It’s the middle of the night and I hear “click, click, click, click…”
I say “What’s going on?”
He says “The light is not working.”
I say “It’s because the light bulb is burnt out.”
“…click, click, click, click…”
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein
Wondering why your blog is as silent as a graveyard at midnight?
You write, and write, and write some more, you comment on other blogs, you network, you promote, promote, promote….
Maybe it’s time to stop flipping the switch and replace the burnt out bulb?
What’s the Problem?
If you write, write, write, and no one is reading, what do you think the problem might be?
Time to take a closer look at your writing?
And to make this post more interesting (for me anyway; I always admire my own brilliance), I decided to walk you through my own journey of Unbecoming a Dull Writer.
How to Write a Dull Post
One of the first posts I’ve written for Traffic Generation Café was
What on Earth Is SEO And What Does It Have To Do With Traffic Generation?
Side note: that post used to be a LOT duller than it is right now, but I spruced it up (including the title) when putting together my resource page on search engine traffic.
Another side note: I accidentally deleted the post when playing with my wp_posts database – something you should never do unless you know what you are doing! Oh, well… good riddance, I suppose.
If you were to take your time and dig really deeply into the heart (or more like the stomach) of Traffic Generation Café, you’d eventually stumble upon the following excerpt:
Would you click on it?
Does it entice you with an alluring blog post title or a great opening?
Forget about the image or the lack thereof – is there ANYTHING about this post that would attract you to read more?
Just in case you are scratching your head afraid to give the wrong answer, what I am looking for is a strong NO.
Let’s see why this post doesn’t even come close to the kind of epic content you have to write to build readership.
Written for SEO
As I already mention, I wrote this post at the budding point of Traffic Generation Café.
I wrote it because I felt my blog needed a logical beginning of sorts.
That’s just the way my brain works.
You start something new by explaining what it is.
I also wanted to see if I could rank this post for some of the keywords searchers use to find out what SEO is.
So naturally, I decided it was a good idea to write the post with a plethora of keywords in mind.
It was NEVER ranked for ANY keywords (intentional or accidental) and is now being brought back to life as one of the dullest posts on my blog.
SEO won’t buy your products, so stop writing for it.
Ends with “So What?”
Every time you write a post – or, even better, before you actually write it – ask yourself “So what?”
What’s the point of the post?
How will your readers take it back to their business and improve something based on the information they just read?
Was their anything in that post that will give them an “Aha!” moment?
Who on earth would want to read my “What Is SEO?” post, if it’s much simpler, more efficient, and won’t unnecessarily waste your brain cells to Google the term and read a brief explanation of what SEO is without ever leaving the search results:
Informational, NOT Actionable
Unless you are running a news site, chances are your readers are not coming to your blog for information.
Just to be clear, by “information” I mean anything that answers the questions “What? Who? Where? When?“.
Your readers have a specific problem/pain and they are looking for the solution/cure.
They are looking for the HOW.
My informational post certainly does explain what SEO is, but leaves my readers looking for posts on HOW to actually apply SEO to their websites.
And most likely, they’ll be looking for that additional information elsewhere.
Don’t talk about the problem; talk about the solution.
Post formatting refers to the process of breaking down your post into easily digested bits of information.
That includes the use of:
- different size headers,
- bullet points,
- shorter sentences and paragraphs
- anything that makes readers’ job reading your post a breeze.
My post definitely lacks that.
Content presentation reveals content quality.
Lack of Call to Action
My post ends with:
“You are right: you don’t have to comment or retweet, but do it anyway; I love hearing from you!“
That was as close to a call to action as I got there, but notice this:
What I am asking my readers to do is very self-serving.
So I get more retweets and engagement in comments; what do my readers get?
Compare it to this call of action:
“If you like this post and think it would be valuable to your followers, tweet the ish out of it for me, okay?
All you have to do is click the button below. Thanks!”
The desirable outcome is the same – share the post.
However, the second call to action provides the reason WHY the readers might want to spread the word: because it might be valuable to THEIR followers, and give them the reputation of “the one who shares the good stuff”.
Add a call to action with benefits.
Overall Lack of Personality
This is one of those very subjective points that is hard to quantify.
Your post is either engaging and interesting or it isn’t.
How do you know which one it is?
Your readers will tell.
Or the silence should be a good hint.
My post was neither.
It was plain. Boring. “A dime a dozen”.
“A dime a dozen” is one of the most common deceases your blog could be infected with right now.
But it isn’t any longer.
This is the part where I was going to tell you how I cured my dull writing, but then I had a better idea.
The last thing I want you to do is to walk away from this post and continue to write the way you do while wondering why no one is reading it.
So before I tell you how I improved my writing and brought success to Traffic Generation Café, I want you to tell me about yours.
I Showed You Mine, You Show Me Yours
It takes guts to face the music.
However, the band is here.
Here’s what I want you to do:
1. Examine Your Writing
Why is no one reading your blog?
Is it too dull? Too generic? Too plain?
If you get some traffic (check your Google Analytics), but no one comments, shares, or buys, then you definitely have a problem.
You do get traffic/comments/shares, but they mostly come from the SAME people.
You networked with them, shared and commented on their posts and now they are at your blog to return the favor.
You also happen to be a swell guy/gal and they just want to give you a pat on the back.
Even though the interaction makes you feel like you are doing a good job, the comments you are getting are a bit generic and you are not getting new readership or sales.
Time for a heart-to-heart with those folks?
You are who you are, you write what you are passionate about, you won’t change for anyone – “they” will just have to accept it.
And you are right.
You don’t have to change.
And neither do your readers.
They don’t have to read your blog, they don’t have to buy from you, they don’t have to remember who you are.
And they won’t.
2. Write a Post About It
Now that you realized where your shortcomings are (or asked someone else to point them out to you), share it just like I did.
Write about it.
Come up with a plan on how to change it.
What are your strengths?
What can you give to your readers that no one else does?
How can you become magnetic?
3. Let Me Know About It
I’d love for you to let me know that you’ve taken arms again dull writing by linking to this post from yours AND letting me know about it – email, comments, whatever you prefer.
Depending on what kind of response I get, I might want to feature you and your post at Traffic Generation Café and give your new “undull” blog a boost of traffic.
If You ARE a Good Writer…
If you are a good writer, but weren’t born with it, let us know how you found your voice.
Your insights might be extremely valuable to those bloggers who are still struggling.
I’d love to see you do the same thing:
- Write a post about your journey and eventual success,
- Link to this post to let me know you published it,
- Help my readers to learn from you.
If the bulb is burnt out, stop flipping the switch.
To see different results, you need to start doing things differently.
Before I let you go to turn your writing upside down, tweet the ish out of it for me, okay?
All you have to do is click the button below. Thanks!
PS Stay tuned for the second part of the post to see how I went from a dull faceless writer to the owner of a high-trafficked blog.
Update to the Post
I see that the topic struck the cord.
I am thrilled.
I now it’s painful to admit that we are not “all that”, but these are just growing pains.
Since I published this post, I’ve visited many blogs.
And there’s one more thing I’d like to add to my list of “How to Write a Dull Post”:
Make it all about YOU.
Whoever told you that blogging was all about sharing your own experiences, views, life, etc. was right about one thing – that might make your blog an semi-decent read for your family and friends.
But you won’t build a business out of it.
I am not saying that you should take yourself out of your blog; not at all!
Just use your personality and experience to solve THEIR problems.
Stop solving your problems and solve your readers’ problems.
39 Intelligent comments · espresso yours below
Tyronne Ratcliff says
Hey Ana, I like how you stressed the importance of giving your readers something actionable rather than just giving them information.
Having a call to action that benefits the reader is another thing I strongly agree with you on. Thanks for the helpful tips, now it’s time for me to take these tips and put them to good use.
I try not to be dull. In my prior blogger blog I think I was dull. It took me years to break out of boredom as I learned how to write more concisely and produce content that my narrow niche would like to read. Blogging is a journey. It takes some people very little time to figure it out. It takes others 5 years. I am the latter. And still learning. Thank you, Suzanne
Ana Hoffman says
Learning never ends for any of us, Suzanne.
Rob Calhoun says
I agree with Farrukh. I too have looked back on some of my earlier posts (on another blog) and see major changes needed in formatting and content. I am by far not “there” yet, but I’m working on it!
While my blog is not necessarily geared for “Me” focus, I’d dare to give a tip here Ana.
If you do write about “you,” only use lessons learned and how it specifically relates to and helps your reader. Ana does that magnificently.
Ana Hoffman says
If we ever “get there”, Rob, we are probably dead. 😉
And you are right: the only way to talk about us is to make it personal to our readers.
When I see my earlier posts, they seem so childish to me and I don’t want to read them again. But looking back also let me learn from my mistakes.
I think that to be a good writer, you have to be honest first.
I’ll have a look at my writings again after reading your post.
Ana Hoffman says
I am with you, Farrukh.
Sometimes we are our own biggest enemies. We over analyze and spend far too much time worrying about whether people will like what we have written and not enough time on producing content.
A good writer becomes better through practice and there is no way to do that if we all do is write a post and agonize over whether it works or not.
Sometimes you have to just put pen to paper and then hit publish. That doesn’t mean that you don’t check for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors because you need to do it every time.
But it does mean that you can take advantage of the ability to edit and update after you publish. Part of the learning process is publishing so that you start to get feedback on your posts.
Ana Hoffman says
Very good point, Josh.
Becoming a better writer/blogger is a process. It’s easier to accept the fact that most of us suck at first, but writing more is the only way to writing better.
At least now I can use my older duller posts to make fun of myself; otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this great topic for conversation! lol
Rahul Tilloo says
Thanks Ana for sharing your experience. I was actually late to catch up with the post. I now will try to find what are the mistakes I am making and try to improve on it.
As you have shared your worst post it makes us realize that even the people who are at the top were not perfect in writing, in their starting days and that certainly gives us a lot of encouragement . I must say the post you have shared must be going viral right now 😀 .
I hope I will be much better writer than I am now in the next few months.
Rahul S. Tilloo
Ana Hoffman says
;), Rahul – I’ll have to get rid of that post altogether to keep my reputation intact.
Yep. I’m stuck in scenario 1 too. I intersperse my articles with tutorials and freebies but I rarely get comments or shares. I ‘think’ my writing style is reasonably good (although I wouldn’t mind a second or third opinion — please be gentle). I guess I shouldn’t complain too much as a do get a steady stream who sign up to my email list and most of them stay even after the Freebies stop coming so regularly.
Ana Hoffman says
I don’t think your style id boring at all, Karen.
I think in your particular case, it comes down to traffic or lack thereof.
If you don’t have enough traffic, then of course, it’s hard to get a fair evaluation as to how well you are doing.
Naturally, since your niche is so specific, it’s harder to find targeted audience.
What are you doing to increase your traffic these days?
Karo Itoje says
Ana if I didn’t know what SEO was, I believe I’ll be among the few that will answer ‘yes’ to the question:
“is there ANYTHING about this post that would attract you to read more?”
I don’t know what it should matter whether or not a post is interesting as long as the reader is able to get the help they need from it.
Ana I have always said I love the way you write. The way you’re able to write to add value but still make it interesting. I really love that. However I don’t come to read from you because you write interestingly. It honestly really wouldn’t matter to me whether you do IF I fail to get any unique value from it.
Before people start misunderstanding this thinking they have to be able to write interestingly to write at all, my recommendation is if you can write interestingly and still add value please do it does help. If you can’t, but can learn by all means do. But it’s not a requirement. Don’t force it if it doesn’t come natural to you else you start to sound like who you’re not, which will be worse.
It’s like what we always say that you must blog about something you’re passionate about. Now many people fail to blog because they can’t find something they’re passionate about. But we know some people have gone ahead to start blogs on topics they’re not passionate about but only have interest in.
I write just I’ll talk. Blogging is a serious business. And that’s exactly how I write about it. My business is to provide as much value as I can to help the beginner blogger start right and be able to make money in the shortest time possible and maximize his or her blog income. If I am able to make the reader smile while reading, well fine. But I don’t set out to write interesting posts. Well, it depends on the definition we give it anyway.
I guess it depends on what topic you’re writing on and the audience. I deal with beginners so I like to break things down. My posts are always very detailed starting with definitions when necessary and explaining every slight bit of information as I write to make sure I carry the reader along all through.
I don’t much effort to make my headlines catchy but I do make sure it’s very clear what the post is about. Writing smart headlines, giving the visitor different idea of what the content is about with the headline can generate lots of clicks as it surely will increase bounce rate too. Plus it’s really annoying.
What I see as important when writing for a site is write to provide solution to real problems always keeping your type of audience in mind. Then format your posts well. Put every new section under a headline, use bullets, make quotes stand out when you use one and leave some white space.
I never will agree to the suggestion to stop writing for SEO. I believe balancing is the key. You can effectively write to please the search engines and also your readers. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Moreover, you can only sell products if your pages are found by those looking for the information you offer.
Now most times it takes more than just optimizing a post to have it rank well in the search engines. Depending on the competition level for the keyword you may or may not be able to rank a page by just optimizing the page.
Ana the keywords SEO and search engine optimization are very competitive keywords so just writing one optimized post on it is not enough to rank it well at the search engines.
Also no matter how well we do SEO we can’t get all our pages to do well especially not immediately. As our site grows getting older in years, accumulating links and improving authority, more and more of our pages will start ranking well.
Finally, you want to also note that if you’re not optimizing your pages well yet search engines are bringing good traffic, then monitor the keywords bringing people to your site to make sure you’re getting the right visitors else it could affect conversion. That is getting thousands of traffic yet not making good income.
Ana Hoffman says
I hear your point, Karo, and understand where you are coming from.
No one writing style is the same/better as another.
However, it’s always up to the readers to decide.
If a blogger’s style is cut and dry, but the readers love it and get exactly what they want out of it, then that’s great!
However, when a style is cut and dry and that’s why there’s no readership, then the blogger has two choices: stop blogging or find a better style. Continuing in the same manner just because “that’s who we are and that’s how we write” just doesn’t make sense.
Karo Itoje says
Can we try to define “cut and dry”?
Are you telling me it’s possible that someone is looking for helpful information and he finds it but chooses to leave the site because the style of writing is cut and dry?
I try to put myself in the readers shoes and just don’t see how that is possible.
If someone visits a site and leaves immediately there are likely many reasons for that but your writing style is probably the lest of them especially when you practice good writing guidelines – good simple grammar, spelling, proper formatting and so on. But that they just don’t like the way you write especially when it has nothing to do with using offensive words? I will see that to mean the visitor is not the type of visitor I want; he or she likely doesn’t need the info I offer.
Anyway how do we know when a blog lacks readership because of our writing style?
Remember Ana we’ve always encouraged people to find their own voice. Write like they talk. Now saying they have to find a better way to write if their writing is cut and dry is almost like contradicting our early advice.
By the way we still have to define what “cut and dry” really means? Will you please help us out with that Ana? 🙂
I’ll conclude by saying this:
If your writing style bothers you then perhaps you want to ask your readers if they like your writing style or if there’s a particular way they’ll rather you write.
Ana Hoffman says
I think it’s indeed possible and probable, Karo.
The main challenge that I think you might be overlooking is to actually get the readers to read.
Your post might be great and it might provide lots of value and answer your readers’ pain, BUT if the first couple of sentences don’t catch their attention or if they scan the post and see lots of text, long sentences, and little white space, chances are they won’t even read the post.
Karo – you are an exception to all the rules of an average reader. You look for depth. You also provide depth.
Most readers THINK that they are looking for depth, but when they find it, it appears to take too much time to digest it.
And you are right, it’s always a good idea to ask someone other than yourself whether your writing is good or needs improvement. Your readers would be the first ones to tell you if you only ask them.
By “cut and dry” I mean lacking personality and voice.
Someone asks a question. You answer the question. Done. No stories, no personal experiences, no examples, no dialogue.
Karo Itoje says
“Someone asks a question. You answer the question. Done. No stories, no personal experiences, no examples, no dialogue.”
Now with that definition I agree, that will really be boring and sometimes appear generic.
Yeah I agree also I am an exceptional reader. I want something you provide it I am grateful. I don’t care how long the page is. In fact I appreciate it when the author goes the extra mile to give detailed step by step process. I only mind when there are lots of wrong spellings that makes it difficult to understand the content of the page. However I know many would care for more than just a great content.
Anyway like you said, know the benefit of a post and lead with it. That’s really the best advice for writing any form of content to make people open and read. And this makes it easy for average writers to write to convert. Whether you’re writing a headline, a newsletter, a post, a landing page or sales copy. Use the SWAT technique (So What) and you’ll be able to get many people to open and read your content.
That’s how I keep things simple.
Great post really Ana.
Ana Hoffman says
And thank you so much for adding a great deal to the post just by asking questions, digging deeper, making observations – being you, Karo.
Always my pleasure.
Niveen Salem says
More than excellent, Ana!! I have to admit though that it’s hard at the begining to remember all the points you’ve mentioned…just becuase you’re still getting in the habbit of writing itself, gathering information on what to write, reading and educating yourself…etc.
But I was srongly taught by my personal coach to make it all about me and my experience: good or bad as this is a big part of HEO (Human Emotion Optimization)!
Your post actually inspired me to write a topic about that! Will link to your site and this great topic. Once the blog is published will send your way 🙂
Thanks for your pearls of wisdom 🙂
We grow with our blog and it is important to keep growing. Sometime when i look back and go through my own post, i want to hide that so that nobody knows about it. I guess, it happens with others also.
I am trying to reach there though i m still halfway but hope will be soon there.
Corinne Rodrigues says
Loved it, Ana. I was on leading a forum today on finding your blogging voice and I just had to quote you and give a link to this post!
Hi Ana, Thanks for a great and yes, compelling post. I never did like writing for the search engines. I always felt that the result was stiff and read like a stuffy old school text book. I write what goes through my head at that moment in time- some of it crap and thankfully, some of it apparently useful to my readers.
Anything that we can learn to improve our writing has got to be beneficial to everyone. Keep up the good work and thanks again.
Ana Hoffman says
Good think Google doesn’t really like keyword-stuffed content anyway with the latest Panda update, Carolyn; hopefully that will help us write better and still get search engine traffic.
Thanks Ana, always teaching us more than our school teachers does. One thing i love about Albert is his defination of Insanity….Doing the same thing again & again and expecting different result, thanks for reminding me. I know that each time i visit your blog i must grab something new and awesome.
My blog is about 6 months now and I’ve been trying to write well for my readers not even for Search Engine, last time i checked i think my search engine traffic is about %10.45, although i want it to go higher but not very good in SEO.
But people seldomely comment on my blog, i don’t know why but I’m planning to change my theme and then inprove on my writing and also take a closer look on my Titles.
Thanks for this one of a kind post Ana, more greeze to your elbows.
wish you will take a look at my blog.
Ana Hoffman says
I took at look at your Pinterest post, Theodore (thanks for the mention!), and have some questions/suggestions, if you don’t mind.
Is your first name Theodore or Nwangene? It gets confusing when I get to your blog.
Most English speakers list their first/given name first and their last/surname last.
I’d definitely work on the green color; too much of it makes your blog look pretty generic.
Lastly, content. It does sound more like an article and it doesn’t really provide too much new info.
I know it’s not great news, but you can only get better, right?
Of cause Ana, i don’t mind. Actually, my first name is Theodore, i know where you’re coming from and will certainly correct it. About green colour, i want to change the theme entirely, what do you think?.
Yea, i will improve on my content style.
Thanks for checking out my blog.
Ana Hoffman says
You could certainly do much better with the design, Theodore.
Great wake up call this morning. Thank you Ana. As always I learn when I come here! I was venturing into making myself a top 50 check list of items to make sure of whenever I make a new blog post and reading this, I don’t just add item 51. I redo the list 🙂
Ana Hoffman says
As you’ll learn, Lucas, I am terrific at adding more stuff to bloggers’ to-do lists. lol
Thank you again for all of your help, Ana! You’re simply amazing and I appreciate your help. 🙂
The blogging journey is without question an exciting one. I started my blog two years ago and am still unable to claim monetary success. (My blog is not yet monetized.) I have succeeded, however, in attracting and sustaining a consistent, growing readership. Some bloggers indicate that magical growth occurs when the number of major pieces reaches 100-150. I’m closing in on those numbers, so it will be interesting to see if those estimates are true. As usual, Ana, your insights are extremely useful. Thanks!
You wrote this at exactly the right time for me also. I am
entrenched in #1 for various reasons. Some of which I am
aware of and many I did not realise. Your post was a good
old slap in the face with cold water. It is also going to
motivate me to change.
I am going to post and link back to you.
Thanks so much
Ana Hoffman says
Let me know how it goes, Ray; good to have you back!
I’m pretty sure my writing is fairly dull. I have NOT found my voice yet…but I’m still looking.
Considering that less than a year ago I could barely put 50 words together and have them actually make sense…I’m doing ok.
I’m still working on it and getting better. I figure it will take me another year or so get to where I’m actually “good”. We will see. They do say practice makes perfect.
First all, immediately after I arrive, a pop up with Commentluv appeared, very effective. Later, a second pop up with your regular pop up with the newsletter 🙂 Which is the plugin (I know is premium) you are using?
Let’s move on, fantastic intro too 😉
So true about the call to action, I’m guilty about that point; I need to improve on benefits.
Those “ellipses” are very particular and feature well your content, point: formatting.
One thing I need to highlight from you is the personality in most of your posts and this is not transferable 🙂
In my case a mix of food and social media is not the ideal, but here I’m, trying to extend my blog to the technical side then to decrease the bounce rate and convert better.
An excellent reference for my future posts – sharing 🙂
PS: I’m receiving an error from Commentluv
” Hover your mouse here to see the data that CommentLuv got back from your site
If you see a warning or other error message then that might help you locate the problem (maybe another plugin is spitting out an error?)”
I have a plan for this year to beef up the content of my blog. It needs more drive, more purpose and be aimed at someone specific. I don’t think my writing is as bad as the worst you see but I do think I ramble on without direction sometimes. I’ve bookmarked this post on Google reader to refer to over the next few months – lets see if I can learn anything……
Scott Bradley says
Ana – This is an awesome post and so true on so many levels.
One of the main metrics I follow in my Google Analytics is “avg time on page” for each post I write.
My goal is to have that number be anywhere from 2-10 minutes. I know when it is in that range I have succeeded in writing a great piece of content that is actionable and successfully adding value to the reader.
Keep the good content flowing! I am so glad I found your site via my friend Gerald Weber on Facebook!
Cathryn Peters says
Oh boy Ana, this post couldn’t have come along at a better time for me! I’ve been blogging since 2004 and within the last couple months, decided to use a keyword SEO type plugin that has frankly intimidated me so much, I no longer want to write!
Instead of the words just flowing as they used to, now I’m forced to make sure all the keywords are in the title, first paragraph and elsewhere, plus make sure I use h2 codes properly and often etc., etc., etc. What a PITA and talk about dry and boooooring!
So thanks again for giving me the impetus to start over with my blogging plan and to most likely deactivate that particular plugin!