Fact: One article on an authoritative blog can consistently generate enough income each month to pay your mortgage and all your monthly bills. And that’s even after you pay taxes on the income.
Just one article.
I know countless bloggers that have articles that generate tens of thousands of dollars a month in revenue.
Yes, just one article.
Now not every article you write can generate piles of cash. More importantly, the content on your site should be geared to benefit your readers; revenue comes second. But write enough excellent, compelling content, and a few articles will rise to the top in terms of earnings.
So how do you write great content? While the answer is not the same for every blog and every type of content, there are some guidelines that apply to most blog posts. In this article, we’ll cover my formula for writing exceptional educational content.
Great content starts with the right topic. We’ve all seen blogs that write about interesting stuff. It doesn’t matter if the blog is about gadgets, finances, or entertainment. Some bloggers seem to have a knack for writing content others want to consume.
While this article is focused on writing content, not picking topics, the two concepts are related. As a writer, if you don’t find the topic compelling, you won’t write compelling copy.
Understand the Post Type
Great content is not a ‘one size fits all’ proposition. What makes for a great product review, for example, will be very different than what makes for a great news story or article designed to teach.
As a result, what follows is a general approach to writing content, particularly content designed to educate or inform the reader. Other types of content, however, will have its own set of rules and guidelines.
While there is no official list of content types, the following are examples of content that should be written with more specific guidelines in mind:
- Product Reviews
- Book Reviews
- Case Studies
- List Posts (e.g., 50 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts)
Great educational content requires thorough research. Often writers are called upon to write about topics with which they are not intimately familiar. And even if they are, educational content is best when it links to relevant resources that are beneficial to the reader.
A perfect example is this post. As I was writing this section, I searched in Google for “how to research for a blog post.” One resource I found was 10 Social Media Research Strategies to Inject Your Next Blog Post With ‘Roids. Here’s a screen shot from that article:
As the above image taken from the post shows, research takes many forms. So as you research for articles for you’re writing, consider this list of options.
As a final example, Neil Patel of Quick Sprout wrote an interesting piece about the correlation between the length of a blog post and its rankings in search engines. What he found was that longer posts do better.
Now, I’ve just linked to his post because it is excellent content. It’s excellent content not because it’s long per se, but because it’s thorough, well researched, and well written. That link to his post, in turn, will be one factor that search engines use to determine the quality and relevance of his post.
And while we are talking about Neil Patel, please read his article on A Simple Plan for Writing a Powerful Blog Post in Less Than 2 Hours. It’s well worth your time.
Here are more resources relevant to writing great content:
The title of an article is the most important element.
Potential readers decide whether to read an article first based on the title. And a great title goes a long way to earning links and social sharing from others.
As an example, the title to this article could have been “How to Write Blog Content” or “How to Write a Great Post” While these titles are informative and relevant to the article, they are not exactly compelling. You can judge for yourself how I did with the title I chose.
The point is this–your headline must sing.
The resource for writing compelling headlines comes from a blog called Copyblogger. The article is How to Write Magnetic Headlines, and it contains links to a number of articles published on Copyblogger about writing headlines.
Read the articles.
One final note. Although the headline is the first thing readers read, it’s often not the first thing writers write. Don’t sit at a blank screen for hours trying to come up with a headline. Start writing the article. The perfect headline will find you.
If the headline is the most important element of an article, the introduction is a close second. The intro is your chance to convince the reader that reading the article is worth their time. Consider the following as you write introductions:
- Sometimes less is more. An opening paragraph of one sentence can really grab the reader’s attention. And this is particularly true for topics that many consider boring. Example: “I never thought a stop loss order could save me $16,724, but it did.” You may not even know what a stop loss order is, but I bet I’ve caught your attention.
- Start with a question. Example: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Today we’ll look at something that costs investors nothing, but can prove to be invaluable. Can you guess what it is?”
- Start with a compelling fact. Example: “Eighty percent of all investors who do this one simple thing earn on average three percent more than other investors. This strategy is free, and it takes less than 60 seconds to execute. And in all likelihood, you are not taking advantage of this strategy. In fact, if you are like most investors, you’ve never even heard of it. It’s called a stop loss order.”
Now compare the above to the following: “A stop loss order is something that every investor should understand. With a stop loss order, an investor can limit his or her potential loss on an investment. In this article, we will examine stop loss orders and how they can blah, blah, blah.” You get the idea.
For more on how to write a compelling introduction, check out The 2nd Most Important Element in Copywriting. The opening paragraph in the article is comprised of a single sentence: “This simple word of advice makes good copywriters legendary.”
Finally, like the headline, it’s often best to write the introduction after you’ve written the meat of the article.
The outline should be the first step in the writing process. Think in terms of subheadings.
For this article, my outline looked like this:
Understand the Post Type
God is in the Details
Examples are Worth a Thousand Words
Edit, edit, edit
Run Faster Than Your Friend
Now the above outline was the result of a process. I rearranged it, added to it, deleted or combined some sections. In fact, the second to last section, Run Faster Than Your Friend, was add after the post was first published.
And that’s the point. Your first outline will never be your last. But before you start writing, creating a high-level outline forces you to look at the big picture.
Once you have the first draft of your outline, ask the following questions:
What am I missing? Is there something I can add to make the article better?
Is the outline in the best order or should I move things around?
Are my subheadings informative?
God is in the Details
The internet is chalked full of fluff pieces. Total crap.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine an article with the following title: “50 Ways to Save Money Without Sacrifice.”
Now imagine one of the 50 ways is the following: Refinance your mortgage. That’s a perfectly fine way to save money without sacrifice. But the piece is fluff if that’s all that’s written on that topic. And just adding words doesn’t necessarily help.
Example: “Refinance your mortgage: Refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate can save you a bundle.”
Still fluff. Still crap.
Instead: “Refinance your mortgage: Refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate can save you a bundle. On a $250,000 mortgage, reducing your rate by just 1% can save you about $____ per month. We refinanced our mortgage from 5.50% down to 3.785%. The total cost was $______ and we now have a mortgage that costs us $______ less per month. You can read step-by-step how we did it here (there would be a link to the story). And if you are serious about refinancing, check out 10 Pitfalls to Avoid when Refinancing and check out the latest mortgage rates (again with links to appropriate pages). Finally, if you are unsure whether refinancing is worth the cost, check out this excellent refinance calculator (again with a link to the calculator).
Examples are Worth a Thousand Words
Readers love examples and case studies. If you show them how you did something step-by-step, it gives them insight they otherwise won’t get. And it proves to them that it can be done.
Sometimes an entire article is a case study. For example, I could have written this article as a case study. How? By walking through how I implemented the ideas in this article on a given blog post. To make such a case study work, I’d also need to include the results. Results could include the links to the article I received from other blogs and websites, the traffic that goes to the post, and the money earned from the article.
For articles that are not pure case studies, including examples in the post can accomplish the same thing. In the above section, I referenced an example of how I had refinanced my mortgage, which would include a link to the case study.
Here are some examples of excellent case studies:
Timeline for Facebook Pages: THE COMPLETE GUIDE. This article is part case study part detailed how-to guide. It’s an excellent example of great content.
How to Build a Niche Site. Another example of a detailed case study.
A picture is worth a thousands words.
Reviews of products should include pictures of the product. Educational content should contain images that help teach. This article includes images from other sites that help communicate the message. At a minimum, every article should contain at least one stock photo.
A lot has been written on where to find images, how to create them, and how to use them in blog posts. The key articles for you to read about images are the following:
Finally, often the best images for educational material come in the form of screenshots. For example:
- If you are writing a review about an online bank’s mobile application, screen shots of the mobile app are ideal.
- If you are writing about credit scores, screen shots of your own credit score from a credit score service help convey the message.
- If you are writing about how to do something online, screenshots or even a screencast showing readers how you accomplish the task will help make the article stand out.
The appearance of an article is critical. The goal is to make the content as easy for the reader to digest as possible. To do that, consider the following:
Break up the text with headings and lists.
Use short paragraphs.
Include images throughout the article where appropriate and helpful.
Edit, edit, edit
Finally, edit your content fiercely. Seriously, be brutal.
Cut out unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, sections.
Write your article in Word first and check for spelling and punctuation errors.
And then edit your article again.
Run Faster Than Your Friend
There’s a goofy joke that says if you’re with a friend in the woods and encounter a bear, you don’t have to be able to outrun the bear. Just run faster than your friend.
In some ways the Internet is no different. You always want to be improving your content. But as an exercise before publishing an article, search for the topic of your article in Google and Bing. Then look at the top few results and compare them to the article you’re about to publish.
Of course, search engines rank content based on hundreds of factors. And there will be plenty of times when you find poor content ranking well. But as the search engines improve, you find better and better content at the top of the rankings.
Use what you see in these highly ranked articles to improve upon your own content. At a minimum, make your article a little better than what’s already published on the Internet. And if you can’t, think twice about publishing the article.
Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income asked his readers to identify one thing they liked about his blog design and one thing they didn’t. He wrote about the responses he received, and showcased one response that side-stepped his question. Here’s what one reader had to say–
That’s the goal of great content, for readers to feel like they are “missing out” if they don’t read your content.
(Photo Source: gregwake)