We’ve all heard that “content is king” when it comes to blogging. But unfortunately those looking for an easy buck have taken that to mean “Quantity” of words or number of posts is all that you need. At one point it got so bad that people were posting pure nonsense that had been spun beyond all recognition, so the human reader could not even comprehend what was being said, in the hope that somehow Google would give it high rankings.
Of course Google responded by tightening their algorithm to include grammar checking and other penalties to try to provide their customers with the quality they sought. And providing good, useful content is exactly what you should be striving to do for your readers. If you do that, you will naturally gravitate to the top of Google rankings and develop a good following of return readers at the same time.
What is Good Useful Content?
So that begs the question, What is Good Useful Content? Often we have a difficult time deciding what actually makes up “good” content. Like Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart said when trying to determine what makes up pornography… “I know it when I see it” but if we are going to consistently create good content, we need a more precise definition than that.
I recently read an article by Mark Ford aka. “Michael Masterson” which presented an excellent definition that resonated with me and got me to thinking. He said that
“Good writing is the clear expression of exciting and useful ideas supported by persuasive evidence and presented in an authentic voice.”
At first it may seem so simple to be obvious, but the fact that it had taken him decades of being one of the most successful newsletter publishers to distill the essence of good writing down to this simple phrase leads me to believe that it truly is a jewel that merits plenty of consideration.
So how do you apply this definition to your writing?
Mark provided 4 steps to ensure that the work you produce meets the lofty goals he sets.
- Don’t start writing until you have at least one good thought.
- Write that thought down as simply as possible.
- Support it with as much detail as it warrants.
- Write sincerely, which is to say with the best interests of your reader at heart.
He went on to say,
Writing is communication. And communication involves two parties. Writing begins with the writer. It’s his job to develop exciting and useful ideas. But if those ideas cannot be understood or believed, then it won’t seem “good” to his readers. In fact, reading them will seem like a waste of time.
So the first step is to find or create a single, exciting, and useful idea. You can do that sometimes simply by thinking about your experience. Oftentimes, however, you must supplement your thinking by doing a great deal of reading. You have to read the best ideas you can find about your subject until some exciting, seemingly new idea hits you. And then after it hits, you have to spend days writing and thinking about this idea to make sure it is as good as it seems. (Many seemingly great ideas fade into mediocrity upon reflection.)
Then, after you are sure that your idea is sound, you must gather lots of evidence to support it. That evidence can be factual but it can also be anecdotal. Persuasion is a complicated business. It is achieved by appealing to both the logical and the analogical parts of the brain. Whenever possible, support your ideas with stories as well as facts. If pictures can tell a thousand words, stories can have the weight of a thousand facts.
And finally, get rid of every paragraph, every sentence, and every word that is not essential to expressing and supporting your idea. If you do that, you will not only be a good writer, you may one day be a great writer or at least write one great thing.
The full article is What Is Good Writing? Find Out & You’ll Become a “Really” Good Writer by Mark Ford
Keep the Best Interests of Your Reader at Heart
Mark’s 4th rule to keep the best interests of your reader at heart sums up the entire problem with most blogs, they don’t really care about their readers. All they care about is word count. So they waste the reader’s time with fluff. Many blogs these days are simply publishing regurgitated nonsense which has no unique benefit, and whose only goal is filling 500 words.
The old saying “If you don’t know where you are going it is difficult to get there” applies to writing as well. I can’t tell you how many article submissions I have received that I had no clue what the author was trying to say. It went round and round some supposed topic but I had no idea what the point was.
I’d be willing to bet that you’ve read at least one blog recently, that when you finished reading, you asked yourself, what is the point the author is trying to make? And if you did get the point was it presented in a logical manner? Step-by-step logic seems to be severely lacking in society today, so it isn’t surprising to find it lacking in blog posts. By providing it you will stand out from the crowd.
And finally my personal pet peeve; authors who try to use fancy words to impress you without presenting arguments in a clear understandable fashion. Let’s get this clear… Big words don’t impress me and even worse when they are used frivolously or incorrectly. What I like to see is ideas presented in a clear fashion. If I see too many big fancy words, I assume the person is just throwing up a smoke screen. What they call in Texas “All Hat and No Cattle”. I figure, if you can’t present your ideas so a 6th grader can understand them you probably don’t understand them well enough yourself.
So if you want to succeed in the blogging world, here is my condensation of Mark Ford’s advice.
- Have a point that benefits your audience
- Present it clearly
- Support it with logical evidence (or interesting stories)
- Don’t waste your reader’s time.
I hope you have found this useful, logical and beneficial. I’d love to hear your comments.
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