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8 Questions Smart Bloggers Ask Before Hitting Publish

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We know what great blog posts look like right?

They’re not just informative. They shift mindsets. They move us emotionally. They persuade us. They motivate us to take action. They inspire us to do better.

Great posts make an impact on their readers. And it shows in their opt-ins, shares and comments.

Do bloggers behind these posts have some out-of-this-world creative talent?

Fortunately, no.

Great content has more to do with knowing some crucial elements rather than possessing a writing genius.

Smart bloggers know these elements add the “wow” factor to their content and ruthlessly plan how to infuse these with each post they write.

And before they put out their content for the world to see, they ask themselves these questions:

1. Did I Write to My Ideal Reader?

Smart bloggers know that in order to write a post that resonates, they must be crystal-clear on who they’re writing for. They know that not being precise on your ideal reader is like aiming to score the bulls eye while blindfolded.

How to Be a Smart Blogger:

You’ve probably already heard that defining the ideal reader is important. But not everyone really understands what that means.

Knowing your ideal reader gives you a clear direction. It focuses your perspective and provides ideas on specific traits, pain points and other characteristics of your ideal reader.

Chances are, you already know at least one person who fits your description of the ‘ideal reader’. Think of this person as you plan your content. It’s easier to think of someone who already exists than creating one from your imagination.

For instance, if you write for single parents, you probably already know a distressed mom who is dealing with teenager woes and dramas.

Now, maybe you’re writing in a new  niche or you don’t know a real-life person who matches your ideal reader. That’s fine.  If the above doesn’t work, you can always create a reader’s profile.

Also called reader’s persona, this element adds a human dimension to the planning process. Think of this as your imaginary friend who needs your help.

Creating a reader’s profile might take an extra few minutes but it’s worth it. This will help you stay on-topic and not get lost on a tangent with other types of people who may not be your ideal readers.

How do you craft your own reader’s persona? Start by writing down the name, age, gender, education level and marital status.

Next, go deeper and identify that person on a more intimate level. Write down a few sentences on the following:

Personal Details – What are her interests and pet peeves? What are her dreams and beliefs? What are her current goals? What is she known for?

Challenges and Needs – What’s her biggest pain? What keeps her up at night? How does it affect her career, health or relationships?

Motivation and Influence – Why is she reading your blog? What does she hope your post will help her solve? How did she found you? Does she read a lot online?

Once you have your persona, print it out and stick to your wall so you can refer to it always. Think of this imaginary friend in your mind’s eye as you write.

Below is a great example of a reader persona I found from blogger Nela Dunato:

branding-persona-4-blog-415

2. Do I Have a Focused Angle?

Smart bloggers write with a clear direction, like a driver who drives the same place everyday and knows the route by heart.

They avoid discussing many things at once. They define a solid angle and everything they write about is relevant to that angle.

They understand that their post is not for everyone. But for the right person, it shoots straight to the heart. As a result, their readers cling on to their every word and take action whether it’s sharing or subscribing.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

fortune cookie

When writing my posts, I like to define my core message by using the Fortune Cookie Test:

“If I squeeze my angle into a compact, one-sentence fortune cookie message, what would it say?”

Because you only have a single sentence to describe your point, you are forced to strip your message to the bare bones. It narrows down your subject and gives you a point of view. Be sure to capture your main argument in as few words as possible. Here’s an example:

Topic:
Writing travel guides for travel-related apps.

Fortune Cookie version:
If you’re an aspiring travel writer, writing for travel-related mobile apps is a great way to build your portfolio.

3. Did I Use an Attention-grabbing Title?

Smart bloggers know that the title is their entry point to the readers’ attention. They know it’s an awfully noisy digital space. Without a catchy title, they might as well  say goodbye to readers and potential subscribers.

Smart bloggers take the time to brainstorm for the most captivating title for their posts. They usually create not just one but several titles before deciding which one is the best. Moreover, they study great headlines and why they work.

How to Be a Smart Blogger:

alarm-clock

I got this idea from Jon Morrow which he calls ‘The 2am Test’. To apply this, go over your content and ask “Is this title compelling enough to grab my reader’s attention, even at 2am?”

Because there’s nothing like grabbing someone’s attention and compelling them to read when they’re supposed to be sleeping. If you’re content achieves that feat, you’re gold.

There are plenty of resources out there for title templates but I find Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks super irresistible. Not only do they pass the ‘The 2am Test’, they’re also enough to give you ideas for a year’s worth of posts.

4. Did I Use an Intro That Hooks My Reader?

Smart bloggers know that if the title is the gate, the intro is the hallway. If  visitors peek through the gate and find a messy hallway with piles of trash and dirty clothes, chances are, they’ll leave instead of walking through it.

In the same way, smart bloggers understand that their first few lines should be as enticing as the entrance. After grabbing their readers’ attention with the title, they follow through with an equally gripping intro and transition smoothly into the meat of their post.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

Make it a habit to study intros that work well. You probably already have a few in mind from your favorite bloggers. What makes them compelling? How can you apply the same style to your posts?

Next, have a list of templates you can always refer to. It helps you beat the blank screen syndrome and really get writing.  Here are some terrific ways to start your post:

A. True story
Example:

I didn’t own a bike when I was a kid. My parents couldn’t afford to get me one and, as a result, I didn’t learn to ride until I was 20 in an embarrassing lesson involving the streets of Kitsilano, a too-large bike and a friend who is 6 feet tall.

From: Biking (and Writing) Like It’s No Big Deal Publication Coach

 B. Imaginary anecdote
Example:

Picture this scenario:

You sit down at your computer, ready to write another killer scene in your novel. The book is nearly done. It’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. This is the one that’s gonna make you a star, baby. You start up your machine and …

Nasty clicking sounds come from your hard drive. Harsh metallic noises. This is not the happy buzz of a hard drive at peace with the world.

This is the sound of data dying.

From: Organization: The Trouble With Backup Advanced Fiction Writing

C. Metaphor or simile
Example: 

Coding is like reading a tough novel. Initially you feel like killing yourself, but when you are halfway through it, you will grow a liking for it.

From: Design Your Trust

 D. An interesting study
Example: 

Extroverts, those outgoing, gregarious types who wear their personalities on their sleeve, are generally happier, studies show.

From: How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert, The Wall Street Journal

 E. Surprise
Example:

“My husband is a great guy. He’s smart, funny, handsome. A great dad. Knows his way around a grill. Will watch America’s Funniest Videos with me. Can catch and kill mosquitoes in mid-air with one hand. For eleven years, night after magical night, I have lain beside him in bed, studying the strong curve of his face, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest and mentally rehearsing exactly how I’m going to kill him.”

From: The Sound… and the Fury, Jenna McCarthy

5. Did I Show, Not Just Tell?

Smart bloggers don’t write in abstract vagueness and expect readers to level with them.

They don’t just tell. They show. They paint the picture with real-life stories and vivid examples.

They don’t just say sleep deprivation is dangerous. They also share the story of a night-shift nurse who almost administered the wrong and potentially fatal drug to a patient.

Finally, smart bloggers wage war on jargon that alienates their readers instead of drawing them in.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

Become a storyteller. Stories add a human element to your writing in a way nothing else does. Tell readers what the challenge is like. Include examples. Use sensory descriptions. How does a problem hinder you from doing something you enjoy? How is it affecting your health, career, relationships?

Also, don’t forget to add visuals. Smart bloggers know that to make their words sparkle, they need to go hand in hand with graphics. They understand that readers today crave images and videos. They take extra time to create or curate the best visuals that illustrate their points.

6.   Did I Include Enough Credible Facts That Support My Message?

If stories are the heart of your content, facts are the logic. Smart bloggers know that credible information validate their points and banish their readers’ skepticism. That’s why they always authenticate their claims by adding trustworthy research that persuade.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

In the previous post, we talked in detail about how to mine for credible facts for your content. But here are the top three:

Add a statistic or a research study

An interesting statistic or research study instantly infuses credibility. Make sure to fact-check and give credit where credit is due.

 Add a quote from a subject matter expert

This adds an air of authority to your arguments. Be sure to find the best influencer and quote for your topic.

• Share the experience of an “anti-authority”

Can’t get a quote from an expert? Consider including the story of an ordinary person. It could be you, a friend or even someone whom you read about in the news. Think Pam Laffin who spoke for the Massachusetts anti-smoking campaign in 1990.

Why is this effective? Because sometimes the honesty and trustworthiness of ordinary people speak stronger than the air of authority exuded by experts.

7.  Did I Write in Plain English?

Smart bloggers know this: Great writing is not about huge vocabulary but the ability to make your message memorable.

And so, they write with intelligent simplicity.  While others sprinkle their content with pompous words that require readers to consult the dictionary, smart bloggers carefully write in Middle School English. Not because they’re incompetent but because they put readers above themselves and their vocabulary prowess.

They brutally trim their sentences. They replace huge words with simpler ones. The end result is crisp, concise writing that instantly connects.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

Use the Hemingway app when editing your content. This nifty tool checks your writing for elements that make it hard to understand like sentences in passive voice and complex words.

Always aim for a score of 9 or below. This is equivalent to writing for 9th grade students which according to this report by Unesco, is the average level Americans today can read.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWLMecynpag]

As an interesting note, this analysis shows how Ernest Hemingway, one of the most notable writers ever known, writes in 4th grade level.

8. Did I Clearly Suggest What I Want Readers to Do?

Smart bloggers write with a prize in mind. They have a goal for each content they put out. Moreover, they want to find out if all the hard work of researching and writing has paid of.

That’s why at the end of their post, they suggest actions that take them closer to the goal. It could be an invitation to subscribe, download a report or leave a review.

How to be a Smart Blogger:

Think of the reward you want to receive after your reader reaches the end of your post. Do you want them to sign up to your email course? Comment? Download your report?

Next, have a strong call-to-action at the end of your post. If your goal is to get signups, have a noticeable opt-in form below your post. If you want readers to comment, conclude by telling them how you can all learn from each other by sharing what they think — similar to what Daphne did in her posts.

Bottom Line

Smart bloggers are great critics of their own work. In fact, they consider critiquing as one of the most crucial steps before publishing.

The questions they ask themselves give them a hawk-eye view on the direction of their content. What research facts should I include? What’s a great example that illustrates this? How do I write the first few lines so it piques the curiosity of my readers?

If you’re looking to improve how you write your content, bookmark this post and refer to it before publishing. We can’t guarantee that doing so will make you a famous blogger overnight. But it will certainly make you smarter than many bloggers out there.

Images: Hubspot, Nela Dunato, LinkedIn Pulse, Cauldrons and Cupcakes