This guest post is by Brad Smith of FixCourse.com.
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard.
It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance, but it’s not technically difficult. Anyone can (and should) do it.
One of the hardest challenges to overcome is figuring out what your audience wants to read. You know, the type of epic content that gets shares, links, and traffic.
If you read through any blogger’s archives, you’ll notice that their writing evolves tremendously. But it’s not just the topics: the tone changes, the style changes, and even the format changes.
And if you look even closer, you’ll start to see a pattern of what people want to read.
You can do the same thing on your blog. You just need to know where to look for it. Here’s how.
The successful formula … and the clues you need to find
Most successful blog posts follow a formula. Here are the key elements that you need to get right.
Topic + Theme (USP) + Style + Format
- Topic:Some topics are in more demand than others. For example, there’s a bigger demand for articles on social media and blogging than there are for plumbing.
- Theme (USP): Now, how does that topic fit into your blog’s overall themes and unique positioning? It’s not enough to simply rehash popular topics. You need to take popular topics and connect them with a deeper meaning.
- Style: Style is all about copywriting 101. The words you use, the way you write, your “voice,” and how you get people interested enough to read your entire blog post.
- Format: Finally, the structure and format of your post will have a huge impact on your success. For example, how-to and list posts are some of the most common posts you’ll see, because they always work.
Your job is to pick up on these clues, and try to string them together in every blog post you write. Here are five ways to start finding and using what works well, while avoiding what doesn’t.
1. Start with your own most popular posts
Start by looking at your own blog. Which posts have been the most popular, and why?
Sometimes you think a post you’re about to publish is definitely going to go viral … and then it flops. Other times you’re afraid to publish a post because you hate it, and then people can’t get enough of it.
The truth is that you don’t really know what’s going to work before you try it. So learn how to innovate and start making little bets or experiments. Then let data be your guide, and see how they worked.
Take a look at your blog analytics and focus on a few key metrics. You can find the most popular posts by looking at visitors, views, social sharing, and comments.
If you have a large, active Facebook audience, then you can also use Facebook Insights to determine what people like. Focus on the engagement metrics and you’ll start to see the same patterns.
Now comb through these popular posts, and try to determine why they were so successful. Did you write more persuasively and go into greater detail? Maybe your use of storytelling made the lesson easy to connect with. Or maybe your topics were simply more popular. Whatever the reason, you should start to see patterns emerge that you can carry over into future posts.
2. Scan the popular posts of big blogs
Whenever you’re stuck, go back to the most popular blogs in your niche.
Take a few hours to scan through their popular posts, and take notes on what they write about and how they write. You can also start incorporating some deliberate practice to learn from the best and improve your writing.
In the book Talent is Overrated, you’ll find that deliberate practice is one of the main reasons Benjamin Franklin became such a great writer.
He literally took the best examples of writing that he admired, and began copying them word for word to pick up on the author’s voice and style. Then he would try writing the same passage in his own words, and compare the two. This was hours of painstaking work. But he was determined. The reason he became such a successful writer was because he isolated the specific elements that he wanted to improve, and then worked tirelessly.
Take a look at your favorite blogger’s popular posts. Print them out, and sit with pen and paper to write it out word by word. Then try rewriting it in your own voice and compare the two. Before long, you’ll start to internalize these lessons, and your writing will improve dramatically.
3. Submit your posts to social voting sites
Voting sites can give you insight into what people like, and what they don’t. The good stuff will be voted up quickly, and everything else will be ignored.
Each time you hit your blog’s Publish button, submit your posts to different voting sites. After some success, you’ll start to come across a certain topic or style that resonates with people. And if the post does take off, then you’ll know you found a winner.
Here are a few social voting sites that you can use today:
- BizSugar: Small Business
- Digg: Business (General)
- Hacker News: Start-ups
- Inbound.org: Inbound Marketing
- Ampm Insure: Insurance (yes, seriously)
- RealEstateVoices: Real Estate
4. Write an article you know will be shared
There are certain types of posts that always do well. So before you even start writing, you should know if it will be successful or not. Let’s look at two of these post types: the how-to and the tactical article.
How-to articles are always successful because people love step-by-step detail. However don’t confuse length with depth. You should go over each section in great detail, but don’t just write fluff to fill space.
Instead of just telling readers about a specific technique, show them your thought processes, the actual implementation, and a real-world example. Use images and statistics if they help prove your case.
Valuable how-to posts have a level of attention to detail that makes the information easy to understand, and lets readers take action on the advice. Focus on providing value first, and the length will take care of itself.
For more information on the elements of a how-to post, read this great article from Neil Patel.
People love tactics. They want that idea they can use today, or a secret shortcut that will save them from hard work. That’s why a post called “5 Twitter Hacks” will do well, even though these kinds of posts are so common. People are bombarded by messages all day long. They want simplicity. They want instant gratification.
So what’s an easy way to come up with these kinds of posts? Just think about your daily routine. How do you update Facebook, and why? The actual process and routine that you ignore could be helpful to other people who are struggling or just starting out. Show them a faster, better, or more beneficial way to do something, and they’ll love it—and likely share it with their friends.
5. Focus on topics using simple keyword research
People are already looking for specific content around your topics. You just need to give it to them. Start using keyword researchas a quick guide to figure out what topics are popular.
The easiest solution is to head over to the Google Keyword Tool, and start writing your major topics and keyphrases into the search box.
Then switch Match Types from Broad to Exact,because you want to narrow down the suggested keyphrases to the closest matching options. Now start looking at Local Monthly Searches to get an idea of how popular these phrases are. All you’re looking for is the relative number ranges (because this data isn’t completely accurate). Here’s how the results might look.
Create a list of relevant, long-tail keyphrases (with about 500 Local Monthly Searches or less) and start creating content around these areas.
If you want to take this strategy one step further, then read Ian Lurie’s execellent post on data-driven content strategies.
Blogging takes determination and perseverance. But it’s not brain surgery.
You can use these five simple techniques to quickly discover what your audience loves and wants to read more of. Remember: the key to building a successful blog is doing more of what people like, and less of what they don’t.