No one likes being bored.
When people land on your blog, they’re looking for something that captivates and moves them. They want something that is valuable, informative, and wholly irresistible.
If you can’t capture their attention within the first few seconds of them landing on your website, they’ll move onto something else that can.
When writing blog posts, you need to be aware that everything you do is being subconsciously processed by a highly susceptible reader.
They are trying to find reasons to love you, and if they only find reasons to hate you, it’ll be hard to win them back.
The tiniest amount of boredom could be fatal to an otherwise amazing piece of writing.
That’s why you need to capture your reader’s attention from start to finish.
Here are 5 tips to help you do that.
Many people think that they can simply identify a niche that has some potential to make money, throw out some blog posts about said niche, and watch the money roll in.
It doesn’t work that way.
Not only will you get tired and ultimately resentful with your blog, you’ll write really boring blog posts.
Before you create a blog, make sure you are in love with your niche.
You need to be able to naturally give off the impression that you love what you do. You need to ooze passion for your niche. You need to have a burning desire in your soul to tell the world about the things you’re interested in.
If you don’t have that passion, you either need to find it or start writing about something you love.
Here’s a test: If you can’t talk with your friends for hours about your niche, you aren’t blogging in the right niche.
But just loving what you do isn’t enough to get people excited.
You need to show the world that excitement.
One way to really showcase how much you care is by using emotions in your writing.
Talk about the things that are making you happy, sad, frustrated, excited, etc. This will not only help you come across as passionate about your topic, but it will also help connect you with your readers.
Why does this work?
Because humans are emotional creatures. The majority of the decisions we make are based off our emotional reactions to things.
When we use emotions in our writings, we create a much more compelling thread for readers to follow.
Here’s an example of writing without emotion:
My power cable wasn’t supposed to break, but then it broke. I bought another power cable online for $9.99. It’s black and has an on/off button. It’s not a perfect fit for my computer but it still fits. I don’t want to return it.
Here’s that same piece of writing with emotion:
My supposedly “indestructible” power cable destroyed itself in under 3 days. Damn you HP! Anyway, I went online and found a replacement for under 10 bucks! Total score! It’s not a perfect fit but nothing in life is perfect, right? I don’t think it’s gonna blow up my computer… I hope not, at least. Here’s the best part: It’s black (like the color of my soul – too dramatic?) and it has an on/off power button so I don’t run up my already way too expensive power bill. All in all, I’m quite satisfied.
That emotion-filled piece of writing is way over the top, has sub-standard grammar, and has a lot of unnecessary things about it that would never make the cut in “traditional” writing.
But it’s so much more compelling and interesting to read than the first one.
When writing, stop for a minute and ask yourself how you’re feeling. If it isn’t obvious that you’re feeling that way in your piece, make it more obvious.
But be warned: No one wants to read a rant. It’s very easy to overdo emotions. Look at emotions like spices. Too little and the piece will be bland, but too much and the piece will be unreadable.
People read things using the voice that is inside of their heads.
This is the same voice they use when they talk to themselves (don’t worry, everyone talks to themselves).
And if you pay close enough attention, you’ll realize that you’re doing it now.
You don’t know what my voice sounds like so you’re reading these words with that all-too-familiar mental voice (who probably sounds a lot like you).
When reading things, we all want to read something that is similar in tone to the voice that is already inside of our heads. This is the voice that we interact with every day, multiple times a day.
We don’t want to read something that sounds like someone completely unfamiliar.
But how do you write like the voice inside someone else’s head?
Pretty much every piece of writing benefits from a conversational tone.
In fact, I can only come up with a few reasons why you should not write in a conversational way and none of those reasons are good for bloggers or internet marketers (e.g. scientific research papers).
Conversational tones help readers connect with the stranger on the other side of the screen. It makes you seem like you’re a super nice person who just wants to give some helpful advice.
And if you talk in a friendly way, people will naturally want to be your friend.
Many writers are afraid to write this way. They feel that they should become the “authority” and write with a lot of technical jargon in a cold, un-friendly way.
But even if you’re writing in a super technical niche, people would rather have a conversation with someone than sit through a lecture.
For pretty much anything, it’s entirely possible to lay out a lot of complex information in a simple, conversational way.
And when you do, people will appreciate the fact that you’ve stepped down from your “teacher” ledge and started engaging with them as an equal.
And it’s easy to do this. Simply follow this rule:
Don’t get fancy. How you talk is how you should write.
Imagine your friend is sitting on the other end of the computer screen and you are just having a conversation with them.
All you’re doing is writing out the thoughts in your head. Note: This does not mean don’t structure, organize, or edit those thoughts! Read this article.
As you write, say the words you’re writing out loud. If you do this and it sounds weird, then you’re not writing in a conversational tone.
When you converse with a reader, you’re directly talking to them.
This means you should use words like “I” and “you” when making references about yourself or directly addressing the reader.
When you aren’t doing either of these things, third-person language like “he/she” and “they” is OK.
But in general, you want to talk right at the reader and use reference words that make them feel like they’re involved in the conversation.
For instance, in this piece, I know that people reading this are looking for writing tips. So all my writing tips are written using “you”. I’m also referencing myself a lot, and I’m using the word “I”.
In highly formal writing, first and second person focal points are not good. But again, the overwhelming majority of blog writers do not need to be highly formal.
Here’s an example of third person writing:
If an author writes an article about using first and second person but he/she doesn’t give an example of what that means, the reader may not understand what the author is referring to.
Here’s that example written with first and second person:
If I write an article about using first and second person but I don’t give an example of what that means, you may not understand what I’m referring to.
The second example is much easier to read and has a much more natural “flow”.
But be warned: Don’t overdo it. Too much first and second person in the wrong places will come across as awkward and unnatural.
Words are great.
They really are.
And if you’re a writer, your whole career rests on how well you can convey your point with words.
But if you aren’t a novelist or someone who works in “traditional” print mediums, you have to fight to keep the attention of internet users who have specifically chosen to read you writings on the internet – a place with millions of competing distractions.
And these internet users have historically short attention spans.
So one way to keep a reader’s attention is by using pictures to add a little bit of flare to your blog posts.
Now, the pictures have to be relevant. You can’t just throw a bunch of random pictures into a post and think that people are going to be amused. That’s not going to work.
Don’t try to “trick” your readers with irrelevant pictures.
And don’t use images as a substitute for bad writing. Images are meant to heighten and amplify the words in the post, not replace them.
But when you find a perfect mix of images and words and you use the two in conjunction, then you are helping readers understand your point in a powerful and highly effective manner.
One great way to make your images more engaging is by using captions.
Captions are the text field underneath pictures.
Most people ignore them, but they are extremely useful in adding style to your articles. Because if you can add a little bit of spice to your images, your entire post will be much more engaging and will display a lot more of your personal style.
For instance, I’ve inserted captions on all the still images (not GIFs) in this post.
In my case, they’re mildly humorous asides meant to give this post a little bit of levity.
But captions don’t need to be funny to be effective.
Here’s an article with a picture:
If you often find yourself partying until the early morning, you may be a “night owl”.
And here’s that same article but with a caption on the picture:
If you often find yourself partying until the early morning, you may be a “night owl”.
It’s not funny, it’s not relevant, and it’s completely unnecessary to mention that owls are silent in flight. But now you know this mildly interesting fact. And you’re a little bit better of a person because of it.
But be warned: Captions are not meant to add anything significant. Don’t make them too wordy or too important. Just use them to give your pictures a little spice.
As a general rule of thumb:
Assume that everyone on the internet has a super short attention span.
Even if the person reading your post doesn’t have a super short attention span, they may not be willing to sift through super dense paragraphs to find the information they’re looking for.
Not only are dense blocks of text unpleasing to the eye, they can give off the impression that the entire article is going to be very time consuming to read.
Most internet readers like to scan through articles, and if the article has a lot of text crammed together, it becomes a lot less scan-able.
When they land on your site and see large chunks of text, they may not even bother trying to get through your information. They’re just going to move onto another website.
But you need to know that there’s a fine line between too little and too much. Short paragraphs are good, but if every paragraph is only one line, the text will be too similar and it will come across as annoying.
Instead, group your paragraphs into immediate thoughts. For instance, this thought is immediately related to the preceding thought. As is this thought. Therefore, all of these thoughts belong in the same paragraph.
Push all other thoughts into their own paragraph.
Short paragraphs of no more than 4 sentences help capture everyone’s interest, from the typical internet scanner to the more serious academic reader.
Yes, many serious academic readers prefer reading internet information in short bursts over menacing hunks of cramped letters.
Of course this varies by niche, but in general, keeping paragraphs short helps a reader digest more of your information.
Note: There are many exceptions out there as more “formal” writing tends to prefer longer paragraphs. But most of those websites utilize a lot of white space and they make their font size really big to maximize scan-ability.
I like to think of reading internet writing as exercise. A lot of the reason that people stop exercising is because they look at how intimidating their overall exercise regimen needs to be to reach their goal.
Going to the gym for 2 hours 4 times per week for 6 months sounds like a herculean task. But if you break that down into immediate parts, it becomes:
Breaking an exercise regimen down into short milestones rather than looking at how faraway the overall goal is helps people stay on the path.
Likewise, if you can break the overall goal of reaching the end of the article into short milestones (aka short paragraphs), you’ll have a better chance of having that reader stay with you until the end.
Bucket brigades are a kind of “trick” that copywriters use to heighten anticipation and shorten paragraphs.
They are stoppages in the paragraph in order to highlight something potentially profound.
A bucket brigade looks like:
That was a bucket brigade.
It was a few words, a colon, and then another word.
Sometimes bucket brigades come in the form of lists, and other times they’re just used to build a moment of expectation.
I used a bucket brigade at the start of this section to create a brief moment of tension between what would otherwise be a general, tension-less sentence.
However they’re used, bucket brigades are an incredibly effective method of keeping a reader’s attention.
Here’s an example of a normal paragraph:
I took a stroll along the lake and realized I am getting older every minute. This didn’t particularly come as shock to me considering the fact that I am losing my hair, getting fatter, and feeling drained of energy. It won’t be long before the inevitable end. Death.
Here’s that paragraph written for an internet audience:
I took a stroll along the lake and realized:
This didn’t particularly come as a shock to me considering the fact that I am:
It won’t be long before the inevitable end.
The words are all the same, but the anticipation is heightened between the major points. This makes it much easier to digest all the main ideas while quickly scanning through.
Now, if I were writing a novel or a short story or any kind of “traditional” writing, I would never do this.
But when writing for the internet, you need to assume that everyone’s thumb is perpetually scrolling down the screen. Creating a bucket brigade allows us to lay out information in a way that the reader can absorb quickly and easily.
But be warned: Bucket brigades are only powerful if used sparingly. If you throw out a bunch of them, your writing will look terrible. It is way better to use too little than it is to use too many.
Readers want to feel a personal connection to your work.
They want to think that you wrote an article specifically for them.
They want to feel like you’re inside of their head, speaking all of their thoughts for them.
All of the tips that I’ve shared here will help you achieve this goal. But there’s one surefire tactic to really nail down the personal aspect of blog posts.
Who doesn’t love a good story?
Stories are extremely effective literary tools that help make everything exciting, relatable, and real.
There are two kinds of stories:
1. Stories about yourself.
A lot of people shy away from stories about themselves because it makes them feel uncomfortable. But sharing vulnerability is one of the most effective ways of building a connection with a fellow human.
You should never be afraid to share a personal story because there are countless others out there in the internet world who have a similar story.
They need you to be vulnerable so that they can open themselves up to the healing that you’re offering in your article.
Stories about yourself also help in maintaining the authority that you’ve built. Telling your audience about how you knew nothing is a great way to showcase the fact that now you know lots of things.
2. Stories about others.
Stories about others let readers know that there are many different kinds of people struggling with a certain kind of problem.
Like personal stories, they are relatable markers for overcoming a troubling situation.
These can be stories where you’ve either heard about someone struggling, had a personal interaction with someone struggling, or personally helped someone overcome their struggles.
Whichever kind of story you use, telling your audience how something has impacted either you or someone else will let readers personally feel connected to your work.
Here’s an example of writing without a story:
This waterproof rain jacket is so waterproof that it can withstand a monsoon.
Here’s that writing but with a story:
It was a sunny day in northern Thailand when I started riding my motorbike. Within 10 minutes, a massive monsoon came pouring down. I was really worried because my phone and my computer were in my non-waterproof backpack. I had to think fast. I pulled out my rain jacket and wrapped it around my backpack. I got home, soaked to the bone, but my backpack – along with my computer and phone – was dry as a desert.
The story puts into focus just how effective the rain jacket was and backs up the claim that the jacket can withstand a monsoon.
It’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to show it.
But be warned: Stories in blog writing should only be used to verify a claim or highlight an idea. The story should have a point relating to the overall point of the piece. Don’t just make a blog post with a bunch of unrelated stories.
So, you definitely need to edit.
If you aren’t editing your work before it gets published, you’re definitely producing a bad article.
Editing is crucial to any kind of artistic process. It’s how things get fine-tuned to ensure maximum success.
If you’ve read my previous SML pieces, you’ll know that I’m a staunch advocate of editing.
And if you haven’t been editing, you need to start now. Read this to help you get started.
But there’s one specific kind of editing that really helps a piece take shape.
William Faulkner said:
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
In this piece alone, I wrote a lot of really great stuff that I thought was super interesting and illuminating about various aspects of the human psyche.
But since this piece is not about human psychology, I took all of that stuff out.
Because it was clouding up the main purpose of the article.
In the art world, whether it’s music or theatre or writing, during any period of editing, “killing your darlings” is a reality that we all have to face.
Our “darlings” are those things that we’re so proud of, but are holding our art back. It’s sad as hell to see that stuff go, but if we don’t get rid of them, we’ll be letting them drag the whole piece down.
It’s like pruning a garden; you cut off a little bit of the plant in order to foster better and healthier growth.
We need to prune our articles so that only the necessary and most important parts are seen. This helps us produce clear, concise, and highly professional pieces of writing.
So don’t be afraid to edit.
And don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings”.
There’s an unfortunate truth that needs to be considered when trying to write irresistible blog posts.
The audience is the ultimate judge.
I’ve produced an unsettling number of artistic works over my life that I thought were absolutely brilliant. The public, however, disagreed.
But it’s from learning what works, why it works, and then refining that whole process that I started to figure out how to engage people with my art.
Because if we don’t refine our process and we don’t learn from the feedback we receive, then we’re just delusionally believing ourselves to be great when reality is telling us that we need to improve.
But when we do improve, and when we do understand how to impact a lot of people with our work, we can come to a place where we are acting in artistic harmony with the world around us.
We are seen as valuable to society, and we become fulfilled in our career.
All because our work is engaging.
And completely irresistible.
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