Writing for Engagement and Readership - A Beginners Guide

writing So over the past couple of years since stating this blog, I have recognised the fact that blogging is crucial to building an online presence.

Video's are great, the podcast has been killer and social media has provided a lot of website traffic, but the way you can really get a message across, is through writing. (you're reading this right now aren't you?)

Writing is a commonality with ALL of the biggest influencers I know and follow.

Elliott Hulse, Robin Sharma, Tim Ferriss, James Altucher...and more.

In addition, all these guys have written best sellers....multiple of them. (except Elliott who is currently writing his new book due for release early 2016 called 'King', which I have no doubt will dominate the rankings).

So what makes writing so special?  Why is it the most popular form of information sharing on the net today?  With our lower attention spans, and videos that now have to be 6 seconds to get your attention, wouldn't people be more interested in fast and easy gratification?

Well, no.

And the proof is in the pudding.

Writing engages your audience a lot more effectively.  While short videos capture those looking for a quick laugh, the fact of the matter is you get very little long term benefit from a sub 30 second video.

The whole goal with content is to share and transfer the information from your head into the head of your reader.  To create that connection.  And nothing can create that connection like writing.

Writing creates influence, which leads to the audience member (hopefully) taking action on your advice.

Writing has the unique ability effectively tell a story in it's own way.  It draws emotions form the reader and helps them to make their own judgements and draw their own conclusions.

They will pick up on things in their own individual way without any external influences.  Most of the time they will create their own identity for the author.

You see with videos, we have years of judgements and other external influences that judge the content creator on camera.  Their tone, their hair, their complexion, what they're wearing, what's in the background.  Before they even talk, we have made an assumption about them.

Writing is pure words.  A bunch of characters strung together to deliver a valuable message.

You can't see the author and there are minimal distractions.

Just knowledge on a screen.

OK, so this writing thing sounds great...but what else do I need to know and how can I get started? I have no idea how to write!

Here are a few things you need to be aware of and that I've learnt from over 2 years worth of consistent writing.

1. The more value, the greater the readership. I've done the whole quick 200-300 word articles.  While you can easily bang out 5-7 of these per week, you need to question yourself.."Are they really helping change lives? or are they just helping your audience pass time before they move on to something else?"

At the end of an article, you want your audience to be thinking "YES! that makes sense and I want to take action!" rather than: "mm nice story, but how can it help me? my situation is different."

If traditionally, you've been doing the latter, that's ok...(because I did that for 6 months, and realised it wasn't building quality).

But if you want to know how to excel, keep reading and I'll teach you.

 

2. Get specific. Who is reading your content?  Think of the ideal person you're writing for a aim it at them.  What are their problems are, their likes, dislikes, what do they need help with...?

Come up with a list of 6 key problems they have, and base all of your writing around solving those problems.

If you find yourself off topic.  Bring it back. or start over.

Remember, if you're unsure, ask yourself throughout writing the article: "Is this going to help my ideal reader become better, smarter, stronger or more effective?"

 

3. You will suck at the start Sorry, but you will.

Everyone does.  Unless you're part of the 0.001% of people who are natural writers, you will suck. (but then, if you were that, not sure you'd be this far down in an article that is describing how to write?)

Why? Because writing is a learned skill.  Like anything, it takes practice, commitment and time.

But, as you will soon read, if you stick at it and implement the advice I am sharing with you here today, you will get better.

 

4. Expect MINIMAL traffic when you first start. When I first started, I think my mum, and around 3-5 others were the only ones reading my content.  Now I regularly get 10,000+ unique visitors per month visiting my site.  I know it's nothing amazing, but hey it's better than nothing and certainly better than where I was at 2 years ago.

And in 2 more years time, I am going to have 100,000 readers (aim high, right?).

But building your audience takes time.

You will need to:

 

5. Write EVERY DAY Notice how I said, 'write' everyday.  Not publish.  The key to becoming a better writer is practicing the skill and creating the habit within your life.  Possibly one of the best authors of our time, Steven King  recommends daily writing in his book 'On Writing' to help improve your skills.  I am also a huge advocate of it, have implemented it and am reaping the benefits.

Start small.  Just create the habit

Sit down at the same spot, at the same time, with a fresh coffee, and just write.

Don't have your emails open, don't be on facebook, just write...

About what? Well, what comes into your head.  It's simple.

One great trick I've learned is to keep a journal on me 95% of the time, and write down blog ideas that I see, then if I'm at my computer and cannot think what to write about, I pull out the journal and choose a topic.

Plus, once you start to think this way, you will start to see lessons everywhere.

 

6. Write First, Edit Later

One of the biggest mistakes I used to make is trying to edit as I was writing.  You're much more effective when you spill your words out onto the page, get your main points out, and then go back, tidy it up.

Often I will get out a rough first draft, bullet point what I want to get across, build out my points and then fine tune.  It's a process.  Don't think that the first thing that spills out of your head will be a masterpiece.  No-one can do that.  Not even J.K Rowling.....OK maybe she can? I don't know.

But either way, until you've both sold 450+ million copies of your work like her, take my advice.

 

7. Have fun with it. Honestly, when I first started, I thought my articles had to be peer reviewed, literary masterpieces.

I wanted every piece of content to be 100% accurate, structured like a novel, full of facts and tables with research etc....It was all nonsense.

Don't get me wrong, if that is your style, and you're aiming your articles towards readers who like that....then go for it.

But that is not how you write for the web.  Or even books these days.

People want connection.  People want to be around people like them.

Have fun with it.  Crack jokes halfway through your articles, reference your fuck-ups you've made in your career.  People like that.  It's relate-able.

Make sense?

 

Getting started.

OK so now you have a bunch of tips and hints....how the hell can you get started?

 

There are a few things you will need to start an online blog:

  • A website domain (email me if you need help choosing a name)
  • A small hosting service (I recommend Uber Global 'cPanel hosting')
  • A new 'Wordpress' install (google: cpanel wordpress install for a guide)
  • A basic 'Theme' (This is the structure of how your blog is displayed.  Plenty of free ones to help get you started, or use what I use "Eleven 40 Theme")
  • A list of your 6 biggest client problems
  • 30 minutes - 1 hour a day dedicated to writing.  Non negotiable.

That's it.  Don't get fancy.  You don't need fancy.

You need to get something online and share the knowledge you've developed over your life.  Too many people are paralised thinking they will be criticised for sharing their thoughts...?

Screw that.  Just get it out there.

Tons of people probably laugh at my writing and criticise...but where are they? Stuck doing something they hate?

Me? Well I love writing and if I can share that passion with others, then that's all I need to continue.

 

Enjoy a safe and happy new year people.

 

Hayden