosting engagement and keeping them coming back for more.

    • Gregory C. says:

      No offense, but isn’t that kind of obvious?

      Darren made a post on his Google+ account about looking at a post and seeing whether or not you would want to read it.

      Basically, if you came across one of your own posts, would you be inclined to bookmark it?

      If not, it’s not ready to be published.

      • Farshid P says:

        Sort of off topic, sorry but since I had no way of reaching you Gregory …

        Your blog seems to have a virus or a trojan or something. Google Chrome doesn’t let me get in, perhaps worth looking into.

  5. Brian Yang says:

    I often write posts without any clear direction. This article was a great reminder to stay focused to get the most out of my efforts.

    Thanks again.

  6. Alyn says:

    Excellent timing. I was in the process of writing a new blog post and saw this on my FB page. I do tend to stray when writing, but this article puts things into perspective for me. Thanks!

    • Eric Transue says:

      Alyn, you’re welcome. I’m glad this made it to your FB page.

      Many of us stray when writing. You aren’t alone with that one. I usually have to cut down my first draft quite a bit before posting.

  7. GeekZenith says:

    Nice post.

    I’ll certainly be asking myself those questions before I post my next piece. Thanks for prompting me to think about such things.

  8. Amanda says:

    I don’t agree with you, Justin. I think sometimes wandering off-topic is ok (not all the time). Some of my most popular posts have only been loosely related to my theme. If you’re interested in the topic and have the expertise to talk about it, why not?

    • Eric Transue says:

      Amanda, funny enough I have been going a bit off topic in some of my emails lately and they have been getting a good response. But like you said it’s not something I would do “all the time” as my loyal readers may be turned off by it. They came looking for info on a certain topic and that’s what I try to give them. I think it really depends on your audience and the bond you have created with them. If they really like you, I think they’ll be willing to put up with the off topic stuff a bit more than if they don’t.

  9. I think these three questions are an excellent filter test! If you don’t past, your post isn’t all that relevant. If it’s not relevant, well, who the heck cares – truly.

    • Eric Transue says:

      Thanks for replying Ricardo! They can definitely be used as a starting point for filtering your content before posting.

  10. I often struggle with the last part. I am used to writing articles that end with a thought provoking nugget. To ask for a comment straight after, or share the post, muddles with the final impression I aim for. Also, isn’t that understood that all posts are meant to be shared and commented on? Why do we have to ask?

    • Eric Transue says:

      Marya, thanks for bringing this up. It’s a great point. And trust me I was in the same frame of mind as you are when it comes to this. But once I started asking the user to take the action I wanted, I noticed a huge difference.

      Just like you said, it sometimes looked out of place adding a CTA at the end of my posts or emails. But I’ve learned to weave them in as a continuation of the content so they don’t stick out quite as much. But even the ones that stick out like a sore thumb get more action than when I don’t ask at all.

      I’ve leaned that’s it’s not always what we think will work the best. You’ll have to test it out and see how your readers respond. I don’t think you need to worry about muddling your final impression. Your thought provoking nugget will stand out on it’s own, and the CTA will hopefully nudge your reader into taking action on that nugget.

  11. You wrote exactly the article I needed to read right now. Thank you!

    I was somehow disappointed because I wrote a long blog post today giving an important lesson to my readers, but I got only a few RSS subscribers after posting it, while I was getting many subscribers after posting a new article.

    I came here thinking: ‘what mistake did I make this time?

    Your article gave me exactly the explanation I was looking for.

    My lesson was too complicated; it was only for advanced students. I wrote about too many things at the same time. This post surely caused dizziness…

    I kept your link for future reference. Your basic questions are really very objective. I’m going to make these questions to myself every day.

    • Eric Transue says:

      Christina, you’re welcome!

      Sometimes it’s better to break down your long or complicated post into several focused posts with a specific call to action in each one. Not always…but sometimes it does make it easier for your reader to digest.

      I’m glad you linked this for future reference. Thanks!

  12. Hey Eric GREAT Article!

    I agree that checking off these three questions is a recipe for successful blogging. Once that is done it’s time to really syndicate that puppy everywhere!

    That’s my favorite part 8)

    Joshua the ZamuraiBlogger

  13. I have to agree with this. Whether it’s a business or a blog, the target audience should always be clearly defined. Some bloggers attempt to woo ‘everyone’ in the market and diversifies so much that its identity is diluted. Never try to please everybody at once. Segment the market and concentrate on those who can best relate to what you’re selling or writing.

    As a freelance copywriter, I’m always tailoring the brand messages of my clients to target a specific group of people, never ‘everbody’.

    Small business branding and advertising (musings from the copywriter’s desk)

    • Eric Transue says:

      Thanks for your insight Jeff.

      I think a big mistake made by many (sometimes unintentionally) is trying to “woo everyone.” Clearly defining the audience before putting pen to pad, or fingers to keyboard should be a top priority for anyone looking to engage and connect with their audience.

  14. Steve says:

    For me all of the three questions are most important and I think so I am weak in !st point as i usually not target traffic visitors for my post, I just generally write that……..And I think so from today I must be following that rule Number 1

    • Eric Transue says:

      Steve I think you’ll like the improved response you’ll get once you start creating content with your target audience in mind. Give it a try and come back and let us know how it goes.

  15. Liz Ayling says:

    Eric, a good checklist and timely reminder for me as I write a travel-lifestyle-destination blog on a small island state. We have a diverse audience, split more or less 50:50 locals and overseas folk (a group split among tourists, nationals who’ve migrated and like to keep in touch with homeland, and wannabe expats). It is really tough getting posts out that can appeal to all (or should I say, to some only) of these groups. Inevitably, day by day, my target persona/reader changes. My take is that within a week, each group finds something relevant to their needs. In a micro place with hyperlocal appeal (not international blogosphere leverage), it’s the only way forward I feel. Hyperlocal realities mean a bit of a jack of all trades blog, inevitably. Going niche, in a niche place is almost impossible.

    • Eric Transue says:

      Liz it sounds like you have a good grasp of who your target audience is and what type of visitors frequent your blog. As you know not every post will appeal to everyone. And when you have two groups, as you do, it can get a little complicated. If both groups can find something that appeals to them throughout the week I think that is an excellent plan for your situation.

      Best of luck with your blog!

  16. Hi Eric,

    I appreciate the simplicity of this post.

    Simple is powerful. Ask yourself these questions, wait for honest answers and you can etch out your target market quite easily.

    Is what you write helpful to your target audience? What is your motivator? To write a post for the day, or to help your audience solve a problem.

    Wait for honest answers. It’s the difference between success and failure.

    Thanks for sharing.

    RB

    • Eric Transue says:

      You’re welcome Ryan!

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “Wait for honest answers. It’s the difference between success and failure.” Awesome!

  17. “Because some blog posts leave visitors feeling dizzy and confused.”

    This is what I specialize in.

  18. I really need to start asking these questions before I write a blog post as it will help me write more effectively as I am starting to see a blog more as a marketing channel for a specific product and all posts revolve around that product.

  19. This is very helpful. Many times, our post sounds right to us but it is because WE know what we are trying to convey. Asking these questions can be a great help!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Bernice
    Help for managing your home, family and life

  20. Eric,
    Nice article. Thanks for Sharing the post.

    About #3 , Sometime if we keep technical widgets for comment section (Like Disqus tools) instead simple one, we may tend to lose readers comment, since it navigate couple more steps to complete the action.
    I am pretty sure those widgets add more value to our blog and enhance the flow of commenting. But, I am trying to perceive entry level readers and non technical segment community.

    I still keep Disqus @ my blog http://www.mediacrayon.com and love it. I believe, keeping action section clean & simple some time add more values. Thanks. Manickam

    • Eric Transue says:

      Manickam, great comment. I agree with you.

      On some blogs it feels like you have to jump through hoops in order to leave a comment. This really cuts down on interaction as it’s easier for a visitor to leave than it is to take the next step.

      Always try to make it as easy as possible for the reader to take the action you want them to take.

  21. Q2: Normally I tried to make a good connection between my new post with the situations that happend globally or maybe in Malaysia, so that my readers will always get the update eventhough my blog is entirely about home designing and even a gold demand in market can be related to a limited edition of gold Panton Chair that can be bought by the readers if they interested.

    • Eric Transue says:

      Ekspresi, I find that working well known events, stories or situations into my content works well to create a bond and entertain my readers. Although the story or event may not seem directly related to my post at first, I work it in and reveal to the reader what the connection actually is.

  22. James Greg says:

    Point# 2, that’s the real part, why am I writing this post? This is one part that I think is what confuses me the most when I’m writing. I say the article is great and it surely helped a lot. Thanx Eric great post.

  23. herman says:

    Question 4: Is it a good moment to publish this post?

    In the middile of the night of your audience-timezone or together with a world-shocking newsevents is mostly not the right time to publish a blogpost. ;-)

    • Eric Transue says:

      Herman, post timing is definitely another factor to consider.

      I hope that readers of this post will use my questions as a starting point and add on to them to create a nice checklist to go over before publishing their next blog post.

  24. Dee says:

    Hi Eric
    I think point 3 is very important.
    It sounds very obvious, but sometimes people need to be told what to do.
    If you don’t tell, they don’t do it.
    I always put a ‘Feel free to leave a comment’ at the end of a post.
    Dee

  25. Natalia says:

    I am truly a novice when it comes to blogging. I love the written word and I generally write poetry in my private time. That being said, I recently inherited the task of blogging for my company. I work in an Art Gallery and there are a plethora of things to communicate to our “audience” but, we really do have a large following to date. (or at least they are not commenting). Ever since I took over the blogs, I have been trying to be a little more conversational and vulnerable to draw people in… Very slowly, and I mean VEEERRRYY slowly I have been getting bites. Yay, right? you would think, but since I write for the company, and we are still growing, some of my coworkers would rather me use my blogging as a selling tool. Since I am new to the social networking, marketing game I am a little unsure of what that means. As you can probably tell, I am more of a creative writer, maybe lacking structure and formatting, but I do think that my blogs are interesting. But then again, it’s me talking about myself. I guess what I am trying to ask is: how do I please the masses?

    • Eric Transue says:

      Natalia, sometimes it’s impossible to please the masses.

      Although you say you’re a novice, I like your strategy of being conversational and somewhat vulnerable. People like it when they know there is a real person on the other end of a post.

      At the same time though, you really have to know your audience and what the goal of your company is. Are you trying to get them to buy Art online? Or are you trying to get them to visit the Gallery? Without seeing your blog or knowing the goal of your company it’s hard for me to give specific advice.

      I do advise that you post consistently. If blogging is new to your company it will take a bit for people to warm up to your blog. You said you are starting to get bites, so it sounds like you are headed in the right direction. It’s possible to be both informative and conversational about your subject and at the same time weave in calls to action that push for the sale.

      Like I said without knowing much about your blog or company it’s hard to give specific advice. But I’d be willing to discus this with you more if you’d like. There is a link to my website at the end of the post.

      Hope to hear from you!

      • Natalia says:

        “Are you trying to get them to buy Art online? Or are you trying to get them to visit the Gallery? ”

        It’s both, for sure…
        I will definitely ask for your advice further, thank you…

  26. Renee says:

    Great post! These questions will definitely help eliminate unnecessary and redundant posts, as well as improve the overall quality of the posts you do publish. Thanks for writing them all down in a concise manner.

  27. Jonathon says:

    No offense intend since your post was well thought out and to the point but often I find more value from reading through the comments than the original article. This statement: “I’ve leaned that’s it’s not always what we think will work the best. You’ll have to test it out and see how your readers respond.” is right on the money. The guy who invents a magic widget that dances whenever a politician appears on the television screen might be convinced he’s produced a golden nugget but if the market disagrees there’ll be precious few sales. Same applies to any writing online. The audience will decide its value not the author.

    “”The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.””
    - Ruth Fulton Benedict

    • Eric Transue says:

      No offense taken Jonathon.

      I also find the conversations going on in the comment section to be extremely valuable. I like to bookmark/subscribe to my favorite posts so I can go back and check out the comments at a later time.

  28. Hmm.. Now I’m wondering what my 3 questions will be.

    - Jack Leak