Is Your Writing Missing This Crucial Ingredient?

Has this happened to you?

Now that you’ve started a blog, you spend hours writing a post, wracking your brains for the best ideas and then carefully crafting every powerful word on the page.

And then it falls flat.

You get only a handful of comments and can count the social media shares on your fingers.

And after all the work you’ve put into the piece!

It’s a bummer, isn’t it?

You may wonder: Why did my readers click away?

Perhaps your post is lacking something important. It needs one vital ingredient to really stand out:

A clear destination.

Why Every Powerful Post Needs a Clear Destination

The simple truth is: if readers feel disoriented, they tend to leave.

Your blog post needs to be a journey for your reader,  a journey with a point of departure and a clear destination.

And it needs to be a journey worth taking.

So, where do you want to take your readers?

Do you want them to learn something new, to feel inspired, or to be transformed?

These three outcomes represent destinations that your readers want to visit. And each demands a different style of blog post. We’ll take a look at some examples further below, but first let’s consider what causes readers to abandon the journey. Or fail to even start it.

The 3 Fatal Pitfalls Every Trip Leader Must Avoid

As the author of your blog post, you’re like the leader of the expedition. And you must hold your travelers’ interest or they may desert you along the way.

The following are the most common mistakes that cause readers to click away.

Pitfall #1: Your post has no destination

This often happens when bloggers become so self-absorbed, they forget about their audience. Check out the following introduction to see what I mean.

Like most arguments between married couples, I forget what this one was about. I know I was probably being impatient, angry and saying not-so-nice words.

I was most likely being what British people refer to as a prig.

My wife won the day, though. She sounded off a rejoinder that stung: “You know, sometimes I wish you were like the person who writes on your blog.”

Do you get a sense of where this is going?

No, I don’t either. Click.

Pitfall #2: Your post sets off in the wrong direction

If you point readers in a particular direction but then veer off, they will feel tricked.

Can you guess what the following post is about?

Mike Bridavsky could not stop crying. Over the course of two spring weeks in 2012, the foundation of his life had crumbled completely. The Bloomington, Indiana recording studio he’d secured a $60,000 bank loan to build, quit his full-time university job to run, and then dumped his entire savings into finishing was on the verge of bankruptcy.

What do you think this is about?

You got that wrong.

As it turns out, this post is about a cat!

What?! Click.

Pitfall #3: Your post meanders instead of marching

If a post shuffles from one topic to another, your readers will get disoriented.

If you want to see how a blogger uses a catchy title and then proceeds to say nothing much in 710 words while galloping from blogging to Snapchat to writing catchy titles to people’s willingness to jump somewhere, you should check out the post The One Thing Gurus Always Get Wrong About Blogging.

Thanks. Click.

Can you see how we tend to click away if there’s no clear destination?

That’s why you need to make sure readers know where you’re headed.

How to Signpost Your Post’s Destination

Your headline should clearly “signpost” where your blog post is heading.

It’s like the sign on the front of a bus. I mean, you’re not going to hop onto a bus to go to New York if it says Los Angeles, right?

Your headline must do the same thing – indicate a clear and appealing destination.

Is your headline the right signpost?

If you write a headline that takes the reader off-track, you’ve just killed your post.

Take a look at one of my worst headlines. It’s so bad, you wonder what the hell I was thinking…

Dragons, Mommy Rabbits, and the Terror of Fictional Improvisation

Any idea where this post is heading? No?

Exactly! Click.

Writing a headline that points to your chosen destination is vital for reader engagement and social media shares.

Like this one, for example:

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Irresistible Subheads

Or this one:

10 Powerful Secrets of Bestselling Authors

These headlines work because they act as a compass directing you to the post’s destination.

Ideally, the headline and introduction should work together to point to the journey’s end.

Mapping Out the Journey in Your Introduction

In the end is the beginning, and in the beginning is the end. — Ali Smith

Take a look at how talented online writer Gregory Ciotti structures his introductions.  In his post How to Write With Substance, Greg leads with this sentence:

Nothing drags down writing more than spreading good ideas over too many words.

After a couple of paragraphs, he ends the introduction like this:

For essays, updates, announcements, emails, and more, here’s an abridged guide to writing with clarity and substance.

As a reader, you know exactly where this post is going to take you, right?

This is the power of excellent introductions.

However, diving into a good story that illustrates the point you’re going to make can also work well.

I experimented with this strategy in my post: How to Write Better: 3 Secrets of Transmitting Naked Emotions.

Here is how I started the introduction:

Naked emotions?

Like I felt when I finally gave up screaming for help.

When I sank to my knees and wept by the side of the stream, watching my horse about to drown – and unable to rescue her.

The comments showed how this worked for my readers:

Virginia wrote:

Virginia Wrote

Glen Long said:

Glen Long said

In this case, leading with a story worked. However, if you employ this strategy, it needs a spellbinding tale.

‘In the end is the beginning, and in the beginning is the end’ implies that the headline and introduction need to foreshadow the destination of your post.

But what is your destination?

The Top 3 Destinations for Intrepid Readers

There are three different destinations that make the reader’s journey worthwhile: learn, inspire and transform. Each one requires a different kind of blog post.

Let’s look in detail at how to set up each kind.

1. Learn

If your destination is for the readers to learn something, it means that by the time they’ve finished reading your post, either they will have gained new information or they’ll have discovered a new way of doing something.

It can be challenging to write a useful educational post because you need to meet your readers where they are and then lead them, step-by-step, to a new level of skill or understanding.

Here are three examples of how to posts.

As you see from these three posts, how-to posts are driven by step-by-step instructions, not so much by stories.

Of course, learning can also apply to getting news. Writing to inform or to entertain follows a different pattern from how-to posts.

When you write to inform, it’s important not to bury the lead. This term is used in journalism and means that you should start out with the most newsworthy aspect of a story.

Here is how journalists structure their articles:

  1. Start with the lead content
  2. Add supportive content
  3. Finish with a conclusion

Take a look at these two examples of informational articles:  

There you have the scoop on “learning”-style posts.

But If your destination is to inspire, you need to use a different set of tactics.

2. Inspire

There are several ways to inspire your readers. Here are three effective ways to rouse them:

Here is an example of a story that worked well for me.

In a post called How to Fight Your Way Back to Health After a Bad Diagnosis, I tell the story about how I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At one time, it was so bad that I couldn’t even drive a car because I could hardly grip the steering wheel.

For an athletic person like myself, this was a crushing blow.

In this post, I explain how I fought my way back to health until I was well enough to resume my beloved karate training as a black belt.

The key point of an inspiring post is to show a pathway that others can take to get the same result. As I say in my conclusion:

If you follow the tips above, you will uncover and strengthen your life energy, and this power will help you to fight your way back to health.

For inspiring posts, you can either use your own experience or tell your readers how others overcame their challenges. It’s important to evoke emotions when you write an inspiring post.

An inspiring story for writers is Rajesh Setty’s article How to Publish a Book: My 1000 Day Journey.

Read it right to the end. There is a surprise twist where Rajesh reveals how old he was when his first book was published.

An example of issuing a challenge is P.D. Simeon’s post about the Great Writing Challenge, which garnered over 500 enthusiastic comments.

3. Transform

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.Ricard Bach

Transformational posts are the kind you always remember – those which not only touch your life, but change it.

At the heart of transformational posts lies a personal story of survival against all odds.

One of the best examples of a transformational post is Jon Morrow’s How to Be Unforgettable.

It had a huge impact on me. Since reading Jon’s post, I always ask myself this question after completing a draft post of my own:

“If I die tomorrow and this turns out to be the last post I ever write, is this the legacy I want to leave?”

A transformational post needs a profound message – again, illustrated by an unforgettable story.

If you have a story from your own life, be brave and publish it.

If you don’t have a story from your own life, you can also use other people’s transformational stories. You can often find such stories in the news.

Don’t Risk Wasting Your Journey by Forgetting This Element

Okay, so you now know the three most potent destinations to take your readers.

Learning. Inspiration. Transformation.

But there is still something missing . . .

You’ve just led your readers through a great journey. But you’re not finished yet.

You also need to give them something to do next.

You need what is known as a “call to action.”

Because once you’ve delivered a great experience, readers will be receptive to your suggestions.

You can ask them to . . .

  1. Put what they just learned into action
  2. Share your post on social media
  3. Write a comment
  4. Subscribe
  5. Buy a product

Just make sure you suggest only one action, otherwise your readers may fall prey to decision paralysis.

So let’s bring it all together . . .

The Trip Leader’s Essential Checklist

Before you write and publish your next blog post and invite readers on a journey with you, make sure of the following:

  • Get your people excited about what’s going to happen on the trip. [Indicate your destination in the headline and the introduction.]
  • Then lead your people through the trip, offering explanations and entertaining them along the way. [Keep on track in the body of your post.]
  • Once back to base, share memories and thank your group for being on the tour. [Remind readers of the journey they have just taken in the conclusion of your post.]
  • Suggest swapping photos or otherwise keeping in touch. [Add a call to action at the end.]

In other words, take your readers by the hand and lead them through your post.

What’s Your Destination, Trip Leader?

If you want your readers to stick around, creating posts with clear pathways is crucial. It’s a skill worth mastering, so practice!

Your headline creates anticipation, your introduction outlines the destination, and the body of your post delivers on your promised journey.

And when you get to the conclusion, that’s the time to remind readers of the places they’ve just visited and let them know exactly what to do now that they’re back.

Are you nodding along?

Maybe you now understand the rewards of a clear destination?

But, that information is useless . . . if you don’t take action.

So bookmark this post and keep it close to hand.

Then choose your destination and go for it!