I won’t lie to you. You’re not going to get it right the first time. Anyone who tells you they publish their first drafts is not telling you the truth. The fact is, great writers are even better editors. It’s not unusual for me to write a post and then scrap a solid 50% or more of it on the first edit. That’s just part of the process. And you can learn how to go from “shitty first draft” to remarkable content, too, without spending 25 hours on one post.
When I first started blogging, I focused on the wrong things. I’d use big words so people would know I was smart. I’d pack every last bit of information I could into a single post so that my vast knowledge would impress people.
And I’d rant like crazy because I thought my opinions were what people came for. Just like most of us cringe when we look back at our high school yearbooks, I cringe every time I look at one of my earliest blog posts.
Fortunately through a lot of trial and error, I learned how to write content that people actually want to read. And it involves using one of the easiest but most effective techniques I’ve ever discovered.
Imagine you’re at a bar with a friend. You’re both comfortable, just having a relaxed chat.
After a few drinks, he asks you about your business or favorite hobby – maybe even the same idea you want to cover in a blog post.
Would you reach for big words to impress him? Would you make the subject complicated? Would you try to impress him with how smart you are?
No. He’d look at you like you were crazy.
Instead, you’d take a sip of your drink and just start talking about it, using easy-to-remember words and stories.
The best writing works the same way.
When something is easy to read, people remember it. And when they remember it, they use or buy it. Or even better, share it with everyone they know.
You don’t need big words or perfect grammar. You just need to write the same way you talk.
In every industry, hobby, or business, people use buzzwords and phrases that instantly prove they’re “in.” It’s important to use these “in” words when you’re writing for a specific audience. The goal is not to show off, it’s to show you understand their needs.
It proves you belong in the group.
For example, you might say these “in” words for these different audiences.
For marketers: “Here’s what we did to get more opt-ins.” (You wouldn’t say, “get people to join.”)
For skateboarders: “Do you ride regular or goofy?”
For bloggers: “I did xyz to boost traffic.”
Do this with your content and it will resonate with the people you most want to reach.
There’s nothing worse than getting junk mail from a company that rambles on and on about how great they are. You mind goes, “blah, blah, blah” and you throw the letter in the trash.
On the other hand, when you read something that’s written to you – like a personal note – you’ll devour every word.
Why? Because you want to know what’s in it for you.
I’m the same way. As much as it hurts to admit it, people don’t care what I have to say. We’re all self-interested. And we want to read things that are specifically relevant to us.
Me, me, me.
By embracing that fact and by giving your readers all the attention and focus they want, you instantly stand out.
For example, when I used to write about personal finance, I did something that almost no other personal finance blogs were doing.
Whereas most bloggers would lecture endlessly at their readers, showing them charts about how much they could save if they just kept a budget or cut back on lattes, I wrote in a totally different way. I let myself be a real person in front of my readers.
I posted pictures of me in a toga at a party. I talked about drinking with friends. I talked about dating. And I talked about automating your money – so you don’t have to think about it.
I acted as if my readers were my best friends.
Obviously, this style didn’t resonate with everyone. But the right people were hooked – instantly. For once, they didn’t have to feel guilty about their money and what they were doing with it. Finally, someone was talking to them, not at them.
My blog has grown a lot since my personal finance days, and my audience has changed, too. But I still write to them (you) like we’ve been friends for years. I’m doing it right now!
Check out the example of a Sprint ad below. Neil Patel already circled all the instances of “you", and notice how much power those “you”s create in the copy. It feels like the ad was written for you, which makes it deeply personal.
“In order to utilize collaborative systems more efficiently and improve mental frameworks, it is recommended that living organisms routinely tap into their psyche for daily discourse and relationship building by communicating by the written words.”
“Look. Send your friends a note every now and then. They need to know you care about them.”
Do you see the difference? I don't even know what the first text means!
Now, that you know how to get your first, simple draft ready to go, you’re ready to get the piece written and polish it to perfection. Check out “Part 4: Unlocking your creativity and finding time to write” to learn how.