Warning: Are You Suffocating Your Blog by Needlessly Neglecting Newbies?

Warning: Are You Suffocating Your Blog by Needlessly Neglecting Newbies?

Editor’s note: You’ll certainly have heard the following advice, commonly given to bloggers — “write for your ideal reader.” But the truth is, your most valuable readers won’t have identical needs. And if you ignore one important group, your blog growth could stall. Pamela Wilson’s new book is not just a must-read for content marketers; it’s invaluable for bloggers too. In this extract, taken from “Chapter 4: Matching Your Content to Your Customer’s Journey”, she explains how to pitch your content at different experience levels to attract a healthy mix of readers and avoid depriving your blog of the “oxygen” it needs to grow — new fans.

Prospects and customers go through a process of getting to know your business until they feel comfortable opening their wallets and doing business with you.

It’s called a “customer journey.” Although many have tried to map it out and identify key steps along the way, the reality is that the journey taken will look a little different for each person.

Customer journeys are as different as the people who take them.

Content marketing is designed to facilitate this journey — no matter what it looks like — by offering up the right information every step of the way.

I want to share a way of thinking about the customer journey that the Copyblogger editorial team has developed as we work together to produce the Copyblogger blog. We took a step back and looked at how we could best serve our entire audience: the ones who were just finding Copyblogger and the ones who’d been reading for years.

We developed a technique for classifying the content we create, and it has been enormously helpful in guiding our topic choices and developing an editorial calendar that meets the needs of the people who come to our site.

This classification system will ensure that you deliver the content your prospects need to understand your topic, develop trust in your business, and feel comfortable entering into a business relationship.

Identify and Write to Your Customer’s Experience Level

The editorial team identified three labels we use to pinpoint who we’re writing for when we create specific content on our site. Pay close attention to the questions associated with each label. That’s where the magic happens!

Beginner, or What is ___?

Your beginning readers comprise a vast audience, and it’s important to serve them well.

I’ve seen it many times: a content creator picks a topic and begins writing about it consistently over time. Researching, writing, and teaching a topic inevitably leads to a more in-depth understanding of it. As their knowledge deepens, their content becomes richer. But they “forget” what beginners want and need.

This is a mistake. Many of your prospects will find your site because they do a web search for something they’d like to know. They find your content because it answers their question. And they stick around because they see that your information is consistently helpful.

These beginning readers are ripe prospects who you can move along a customer journey using your content. To write content that helps them, think about your main topic and all the related subtopics. Here’s an example:

You write about learning to run for an audience of readers who’ve never run before. Many of the people who come to your site will be complete beginners — people who need to know the basics. They’re asking…

Post ideas to answer the What is ___? Question:

  • What could running do for me?
  • Do I have to run fast to be considered a runner?
  • What is the difference between a regular sneaker and a running shoe?
  • Why is proper training necessary?
  • What is a realistic schedule I can use to go from no activity to running a 5k race?
  • What are warm ups, cool downs, and sprints, and why should I do them?

Beginners have questions — lots of them. And some of them are so basic they might be embarrassed to ask them if they were standing right in front of you. Guess what? That’s why they’re doing a web search!

So make sure you provide plenty of content that answers the “What is ___?” fundamental questions that are running through your beginning readers’ minds.

Intermediate, or How Do I Do ___?

Your intermediate readers have gone beyond the basics. They’ve found answers to their “embarrassing” questions. Now they’re working to achieve mastery. They have a vision, they’re working toward it, and they’re looking to your content for help.

Intermediate readers are voracious consumers of “how-to” style content. They want tips, checklists, “ultimate guides” and step-by-step tutorials. And when you deliver this kind of content to them, they’ll save it, re-visit it, and share it with their friends because they found it useful.

Let’s take another look at our website about helping non-runners learn to run. They’re asking…

Post ideas to answer the How do I do ___? question:

  • What kind of shoe offers the best support for running hills?
  • How can I find running buddies in my community?
  • What should I do about dogs that approach me while I’m running?
  • What are the best apps for mapping my run?
  • How can I stay hydrated when I run in the heat?
  • What’s the best way to control my body temperature when running in the cold?

Advanced, or How Do I Get Better at ___?

Advanced readers have the basics down pat. They’ve also mastered intermediate-level questions and know “how to” do most activities and tasks associated with your topic.

When they get to this point, they morph into advanced readers. And they’re still looking to you and your content to guide them on their journeys. After all, you’re the authoritative voice who got them to this point, right? Your site is their preferred place to learn.

Advanced readers want to improve their performance. They know how to do the basics. Now they want to get better, faster, and more efficient. They’re asking…

Post ideas to answer the How do I get better at ___? question:

  • How can I increase my stamina so I can run longer distances?
  • What’s a good strategy for winning a 5k race?
  • How can I keep running even in my 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond?
  • What’s a reliable training regimen to increase speed?
  • How can I adopt a winning mindset on race day?
  • Where can I find safe and fun running routes while traveling?

What Percentage of Your Content Should You Write for Each Group?

Oh, I’d love to give you a formula here. I really would! But this is something you’re going to have to figure out for your own website and audience. A few guidelines:

Write mostly for beginners. The beginner audience is massive, and reaching out to them will help you bring in a steady stream of prospects who will be forever grateful you were there for them when they were asking their newbie questions.

Listen carefully, and note what people are asking about. If you notice lots of comments on your site or on social media platforms that feature intermediate and advanced questions, write content to answer those.

Notice objections and write answers to them. Any time you make an offer, people will find all sorts of reasons not to buy. When you’re writing a sales page, for example, you’ll want to be sure you’re answering those objections and providing reassurance in your copy.

But your regular content can answer objections, too. As a matter of fact, using content this way makes it much easier to sell something once you’re ready because you’ve responded to questions and met objections slowly and naturally with the information you’ve shared over time.

Using our example above, a few objections — and the content that will answer them — might be:

Objection: I’ll never be a runner: I’m too out of shape.

Content: 5 Inspiring Examples of Great Runners Who Don’t Look Like Typical Athletes

Objection: I don’t have time to run.

Content: A Simple Way to Run Daily and Still Have All the Time You Need

Objection: Others can run but I’ve tried, and I know I can’t do it.

Content: 3 Surefire Ways to Ease Into Becoming a Runner — Even if You’ve Failed Before

This approach to content — thinking in terms of beginner, intermediate, and advanced — will influence the topics you cover and how you deliver your information.

Matching Your Content to Your Customer’s Journey: A Checklist

  • Serve up content for every step of your prospect’s journey. Make sure you have plenty of content for beginners and ample content for those who are at an intermediate or advanced level.
  • For beginning readers, answer What is ___? Beginning content defines a topic and helps web searchers expand their understanding of the basics.
  • For intermediate readers, answer How Do I Do ___? Intermediate readers want to know how to apply what they’re learning to their lives and situations. “How-to” content fits perfectly into this category.
  • For advanced readers, answer How Do I Get Better at ___? Advanced readers crave mastery. What content can you create that will help them get really good at your topic?
About the Author: Pamela Wilson, author of Master Content Marketing: A Simple Strategy to Cure the Blank Page Blues and Attract a Profitable Audience, is Executive Vice President of Educational Content at Rainmaker Digital. Find more from Pamela at Big Brand System.

42 Comments

  1. Clement
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 09:37:58

    Hi Pamela

    Your article is very relevant to me. I’m a freelance copywriter and content marketer and I’ve been using my blog as a marketing tool. I’ve focused mainly on intermediate to advanced level content which I’ve found very successful in attracting new clients and subscribers.

    I’ve not produced much beginner-level content but having read your article, I might consider it. I might need to monetise the traffic for this content differently though.

    I totally agree with you about the importance of listening to your audience. I get some great feedback from my email subscribers which has helped shape my content strategy.

    Clement

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 09:46:54

      Hi Clement,

      If the intermediate and advanced level content has been converting for you, it’s smart to continue with it.

      The advantage of beginner-level content is that it helps you cultivate and build trust with a group of readers who stick with you as they become more advanced.

      You may not see the payoff immediately, but it’s a great way to built a long-term relationship.

      • David Boozer
        Oct 27, 2016 @ 10:22:13

        Hey Pamela, bought your latest book, finally got delivered to my Kindle the other day. I love it! It has been nearly 8 months since I have come across a good book about content marketing! Also, I like to mix up the content on my blog between newbies, current subscribers, and clients. Personally, for every 3 pieces I write for newbies, I will then write 1-2 for current subscribers and clients.

    • Tony Omary
      Nov 03, 2016 @ 11:17:35

      Hey Pamela,

      First, you have very strong points on what we should be writing on our blogs.

      I tend to contradict with your comment but agree with your blog. You cannot just leave begginers simply because, intermediates and advanced are converting.

      Remember, we were all begginers at one point. What if no one cared for us then?

  2. Pamela Wilson
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 10:24:31

    David, thank you! That sounds like a great mix: glad it’s working for you.

  3. Jane
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 11:34:17

    Hey Pamela,

    That’s a wonderful topic to discuss. In fact most of us bloggers forget about it as our blogs grow.

    It is quite natural that as a blogger’s knowledge grows, the content on the blog reflects that as well. As a result, the beginners get ignored a lot.

    As to how much should you publish for beginners, intermediates and advanced readers? – That’s a tough question and totally depends on the blog’s audience!

    Each business is different and has different target audience. So it is the job of the business owner to identify the “level” of their audience and serve them accordingly with their content.

    Personally, I ask a question to my email subscribers as soon as they sign up – I ask them what do they struggle a lot with? And mostly their answer reveal their level.

    This helps me create content accordingly.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 13:08:57

      I agree Jane … it depends a lot on your audience. The main takeaway I’m hoping readers get from this post is that at any given time, their audience is a mix. And it’s important to serve all of them and their varied needs.

  4. Erika Viktor
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 11:43:22

    Wow! This is an extremely helpful post! It never even occurred to me that some of my readers might be noobs at what I am talking about. I always wonder if I am dumbing down the content a bit too much sometimes and now I know that what seems obvious to me may not seem obvious to others!

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 13:10:00

      Some of them are noobs, definitely! And it’s a good idea to reach out to them: they have lots of questions that can be answered by helpful content.

  5. Anka
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 12:02:51

    I like your perspective, Pamela.
    I’m tempted to believe that everybody knows what I know. Sometimes I forgot to mention in my blog posts what means specific things I’m talking about.
    You’re right, we have to think of beginners as to our future customers. Especially now, when more and more people are coming online.

  6. Moshe Amsel
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 12:04:21

    Pamela, great article and all very true. One thing bloggers can do when writing an intermediate and advanced level piece is link to beginner articles as topics are discussed. This does 2 things – adds linkbacks for SEO and indexing and gives beginners a place to go understand the missing pieces that is still on your site and building your relationship with them.

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 13:11:00

      Great idea, Moshe. Linking back and linking forward from older content are both really important!

  7. Ayodeji Awosika
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 12:07:36

    Hi Pamela,

    I agree with your thoughts 100 percent. I work with aspiring writers to build writing habits, publish blog posts, and books.

    In the early stages, I found myself talking to my coaching clients at a higher level than I should have. It was actually refreshing to realize that my level of experience was a WEALTH of wisdom to beginners, and it relieved the pressure of having to be an influencer, expert, or guru.

    You just have to know enough to help the people you’re talking to.

    All of us have the tendency to project our own experience onto other people, and that can be dangerous, especially when it comes to content marketing.

    Off to share!

  8. Bryan Del Monte
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 12:13:47

    Hi Pam,

    So is this the book you wrote with Goins mentoring you on Zero to Book?

    (Great article btw.)

    Bryan

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 13:11:59

      This is THE book, Bryan! I’ve been working on it and talking about it (on ZeroToBook.FM) since early this year.

  9. Lori Tian Sailiata
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 14:29:31

    Just finished listening to your recently released podcast interview with Jerod ( http://rainmaker.fm/audio/showrunner/zero-to-book/) to find a link to this blog post in my inbox. What a treat!

    And of course, I’ve got my trusty paperback copy to mark up and love to the brink of destruction. The most useful things need to be in physical rendition. So glad you have us that option.

  10. Iyiola
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 15:46:32

    Nice Pamela, I am really having problems trying to decipher how to get what level of content to produce.
    Do you think a simple popup like Jon Morrow’s own will do… (At least to be able to get what level of content to write)
    Once again, lovely post. Be sure to watch your email any minute from now, I will send a request to fill my latest roundup post

  11. Mabel Nyazika
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 15:54:37

    Hi Pamela,
    I have been struggling to improve my blog for nearly four years never before have I read a clear article on helping people like me like this one. You have managed to get through to me. I have read all the articles posted to help but none of them cracked me yours did. Thank you for such a brilliant article which is so, so, helpful.
    My blog is not about selling any particular product my blog is about giving myself a voice but your article has sent me on the right path. Of late I had given up on reading articles on improving blogs because they did nothing for me. I am glad I did take time to read today I reached my ‘eureka moment’ Thank you once again.
    I will now look out for your books as I am sure I will get the help I need.

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 17:25:45

      Mabel, I’m very happy to hear that the post helped you! Thanks for letting me know.

  12. Jen McGahan
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 16:57:20

    Hey Pamela, this is exactly what I needed today. It’s so easy to get a little “wonky” as you develop and write a blog. Thanks for the high-level reminder. I forget the long view sometimes, and the fact that all readers need good content, not just the mid and upper-level readers. Nice post… I’ll check out your book, too. 🙂

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 27, 2016 @ 17:26:37

      It’s easy to forget about the beginners, Jen. But they’re such an important group to cultivate.

  13. Fernando Cintra
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 20:33:27

    Spot on. I have a mountain biking blog that suits (almost) perfectly in the scenario you gave here.

  14. Ravi Chahar
    Oct 27, 2016 @ 22:54:16

    Hey Pamela,

    For bloggers, it’s quite hard to start a blog and manage it for all. When you think about the beginners, your advanced readers feel bored because they have already gone through that phase.

    So it’s hard to keep the proportion of guiding every individual. Sometimes, bloggers forget about the newbies because they think that it’s not that much effective.

    Before you start a blog, the main thing is to identify your audience.

    Thanks for an informative article.
    ~Ravi

  15. Dibakar Bala
    Oct 28, 2016 @ 02:14:32

    I’ve just started my blogging career and posts like yours confirms there’s always a lot more to learn. Great Piece of content Pamela 🙂

  16. Andrea Pisac
    Oct 28, 2016 @ 04:01:12

    This is a wonderful post, Pamela. Thanks for raising the issue of classifying the readers’ knowledge into levels. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book ‘Made to Stick’ they talk about ‘the curse of knowledge’ and point out that once we become experts, it is really difficult to imagine how much the beginner reader does or doesn’t know. But because our knowledge has increased, we tend to imagine the beginner’s knowledge to be larger than it actually is. This can break down the rapport because, as you said, Pamela, not every reader is confident enough to ask ‘what is’ questions while we write about ‘how to’ topics…

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 28, 2016 @ 08:23:01

      Andrea, the curse of knowledge is real!

      That’s why I wanted to write about this: when you’re aware of it, you can be sure to serve your entire audience, not just the more advanced readers.

  17. Mohammed Anzil
    Oct 28, 2016 @ 05:05:59

    Great article Pamela Wilson. Yes, you are right. The beginner audience is massive and should attract them on the first visit.

  18. Yuvraj Pratap
    Oct 29, 2016 @ 00:22:42

    Wow! Pamela this was awesome.

    I have been reading a lot of blogs to get ideas and how to attract right kind of customers, but I never looked at his angle.

    Although I have been reading a lot but I am surprised that I never got this framework anywhere else.

    You have put this concept so clearly that it has opened up many blog post ideas for me. I was going to start writing for my new blog, Thank you for posting this.

    Next I am going to buy your book 🙂

    • Pamela Wilson
      Oct 29, 2016 @ 14:54:36

      Yuvraj, you haven’t seen this anywhere else because it’s something we developed on the Copyblogger editorial team. 🙂

      I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to share it and I’m glad to hear it was helpful. And thanks for buying my book!

  19. Dunia Teknologi
    Oct 31, 2016 @ 01:16:31

    Nice article Pamela Wilson. Yes, you are right. The beginner audience is massive and should attract them on the first visit.

  20. Muhammad Hassib
    Oct 31, 2016 @ 12:05:57

    Yes Lady, you are right. If you attract beginners at start, they are your readers for whole life.

  21. Jabinang
    Nov 03, 2016 @ 02:33:53

    Hi Pamela,

    Your article really made my day.

    As a freelance writer in the B2B tech niche, I woke up this morning, trying to figure out, the perfect content templates, to drive traffic from LinkedIn and Quora blog.

    Guest what? Your post really helped me connect the dots.

    I’ve collected all your posts ideas and objective questions as my new reference templates for generating and crafting promotional contents.

    Thanks a million and glad to see you again @smartblogger.

    • Pamela Wilson
      Nov 03, 2016 @ 08:03:26

      I’m glad to hear it was so helpful, Jabinang. Thanks for letting me know!

  22. Emenike Emmanuel
    Nov 13, 2016 @ 20:46:34

    Thanks for sharing Pamela.

    Listening to one’s audience is very important to turning them in raving customers. I agree with you.

  23. SM Nuruzzaman
    Nov 17, 2016 @ 22:55:41

    Hi Pamela,

    Seeing you on Copyblogger is a regular thing & getting you here on Smartblogger is a nice experience from my end.

    However, the post was perfectly crafted & helpful in building content for specific focus group.

    I hope you’ll be here on this platform again.

    Thanks,
    SM

  24. ChrisM
    Nov 19, 2016 @ 14:43:56

    My focus on direct marketing is sharing posts from my Facebook Business page to local groups. This is very easy to do on Facebook.

  25. digital marketing agent
    Nov 24, 2016 @ 05:58:37

    Awesome Pamela, Thanks. I have already started work on the way you have suggested.

  26. uthman Saheed
    Nov 28, 2016 @ 06:41:46

    Thanks for this. Though, most of my articles cares much about newbie than intermediate or experts.

    My believe is that, no one cares about them, so I do and its really converting.

  27. himani mahajan
    Dec 01, 2016 @ 04:30:51

    Great article. The main quality needed for a blogger is patience. It is really important to write from the heart. To make a blog into success takes a lot of time. Your article is very useful.Thanks for sharing.

  28. Junaid Shahid
    Dec 05, 2016 @ 11:54:11

    Hi pamela !
    this great article no doubt, i like your advice throughout the article to write for beginner but can you give me hint what to write to create influence?

  29. Amar kumar
    Dec 14, 2016 @ 02:17:57

    Hey Pamela,

    Glad to read your informative and interesting post! I agree with your whole points related to beginners – today, beginner audience is huge in number and they have lot of question pertaining to several topic, we should try to solve their problem in order to develop a healthy relationship with them. Eventually, thanks for sharing your healthy and fresh information with us.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar

  30. Atul
    Dec 26, 2016 @ 04:14:56

    Hello Pamela,

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. I’m inclined to contradict along with your article. You cannot just leave beginners because of the fact that competitors are converting better.