If you’re working to build your blog’s audience, you can’t afford to waste time writing mediocre posts that don’t say anything useful or help your readers out.
You have to focus on what works and learn from techniques other successful bloggers have used to create huge followings. I like to say that you have to ruthlessly focus your efforts on those things that work, and stop spending precious time on things that don’t.
For every blog post you write, you should be asking yourself these two essential questions:
- How will this post deliver unmissable value to my audience? (also known as the “what’s in it for my readers” question)
- How can I present this information best so that it will be read and shared by as many people as possible?
When it comes to presenting the information in the best way possible, there are really two things to focus on most, headlines and something I’ll call post types here.
Headlines are utterly important. They have a specific job to do (getting people to click on your link to read more), and when done right, headlines can mean the difference between a dud post and a runaway viral hit.
If you’re not spending a lot of time crafting great headlines, you need to start now. Tim Ferriss wrote a fantastic post about how to write headlines that get retweeted. Check that out for some killer starter headline ideas.
Beyond headlines, there are certain types of posts that constantly attract more readers, comments, tweets, stumbles and links than other types of posts. What do I mean by “post types?” It’s more than just a headline. I’m talking about the overall structure and concept of a post. Frameworks, if you prefer.
If you study popular blogs, you’ll find a number of different post types that are constantly used and that constantly become the most popular posts on the web. I scoured several of the popular blogs that I read regularly for the most effective post types. I combined what I learned from those blogs with my own experience on this blog and at other blogs I’ve worked on.
I narrowed those different post types down to ten that will grow your audience much faster than the run-of-the-mill stuff you might currently be writing. Check these out, study them, and try them on your own site. You’ll be happy you did.
Here they are, 5 extraordinary blog post types that will grow your audience faster:
1. The Influential People Round-up Post
Flattery can definitely take you places online. When you mention someone in a post, there’s no question that the chances of that person sharing your post or linking to it are high.
And what’s better than mentioning one person in a post? How about featuring dozens of special people all in one round-up post? The “people round-up” post is highly effective not just because of the flattery factor, but also because it typically uses another effective type, the list post.
When the Netsetter blog (part of the Envato) network decided to relaunch, they were smart to ask Jade Craven to write a post for the relaunch week. Jade created a round-up post called 50 Netsetters You Should Know About (no longer live) that was a huge success.
I used this post type to grow my audience quickly myself when I was just getting started blogging in a post called 10 Digital Nomads to Learn From, and again in another post called 41 Creative and Adventurous Bloggers You Should Know.
2. The Over-the-top Generous Free Resource Post
Blog posts are a dime-a-dozen. You probably write one to three of them a week. There are millions published every day. So if you want to really grab people’s attention, you have to sometimes give more than just blog posts.
That’s where the “over-the-top generous free resource post” comes in.
Big name bloggers like Chris Guillebeau, Dave Navarro and Everett Bogue each support themselves by selling information products, like ebooks and online courses. But those guys all know that there’s a time to sell and a time to give things away.
That’s exactly what Everett did recently with his free eBook called Minimalist Workday: 50 Strategies for Working Less (no longer available), and it was a huge hit. The post announcing the book was retweeted nearly 300 times, and the book itself was downloaded over 5000 times in the first week alone.
Chris Guillebeau’s free eBook A Brief Guide to World Domination put him on the map in a big way, and has been downloaded over 100,000 times. The eBook formed the basis for his print book that just came out, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World.
Dave Navarro used a similar strategy before releasing a product last year, and is doing it again by giving away some intensely valuable free videos ahead of his 2010 More Buyers Mastermind launch.
3. The (Almost) Too Good to Be True Post
When you read a blog post title that seems too good to be true, how can you not be compelled to read more? It’s a classic headline technique that just works.
The trick with writing about something seemingly impossible is that you have to deliver “the goods” so to speak, or your readers will be turned off by the bait-and-switch.
Tim Ferriss is a master of the “too good to be true” post type. He constantly pushes the limits of what you might think is possible on a range of topics from fitness to entrepreneurship. His book, The 4-Hour Workweek is an excellent example of this, and he relies on the framework in many of his most popular blog posts.
Check out two of Tim’s most popular posts of all time (which is saying a lot, considering how hugely popular the blog is overall). How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise and From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks (picture above) both seem far outside the realm of what’s possible, but Tim comes through with detailed proof about exactly how he achieved such superhuman results in both cases.
Glen Allsopp has also written some of his most popular posts over at ViperChill using this technique. Check out the super popular How a 3 Month Old Website Received 958,373 Visits from Google as an example.
4. The Soul-Baring Post
This is one post type I’ve had especially worthwhile first-hand experience with recently. A couple of months back, I decided to take the advice of some of the people I respect most online and dig deep to find my real voice and share it with my readers.
The result was a very personal post called 33 Things I’ve Never Told You (or, How to Re-Introduce Yourself and Kick Your Watered-Down Self in the Ass). It quickly became my most commented post and one of my most viewed posts overall.
Soul-baring posts are a great way to grow your audience because of how much they stand out. So much of what is published online is formulaic and lacks character or any real human connection. When you write something that people can really relate to on a personal level, you can form stronger bonds. These “soul-baring post” types tend to build true fans, the kind who will really pay attention to what you say and share it with friends.
Johnny B. Truant is great at writing in a relate-able style, and he does it by revealing intimate aspects of his personal journey, although interestingly enough he does it through a pen name. Check out his post called How To Be Real Online (And Get Paid For It). Naomi Dunford has arguably built her entire business around baring her soul while always providing great marketing and business advice. Just take a look at Entrepreneurship: What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless to see what I’m talking about.
5. The Ultimate Overview Post
Finding helpful, in-depth and complete information online can be a challenge. How many times have you found yourself jumping from one article to the next, gleaming a scrap of info here, and another scrap there?
It’s so refreshing when you come across a complete resource that answers all of your questions in one place.
In “the ultimate overview post” type, your job is to create something so detailed and full of info that people don’t need to go anywhere else. That’s exactly what Adam Baker, Glen Allsopp and Pat Flynn have done with posts on each of their sites.
These posts could easily have turned into a book or downloadable guide, but these guys published them as blog posts, and that’s what makes them so unique and effective. As a reader, you feel compelled to share them with friends online because they’re so damn useful.
Check out these three examples of “ultimate overview” type posts:
- WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need (by Glen Allsopp at ViperChill)
- THE Blogger’s Guide to Facebook (by Pat Flynn at The Smart Passive Income Blog)
- How NOT To Suck At Blogging (by Adam Baker at Man vs. Debt)
Not surprisingly, each of these posts has been wildly successful for Glen, Pat and Adam, respectively, and I suspect they continue to drive new visitors to their sites every day. I know I refer to each of those posts on a regular basis.
The Powerful Element Each of these Have in Common
Fundamentally, all of these different post types share something that makes them work so well at attracting more readers. At the core each of them focus on creating content worth linking to or sharing.
It’s a simple formula, really. The two direct ways you can receive traffic to your blog is through either links or sharing on social media (search traffic is actually a result of linking, so I consider it a more “indirect” form of traffic).
When you’re growing an audience then, your goal has to be to create content that is worthy of being shared or linked to. Use the post types outlined above and you’ll be on the right track.
Have you tried these types of posts before? What other types of posts are most effective for you? We’d love to hear it, so please share in the comments.
photo by Michael Oh