I suck…absolutely suck at creating blog titles. I know this and that’s why I usually get help.
But there’s a lot of other areas of my blog-writing suckitude that I’m not as clear on. So I thought it would be helpful to do an audit.
I had three of my colleagues – Scott Vaughan, Triniti Burton, and Ben Henson – review three separate (particularly bad) posts I’ve written, asking them to explain everything terrible about them. Here’s their combined wisdom explained.
I didn’t keep it simple
By this, I mean I didn’t provide actionable advice, but rather abstract gibberish, such as this:
As Triniti states:
“The worst part about this blog (and there are many bad parts) is that it’s simply not easily digestible. The topic, while thought provoking, contains no actionable takeaways that readers can implement. There are no examples of how marketers can put this concept to work in their everyday roles.”
My takeaway (other than that Triniti clearly hates me): We should focus on writing short, helpful posts for people who’re incredibly busy.
We are NOT trying to create profound, nuanced works based on comprehensive research, meant to stand up to extensive critical review. This means good posts are written in short, easily digestible prose. Audiences like short sentences with quick insights and/or advice.
I didn’t get to the point
Whatever you want the reader to take away from the post should be clearly evident in the first paragraph, or very close to it. And if it’s in the second paragraph, the first better have some damn compelling content. The first paragraph of the following post did not – nor did the second:
Scott summed it up well:
“There’s no real point of view or clear thesis. Get to your thesis. Go one way or the other: controversial or fresh take OR a practical how-to. This does neither. Is the point of the blog about aligning sales and marketing language? Or is it about infusing the voice of the customer into all communications?“Furthermore, it mentions an event, but doesn’t provide the reader – who wasn’t there – any clue about what the event was about, who was there or why it mattered. Simply put, you should just quit writing because you’re so bad at it.”
I added the last part, but I know that’s what Scott was thinking.
Ben had a few similar thoughts on the blog post he reviewed, writing:
“It’s like the reader is asking you about a piece of paper, so you’re starting with the history of the tree. Get to the point, man! You remind me of Grandpa Abe Simpson.”
I didn’t use enough subheadings
Most of us scan the subheadings before committing to the body text. Maybe this is because we’re super busy, or maybe it’s because we’re just really lazy. In any case, you’re blog post is kind of screwed if it doesn’t have any subheadings. Take for example this post wrote a while back:
Absolutely no subheadings whatsoever.
In her soft, pillow-like voice of criticism that I’ve grown so fond of, Triniti explains:
“You fail to use subheadings so that audiences can scan the content. It’s a giant wall of boring, crappy text. There are sentences that contain more than 50 words, causing readers to invest extra energy into breaking down the sentence structure in order to get the full meaning of the content. It’s just terrible, really god-awful writing.”
I didn’t use enough analogies or examples: the chocolate chips of blog posts
Everyone loves a strong metaphor, clear example, or pithy simile…anything that makes it easier to understand your point. At times, I’ve forgotten this:
Scott quickly called me out:
“You need to be specific and use real-world examples of what happened in your organization to examples you learned while at the Forum. These are vague and intangible. Seriously, my 4-year-old niece writes better blogs than this.”
Regarding the post she reviewed, Triniti eloquently seconded Scott’s comments:
“While your post refers to marketers’ internal systems, you did not once call out examples of any other those systems. By listing examples (Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, etc.) it would be easier for readers to identify with the post. This is seriously Copywriting 101 – I don’t know why you even receive a paycheck.”
Good points, guys.
I used too many academic words and obscure references: the raisins of blog posts
Some people appreciate them, but most usually don’t. Good to keep in mind when writing on various topics that attract differing audiences.
I tend to overuse what Triniti calls 50-cent words. She says it’s most likely a symptom of my deep intellectual insecurity. She’s probably right – she usually is. However, I do think such words serve a purpose from time to time.
David’s Rule of Thumb for Using Douchey Academic Words: Only use one if replacing it would require three or more “conversational” words.
Obscure references, on the other hand, should probably be avoided all together, such as this one:
Ben kindly pointed out to me that this isn’t a recommended practice:
“Seriously, dude…’Reagan down the wall’? …Actually, maybe you’re right, why be clear when you can just use ridiculously puzzling metaphors instead? You should’ve been fired for writing something that bad.”
Thanks, Ben. Duly noted.
You should only use obscure references if they’re known widely to your specific audience, that is to say, industry references. But even then, you should be careful so as not to fall into the common trap of using overused industry terms that have lost all meaning, such as “data-driven.”
Every writer is a work in progress. And that progress isn’t always linear – I still write terrible posts, but I like to think that my marketing blog failures are gradually becoming less frequent. Keeping the above tips in mind and continually trying to pick up more learnings along the way is what will ensure we progress as writers and marketers.