NOTE: The following EPIC post comes from the book, “The Digital Writer’s Guide to Blogging.”
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What Is Authority And Why Should Yours Matter?
Authority, simply put, is proof that you (and your blog) are worth listening to and you know what you’re talking about. You have relevant information that people respond to. Authority can come in a few forms — you’ve achieved success and can speak to the topic, your posts are often re-tweeted or commented on, and people regard you as an expert in your niche.
Establishing a strong voice of authority is an essential step in building your blog. You have an online forum to demonstrate your knowledge in front of a live and always evolving audience. Done well, your blog will teach you to write for an audience and maintain a consistent writing schedule, while helping you focus on your growth as a writer.
The blogosphere is crowded with copycats. Pick the top 20 or so blogs in any niche and read them. You will notice a startling amount of recycled ideas, regurgitated content, and replicated perspectives. Few writers are willing to truly stand out.
Some tips for standing out are:
- Dare to be different
- Keep things simple
- Be consistent
- Above all, always put your readers first
The key to successful sales — and let’s not kid ourselves here, we are selling — is threefold. Identify a problem, convince your audience that you’ve diagnosed their problem, and then offer the solution.
This problem can be as real as lower back pain or as imagined as a temporary state of mind such as boredom.
Never be duplicitous, of course. But you can write in such a way that shows you understand your readers’ difficulties. But more importantly, you know how to help. Deliver on your promise of resolution and you will build authority with every pledge.
The key to grabbing reader attention is writing about the problems they have or anticipate having, then articulating quality solutions. The key to holding that attention is being able to do it over and over again. Before starting a project, pretend you’re a complete outsider and ask yourself what you’d want to know.
Would you want to know:
- Common symptoms?
- Warning signs?
- How to know you have a specific problem?
- How the problem could harm your future?
- Where to find additional help?
- Steps to take to solve the problem on your own?
- How to avoid this problem altogether?
By asking yourself what you’d want to know, you’re giving yourself multiple angles to write from. This is perfect for blog copy, which requires authors to write about the same theme multiple times without too much repetition.
The formula is simple: Educate your readers, then offer a solution. This doesn’t mean you must always tell them exactly what to do, step-by-step. You can skim the surface in your regular, free on-site copy, then design an eBook or service product that offers a full solution you can sell at a premium.
Keep that crowd happy, and you can make a GREAT living in no time. Once you have the attention you need, it’s time to start making friends.
How To Win Friends and Gain Influence
You know how to make friends in real life, right?
Good news — making friends online isn’t too different. In fact, it’s easier because you can do it on your terms. Real life harbors too many variables that are out of your control. You must engage in real-time conversations as they unfold. Online, you can be measured enough to ensure you are always using your words to focus on the three qualities it takes to grow any healthy friendship.
Think about your best friends. They’re helpful, funny, interesting, consistent, and magnetic. I’m sure you could think of 1,000 other superlatives. Think of what draws you to your friends, then apply that to your blog.
- Be helpful.
- Be funny.
- Be interesting and consistent, but above all — be YOU.
If you’re able to make friends with your audience, then you’ll be able to do one of the most important things you can do with your blog — create a bond.
Making Relationships Work
Fail to strike a bond with your audience and you may as well be yelling in an empty ballroom. Unless you’re keeping an online journal, the purpose of your blog is to grow as a writer in both profit and purpose. Bonding with your audience is a large part of this. Like anything worth doing, this takes time.
Think of those times in your life when you genuinely bonded with another person, whether it was a family member, friend, or casual acquaintance; it was time together that allowed your relationship to deepen. It’s simple human nature — the more time spent together, the more natural the bond.
The more consistent you are as a writer, the more people will be willing to spend time with you and your words. The longer people are willing to spend reading your work, the deeper the bond. The deeper the bond, the more you can do with the relationship.
This is everything.
People do business with people they like. Whether you’re writing freelance or selling a book, you want an audience that is eager to give you their time, money, attention, and seal of approval. Fortunately, it’s easier than you’re probably thinking. It all starts with a simple blog post.
How to Create A Powerful Blog Post
Think about some of your favorite blog posts. What did they have in common?
Chances are, they hooked people into conversation, plunged them into dilemmas, or aroused their sympathies, outrage, or other emotions. Powerful blog posts are like all good writing — they put their readers in the middle of the action, and make them think. They inspire change, provide blinding revelations, or sometimes, they simply make people laugh — a powerful antidote to the day-to-day madness most of us endure.
Powerful posts make people forget what they were going to do next by grabbing their attention and holding it. They engage the reader enough that finishing the copy becomes an instant priority.
In short, they’re irresistible.
You don’t have to be brilliant, nor do you need a degree in literature or journalism. You can learn all of the above as long as you understand the essential elements of a powerful post.
- A short, enticing headline that offers a promise to the reader.
- A first sentence that “hooks” the reader and compels them to keep reading.
- A great resource box or biography, no more than two lines, tops.
- Eye-catching photos or art.
- Breaks in the text. Short paragraphs, numbered lists, bullet points and subheads all help people read posts quickly and easily.
Online readers scan until they find something that “grabs” their attention.
Every post you publish should have a point.
It isn’t enough to choose an interesting topic and spit out a few hundred words. If you want your blog to blow up BIG, you must create something worth reading, sharing, or returning to later. Content that’s read and spread is the content that builds a bond with your audience, helps your blog grow, and ultimately boosts your authority, making it easier to market yourself without all the marketing tactics.
Get the structure of a blog post right, and your readers will spread your posts on social networking sites, increasing your reach and attracting new readers. But never forget that you’re not just writing to impress people. Each post needs to have a point.
Engage your readers.
It’s a great idea to regularly reinforce the sense of community among your readers. Get them to respond by asking questions and inviting discussion. Make it easy by ending your post with a prompt, then urging readers to respond in the comments or, even better, on their own blogs.
Encourage RSS subscriptions.
Pillar posts, effective link bait, and quality evergreen content (content that is relevant more or less year-round) may take longer to write, but it’s some of the easiest copy to see a return on your time investment. You’ll create the occasional post that stands head and shoulders above the others. This type of pillar content may impress your readers so much that it leaves them longing for more. Include a prompt urging readers to grab your RSS feed at the bottom of these posts, and you can easily capture recurring traffic.
Build your list.
Many writers and newbie bloggers are shy about building their lists. Don’t make this mistake. While RSS subscriptions are nice, they simply can’t come close to an invitation to your market’s inbox.
Sell your products or services.
Whether you’re selling your products or someone else’s, friendly blog posts from a familiar author can make people more receptive to buying. Product reviews, case studies, and new product announcements can help you sell a product or service. Just remember, a blog post isn’t a sales page. Blog readers rarely appreciate a hard sell, though you can always use a blog post as a “warm-up,” introducing your readers to a particular idea before sending them to the actual sales page.
Additionally, always be up front with your readers. If you’re linking to an affiliate product which you’ll get a commission on, or reviewing a product for which you’ve been compensated, tell your readers up front. In a world of scheming marketers, readers appreciate the freshness of honesty.
Try to go viral.
You can’t force a post to go viral, but if you create high-quality, evergreen content that others will want to save, or share with their friends and followers, you will quickly create a catalog that sets your blog well above all the other “me-to’s” that litter the Web.
Even if your best posts aren’t directly monetized, they can prompt readers to return and recommend your site to their own network and friends.
Purpose has no boundaries. The key is to have a reason for everything you publish, and to know that reason before you start writing. Knowing how to end a post can give you all you need to open it with a bang.
The Art of the Opening
Every great writer understands the art of the opening sentence.
It isn’t just for fiction. A great opening grabs the reader by the eyes, then holds them by the throat, making it nearly impossible for them to quit reading before you’re through with their attention.
Your job as a writer is to make your readers hang on your every word as you send them from one sentence to the next, from the top of one page to the bottom of the next. Refine this skill, and your writing will be in demand by readers and likely, clients.
People like to finish what they start. If you can keep your reader reading through half the page, the odds that they’ll get to the end will skyrocket.
Imagine you’re on a date. It’s by no means a disaster, but it’s half over and you’re stealing glances at your watch and considering a clean exist strategy. You’ve ordered dinner, but the conversation has stalled.
Though you’re fairly certain you’ll never see your date again, you wouldn’t walk out of the restaurant in the middle of dinner. This behavior is more than common courtesy — it’s a human need to honor our commitments.
Earn the early attention of your readers and you will increase the odds that they’ll see your story, argument, or pitch, all the way to the end.
Online, the rules are clear. Use your headline to grab immediate attention and send your reader’s eyes to the sentence below. Spend the first couple of sentences justifying your headline and clearly letting your reader know why they should stay on the page.
Promise a solution or tease them with intrigue, but keep their eyes rolling down the page. Make sure each new subhead continues to stoke the fire of your initial headline and that the body copy beneath each subhead stands on its own.
In a face-to-face conversation, you’re able to easily address listener objections. You can elaborate on weak points or fill in the blanks as you notice the subtle twitches and gestures of the person standing next to you. You can evolve your argument with every blink or nod. But when your argument is reduced to just the reader and the page, your copy must do all the work.
Cover all the bases as well as you would in person, and you will effectively position yourself as someone who understands and relates to your readers because you have clear insight into the depth of their problems. This makes a reader want to continue because your insight will hint at a certain solution.
That first sentence is everything. This is the hook that will get them reading on, so it’s important to give it the attention it deserves. Many times, I will re-write my first sentence a few times during the writing of a post. Sometimes you get a good one right off the bat. Other times, inspiration comes after you’ve written the whole post and re-read it.
A few ways to begin with a bang:
Use elements of fiction. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nonfiction writer; if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’re probably an avid reader as well. How do your favorite books open, usually with action, intrigue, or a provocative idea, right? Do the same thing with your copy. Whether you’re writing a simple blog post or a lengthy sales page, you can apply the same principles to your work. People love stories. Draw them in with narrative and you’ll easily keep them moving down the page.
Summarize a difficult problem in one or two sentences. This doesn’t have to be long, and in fact, it shouldn’t be. A well-articulated summary is enough to lure your readers and let them know you understand their pain. You can then use the rest of your body text to elaborate as you lead the way to your inevitable solution.
Ask a question. Make it something that is either impossible to say no to, easy for your readers to understand and relate to, or something which provokes them to read more.
Emphasize a benefit that stokes their internal desire. Humans find it difficult to ignore their base desires, and once our internal launch sequence has initiated, we want that promise fulfilled.
Whatever your page is trying to do, it must present a benefit to your readers. Tie that benefit to a core human need — security, attention, control, connection, privacy, status, achievement, purpose, etc., and your readers will long to read your argument through to the end.
With a great opening and exceptional follow-through, your readers are far more likely to see the end of your copy. Hopefully, you have a call to action waiting. No matter what you want your readers to do, whether it’s to turn the page to the next chapter, buy your product or service, share your information, or sign up for your newsletter, you must use the end of the page to tell them what to do.
With dwindling attention spans, the art of the opening has never been more important for writers to master, especially online where attention is fleeting. Yet it’s a skill that is increasingly difficult to master. Understand the importance of the opening, and pay attention to what works, so you can truly get to know your readers.
It’s only after you truly know your readers that you can speak directly to them.
Know Your Audience
How well do you know your readers?
Eventually, you’ll want your blog copy to act as sales copy and you’ll want to speak directly to your readers so you can dim the distance between you. Whether you are writing a simple article, a cornerstone blog post, or a landing page, the care you give to crafting your argument and relaying it directly to your readers is crucial. But first, you need to get to know them.
The first thing you need to know when selling to your audience is you can’t sell to everyone.
A fraction of folks are as likely to open their wallets as I am to take my six-year-old son to the next Tarantino flick. Don’t even try selling to these people. It’s a waste of your time and is likely damaging to your sanity. Make certain however, that you’re hitting 100% of anyone who will lend your offer honest consideration.
If there’s a chance they’ll buy, make sure they do. Do this by ensuring your argument can stand up to the eager arsenal of the critical mind.
Even if your copy is designed to bond rather than close the deal, know who you’re speaking to if you expect to achieve maximum results. Even if you don’t yet know your audience, you should still write with a target in mind. When I’m unsure, or in a new market, I can always rely on the following five profiles.
I write to my mother. My mom will buy anything, so long as it provides her the slightest whiff of nostalgia. It doesn’t matter if she needs it or whether she can afford it. My mom is a collector, and even with piles atop heaps amid mountains of stuff, anything that tickles her longing for yesteryear or justifies her decades of previous behavior, will justify the purchase in her mind.
I write to my father. My dad is the classic “advertising doesn’t work on me” kinda guy. Yes, Pop, advertising does work on you; you just don’t realize it! My father must be smacked in the face on an emotional level, but he will respond. My dad gets misty-eyed at movies. When the score hits a crescendo, his shoulders often start to shake. My father purchases products that stand for strength of character and tradition, no matter how traditionally manipulative that message might be delivered.
I write to my sister. My sister is a cynic with a smiley face, bleeding snarkiness from every pore. She’s a tough sell and loves to shoot flaming verbal arrows into the bulls-eye of every opportunity. My sister is also whip smart. Reminding her of this, in the most subtle way possible, will always beat a faster path to her attention.
I write to my wife. My wife is a romantic. She longs to be touched on an emotional level and wishes only for happy endings. Most copy is a far cry from poetic, but by inserting one simple sentence that reaches for that most tender and exposed part of her, I am greatly increasing the odds that she, or the millions just like her, will read and share my content, or set aside the laptop long enough to reach for the credit card.
I write to my friend, Marco. Marco could punch a hole in concrete. He is suspect of everything and a believer in little. Whenever I’m writing a landing page, I think of the five problems he would have with the product, then sprinkle solutions carefully throughout the copy. Marco isn’t the type to never buy, but he is the type who knows what he wants and is always gonna be a tough sale. If I’m finished with the page confident that Marco would buy, subscribe, or opt-in, I know the odds are good that a general reader will respond well.
You will never sell to everyone. Wringing your hands over this fundamental truth is like wishing Seattle was a little more sunny or that the movie adaptation was as good as the book. Concentrate on those who might buy or respond positively to your message, and you can increase both your confidence and the clicks that follow.
Coming up with topics
As a writer, that’s probably the question we get the most from non-writers. And no two writers will have the same answer, as anything can serve as inspiration — news, pop culture, current events in your life, past events in your life, family life, trends, and product reviews. If you can think it, a blog is devoted to it. For most online bloggers, life serves as their biggest inspiration. And that’s fine, as there’s a place for every kind of blog.
But most personal blogs don’t make enough money to pay the bills.
If you’re looking to earn an income with your blog, you will need to consider your target audience when deciding topics.
Whether you’re trying to sell your writing services on a copywriting blog, or build streams of passive income with a suite of niche sites, you must publish quality niche-related copy on a consistent basis if you expect to leverage your online assets.
The key is in realizing that no matter the niche, you’ll always have several angles to take. Write in a niche where you have no genuine interest or foothold, and finding new approaches to your topic will be about as easy as growing a garden in the desert. Write what you love and new topics will be as simple as sitting down.
Have you ever met a sports fanatic who never ran out of things to say about his favorite team? Or a foodie who loved to relish every course of a scrumptious meal? How about a car-lover who speaks lovingly on German engineering? Or a film buff who’d love nothing better than to hear about your recent discovery of Quentin Tarantino? That’s the kind of passion you need in order to create a compelling blog.
When you are genuinely excited about a topic — and are open to discussion and dialogue — people can tell. And the possibilities for interesting posts with unique perspective are endless.
You’re human, so you’ll have times when you can’t think of something to write. By maintaining a swipe file of ideas, you will always have a list of available prompts to give you a great start, even when you’re not feeling especially creative.
Most of these ideas will come to you in the midst of living life — watching a movie, taking a shower, or sitting at the red light. But it is also a great practice to go on the occasional idea safari so you can make sure your well is always full.
A small handful of places where it’s always easy to mine a few great ideas:
- On other blogs
- On forums
- In the news
- From the past
We all engage in activities. If you consider everything you experience with the question — How does this affect my market? — you’ll be better than 90% of writers out there.
The Easy Guide to Good Blog Design
No matter how great your content is, you can easily undermine it with a badly designed blog.
Have you ever seen a website that confused you. You couldn’t tell what the point of it was, navigation was horrendous, and nothing was where it should be. Chances are good you never returned, right?
Now look at your website. How well is it designed?
Effective blog design is about figuring out one thing — what is the purpose of your blog?
Who is your customer (or reader) and what actions do you want him to take? No right or wrong answer exists, as not all blogs have the same goal. Nor should they.
A writer’s blog, for instance, is usually more about bonding with readers, and can be more personal. A photography blog is more likely to feature the latest camera reviews, photo tips, and image galleries.
Because you’re a writer, you can start a blog and write for profit in any niche you want. The key is to identify your ideal readers, then deliver the quality content they want and deserve.
Once you figure your purpose, make sure to put it front and center.
Other than your branding, the first thing people should notice on your blog is its immediate purpose.
It may seem overwhelming all at once, but it will get easier. Just get going, keep moving forward and understand that it’s all part of the learning curve.
The Blogging Learning Curve
Blogging isn’t as easy as most people think. But it’s also not as hard as some people make it out to be.
The blogging learning curve isn’t too steep, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at first. In general, the more difficult something is to learn online, the more worthy it is of your time.
Like any great story worth telling, or enduring, your blogging career will probably fall under three acts: loneliness, excitement and, finally, momentum.
The beginning is sure to be lonely. Very few blogs take off from Day One or even Month One. It rarely happens, and when it does, it’s usually because the blog belongs to someone who has been in the game a while and already has a successful blog or two. For a first timer, all the odds are stacked against you.
Don’t let the loneliness frustrate you. Let if fuel you, instead. Be glad so few people are watching you fumble around during your breaking-in period. Try often, fail early, making as many mistakes as you can during the time when it matters the least. Read and comment on blogs in your particular niche so you can naturally enter into the community. These are the same people who will be helping you spread your message very soon.
Once you get going, things will get exciting. The comments, the attention, the early jobs — they will mean everything to you. Use this excitement to drive you further and faster.
- Work faster.
- Learn more.
- Try harder.
Even a small crowd can generate a tremendous amount of internal excitement. There is no better time to tap into the needs of your audience than when you’re first growing. Discovering who they are and what they care about, you can then tend to their needs. Make sure your audience feels your excitement so they can help your blog continue to grow.
Soon, you will build momentum. Maintain this at all costs. Nothing murders a blog faster than the loss of momentum.
Once you’re fully in the swing of things, with subscribers growing, authority climbing, and reputation blooming, you’ll have the key ingredients required to explode your online reputation and make your online writing dreams come true.
Bloggers Every Digital Writer Should Follow
Joanna Penn – The Creative Penn
Larry Brooks – Story Fix
Jeff Goins: Writer – Goins Writer
David Gaughran – Let’s Get Digital
Onibalusi Bamidele – YoungPrePro
Danny Iny – Firepole Marketing
Ali Hale – Aliventures
Write to Done – Write to DonePaul Wolfe – One Spoon at a Time
CopyBlogger - CopyBlogger
Carol Tice - Make A Living WritingLeo Babauta – Zen Habits
Michael Stelzner – Social Media Examiner
Darren Rowse – ProBlogger
Jane Friedman – Being Human At Electric Speed
Lori Taylor – Social Caffeine
Corbett Barr – Think Traffic
Justine Musk – Because You’re A Creative Badass
Sean Platt – The Digital Writer
Glen Allsop – Viper Chill
Kristen Lamb – Warrior Writers
James Chartrand – Men With Pens
Kristi Hines – Kikolani.com
Joanna Wiebe – CopyHackers
HubSpot (BLOG) – Hubspot
KissMetrics – KissMetrics
EPIC Blog Posts No Digital Writer Should Miss
How to Write Great Blog Content – ProBlogger
26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts - Social Media Examiner
How to be an Original – Justine Musk
21 Warning Signs You Chose The Wrong Topic For Your Blog – Jon Morrow
How to Make Every Word You Write Unputdownable - Jonathan Fields
Make Your Blog Design Work For You – Chris Brogan
How I Became the Freddy Krueger of Marketing – Danny Iny
Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World – Jon Morrow
How I Made 6 Figures As A Freelance Writer in 2011 - Carol Tice
6186 Words On Becoming A Facebook Machine – Lori Taylor
A Ton of Ideas to Catapult your Blog Post Writing (For ANY Niche) - GSWriting
How a New Blog Brought In $2,000 in Revenue – and Attracted 800 Readers In a Single Day - Derek Halpern
Of course, this EPIC Post would not have been possible without the awesome book, The Digital Writer’s Guide to Blogging.
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Until next week!
I did it. So can you.
P.S. If there is a person you feel every digital writer should follow on Twitter, or a post on blogging that should be included in this post, please add it to the comments and I will look into it as soon as I can. If you have a question or comment, please leave it below and I promise to answer within 24 hours.
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