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Can’t Attract a Crowd of Hungry Blog Readers? Five Ingredients Your Posts May Be Missing

You’ve been online for a while, now.

So I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are tons of blog posts that look and sound exactly the same.

Eight ways to drive more traffic. Seven things you forgot to do this morning. Five missing ingredients from your blog. When you click through, you get the same tired advice, served up in exactly the same recycled way.

But every now and again, you’ll stumble across a post with an original voice and snappy content. It’s oh-so much better than most of the stuff you see flying by in your Twitter stream. (And yep – they get ten times as many comments and shares as you, too!)

Ever wondered what those bloggers know that you don’t? How they’re able to write the kind of posts that attract (and feed) a hungry crowd of blog readers?

Of course, you have. We all have. We didn’t come to the interwebz to be boring and average, right?

Today’s your lucky day. I can tell you how to make it happen… right after we talk about breakfast…

Sundays Are For Oatmeal

When you own your own business, you work when you need to work. Even if that’s on the weekend (you know who you are).

But weekends are still special. Maybe you sleep a little later than you normally would. Spend some quality time (an hour or two!) with your family. Or catch up on a few of those TV shows you’ve DVRed for the last year and a half.

Me? I like to make oatmeal for breakfast. The real, steel cut Irish kind. The kind that takes at least 30 minutes at a slow simmer. And then another five minutes to toast the walnuts or pecans (or whatever nut I have available in the pantry).

But I’m weird like that. Most folks don’t save their Sundays for oatmeal.

In fact, when was the last time you had a nice bowl of that mushy stuff for breakfast?

If you can remember, tell me: was it the most scrumptious thing you’ve ever eaten?

Did the flavors of the oats and the milk have a party on your tongue?

I’m guessing, probably not.

Even if you add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Or a spoonful of brown sugar and handful of cranberries and some toasted walnuts, at best you’ll end up with something warm and creamy. Maybe a little bit sweet.

And that’s okay. That’s what oatmeal is supposed to be. Breakfast food. Um. Healthy breakfast food. (Note: I like oatmeal because of its weird connection to my childhood, not because I prefer it to bacon and eggs.)

Here’s the thing: oatmeal doesn’t turn most people on. It’s healthy, yes. But it lacks contrast and zing.

The dishes that knock our socks off are the ones that incorporate more than just a little salt and sugar. They use a harmony of the five flavors (as originally discovered by the Chinese) to wake up our palettes.

Your Writing Needs a Wake-up Call

Every great Chef – and for that matter every great Writer – learns early on that to create something remarkable, you’ve got play to all parts of the tongue…er, brain.

How? By stimulating the available kaleidoscope of receptors. On the tongue, you have five different categories of taste buds: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and spicy.

And in the brain? There’s a similar pattern (the tongue and the brain work together, yo!).

When we cook, having all five flavors present – either in a single dish, or through the various dishes of the meal – means a more complex and flavorful experience for the dinner guest.

And, just as crucial, any piece of writing or marketing that you put together should also play to those five flavors if it’s going to stand out in your blog reader’s mind (and be remembered later). That’s why you’ll remember a story much more easily than you will just a general list post.

But caution: Just checking them off a list won’t be enough. You can’t just use them all in equal measure as you write. As the Writer-Chef, you’ll need to play around with the mixture (experiment!) until you get it just right for your particular needs.

So, What Are the Five Flavors of Writing?

In cooking and in writing, strive to find a harmony of these:

  1. Sweet – Ultimate Goal/Vision of what’s possible (in the post you’re reading now, the sweet was mixed with the sour when I talked about you writing blog posts that get a crazy amount of comments and shares; this aspect also includes positive emotions like hope and pride)
  2. Salty – Personality/Branding/Voice (in this post, it comes through via my metaphors colloquialisms; it’s also in how I address you, as the reader)
  3. Sour – Reminder of Pain-Fear/or Longing, Big Desire (in this post, it was the reminder of your own fears about writing blog posts that kind of…well, suck.)
  4. Bitter – The “healthy,” educational elements (you’re smack dab in the middle of some)
  5. Spicy/Pungent – Attention getters (unique titles and images) (these work best when they include a very positive and/or very negative emotion)

Let’s take a look at how these work in a blog post or other marketing content:

1. Sweet – This is your ideal customer’s perfect-world vision. It should address what their life could be like after reading your post. It’s the promise that entices them to read further.

Use a few sentences or an entire paragraph to talk about what’s possible, as it relates to your blog reader and their particular pain or burning desire. Paint a specific picture for them using emotional words and phrases. Examples:

  • Imagine that you wake up one morning and find your inbox full of messages from potential clients wanting to know when you’re available to take on their project.
  • Picture yourself driving across country in the car of your dreams. The window’s down and it’s a beautiful sunny day. You’ve got nothing but the open road and freedom ahead of you.
  • Wonder what it would be like to walk into the room, confident and beautiful in your new cocktail dress? How it would feel to have everyone tell you how great you look? Or to unexpectedly catch a good looking man watching you from across the room?

2. Sour – This is where you talk about the pain or burning desire (intense longing for something unfulfilled) of your ideal customer. It should vividly remind them of what’s missing or what needs to change. Examples:

  • Yep, it’s hard to figure out which expert has something real and valuable for you that will help you succeed (and not be a sink hole for your hard-earned money).
  • I get it. It makes your head spin to even think about adding one more social media channel to your marketing efforts. Where in the world will you find the time?
  • I’ve been there. I know how nerve-wracking it can be to find just the right outfit that will convey just the right impression so you can get that just-right-for-you job.

3. Salty – This is where you incorporate your own voice and branding. There should be just enough “you” to help the reader feel like she’s having a conversation with a human being, but not so much that she can’t pay attention to the content itself. It helps to address the reader directly. Use “You” and “Your” when you’re writing. It makes the whole process way easier. Great examples of bloggers who do this well:

Read any of their blog posts and you feel right away that they’re there with you in the same room. Speaking to you.

4. Bitter – This is where you teach your blog reader something. Give them something solid they can hold on to with some actionable steps. This is also the part where you fulfill the promise you made to them via the title and opening paragraph. Examples:

  • Training videos
  • List posts
  • Detailed case studies

5. Spicy/Aromatic – And, finally, this is where you use elements that will capture your reader’s attention. Specifically? Kick-butt titles and images that you write and select for human consumption first. For help with this, you’ll want to check out:

Write Like a Chef

Yes, oatmeal is good for you. But most of us would prefer something with a little more za-za-za-zoom.

Remember, just like our tongues have a variety of taste receptors that react to different stimuli, our brains will also light up like the Fourth of July if the right neural cells are activated.

And the more our brains get involved with something we’re reading (and/or watching), the more likely we are to remember and act on what we’ve just read.

Stimulating your reader to action – whether that’s comments, tweets or perhaps even buying something from you – and having them enjoy and savor the process while they’re doing it, is your ultimate reward.

It just takes a little practice and a willingness to play with your words.

About Tea Silvestre

Tea Silvestre (@TeaSilvestre) is founder of the Small Biz Storytelling Soiree (in Portland); author of Attract & Feed a Hungry Crowd - Zero-Hype marketer. Join her at Story Bistro.


  1. Romy Singh says:

    Hello Tea,

    If we want stand out in the crowd then we can’t do it by being one of them, it’s as simple as that. To get the attention of crowd you’ve to do sometime that no one in the crowd is doing it doesn’t matter if it looks stupid, or idiotic, because once you got the attention then you can convey your message, right!

    If I recall my personality and my writing then I would fall in 3 categories, Sweet, salty, and spicy. But mostly I try to stay sweet and say sweet. 😉

    Anyways, Really very good insight on writing. Thanks for the share. 🙂

  2. Cari says:

    Hey Tea,
    Fabulous – your writing has such personality. I’m a little late to this party but once again you’ve
    dished up a satisfying casserole of great advice.
    (like Oliver) said in a small voice,
    “more, please?”
    Cari (from BSBC)

  3. Rodney C. Davis says:

    One thing for sure… no one is EVER going to say a post by Tea Silvestre lacks personality. You definitely practice what you preach. Something about this post took me back to Drew Whitman’s “Cashvertising.” After browsing it on my kindle I realized that the basic “ad-agency psychology” is neatly summarized by this offering. But Whitman never served up something this delicious. Thanks again for putting your soul in your work, Tea. It jumps off the page, and that gives us a really important milestone to shoot for in our own writing. Keep up the pace!

  4. Michael Adams says:

    Great metaphor.

    Play is the key word. What if I added a lot more salt? A lot more salt? More tabasco? Take out the salt and add lemon?

    As Anne Lamott would say, you need to give yourself permission to make Shitty First Recipes.

  5. Really awesome article Tea, I love to cook in addition to writing. This post got me twice. I wanted to make something tasty and cook up some special writing on my computer.
    You gave so much to us readers,


  6. Maria Snyder says:

    Great post connecting any interest to food is brilliant! I hope to use some of the ideas presented to spice up my writing. Danny you are so inspiring, thank you!

  7. Linda says:

    Nice one, Tea!

    Have I missed the textures analogy, or is that coming soon…. 😉
    (or will I find it in the book?)
    L x

    1. Linda – no, you didn’t miss it. Textures coming soon…there are SO many ways to use food and cooking to talk about writing and business! LOL they just keep popping up every day. Stay tuned!

  8. Steve Baines says:

    Awesome post Tea! I just downloaded your new book and am very excited to read it. You have cleverly presented the food & senses analogy and broken down tips-to-good-writing into sizeable bites:)
    Good luck with the book and thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Tony says:

    Makes a really good change from visual, kinetic and auditory references.

    I know you refer to it as oatmeal Tea but I had trouble understanding what you was on about at first. Oatmeal to me is just the basic ingredient for a variety of dishes it is used in. In your analogy I think you mean what we in the UK (especially Scotland) call porridge. I love it and have it most weekdays, while my partner hates oatmeal in that form. She prefers dry fried oatmeal cakes (look like pancakes) and I’m not too fond of those for some strange reason.

    Which goes to show that whatever you are on about in writing/cooking could easily be misunderstood by some, liked by others and disliked as well. The variety must be present and interpreted in different ways/flavors otherwise you could lose around two thirds of your readers without realizing they were vegetarian – so to speak.

    One other small observation. Sweet to fellas means a great car and the open road whilst sweet for the ladies means clothes and a good looking fella? Knew I was going wrong somewhere! Lol.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    Best wishes


    1. Isn’t that the truth, Tony? We’ve all got different perspectives on food — a lot of which depends on our culture, our family history and our genetic makeup. Some people think oatmeal is the bomb. And others, not so much. I tried to find a metaphor that could speak to that healthy-yet-kind-of-blah meal. That’s why I love blog comments…they help us suss out all of the nuances of what we mean and how it’s received by the readers. Thanks so much for your feedback!

  10. bernard Williams says:


    Very interesting article and comments, I plan to keep in touch, and learn all the ideas
    that come forth.


  11. Jason says:

    Aloha, Tea! Just ordered your book and I’m excited to learn more about you and your special brand of magic. I come from a restaurant family–my dad had a cajun-style jazz & blues club/restaurant in Pittsburgh for almost 20 years. (I know, right?!) The food analogy totally makes senses. Thanks for doing what you do!

    1. Aloha, Jason! Thanks for stopping by (and for grabbing a copy of my book)! Be sure to let me know what you think when you’re done. I’m already working on the follow-up and would love to hear what you think might be missing or need more detail.

  12. Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    First Dr. Who, now this? 🙂 I love it Tea — especially because I’ve used the chef metaphor many, many times (I had a link for something somewhere but it seems to have disappeared :P)

    Actually, I even had a personal chef for quite a chunk of my life 😀

    Anyway, your breakdown of the ‘flavors’ is fantastic, and I’ve found that including or at least being aware of them, makes everything in business SO much easier.

    Tea, brilliant metaphor from the word chef 😛 Thanks so much!

    1. Jason – once you find that link, be sure to connect with me via Twitter (or even email!) so I can check it out. I always love to read something that uses a food/cooking/eating metaphor. And thanks for following me from Copyblogger to Firepole!

  13. Nicole Fende says:

    Fascinating insight on writing. Yes it seems like all those posts say the same thing. I’m intrigued by translating my blog to taste. Perhaps there should be a taste indicator, like a Spicy, Medium, Mild on salsa?

    1. That’s the fun part, Nicole…the taste-factor is different for everyone. So what’s mild to me, might be too spicy for someone else. There’s a flavor (and a right audience) for every type of blog post.

  14. Carol Lynn says:

    Tea, your cooking analogies kill me every time (in a good-dead way). I love this idea and it doesn’t matter how many blog posts I’ve written, I always find something new and interesting to try in yours. I’m going for the flavorful blog next time!

    I’ll admit you had me for a minute there on the oatmeal. All I could think was… “ew? Is she really going to talk about writing like oatmeal?” But what a brilliant way to warm us up for the good stuff.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m inspired!

  15. Tea Silvestre says:

    Thanks, Nick! Yes, savory is sometimes swapped out for pungent…depends on which 5 flavor expert you talk to…but definitely a great addition to this post!

  16. Ryan Hanley says:

    I love Oatmeal for breakfast… Eat it every day… But I also go instant… So maybe I’m cheating.

    1. What do you love about oatmeal, Ryan? For me, it’s the childhood memories and associations. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d eat it…I’m much more of a chorizo and eggs kinda gal.

  17. Nick Armstrong says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a content strategy split into flavor groupings before. This is a great analogy…

    Don’t forget Umami – savory – that undeniable feeling of “yes, I’m making the right choice”. Part of that comes from addressing concerns off the bat, “I may not use this thing”, “I may not follow through”, etc. The other part comes from follow-through (following up on blog comments, doing what you say you’re going to do, etc…)

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