Before we start with the technical aspects of blogging we must first address what is arguably the most important determining factor of your success as a blogger: how well your content resonates with its audience. Your ability to come up with interesting ideas that engage readers is absolutely vital.
Any experienced blogger understands that a disinterested readership is only marginally more valuable to you than no readership at all. Disinterested readers don’t hang around for long, nor do they turn into customers (which will invariably be your clients’ goal). As such, in order to become a successful freelance blogger you must develop an understanding of your readers’ mindset in order to shape blog posts that they will find utterly compelling.
Doing this is of course far harder than explaining it, and it is not something that you will figure out overnight. For instance, it took me over two years months to finally get a good handle on what my blog’s audience really wanted from me. Don’t be paralyzed into inaction by the fear that you do not know your audience well enough — far better to write imperfect content than no content at all. Having said that, the closer you get to a perfect understanding of your audience, the more popular your posts will be.
Problems, Fears and Desires (Aka The “Trinity of Emotions”)
Most good blog posts address one (or more) of the above three emotional issues that we all face, and that is because they offer the biggest potential reward to the reader.
- If you have a problem, you likely want to fix it.
- If you are am afraid of something, you probably want to conquer that fear.
- If you desire something, you want to know how you can get it.
That’s why I call them the “Trinity of Emotions,” and your blog posts should have a strong focus on them. When you are developing topic ideas, you should always ensure that you address one of the trinity (unless you have a very good reason not to).
Examples of how the trinity of emotions are utilized in blog posts can be found everywhere. Here’s a good example of a “problem post:”
- How to Speed Up Your Computer in 5 Easy Steps — the problem is that the reader’s computer is slow.
A “fear post:”
- 7 Reasons Why You Must Avoid Dairy Products — this plays on the reader’s health fears.
And a “desire post:”
- The Best Exercise for Six–Pack Abs! — who doesn’t want six–pack abs?
Later on in the guide I’ll be explaining how you can structure and write a post so that it plays upon your reader’s trinity of emotions, but at this point I want to explain the various measures that you can take to discover what they actually are. You will see some overlap between the following pointers and the suggestions I make for coming up with post ideas (next chapter).
1. Ask the Audience
If you have an established audience to play with, make sure that you are leveraging them. Ask questions via social media. Create polls (e.g. “What is your biggest fear about [insert your niche here]?”) with Survey Monkey and ask subscribers to take part.
In short, make sure that the reader/blogger relationship is not one-way — you should always be looking to actively engage with a blog’s readership. You’d be amazed at how much they can tell you about the content you should be producing.
2. Draw from Your Own Experience
If you are blogging in a niche that you are particularly passionate about then you should have no trouble coming up with some really promising ideas. Just put yourself in the shoes of your reader — what would you like to read about? What solution or advice would you like to read? Take your own trinity of emotions and apply them to your blog’s topic.
3. Browse Through Forums and Q&A Sites
The majority of questions relevant to any given niche niche have probably already been asked and are publicly available — you just need to find them. Forums and Q&A sites are a practically endless source of valuable information that you can draw upon in order to better understand your audience.
Whilst the answers aren’t always particularly good (that’s where you come in), the questions are more often than not genuine and representative of one of the trinity.
4. Ask Google
This suggestion follows the same logic as trawling forums and Q&A sites. Google’s superb autocomplete feature allows you to find out what people are searching for in your niche.
For instance, you could type in “dog training” and immediately unearth “dog training tips.” Behind that simple search query is a simple desire: “I want to be better at training my dog,” possibly a problem: “My dog isn’t well behaved” and perhaps even a fear: “I am afraid that my dog is going to bite someone.” Through simple search queries you can build up an accurate assumption of your readers’ problems, fears and desires.
Understanding is Key
Please do your best in terms of gaining an understanding of your audience before you continue blogging, as it can make a huge difference to the quality and relevancy of your writing.
However, do not fret over whether or not you have a complete understanding — getting to know an audience is a process that cannot be rushed. While you may not get it “right” first time, you will learn from the feedback you receive and from the popularity (or unpopularity) of particular posts what readers want from you.
Employ some or all of the above methods to discover some specific problems, fears and desires that your audience has and write them down in a list.