10-lessons-debt-7-figures

10 Lessons
FROM DEBT TO 7 FIGURES

The Super-Simple Method Smart Bloggers Use To Write Great Content

Listen to any blogging expert and they’ll give you this same well-worn advice:

If you want traffic you need to write great content.

If you want more readers you need to write great content.

If you want to make money from your blog you need to write great content.

There’s no denying that the most successful blogs out there have some truly great writing.

But, who else thinks “write great content” is actually pretty lame advice to give someone like you who wants to get noticed? Someone like you who wants to get recognised and applauded for the quality of their content and make a difference? Someone who wants to change lives and simply make their mark on this world?

I mean, have you ever sat down with the intention of writing crappy content?

Of course not.

You’re smart. You already know great content is how you stand out, get recognised and grow an entertaining, relevant blog. Right?

Still, you can’t help wondering …

How Do You Know If Your Content Is Great?

Great writing doesn’t just happen by accident. Readers decide if your writing makes the “great” grade.

This means your writing isn’t great unless your readers say it is. And they show this by how much they share your writing.

Your job is to persuade readers that you deserve “great” writer’s status. So …

How Do You Persuade Readers Your Content Is Great?

Give them what they want to read.

Great writers get tons of shares and links to their writing because they know what their readers want.

They know, before they sit down to write, what will blow their readers away, because they know how to get readers on their side.

They know how to make their writing stand out from mediocre content, and make their readers think: “Wow! This writer seems to be reading my mind. How does he/she do it?”

Well … How will you do it?

The answer is simple: you’ll do it because your readers will  tell you how to do it.

Great writers are smart bloggers who create and nurture engaged audiences that tell them what they want to know, what problems they’re struggling with, what they want to achieve.

It’s not about practicing mind-bending tricks that create this willingness in your readers to tell you what they want you to write; what content they’ll share and tell their friends about (and make go viral).

Writing Great Content Is About Asking

It’s about asking QUESTIONS of people you want reading your content.

And it’s about asking these questions in ways that give you insight into what they want you to write. To do this you need to:

  • get good at asking questions and ..
  • get good at creating channels of openess for your readers that makes them feel good about giving you these insights.

In short, to get your readers’ “great writer” vote, you have to go out and really get to know your audience.

Your goal is to spend time getting to know what problems they’re struggling with. What are their dreams, their goals and aspiration? What’s holding them back?

Ask your readers what they’re struggling with most in the area of your topic (or niche). Give them a chance to let it all out, guilt free. For many people, this chance will be a priceless stress release – and it provides great information for you.

When you they tell you what they’re struggling with, it’s your chance to shine in their eyes. If you can offer a solution to their problems (no matter how small), you’ll be on your way to “great writer” status.

Writing Great Content Is Not About Being (Or Becoming) an Expert

Writing great content is about being willing to find out what people are struggling with, offering empathy and establishing something that creates a common bond of understanding and experience between you.

It means being willing to help, facilitate and guide people along the route you have taken to get to your solution.

You don’t even have to have all the answers. You can invite other people; other experts, who do have the answers to talk to your readers, either literaly via podcasts or Youtube videos, for example. Or via guest posts or feature posts on your blog where you feature a fellow blogger and their answer to whatever question you want answering for your readers.  All it takes is for you to be a few steps ahead of them, a few steps closer to the result they want and to be ready to act as their guide and leader.

A lot of bloggers set out to do just this. But their readers don’t react favourably to them because their help comes from a “I know this is what you want” stand point. Whereas you, as a smart blogger implementing this super-simple method of asking your readers first and inviting them to tell you, will be helping from a “You told me this is what you want. I listened. And here it is” standpoint.

Becoming a writer of great content is about searching for what your readers most.

And it’s about LISTENING too.

6 Places To Start Listening To What Your Readers Want

Place #1: Comments On Your Blog

The first place to start listening for questions in the comments on your own blog. What are your readers telling you? Are they simply saying “Great post” and moving on? Or are they asking for more help on the topic your post is covering?

Commenters who leave the most responsive comments, such as sharing their experience, expressing a frustration, or offering their take on some issue or point you covered in your post, are going to be the most responsive to your getting in touch with them.

So get in touch. Email them. Send a tweet to their Twitter name. Thank them for taking time to comment, then offer to help them out further with their problem or frustration.

Your intention here is to open up channels of openess between you and your readers. This is huge, because those commenters who respond positively to your getting in touch are most likely to become your primary source of feedback.

Place #2: Ask The Reader Posts

Ask the Reader posts are great ways to engage your readers and encourage them to tell you what they want directly, or through the opinions they share in the comments.

When you write an Ask The Reader question, make sure your readers know about it and know that you want their responses, opinions and answers.

Also, be sure to ask your readers to leave a comment on your post! Explain why you really want them to comment. It’s often a good idea to explain that their responses will help the whole community of readers, not just you.

If you’ve never run an Ask the Readers post on your blog before, introduce this new type of post so that your readers know why you’re writing the posts, and that you’re looking for their insights, feedback, and contributions. Highlight these posts by calling them something like …

Ask The Reader [Question]

Or …

What’s Your View On [Question]

Or …

Tell Me Your Thoughts On [Question]

You’ll find great examples of Ask The Reader posts here and here.

Place #3: Emails Your Readers Send You

Emails from your readers contain priceless insights into what your readers want. Treat their emails like gold, and go out of your way to respond quickly and fully.

Now, a word of warning – don’t write out an entire blog post in your email response to your readers! Be courteous and friendly, but don’t go overboard. Be professional and give emailers the feeling that their email matters to you.

Then, keep track of the common problems or questions that come up. Each one of these common questions is a good candidate for a future blog post that will wow your readers!

Place #4: Reader Surveys

You can conduct a reader survey by sending 1 to 3 questions in an email to your readers. Or you can use something like SurveyMonkey.com.

The trick is to ask questions that will give you insight into how your readers are thinking and feeling, as well what they’re thinking and feeling too.

The best way to do this is to ask questions like “What are you struggling with most right now in your [yoga practice / work-life balance / business / etc.] ?” or “If you could sit down with me for 15 minutes, what problem could I solve for you?”

Place #5. Start A Facebook Group

If you haven’t started one yet, now might be a great time to start a Facebook group for your readers. I’d recommend setting up your group as a closed group, meaning that only your readers can join. The purpose of your Facebook group is to interact with your readers, answer questions, and give advice. It’s also a great place to watch the conversations that your readers have with each other. Because the interactions in your group are going to help you write great content, it’s important that you go into the group at least once a week.

Facebook groups also work well for conducting the odd reader survey too, as long as it isn’t very often.

Place #6: Webinars, Podcasts and Google Hangouts By Influential Bloggers

Eavesdropping on webinars, podcasts, and Google Hangouts hosted by other influential bloggers are an excellent – often untapped – resource. Here you can enter as a participant, get great advice from the hosts and listen in on what their readers are asking them.

If you hear someone asking a question that you think might be a question your readers might have too, you can validate if your readers are  curious about that topic by including it in an Ask The Reader post.

The Questions That Smart Bloggers Look For Most …

So far, we’ve talked about the importance of finding out from your readers what they most want to know on your blog. And we’ve talked about where to go to listen for those needs. But what types of questions are you actually listening for?

The truth is, you’re not just looking for any questions. As a smart blogger, you want to look for a certain type of question. You’re looking for questions that keep popping up – in reader comments, in social media exchanges, and on webinars and podcasts.

In other words, you’re looking for questions that stand out to you as BIG QUESTIONS. Because these are the questions that people are desperate to find answers to!

For example:

If you’re a social marketing smart blogger, big questions that stand out to you might be:

“I seem to have stopped getting as many retweets as I used to. Do you have any suggestions about why this might be happening?”

“My Twitter followers were increasing nicely. But then they started un-following me and I don’t know why.”

“I grew my Twitter followers to 500 quickly, but I can’t seem to get passed this number. How do I get more followers?”

These are three different questions from three different people. But they all have a similar theme: trouble with Twitter follower numbers plateauing and not knowing what to do about it. Would writing about that topic get you a great thumb’s up from your readers? The odds are looking good!

You now have all the pieces you need to produce great writing: how to find out what your readers are struggling with, and how to listen for those questions that are repeated across different people and platforms.

The final step to this simple method of writing great content is to, well, write it!

Turning These Big Questions Into Content That Readers Call “Great Writing”

When it comes to writing content that gets voted “great” by readers, smart bloggers take what we’ve covered in this post and use it to:

  • Research and track big questions asked by their audience about their topic area or niche.
  • Combine those questions to find the larger question at stake.
  • Give answers that speak directly to the person asking AND their actual problem.

Let’s go back to the Twitter questions in the example above. The second question, about being unfollowed, isn’t really a question – it’s a statement. But when you combine it with the other two questions, the big question these people are asking is:

“People on Twitter seem to have stopped following me. Don’t they like me any more?”

A smart blogger would write a post to answer this question, using the question itself in the headline:

“3 Reasons Why Your Twitter Followers Don’t Like You Any More – And What to Do About It”

Any reader asking this big question would be instantly attracted to this post. It would be doubly valuable if you addressed each of the questions in the post: why a reader’s retweets have stopped, why followers are leaving, or why follower numbers have plateaued.

And then , after you’ve clearly shown that you understand exactly what problems your reader is having, you give them knock-out suggestions for encouraging their Twitter followers fall (back) in love with them.

This is the way smart bloggers turn readers questions into blog content that gets these same people giving their “great writing” vote.

Hey, Smart Blogger! It’s Your Turn …

If you’re looking for advice on how to write great content, the best people to tell you are your readers. 

Readers don’t want clever writers. They don’t want fancy writers. They certainly don’t want boring writers. They want bloggers like you who take the time to find out what they want you to write about, and give it to them.

And yes, you may have to practice writing your content. All the smart bloggers do, so you’ll be in good company. Jon Morrow of BoostBlogTraffic.com (and formerly an associate editor of Copyblogger.com) spends around 12 hours writing a single blog post.

And yes, you might have to spend time getting to know your audience and finding out what it is they want you to write about. You should probably plan to spend an hour at least twice a week. But you’re ready for that, right? Because you are a smart blogger.

Because you care.

Because you don’t just want to stand out, be relevant, make a difference and write freaking great content. You mean it. Right?

So, get started now. Your readers are waiting. And now, you’ve got access to the smart blogger’s club where each member knows that the lame “write great content” advice doesn’t stand a chance against the simple method of asking and finding out what your readers want to read, then writing content that gives it to them.

Welcome to the club. ; )

What big questions are your readers asking you? What great content are they waiting for you to write for them? Let me know in the comments below!

About Tom Southern

Tom Southern helps bloggers to take the frustration out of getting traffic to their blogs by using traffic smart strategies that work. Get your free copy of the Guest Post Promotion Checklist and more strategies for driving traffic to your blog.

41 comments

  1. Hi Ryan,

    So sorry to have missed your comment here until now. Seems my alert didn’t alert me! Thanks for your comment. Absolutely, people do bring golden nugget post ideas to us. The more we engage with them, the more they’ll bring those ideas.

    Cheers!

    – Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    Super stuff. My best posts happened when I felt intuitive nudges after asking questions or after listening to comments. People bring golden nugget blog post ideas to us. We need only listen to make the greatest impact with our content.

    Ryan

  3. Hi Tom,

    A smart blogger is more than a good psychologist. A psychologist has the luxury to have people ask these questions directly, while bloggers have to spy on this information.

    Finding those questions your readers ask is gold. Understanding why they ask those questions makes them feeling like you understand them, as you said in this post Tom.

    1. Hi Ion,

      You’re right about that. Answering questions your readers ask does make them feel like you understand where they’re coming from – and where they want to go, what results they’re looking for.

      A blogger needs to “spy” on his or her potential readers to get this information in the beginning but, then, once these potential readers become actual readers (or subscribers), you can start asking them those deeper questions too.

      Good to see you here, Ion and thanks for taking time to leave this engaging question.

  4. I never thought that just plain asking my readers what they wanted would get a great response but they love it! It makes them feel involved and more importantly it made feel heard. Unfortunatly I had the next importnat lesson once you learn what they want you need to DO IT. Going back on the promise to listen to thier ideas is never a good way to build a realationship

    1. Wow, yes, a very valuable lesson there Marty. Thanks for so much sharing. Your experience proves how important following through with promises is.

      And you know what? I think your experience and the important lesson you learned from it would make a great post on your blog. Being open and showing your readers what you’ve learned is hugely valuable. They can see that you’re not above admitting your mistake and that you’re willing to be open and to redress the situation.

      Thanks again, Marty.

  5. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for the great content. Very helpful. You are so right about the fact that our readers are looking for what they want. For the answer to their struggles and concern. They want to feel that you completely understand them and are willing to help them solve their problem.

    Personally, I often use Facebook groups to get a true feel of what my audience might need and want. A quick trick would be to go on one of your Facebook groups and type in the research bar “want”, “help” or “need”. It will then give you a list of all the posts in your group with those keywords. Therefore, it will be easier and faster for you to understand your audience.

    1. So glad to have to stop by and take time to add your excellent contribution to this conversation.

      You’ve given a great tip here for discovering what our readers want by using the research bar in our Facebook Group. Does it just work for our own Group or will it work for other Groups we belong to?

      1. So glad to have you stop by and take time to add your excellent contribution to this conversation.

        You’ve given everyone a great tip here for discovering what our readers want by using the research bar in our Facebook Group. Does it just work for our own Group or will it work for other Groups we belong to?

  6. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for all this terrific advice! ASK! Who knew?

    I had to read slowly, pausing every minute or so to think about each golden suggestion. As others above have mentioned, I’m excited to consider “ask the reader” posts and creating my own Facebook Group. Just to name two of them.

    I’m a musician, and I regularly use another setting to ask my clients telling questions. I suppose it would apply to blogging as well. After delivering my service, I follow up by asking how they liked it. And this often opens an illuminating conversation about what worked well and why, what problems I helped solve and how, what was great to include, what I might have included, and on.

    Just from reading the above comments from your readers, it’s obvious that you’ve created an opportunity to write a couple of dynamite posts to follow up this one Cheers!

    1. Hey Robbie! Good to see you here. Glad you found this post useful. These two strategies could really work well for you.

      Your feedback strategy could give you some excellent topic ideas for another popular post type: Case Studies, with the aim of helping people choose, not only more entertaining music for their event, but ensure their whole event goes smoothly. Are you able to invite customers over from that
      other setting to join in your blog?

      Yup, getting some knockout feedback and tips for what’s
      going on for people and how to tailor some truly useful content.

      Thanks for stopping by Robbie. You must be getting busier than usual with all the coming feasts and festive fayre in these next few months?

      Cheers Robbie, always enjoy hearing from you.

  7. Hi Tom, I appreciate what you are saying, but I am wrestling with how much is too much to ask. I feel like I am imposing on asking people to respond and not sure how to do it without being too veneer-y. I have people who re-post and re-tweet my stuff, but I am having such a hard time evoking conversation on my blog.
    Do you think that there is a certain type of content that people just want to ingest and I should just work harder to get more content out there and call them to the email list instead (I am a life coach and a lot of my content revolves around helping to change the way people think about themselves and their capabilities, etc and in changing the story they are telling themselves.
    I have a FB page but it is an open one. How would you suggest calling people over to a closed one: via blog or email ?
    Thanks for a great article, by the way!

    1. Hello Christal, I understand where you’re coming from. I struggled with this too until I realised that it’s about having chats with readers. If you’re truly interested in who you’re talking to then chatting is a lot more simple. Same works for asking readers and getting the chat going.

      Think about asking as a way of showing readers you’re truly interested in them, their experiences, struggles, ideas, etc. – and be encouraging too. I think you can see by how I’ve asked people questions here in response to their comments what I mean. To be honest, I was nervous of receiving comments at first. Now I love them because they’re big eye-openers into what’s going on for people.

      You raise an interesting point regarding the possibility of some content inspiring more comments than others. I think you have a point here. Content that invokes emotion
      tends to inspire more debate and response. Have you written any posts where you share your own experiences of life and how you’ve changed your own thinking. You could combine your free ebook’s topic: “Become of who you really are” with your Indegogo campaign: “the stories we tell ourselves” to write a post (or two) around your experience and what’s inspired you to create these topics.

      @Elke Feuer talked in her comment about how writing posts like this helped her get responses. Why not check out her blog for some examples?

      Also, have your read Bobbi Emmel’s blog: http://thebounceblog.com/ ? She writes some good examples of this kind of post.

      Regards your Facebook Group – you could raise interest for this with a post. Or offer it as a bonus to your list members for signing up (no matter how long ago). If you add your popping into this Group regularly to answer questions, it could become a big attraction.

      Thanks for stopping and taking time to add your thoughts. Cheers!

  8. Some great pointers here Tom, thanks!
    I hadn’t thought of the Ask the Reader Posts and like the concept. The other tip that I plan to use is the Facebook Group. Interesting how I am a member of a couple of groups but, hadn’t thought about creating one for myself. Wonderful food for thought in this article.

    1. Hey Carolynne! Good to hear from you again.

      Glad you like the Ask The Reader concept and are looking to start your own Facebook Group. Yes, it’s funny how often we take part in actiivities that we don’t always realise could be great concepts and strategies to us for our own success.

      Do you think you’ll give these two strategies a go for your blog?

      Btw, you might find your fellow FB Group members would make great founder members of your Group, especially if it’s based round a topic you’ve already been discussing. Let me know how you get on, won’t you?

      Appreciate you stopping by to add your thoughts.

      Thanks.

  9. I found this to be a really helpful article. It’s given me a number of ideas to write about when I eventually get my planned new blog up and running.
    The suggestion about asking my readers what they want is a great idea … or will be when I have some readers.
    I just want to know what is the best way to get readers to follow a new blog in the first place.
    Thanks again for all the tips 🙂

    1. Hello Moragh,

      So glad to hear you found this useful. Yup, I think you’ll find asking your readers will give you lots of insight and ideas into what to write for them.

      Yes, getting readers in the first place is the hard part. This post of mine here on FirepoleMarketing.com is a good place to start:
      https://mirasee.com/blog/online-networking/

      It’s message is a little left field in its advice such as if you
      want readers/traffic stop writing content. But it’s worked for me and I know it’s worked for others too. Give it a shot.

      If you’d like some more tips on getting readers in the first place let me know. Follow me on Twitter and I’ll send you my email address via a Direct Message (DM).

      Cheers!

  10. Readers love when I spare my personal and professional experiences. I did a series on my self-publishing journey and the response was wonderful. I’ve been toying with doing another series and this is just the kick in the pants–confirmation I needed. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Elke go for it! 🙂 Yup, readers love real experiences getting shared. These posts show readers that they’re not alone and when they discover other people go through highs and lows it gives them confidence that they’re in a unique group.

      I’d go with doing another series. You could try asking your readers what they’d most like to hear about you and how you do it. You could either (or also) do a follow-up of readers who responded. For example, in what ways were readers inspired (and what did they do) as a result of your series.

      Glad to hear I got you inspired. It’s why I do this.

      Btw, I think you’re onto a winner with the self-publishing topic. So many people want to turn their imagination into books, novels, stories, ideas and message.

      Do you, or are you planning, creating any training on self-publishing, etc?

      1. I’ve been jotting down (and creating outlines) for non-fiction training (and book) ideas, Tom, for self-pub and writing related topics, however I’m getting a few things out of the way before jumping in with both feet. I’m full steam ahead in 2015 and looking forward to it!

        Readers also love hearing about our mistakes. I received a comment on my blog today saying how much they appreciated that I shared my blunders. 🙂

        1. Good news about that comment. Just goes to
          show you how much this kind of post strikes a chord, doesn’t it?

          Goods news too about your plans. Keep me
          posted, won’t you? Cheers!

  11. Great, great info, Tom. Most of my post ideas from comments on my blog posts, but ESPECIALLY when they email me. There, they feel much more open to truly share what their struggles are. In fact, I get so many post ideas this way, I keep a running list to remind me when it’s time to sit down and write next blog post.

    However, I need to pay more attention to my Facebook page and I also like the idea of Ask the Reader. WONDERFUL tips. Thanks so much.

    1. Hello Marcy, good to hear from you again.

      Yup, emails can be a real engagement spark and are great for letting readers open up.

      Your running list is a great idea. Do you use any kind of grouping or schedule to keep ahead of all those post ideas?

      I think Groups are probably why I use Facebook most (those and sharinging funny cat photos 😉 ).

      Are you planning an Ask The Reader post for your blog now? I’d love to hear about it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      1. Thanks for getting back to me, Tom. Yes, I do have both a grouping and a scheduling. The grouping reveals itself through both the emails and comments. I’m seeing the patterns.

        And YES! I now want to do a ASK THE READER post about Twitter. Everyone keeps telling me to get on it…that I’d be so great on it. I. DON’T. GET. TWITTER.

        So, I’d like their opinion about the matter. Thoughts?

        1. That sounds an excellent Ask The Reader post, Marcy. I think you’ll be onto a winner with it. Twitter can divide people between those who love it (uhm – me 🙂 ) and those who don’t. I think which ever camp your readers are in, they’d love a post like this because I know it’ll spark
          conversations.

          Patterns are good! Excellent source for content readers love. Patterns are actually golden.

  12. Hello; I followed you here from a post on lorraine reguly’s site where we were both mentioned. I found this post very instructive. I realize that no one is asking questions in my comments section. I hope this doesn’t mean that they think I don’t want their questions. And I’m active in social media but nevr thought of starting my own group. thanks for the help, max

    1. Hi Max, thanks for following me over here 🙂 It’s good to have you stop by.

      Lack of questions from readers might be a sign that they not sure if they should ask. Or it could be just sometimes people think their question shows them up. You could spend some time encouraging questions in your posts at the end. Maybe offer some kind of incentive or reward. Often just saying that you want to get their questions can get the ball rolling.

      Offering them the chance to email questions to you can encourage the shy ones.

      Your answers too go a long way to encouraging more questions. And have you gone for the obvious encouragement: an Ask The Reader post?

      Yup, a Facebook/social media group can be a great move.

      Have you got feedback from readers in other ways
      such as social media? I’d love to hear your experience.

      If you’d like some more ideas or help on getting your readers to ask questions or starting a group we can talk some more. Check me out on Twitter at @CopyByTom. DM me and I’ll send you my email address too if you like.

      Cheers Max. Good to hear from you, and thanks for the heads-up regarding Lorraine Reguly.

      1. Hi Tom; thanks for the quick reply. I have actually encouraged people to email me instead of leaving a comment if it would make them more comfortable. I have a couple people who follow my blog who never leave a comment but who rarely miss emailing me after a new post. But I never asked people straight out if they had questions or problems they wanted to ask me about. I thought I was doing a good job telling my readers I want to hear from them. But sometimes it is just a matter of being more direct. I would like to hear more about starting my own group as well as private vs public. will be following you on twitter. As for lorraine that shows just how honest she was when she said the post wasn’t to get us to visit her blog and share the post. If it had been her goal, then she would have sent a email or contact message to everyone mentioned. I am number 30 on her list of blogging sharks. I’m choosing to think of a college professor who always said you wanted your strongest points in the beginning and end of a composition. Thanks for the warm welcome, Max

        1. You’re welcome, Max and thanks for the Follow too.

          Yes, often the direct approach works! You’ll find a lot of readers don’t realise they can comment, or that they should. So asking them to directly can be useful info to them.

          Btw, can you let me know where Lorraine
          mentioned us so I can check it out and say
          Thanks?

          No problem. I’d be happy to advise regarding a FB Group. I’ll sort out some useful posts on the topic for you too.

          Ah yes, college professors are fonts of good
          advice. That advise is exellent. Add to it
          powerful subheadings through each post.

          Glad to have you on board, Max Cheers!

          1. Hi Tom; thanks for the info and the tweets. i just emailed you the link to lorraine’s post. and yes i would appreciate any posts you can suggest or any other advice about a fb group. good stuff, max

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