The Extra-Heroic Guide to Writing Remarkable Blog Posts
When you think of a #HeroicBrand in your life and the blog they keep — the blog that helps you genuinely improve your business, or your blog, or your fitness, or your cooking, or your hobbies, or anything else that’s important to you — what comes to mind?
What is it about it that makes it so darn valuable?
Why do you follow it, refer to it, and tell your friends about it…over and above most of the other blogs out there?
There’s no doubt that a good blog includes many things: a blogger who is dedicated to being responsive, kind, and helpful, an attractive + distinct “voice,” eye-catching photos + graphics, clean design, and so on. Those all are sure to make your list.
But a terrific blog — a blog that stands out from the crowd and earns an ever-growing + loyal audience — has another unique quality all its own:
It provides specific, in-depth, remarkable content that people can use to immediately accomplish goals or fix problems in their life.
In short, it’s not just a pretty place, a warm fuzzies place, or a mildly interesting place.
It’s a worthwhile place. It serves people.
That’s why you + a throng of others keep coming back to it, right? It’s not just a narcissistic, “look at what I’m eating for dinner!” project on the part of the blogger…it’s a project that seeks to help.
To contribute to others’ lives.
Assuming you want to have such a place for your brand (and let’s be honest — we all do), let’s learn how to carry this out for YOUR blog right now.
HOW TO CREATE VALUABLE BLOG CONTENT THAT ATTRACTS READERS, CLIENTS, + CUSTOMERS
STEP ONE: Understand mediocre vs. standard vs. heroic blog posts
As with all things, to be great requires knowledge of the, eh, not-so-great.
(Take books for instance. If the best literature a budding author has read is something from The Babysitter’s Club series, it’s highly unlikely they’ll aim to create something at the level of The Hobbit or Little Women.)
All blog posts online can be categorized along a spectrum ranging from mediocre >> to standard >> to heroic. Your goal is to understand the qualities of each one so that you can strive to fill your blog with posts that range between the latter two, as those are the posts that will distinguish your brand in a positive, authoritative way.
You must do this in order to win people’s attention, build your audience, and create an easily sustainable online business.
Below are the Olyvia.co definitions for mediocre, standard, and heroic blog content.
A mediocre blog post can be identified by any — or all — of these typical characteristics:
1. Less than 500-600 words (if it’s not a stand alone video or podcast-based post)
2. Only touches on general concepts (avoids much detail, examples, or extra resources re: the advice/instructions given)
3. Contains the same exact lists/info/advice as every other blog in that niche, presented in the exact same way
4. May have significant errors (technical or factual)
5. May be dull, confusing, or hard to read
6. Gives the obvious impression that the goal is to earn affiliate commissions, not be seriously helpful
The ubiquitous “___ Best Wordpress Themes for Bloggers” list post is one such example of an article in the web design/marketing niche that is crazy overdone and almost always unoriginal + uninspiring.
You don’t want to write mediocre blog posts. They’re not just a waste of your readers’ time, they’re a waste of yours.
Next is the standard blog post, which is great for your supplemental blog content (those posts which support + enhance your brand, but are not necessarily what you want the brand to be best known for). This kind of post has most, if not all, of the following characteristics:
1. 700+ words (with most approaching 1,000 or more)
2. Goes into sufficient detail so that a reader can use it accomplish something well (like a cooking recipe) or begin to fix his/her problems; shares examples/resources/extra graphics or photos when possible
3. Is one of the first on a topic in that niche (or one of the few to do it in a unique/clever/thorough/superior way)
4. Has little or no errors
5. Is interesting + fairly easy to read
6. Even if it contains affiliate links, the content is helpful enough that readers don’t mind
Examples of my standard blog posts:
The 9 Best Facebook Groups For Women Entrepreneurs, Freelancers, + Bloggers (before I wrote this, I could find no relevant posts covering this for women in my niche (criteria #3))
Examples of others’ standard blog posts:
How to Work With Brands as a Blogger by Melyssa of The Nectar Collective
When to Hire a Graphic Designer by Susannah of Garnishing Co.
5 Common Design Mistakes Bloggers Make (+ How To Fix Them) by Marianne of Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog
Finally, there are the heroic blog posts. They…
1. Are over 1,500 words (with most well exceeding 2,000+)
2. Cover topics in major detail so that readers can make significant progress in their goals (they provide plenty of supplementary graphics/thorough directions/explanations/examples/extra resources/etc.)
3. Share new or rarely-discussed lists/info/advice (or make it wayyy more epic than anything else out there)
4. Have little or no errors
5. Are a breeze to read + understand
6. Might contain affiliate links, but you love the post so much you actually WANT to click on them
Examples of my heroic blog posts:
Examples of others’ heroic blog posts:
How to Launch a Blog on a Budget by Regina
Foodie Pro Genesis Child Theme Master Setup and Customization Guide by John, Minimalist Baker
How to Start a Podcast by Pat Flynn
29 Ways to Give Back to Your Blog Community by Kayla Hollatz
19 Tips + Tricks For Planning + Creating Shareable Content by Maya Elious
STEP TWO: Determine what you should write about
The first rule in creating heroic posts on your blog is that they should be closely tied into your main expertise + business/blogging goals.
This is because if you’re going to invest a significant amount of effort into them, you want them to be of maximum benefit. Some ways you will want to use a heroic blog post are:
✓ To earn SEO juice (high position in the search engine results) + targeted traffic
✓ To build serious trust + goodwill with readers and potential clients/customers
✓ To position yourself as the authority on a topic or the expert in your niche (reputation-builder)
✓ To create a strategic path (or “funnel” in jargon-speak) into a product or service
✓ To strengthen key relationships with other bloggers + biz owners
✓ To fill in a gap in the market left by your competitors
✓ To help clients/customers with common (or more complex) problems/questions that require extensive one-on-one time
Behold the “Purpose List” (aka: why you’re going to write these posts!) which contains all the points above for you to use and refer back to as you need them:
With these goals in mind, you can now decide on some big, bodacious (remember when that word was soooo IT? my friends and I used it every chance we got as 10 year olds) post topics that are best suited for you. Whatever you choose, make certain it fulfills at least one or more of the criteria above.
The more things it does for you + your brand, the more crucial it is that you write it!
To brainstorm + plan out your next highly valuable, heroic post, I find it helpful to work through these series of categories/questions:
1. The blog’s primary content topic is ___________.
2. The blog’s primary business/monetization goal is ___________.
3. The blog’s primary audience/ideal customer is ___________.
4. The three (3) things that differentiate me from everyone else in my niche are ___________.
5. The top five (5) unique things my readers/clients/customers should learn from my brand are ___________.
6. The top five (5) things my readers/clients/customers seem to have trouble with or need extra info about are ___________.
7. The main thing(s) I want my next heroic blog post to achieve for my brand (use the ‘Purpose List’ above): ___________.
8. My blog post idea brain dump after reflecting on items 1-7 and where they intersect:
If you like taking real pencil to real paper like I do, I created some simple worksheets with the above that you have unfettered access to — just click on the image below to download, print, and use with abandon. #NoOptInRequiredForNicePeople
(it might download a little slow — thank you for your patience!)
STEP THREE: Take your content beyond the basics
You now know how to classify a heroic blog post + how to start coming up with the perfect idea for one, but I can almost hear your little voice beaming through my computer (a lot like Mike Teavee from the hip Johnny Depp version of Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, if you must know) asking me:
“But how do I really make my posts that super fantastic?! I’m writing all that I can and my posts only seem ho-hum. I don’t know what else to put in them to raise them to greatness!”
Well, alas: have faith. I have some hints + ideas for you. Let me know if they help.
Tip No. 1: Make sure you’re writing about a large enough topic. Choose something that is specific, yes, but not so much that there’s only very brief things to say about it.
Remember, a heroic post is there to thoroughly teach, help, or otherwise show your reader something that they need to know to improve their life or fix a problem. If you can do that with total epic flourish in only 454 words, then you want to consider expanding your post topic and inserting that teaching in as a subtopic.
Ask Yourself: What is the next level or two out from this subject I’m writing about? How can I broaden my topic so as to include more points and instruction (so that it’s more helpful to people)?
Example: Instead of trying to write a heroic post on the best way to dry your handmade wool mittens, write a “Complete Care Guide for Wool Mittens.”
Tip No. 2: Don’t hold back your expertise. Too many business-minded bloggers, particularly coaches + consultants + infopreneurs, are afraid that if they dive deep on a topic, they’ll spill too many lima beans — and then “no one will have a reason to hire me” or “no one will need to buy my ebooks.” In actuality, the opposite is true. The more you give out meaningful, specific knowledge + advice, the more people want everything else you offer.
Just start writing and teaching, dudes! I guarantee you that you CANNOT share every. single. thing. that you know in one 3,000 word blog post.
(You’re smarter than you think you are.)
Ask Yourself: Am I divulging enough detail here that people could take this post and go do X to change Y, or would they be guessing at most of it? Is there more I know that I could add? Are there tips/experiences/other experts that have helped me that I could pass on information about here?
Example: Instead of writing a Guide to Instagram and having only broad tips like “share bright photos,” break it down and give plenty of guidance on HOW to achieve those bright photos (iPhone settings? specific filters?), demonstrate what “bright photos” look like, and so on.
Tip No. 3: Be an investigator + curator + storyteller + gallery. Oftentimes it’s not enough to state something and then move on — to do real justice to a subject may require outside statistics, facts, or quotes, a collection of “for further reading” links, a personal story, and/or screenshots, step-by-step photograph demonstrations, screencasts, and the like.
You’ll inspire interest and make your post useful x10 by inserting these “upgrades.”
Ask Yourself: What can I add to this piece of information or this subtopic that would make this post a more comprehensive resource? Is there anything I can show visually, anybody I can quote, any outside links I can provide, any story I can share, or anything I can create myself (worksheets? videos? infographics?) that would give this post some oomph?
Example: You’re a wedding photographer writing about the best and most flattering bridal photo poses + how to achieve them. Instead of merely explaining it, you could also (pick one or more):
- show off a plethora of example photos from your own work
- illustrate them in graphic format (or hire an illustrator to do so)
- create an infographic that beautifully presents the information
- record a tutorial video of yourself (or someone else) demonstrating the poses
- record a screencast where you show people photo examples from around the web + add further explanation
- link to special (shoes/support garments/exercise programs/etc) that assist in these perfect poses
- include a worksheet with a suggested “practice schedule” for posing leading up to the Big Day
- find quotes/facts/etc. about posture, bridal photo regrets due to poor posing, etc.
- interweave a funny/heartwarming/sad story about helping brides pose for their wedding photos
- include ready-made scripts that brides can use with their wedding photographer to explain what they want
STEP FOUR: Parting advice re: time investment + management, formatting, editing, and other essentials for valuable blog content
I’m not a big “systems + processes” person. In fact, I think I only learned what those things meant sometime in February of this year. 😛 I don’t use Evernote, I barely use a calendar, and I do NOT keep schedules.
It’s not how my brain works, guys. I’ve tried, I’ve failed, and I’m not sad about it.
(Which is why someday I shall hire one of those strict type A people to manage everything for me. 🙂 )
But happily, none of that is required to write extraordinary content on your blog. So, I’m not going to give you a schedule sheet or anything like that.
What I AM going to do is impart my mighty + all-knowing wisdom upon you regarding things I’ve learned while blogging for the last 10+ years.
(Just kidding. I have been blogging that long, but my wisdom is not nearly that glorious.)
In no particular order, here are some tidbits from my desk to yours — in Q & A format, because I want to:
Q: How long will/should it take me to write a “heroic” (long form) blog post?
A: Expect to spend several days — if not a week — on a meaty blog post that will thrill people, be mucho shareable, and draw new eyes to your blog.
Keep in mind also that it will take more time when you’re just getting started. I took a break from blogging for a period of time before I launched Olyvia, and it was tough for me to get back in the swing of things. (Even though I had a natural affection for writing, as evidenced by my Journalism degree, sometimes it would take me two full weeks to crank ONE post out. #NotEvenKidding)
There will be times when it feels like a post will never get done, but I urge you: don’t abandon it. With repeated practice you’ll be able to write longer form posts with greater efficiency + speed, and they won’t seem like a big deal anymore.
Q: Do you have any time management or writing tips that will make this easier?
A: Why yes, yes I do.
It helps me to do things in pieces with some significant breaks in-between. So, I’ll sit down and write for 1-6 hours (whatever time I have available, or however long the ideas stay with me), then I’ll put everything down and go do something totally different: load the dishwasher, pick up my kids from school, cook dinner, watch House Hunters International.
A few hours later or the next morning I’ll go back to what I wrote, make a few minor edits or adjustments, and then write some more. I’ll keep on doing it this way until the post is finished.
My first writing tip is to find a quiet, calm, and clean (a tidy space = a tidy mind) place to compose your posts. Turn OFF your computer notifications, put your phone on silent, and stop checking your email/Twitter/Periscope/fave news website. It really, really, really does help.
Occasionally I’ll put on some music, but I find that even though I find that enjoyable, it tends to make it more difficult to do my best work. If you must have noise in the background, I suggest keeping it uber low + trying out classical or Gregorian chant.
My second writing tip is to avoid almost all editing while you’re actually in your “writing space” — meaning, while you’re supposed to be typing out what you want to say. Nothing breaks your creative flow more than stopping to rephrase that thing and brainstorm a new word to replace this one…
I will do some edits (like if I notice an aggravating spelling error), but it’s key to plow on through for the first draft.
Even if it’s horrible.
Especially when it’s horrible.
You can do your big edits later.
Q: How do I make all these words on the page look…inviting? Won’t having a long blog post scare my readers away?
A: It can…but only if you write your blog posts like you were taught to write papers in elementary, middle school, high school, and college. 😉
Blogging is a new craft all its own. Long posts are desirable, but you do have to write them differently than essays, magazine articles, novels, and other works.
To make them approachable for your audience, you will want to:
- Use especially short paragraphs. 1-3 sentences is the sweet spot. It will seem weird at first, yes, but if you do much more than that your writing will look unapproachable. Time-consuming. Boring.
- Most people are going to want to skim your posts, so make it easy for them. Use bold text to highlight certain words or phrases, make bullet lists and indents your best-friend, embrace white space, and keep your text around 16px or above.
- Adorn them with graphics and/or photos whenever possible.
- Use proper spelling + punctuation. There’s little else as exhausting as trying to read through something full of run-on sentences, minimal commas, or repeated spelling mistakes. You might want to consider opening Word and copy/pasting in your article to see what it picks up.
- Make use of Googling synonyms for tired words. If you find yourself using the same words over and over again, seek out something fresh. It will keep people reading!
- Consider taking “continuing ed” in order to amp up your writing skills. This could be as simple as reading a book on how to write well (I highly recommend Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content << my Amazon referral link) — or as involved as hiring a tutor/taking a college course.
Q: Any last words before you release me out into the land of blogging #heroism?
A: Yes. If you’re going to put in the effort to write a blog post worthy of champions, make darn sure you have all your social sharing ducks in a row.
This is your moment of glory! Don’t make it require an act of heroism on your reader’s part to find a way to share it out to their own friends + devotees.
Before you hit Publish, be sure you have:
- Social sharing buttons at the top and/or bottom the post (I use Shareaholic)
- A ‘click to tweet’ link or two or five
- Yoast SEO installed + optimized if on WordPress (optional but oh-so-recommended — it will improve your search engine results)
Now go. Write. Serve your people and be great.
Please share your #heroic blog posts (or those of others you admire) in the combox. Let’s see what else is out there that’s earning the blogosphere a good name! (And let’s use them to inspire one another toward offering up more remarkable, valuable blog content. I feel a #revolution coming on.)
This post is the second in the #HeroicBrand series I’m holding on the blog, the mission of which is to help you build a healthy, long-term biz online by being a hero to the people you serve. Other posts are below: