“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Modern bloggers can certainly sympathize with Hemingway’s statement. While there are no more typewriters to hunch over and tap away on, the burden of writing good content is no less painful now than it was in Papa’s day. In fact, with today’s instant social feedback, Internet trolls and daily website stats, it might be even more agonizing than ever to crank out compelling content. What to write is an age-old problem.
Inspiration isn’t a switch that you can turn off and on at any time. It takes self-motivation and a few tricks of the trade. You must, however, start writing.
Writing content can take on several different formats and iterations. You can take just about any subject and use these variances in a blog post. Some will be more straightforward to create than others, but all will help to get you on the right path to creating good content on a frequent basis. I’d like to introduce a few ideas that might help point you in the right direction — hopefully forward when struggling with what to write.
Format No. 1: Reviews
While it is often said that everyone is a critic, the truly famous critics always find a way to get their opinions documented. Your experiences are no different. If you’ve recently tried a product or service, provide an honest review for it in a post. Don’t go on a “rant.” Talk about what you like and dislike about it, and offer suggestions and opportunities for improvement.
Chances are good that your readers have had a similar experience with the product and are much more willing to share it with you and interact with your post in the form of a comment. Concentrate on what you would say to a friend or family member about the product. Warn them about faulty features. When something is fantastic, become an evangelist for it. Sing its praises as if you were telling your close friends that they cannot live without it.
Format No. 2: Comparisons
Slightly different from a review is a comparison of one or more items. This side-by-side rundown of who has what feature can help your readers make their own determination as to what products or services will suit their needs best.
Format No. 3: The popularity contest
I’ll admit that I was baited into clicking just about every single “Top Influencers to Follow in 2015” post that trickled into my feed in recent weeks. These lists are meant to cause controversy and discussion. Every year it seems that another “Greatest Songs of All Time” list is put out by a major music magazine. Inevitably, a flame war follows the publication of this type of list. That can be a good thing.
Format No. 4: The guide
If you feel that you’re an expert in a particular skill or process, teach others the same skill by writing a brief guide or tutorial on the process. Start at the earliest stage possible and guide your reader through the entire process from start to finish. Make it clear from the start what the final result will be by the time the reader has finished each part of the guide. Guides are a great way to build authority in a particular niche.
Format No. 5: Checklists and to-do’s
Easy-to-follow cheat sheets can rank well within Google if they are written well and provide an actionable result by the time the reader reaches the final step.
A simpler form of a guide is a simple pre-flight checklist of what to do to achieve a particular result. If your audience is savvy enough to follow a simple checklist of steps to get them from point A to point B, they might prefer this format over a full-blown guide. Simple line items like “Do this step first, then do these things” can provide a lot of value to your readers.
Format No. 6: The numbered list
The next time you’re at a bookstore or magazine rack, pay attention to how many covers tease a numbered list. Things like “12 Steps to Getting a Man” or “3 Weird Tricks to Spice Up Your Love Life.” We love lists. In fact, you’re actually reading a numbered list right now!
The nice thing about writing a post in this format is that you can let your mind wander to create the different tips. Not everything in the list has to be perfect advice, but your suggestions must move the reader toward improving a particular situation. In this format I like to use the P.A.R. — Problem, Action, Result — formula. Find a common problem and list all of the action items you can think of that will deliver a desired result. Title your post based on the result you want your readers to achieve.
Format No. 7: What not to do
Mistakes are a part of life. When you make a mistake, find a way to document it in list format. Present the list to your reader in a way that helps them avoid making the same common error. Often you’ll present things in your list that the reader never thought about, saving them countless amounts of time and grief. It’s a great way to provide value in your content. At the same time, you get to recycle your mistakes and oversights into a positive piece of advice for those who consume your content.
Find some content cheerleaders
What happens if I’m just not motivated to write? For that I turn to support groups. No kidding! There are several groups that are chock full of fellow writers waiting to cheer you on. Dre Armeda recently started the Weekly Post Challenge Facebook group to help provide support and accountability for fellow bloggers. The goal is to get everyone posting at least once a week. It’s a great way to keep yourself motivated and has the side benefit of a whole new audience of like-minded friends to present your content to.
Analyze your traffic data
Once you’ve published your post, make sure that you continue to monitor the traffic that it receives. You might find that certain post formats resonate with your particular audience more than others. When you find the sweet spot and traffic spikes with certain posts, repeat the post format and test again. If you’re continually hitting it out of the park with one or more formats, you might have finally stumbled upon your niche.
Stick with what you do best, but always keep the reader in mind. Before you start writing, consider what takeaway you want to leave your readers with. This holds true whether you’re looking to teach, inspire or simply serve up a little bit of controversy. In any case, always tie it into your personal or professional brand.
Using these variances within your content will not only provide a great content consumption experience for your reader, but also give you a personal sense of variety when it comes to writing good posts. Hope you now have a good path for solving what to write for your next post.
Also published on Medium.