We throw around a lot of words like “Quality” and “Useful” when we talk about content, but it all boils down to one thing: Are your readers learning something when they visit your blog? Because if they’re not, why bother? You may think you’re effectively educating your readers but if they’re not getting your message they haven’t learned a thing.
You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know
Yes, any blogger can repeat information, but your readers can get information anywhere – other blogs, newspapers and magazines, even Wikipedia. What they’re looking for is the answer to the question: How can I use this information to improve my situation? If you aren’t really an expert on your topic all you can do is relay information, like dozens of other blogs in your niche, but you won’t be able to make it relevant for your readers.
For example, every day beginning bloggers decide they’re going to start a blog about how to make money blogging, even though they haven’t made any money at it themselves. They can tell you that if you buy the product they’re promoting you’ll get more Google traffic but they can’t tell you how it works. More important, they can’t tell you how to make it work in your particular situation.
You might visit that blog for a while because you like the blogger’s writing style or he uses some really cool images, but eventually, if you seriously want to learn about blogging, you’re going to go find a blogger who’s a real expert who can help you educate yourself.
Use Lots of Examples
When you were in kindergarten your teacher used images to help you visualize basic concepts. She didn’t just say two plus two equals four, she showed you a picture of two apples and a picture of two more apples, and then she had you physically count the apples so you could visualize the concept.
If you think about it, almost every single thing you’ve ever learned in your life has been learned through examples of some type. A very good writer could probably write clear, concise instructions for how to tie your shoes but until you see actual step-by-step images those instructions are going to sound like they were written in a foreign language.
And what happens if you read those instructions and still can’t tie your shoes? You didn’t learn anything, so you go in search of someone who can more effectively educate you.
Write For the Web
I read an interesting blog post the other day. The blogger said he ignores all the rules for writing on the Web because he feels if you content is good enough readers will read it, word-for-word, from start to finish. In other words, he feels you can force the reader to conform to your teaching methods, even though all the research points in the other direction.
What was so interesting about this post was that it was the first time I’ve ever visited that blog, I had no idea who the blogger was, I stopped reading the post after the first paragraph, and I’ve never been back. I don’t even remember the name of the blog. Which only serves to prove that this blogger is wrong. You can’t force your visitors to conform. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. He will only drink if he wants to.
Here’s the takeaway:
- A reader will only return to your blog if his questions are answered.
- You may think you’re answering his questions, but…
- If he doesn’t get your message, you haven’t answered his questions.
- It’s a proven fact that you have only seconds to grab the reader’s attention with your title.
- It’s a proven fact that online readers will only scan your opening paragraph.
- It’s a proven fact that the reader will leave your page if you don’t grab him with your opening paragraph.
- It’s a proven fact that the reader will only scan the rest of your post, looking for a quick answer to his question.
- If he doesn’t quickly find the answer to his question, the reader will leave your blog.
- You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
The reader will only get your message if you grab him as soon as he lands on your page and lead him through your post, point by point. To do that you have to use formatting, like sub-headings to highlight your main points, bullet points to highlight key information, plenty of white space to show breaks between sub-topics, and bold and italics to stress key words. In other words: You need to learn to write for the online reader.
Your readers are looking for more than the facts, they want the “how” and the “why” and the “What’s in it for me” answers, too. They want to be educated. No matter how great you think your content is, if you’re not effectively educating your readers, they’re eventually going to go find a blogger who can.