Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do to get people to pay attention to your blog was to climb into a cardboard box and play with some string?
It works for cats. Collectively, the cat videos on YouTube are more popular than… well… everything.
And it’s totally not fair, right?
Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours writing a thoughtful post, only to get ignored because everyone is too busy watching a cat play the keyboard. And yet, it happens all the time.
Is it wrong to want to actually teach people something? Is all that hard work creating educational content just a waste of time?
Well, I don’t think so. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this post.
At the same time though, I believe all the cat videos are trying to teach us a very important lesson:
There’s a Place for Mindless Content
Think about it.
After a long day at work, solving problems and stomping out fires and juggling hundreds of different tasks, do you really want to come home and watch a documentary?
Of course not. Your brain is fried.
Well, many of your readers feel the same way. For them, the Internet isn’t a fount of knowledge; it’s something they tinker with before they go to bed. A cat video makes them laugh for a few minutes, and then they go to sleep.
Does that mean educational content is worthless?
No. It just means you have to consider people’s mental state.
Sometimes we want long posts that give us dozens of ideas and really make us think. Other times, we just want to watch stupid cat videos.
You can find lots of smart advice on how to create great educational content, but that’s only half the equation. If you want to build a popular blog, you need to learn how to be mindless too.
And who better to teach us than cats themselves?
Here are their five most powerful lessons for creating blissfully mindless content:
Lesson #1: You Have to Be Easy to like
Even if you’re not a cat person, you can’t deny the appeal of big dew drop eyes and fluffy tails. (If you can, you’re obviously a cyborg.)
Cats have universal appeal that transcend cultural barriers, even language. That’s what makes them so popular.
How does that apply to you?
The truth is, blogging is the world’s biggest and most competitive popularity contest. People don’t read your blog just because you publish useful content. They read because they like you.
So, insert little tidbits about yourself into your posts. When your readers can relate to you, they’re more likely to comment and share your posts with others.
Lesson #2: It’s All About the Cat, Not the Cat Owner
Of course, you can also overdo it.
It’s OK to talk about yourself once in a while, but you need to keep your blog focused on the ones that matter most — your readers. Whenever you tell a story about yourself, wrap it inside a larger lesson that benefits the reader.
Here’s why: your readers are like cats.
They care about you, yes, but only as it relates to themselves. You’re there to serve the cat (or the reader), not the other way around.
And that’s a good thing. I think most of us become bloggers because deep down, we want to help people. There’s a need within us to offer something greater for the world.
We believe that our ideas have value and by offering up this value, we can help someone. They will read our blog and say, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.”
The secret to getting that kind of response?
Care about what your audience wants more than you care about what you want to say.
Lesson #3: Offer a Clear Benefit
If you watch a cat video, you know you’re going to get one of three things:
Can readers say the same thing about your posts? Or are the benefits somewhat… murky?
Ideally, you want every post to offer an immediate and obvious reason to keep reading. It also needs to be a reason that’s relevant to your audience.
For example, Jon Morrow likes to read. A lot. He doesn’t write book reviews on here because he knows when you do come here, it’s not to learn about books.
If he does mention a book, it’s all in context. He’ll talk to you about writing lessons he’s learned from Stephen King.
He knows what his readers want to achieve (i.e., becoming a better writer). He also makes sure you know exactly what the post is going to help you do when you read it.
Sounds like a simple thing, I know, but a lack of clarity is one of the major reasons why most bloggers don’t get more traffic. People come to their site, look around for a few seconds, and can’t figure out exactly how the site benefits them. So they leave, and they never come back.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Lesson #4: Make your visitors feel something
When you watch to cat video, you feel something. Always.
Maybe you laugh. Maybe you get the warm and fuzzies. Maybe somebody does something to the cat that makes you angry.
The stronger the emotion, the more popular the video is too. That’s because people come back to it again and again to get their “feeling fix,” and they also share it with their friends.
You need to do the same thing when writing a blog posts.
When you sit down to write, don’t just choose a topic. Choose an emotion. Decide in advance how you want readers to feel when they finish the post.
Do that, and people will be a lot more likely to come back to your blog. Not only because of what you teach them, but also because of how you make them feel.
Lesson #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Look Silly
Cats are really silly, but in an evil genius sort of way. It’s this complexity that makes people either love or hate them, but none of us can turn away when they’re chasing a laser pointer into a wall.
That’s why it’s important to be silly once in a while. People get tired of being lectured by know-it-alls. Sometimes, they just want someone they can laugh and hang out with.
So, be that person. Tell a joke, post a funny picture, or make a video of yourself doing something crazy.
You might worry that it’ll diminish your authority, but it won’t. People like to see their leaders having fun. Just look at all the politicians who go on comedy shows.
The bottom line?
Your Job Isn’t to Educate the World
Somewhere along the way, bloggers got the idea that our job is to educate the world. Day in and day out, we have to publish content that teaches people things and makes them think.
But it’s not true.
Our real job is making people happy.
It doesn’t matter how. Give them a useful tip, make them laugh, tell them an inspiring story, whatever. Just make sure they leave your blog happier than they came.
Educational content is one way to do that, sure, but it’s just one tool in an entire toolbox of techniques available to you. Why not use them all?
Cats do. Maybe they’re smarter than us after all. 🙂