Five Insights to Make Your Blog Posts Stand Out
Seen through the lens of the ‘Enticing and Takeaway’ perspective
As a longterm reader of online blog posts and aspiring writer myself, I find that most blog post writers would have something to gain from a rule I intuit and call ‘Enticing and Takeaway’.
In compiled form, it says that everything a writer writes must serve either the purpose of inviting (Enticing) the reader on board for the story she has crafted for them or, if not that, the piece of writing should work as something to stay with the reader (Takeaway).
This is not some arbitrary design I came up with. The importance of an enticing article must be already close to your heart. Even so, I suspect you are undervaluing it. The same for the takeaway part.
I need not say that in a world of content abundance, your capacity to stand out and get that click that will put your reader face-to-face one-on-one with your peace is gold. A writer should not (cannot) waste any opportunity for getting that interaction.
The wording here is exactly what it was meant to be. Enticing is not just inviting or offering something of value. Enticing is a non-explicit promise, which may or may not be kept (a subject for another discussion).
The important thing to know about enticing artifices is that you should strive to make them gracious — grace being the art of the fine middle point. Things like headers, subheaders, cover pictures and introductions must be crafted in a way to balance factual information, syntax originality and, if possible, humor. If accomplished well, your article will be promising to deliver information, perspective and gratifying experience.
And that is what writing is all about: finding sweet spots where the reader will feel delighted to be in.
I must say that the purpose here is not to discourage anyone by imposing high standard rules on what a headline should be like. It’s important though that we be always open to readjusting our goals. First, we get them right, only then, with a goal well set, we pass to the phase of practicing.
The takeaway is what the reader will remember from your story. The ending is really a sensible part when the overall experience of an article is concerned. Many studies show how counter-intuitive this may seem.
The economist Daniel Kahneman has performed a series of experiments to show that, contrary to popular belief, pain level in itself is not what determines the overall satisfaction a subject gets from a given experience.
In one of his articles, entitled “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End”, Kahneman and colleagues looked at the pain participants felt by asking them to put their hands in ice-cold water twice (one trial for each hand). In one trial, the water was at 14C (59F) for 60 seconds. In the other trial, the water was 14C for 60 seconds, but then rose slightly and gradually to about 15C by the end of an additional 30-second period.
Then the experimenters asked participants which kind of trial they would choose to repeat if they had to. You’ve guessed the answer: nearly 70% of participants chose to repeat the 90-second trial, even though it involved 30 extra seconds of pain. Participants also said that the longer trial was less painful overall, less cold, and easier to cope with. Some even reported that it took less time.
This extra weight associated with endings works also for positive sensation, as argues Yuval Harari in Homo Deus:
“Evolution discovered this trick aeons before the pediatricians. Given the unbearable torments women undergo at childbirth, you might think that after going through it once, no sane woman would ever agree to do it again. However, at the end of labour and in the following days the hormonal system secretes cortisol and beta-endorphins, which reduce the pain and create a feeling of relief and sometimes even of elation.
Moreover, the growing love towards the baby, and the acclaim from friends, family members, religious dogmas and nationalist propaganda, conspire to turn childbirth from a terrible trauma into a positive memory”.
Here it goes five insights argued at the light of the Enticing and Takeaway duality.
1. Tell a story
Although the takeaway effect operates with the most intensity at the ending, it builds along with the whole extent of the peace, like a climax, which needs context to happen.
In fact, a non-fictional text would do well to strive for a story-like overall impression over the reader. Here I discuss the befits and features any writing can borrow from fictional work.
The greater is the overall “fictional grip” of your story the greater is the potential of your takeaway effect.
2. Format it properly
Looks matter. A piece that is intuitively and logically organized will do better at both enticing the reader and leaving her with a good impression.
All kinds of aesthetic improvements are welcome, including captions, footnotes, and your bio and profile photo, which are part of the reader’s experience of your story.
3. Strive for uniqueness
Uniqueness is not good for its own sake. There’s a reason for it to be such a highly regarded feature. The more general a statement is the harder it is to remember where it came from. You want to talk to your reader the more distinctly you can so he will be able to distinguish you among the sea of information he was drawn in along the day.
4. Distractions don’t work.
I consider distraction anything that does not contribute to the overall argument of a published text. They come in various forms: unrelated pictures, curious information, links to uncorrelated studies, citations, verbose for verbose’s sake and quotes presented to look smart.
Distractions are tempting. A writer might find them hard to turn down because they superficially help her hit that word count or evade a difficult or ill-fated argument.
The main problem with distractions is not the information they bring but the dead-ends they have left behind, which will contribute inevitably to the weakening of the overall experience of the text, which in turn will inevitably undermine the article’s takeaway message.
5. Final messages are risky
Because they are so final, they risk distracting the reader from what you really want for them. They have the potential of spoiling your piece, especially if they are out of tune with it.
Special care is advised when concluding. Scan your last words for imprecisions, confusing words, distractions, and double-check your controversial ideas.
There are, however, some mechanisms that although distracting may have a positive overall effect on your articles. Engaging footnotes that seek to build a following or an email list may be a smart way of using the ending effect, once they occupy a privileged position: they come right after the spot where the article is supposed to cause the heaviest impression on the reader.