The Only 6 Posts Worth Writing (and How to Totally Nail Each One)

The Only 6 Posts Worth Writing (and How to Totally Nail Each One)

Want to know the secret to a popular blog?

Drumroll please…

Popular posts.

Simple, huh? πŸ™‚

So simple as to be, well let’s be honest, completely useless.

Because if you knew the secret to writing consistently popular posts, you’d already have a popular blog. Right?

But instead, you approach each new idea with a gnawing trepidation.

You quietly hope that this might be the post that finally rockets you to Internet fame, but it’s all you can do to suppress the creeping fear that people will completely ignore it – or even ridicule it.

The problem is that nobody – not even the A-List Bloggers – knows how a post will be received until they click publish. And even the top dogs understand that they are just one underwhelming post away from a raft of unsubscribes and a flurry of premature – but strangely prophetic – rumors of a fall from grace.

But there is a way to give your next blog post (and the one after that and the one after that) the best chance of being your most popular to date.

The Crazy Simple Secret to Writing Popular Posts

All wildly popular posts have one basic quality in common. One simple characteristic shared by all posts that set their audiences alight.

They change the reader.

In other words, the person who finishes the post is not the same as the one who started it – they’ve experienced a change.

It might not be a big change. Or even a permanent change. (Although truly great posts achieve both types.) But the simple act of reading the post changes the reader in some meaningful way.

It changes what they know, changes how they feel, or even changes what they believe.

And the best posts change how the reader behaves.

They prompt the reader to take action; action that sets them on a new path, toward a new destiny. And whether that’s a minor new arc in their day or a whole new trajectory in their life, it wouldn’t have happened without that post.

So here they are. The 6 types of posts that set out to change the reader. Posts that have popularity in their DNA.

For each type you’ll learn:

  • What to say in the opening – how to open your post with the right ideas to draw the reader in and set the scene for what’s to come.
  • How to transition to the body – how to introduce the first major idea of the post, developing the theme and bridging smoothly from the opening to the main body.
  • What to say in the body – guidelines and tactics for writing the main body to ensure it creates the desired change.
  • How to close – how to write a closing section that echoes the main theme and leaves the reader poised to take action.

Let’s get started.

#1 The Wake-Up Call

The Wake-Up Call is a tough-talking post whose purpose is to snap the reader out of behavior that’s destructive, misguided or simply isn’t in line with their claimed goals.

Sometimes the reader is aware of the mistakes they’re making. Other times they have no idea they’re pushing so hard in the wrong direction. But The Wake-Up Call aims to put them straight.

This post deals in hard truths and tough love. It leaves the reader bruised, but wiser. And importantly, ready to face the world again with eyes wide open.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Open by talking about what the reader wants and what they may currently be doing to get it. Acknowledge that their actions are perfectly reasonable given what they know, and empathize with the frustration of not making progress or not making progress quickly enough.

How to transition to the body

Reveal that the real reason they are not succeeding is that they’re doing something fundamentally wrong. They’re taking the wrong actions, pursuing the wrong goal or operating under the wrong assumptions. But it’s not their fault – it’s just that no-one bothered to point out their mistakes before now.

What to say in the body

Highlight the reader’s errors and omissions. Convince them of the folly of their current strategy. Talk about what it really takes to be successful, and suggest alternative behaviors that will yield better results.

Specific tactics:

  • Give hard reasons why old advice no longer works and why a new approach is required.
  • For each mistake provide a remedy; for each false assumption, an insight.
  • Highlight real-world examples of success using the alternative behaviors and examples of failure using the old.
  • Share personal stories about making exactly the same mistakes – and say what you learned from the experience.

Keep an eye on:

  • Tone. Ensure that your overall tone is supportive rather than judgmental. You’re giving the reader hard truths because you want them to succeed, not because you want to bring them down.
How to close

End by challenging the reader to finally let go of their misconceptions and embrace the truth, however difficult that might be. Remind them to keep the end goal in mind and reiterate that only a total change of mindset will allow them to achieve it. Caution them by describing the consequences of slipping back into old behaviors. Finally, coax them to take their first step in a brand new direction.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in beliefs, leading to a change in behavior.

Examples

Examples of The Wake-Up Call in action:

#2 The Catalyst

The Catalyst is a post designed to push the reader over the edge – but in a positive way. Its purpose is to persuade, cajole or even to shame them into taking a step they have been meaning to take for some time.

The Catalyst is aimed at the reader who knows what they need to do but has a mental block about doing it.

This type of post is concerned with reasons. It demolishes the reasons that maintain the status quo and gives new reasons for taking the desired steps toward the destination.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Start by empathizing with the feeling of being blocked and reassure the reader that it’s perfectly normal to be stuck. Speculate about some of the reasons the reader might have for not moving forward.

How to transition to the body

Pivot by saying that while it is normal to be stuck, it’s not okay – certainly if the reader is committed to being successful. Call them on their BS by bringing into stark focus the disconnect between what they say they want and what they’re doing to get it.

What to say in the body

Systematically demolish the reader’s excuses for inaction. Use counter arguments and counter examples. Show them how apparent obstacles can be removed, or convince them that these are not true obstacles at all. Teach them how to make progress even in the face of their perceived barriers.

Specific tactics:

  • Give examples to show how others moved forward under the same – or tougher – circumstances.
  • Use humor to point out contradictory behavior without bullying the reader.
  • Reframe perceived limitations as advantages. (“Can’t find the time to write? Great – write for just 15 minutes, but every day.”)

Keep an eye on:

  • Scope. You’re looking to get the reader moving again – not make huge strides forward – so don’t overreach. If the task seems too daunting, they will slip back into the rut of inaction.
How to close

Talk about the perils of inaction and remind the reader that nothing worth having comes easily. Describe a vision of the future where they have stepped past their previous limits and are enjoying new freedom and success. Finally, prompt them to take a first step that commits them to the new path.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in mindset, leading to action.

Examples

The following are some examples of The Catalyst in action:

#3 The Lifeline

The Lifeline is a highly practical post that gives the reader the solution to a problem they already know they have.

Unlike The Catalyst, which helps readers who know what to do but can’t take the step, The Lifeline rescues readers who are blocked for another reason – they simply don’t know how to proceed. Their problem isn’t inaction – it’s finding the right action.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Empathize with the specific problem the reader is facing. Show you understand their situation. Amplify the pain and frustration they feel while this problem remains unsolved. Talk about some of the things they may have tried that failed.

How to transition to the body

Tell the reader that they’re not stupid – the problem is a tough one and the solution may not be the same for everyone. Reassure them that the problem is not unsolvable – they just need to be pointed in the right direction. Build credibility – what makes you the right person to offer a solution?

What to say in the body

Reveal your solution. If you have one solution that works in all cases then be sure to provide the detail that others omit. If there are many valid approaches, provide enough alternatives that the readers will be sure to find one that works for their situation.

Recommended tactics:

  • Give specific, easy-to-follow tips that yield quick wins – even if they only solve part of the problem, leaving other tips to solve the rest.
  • Provide specific examples of how others have solved the same problem successfully using similar approaches.
  • Point out the potential pitfalls and guide them safely away from common advice that’s confusing, simplistic or just plain wrong.

Keep an eye on:

  • Detail. Provide enough for the reader to take action and get results. If you promise a solution but the reader has too little information to act, they will feel cheated and frustrated.
How to close

Remind the reader of the pain caused by the problem and suggest that a solution is now within their reach. Reiterate what they need to do to get started (follow the steps, pick a tip, try an approach) and urge them to take action. Get them to imagine a near future where the problem has disappeared and is a distant memory.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in focus – from obstacle to action.

Examples

Examples of The Lifeline in action:

#4 The Hand-Holder

The Hand-Holder takes a new reader on their first baby steps toward a large and seemingly impossible goal. It aims to transition your newest fans from wide-eyed novices to confident apprentices.

At this early stage in their development, The Lifeline is no help because they don’t even know what problems they should be solving yet.

Likewise, The Catalyst won’t help either – procrastination is only an issue if you know what to do next.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Open by empathizing with the feeling of not knowing where to start, of being overwhelmed by possibilities and feeling a million miles behind everyone else.

How to transition to the body

Reassure the reader that feelings of overwhelm are not a result of stupidity or naivety but rather the sheer volume of advice given, much of it contradictory. Reveal that some simple steps will set them on the right path.

What to say in the body

Lead the reader to a place of basic competence by filling in the gaps in their understanding. Build their confidence levels. Show how even a small amount of knowledge and skill can yield useful results.

Specific tactics:

  • Give clear, simple examples that are easy to follow.
  • Ensure your advice is unambiguous and free of nuance.
  • Use simple metaphors to relate important concepts to widely-understood principles.
  • Provide regular encouragement throughout the points.

Keep an eye on:

  • Jargon. Don’t assume the reader is already familiar with the common terms in your niche. With a new reader, trust is a fragile thing, and strange, unexplained terminology can easily break that trust.
How to close

Remind the reader that even experts were once beginners. Show them how far they’ve already come. Gently remind them of the first step they need to take and show them what lies ahead if they keep working.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in confidence levels and capability.

Examples

Examples of The Hand-Holder in action:

#5 The Strategy

The Strategy gives the reader a robust process for reaching an elusive goal. This is a post for the reader who already knows where they are and where they need to be but cannot see a clear path between the two.

This type of post doesn’t aim to give an exact solution for everyone because each reader and each situation are different.

Whereas The Lifeline is focused on solving problems, The Strategy helps the reader achieve goals. It doesn’t promise an easy ride or a quick fix, only that diligently following the process will yield the desired result.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Build empathy with the reader around wanting to achieve an important goal but not knowing how. Show them you understand the frustration of cookie-cutter solutions that promise much but deliver little.

How to transition to the body

Reveal that there is no easy answer – it’s going to take hard work – but there is a process they can follow to get where they need to be. Establish the credentials for the strategy – is it one you’ve successfully followed yourself or have you distilled it from the success of others?

What to say in the body

Break down the process into its component steps. Think carefully about the transitions between steps. Make the process no more complicated – but no simpler – than it needs to be to guarantee results.

Specific tactics:

  • Make the criteria for moving from one step to another clear – don’t let the reader skip difficult steps.
  • Show how each part of the strategy might apply to a specific scenario to make it easier to see how it might apply to theirs.
  • Give likely timescales and set reasonable expectations.

Keep an eye on:

  • Coverage. Make sure the strategy covers all of the scenarios the reader might reasonably expect. Provide alternative steps where necessary.
How to close

Remind the reader of the value of their goal and suggest that a clear target together with a rock-solid strategy is a prize half-won. Warn them not to start the process lightly but to steel themselves for a long journey. Ask them what they need to do to be ready to embark upon the first step and urge them to start that preparation right away.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in approach – leading to better results, sooner.

Examples

Examples of The Strategy post in action:

#6 The Horizon-Expander

The Horizon-Expander aims to broaden the reader’s knowledge and open them to new ideas and opportunities.

It’s not interested in helping people be more effective with the knowledge they already have. It wants to broaden their thinking to include new options.

This type of post says, “Here are some new toys to play with,” and whether those are ideas, principles, tools or even people, they help the reader imagine new possibilities and play a bigger game.

How to Totally Nail It

What to say in the opening

Play upon the reader’s curiosity about a subject. Empathize with a desire to learn more and reveal that few of us in reality have time for actively seeking new influences in the hope they might one day be useful.

How to transition to the body

Reveal yourself as a humble curator and tell the reader where ideas in the post have come from. Build anticipation by describing the benefits they will receive – new sources of inspiration, new models to copy, new ways of thinking to apply to their work.

What to say in the body

List your examples. Explain the important principles. But ground them in a recognizable world. New ideas and unusual influences can be powerful, but they need context. Show the reader how these relate to their current world view.

Specific tactics:

  • Show abstract principles in action by giving real-world examples.
  • Use hypotheticals to show how the reader could apply the ideas to their own work.
  • Use analogies to make unfamiliar principles easier to understand.

Keep an eye on:

  • Relevance. Ask yourself: are these truly useful points of reference or simply an excuse to explore personal interests outside your normal topic?
How to close

Remind the reader of the benefit of looking outside their immediate sphere for new ideas and influences. Encourage them to pick an example from the post and explore it further or to apply an idea to their own situation. Prompt them for examples to add to your list.

The Change This Post Creates

A change in awareness – more options leading to better results.

Examples

Examples of The Horizon-Expander in action:

So What are You Waiting For?

As a blogger, you can easily feel that writing a popular post is a matter of pure luck.

Popularity is not something that can be engineered – it’s just something that happens once in a while, when the planets align, right?

Certainly it’s true that if you write enough posts you’ll eventually get lucky.

(As the saying goes: even a blind pig finds a truffle once in a while.)

But to build a popular blog, occasional – inexplicable – success is not good enough.

You need to write posts that are consistently popular. You need to develop your writing to the point where failure (not success) is the unusual, unfathomable event.

Because that’s how you build momentum. That’s how you grow an audience. That’s how you get traffic.

But now you have a compass for popularity. A simple question.

Will your post change the reader?

So to get started, think:

What change do your readers need most?

What change do they need right now?

Got an answer? Good.

Then it’s time to start writing.

About the Author:Β Glen LongΒ is the Managing Editor of Boost Blog Traffic. If you liked this post you might also like his 20 Rules for Writing So Crystal Clear Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand. You can find him on Google+ and (occasionally) Twitter.