You know it when you see it.
From the opening words to the very last sentence, you can’t stop reading it. It effortlessly pulls you down the page. It intrigues you. It tells a great story. It makes you feel good.
When you’ve devoured the final word, you bookmark it and share it with your friends. Turns out, you’re not the only one who loved it either. At the bottom of the post, you see hundreds of comments. Thousands of social shares.
All from people praising the writer. All from readers begging for more.
Welcome to the world of remarkable content.
You’ve seen awesome writing like this, right? Work that creates reputations and builds businesses.
Maybe you read people like Tim Ferriss, Neil Patel, Brian Clark, or one of the other big-name bloggers who regularly produce high-caliber material you can’t get enough of.
Their amazing content turned them into respected experts, helped them build a loyal fan base, and opened up huge opportunities in their business and personal lives. And it all started with great content.
Great content that they produce every day.
The real question is: Can you do the same?
Can you get hundreds of people to reply to your emails? Can you attract thousands – even tens of thousands – of new subscribers every time you hit “Publish”?
Yes, you can.
Even if you don’t have a fancy English degree.
Even if you don’t have years of writing experience.
And even if you’re pressed for time.
There is a proven system for creating remarkable content. A system that helps you churn out amazing articles, blog posts, and emails – anytime you want.
And it’s exactly what I have for you in this Ultimate Guide.
A few years ago, I Will Teach You To Be Rich was just a tiny blog nobody read. Want proof? Just dig into some of my earliest posts. I went months and months without a single comment. But through the years, I kept writing.
I kept improving my craft. And, most importantly, I figured out what people actually wanted to read. Over time, I got more eyes on the page, more comments and more shares.
Today, millions of people visit my blog every month. Yep, that dinky, little blog – that nobody read – turned into a site with more than 1,000,000 readers every 30 days.
Was it because of some amazing SEO tactic I used? Or some secret strategy I whipped out to create quick traffic surges? No. Actually, that stuff doesn’t matter as much as you’d think.
The secret was HOW I was writing about it. And once I cracked the code, my blog took off.
Let's be realistic: probably not. But can you get hundreds or even thousands of readers and build from there? Absolutely.
Because I'm going to reveal some of the best strategies I've learned over the past decade of blogging.
No more “figuring it out” on your own – eventually. No more wasting time writing something people don't want to read. Remarkable content can make you an instant expert, attract thousands of fans, and multiply your business.
Hi, I'm Ramit Sethi, New York Times bestselling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I've helped millions of readers live a Rich Life using psychology, tough love, and tested, step-by-step systems that work in the real world.
When I started, I had no idea what I was doing – and nobody read what I wrote. But as I grew, amazing opportunities opened up. Things like speaking in front of thousands of people and being on national TV.
It’s also led to some awesome media opportunities and publicity.
Knowing how to create remarkable content can open doors like that for you, too.
And in this guide, I’m teaching you exactly how to do it – without spending years learning the ropes or making countless mistakes like I did.
As an added bonus, I also brought in a few of my expert friends, bloggers, and other writers. They're revealing the secrets they’ve learned as they built huge audiences and mobs of passionate fans.
In all, these experts have more than 125 million combined monthly readers and over 50 years of writing experience under their belts.
Co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics. Neil was named one of the top 10 online marketers by Forbes and writes about online marketing at QuickSprout.com
Author, blogger and entrepreneur. He writes about unconventional living and personal development at his blog MarkManson.net
An internationally-recognized entrepreneur and SEO expert. He is the founder of Backlinko.com, which provides practical strategies that professionals can use to get more search engine traffic.
Personal finance editor at Business Insider overseeing the YourMoney vertical. Keep up with Libby by following @LibbyKane on Twitter.
Lifestyle entrepreneur who helps entrepreneurs create, promote & profit from virtual summits to skyrocket their brand online. Navid writes about business & lifestyle at NavidMoazzez.com
Angel investor, author and expert in the fields of fitness, writing and marketing. John is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha”, and blogs at JohnRomaniello.com
Regular contributor to Lifehacker, NBC News, and Bankrate. She hosts and produces online videos for companies like Fidelity and writes about her journey with personal finance at her own blog, Brokepedia.com
Author and the creator of NerdFitness.com, a website to give average people struggling to get healthy a fighting chance.
Did you know there’s a science to creating unforgettable content? That’s right. If you have all the right ingredients, all you have to do is put them together to create amazing content every time. In Part 1, I’ll show you the exact ingredients you need to get started, and introduce you to popular bloggers who’ve leveraged their viral blog posts and changed their lives.Take Me To Part 1
Do you hate staring at a blank page? Want to know the simple triggers I use so that I never get stuck with nothing to say? In Part 2, I’ll teach you the 4 simple strategies I use to create compelling content every time I face the page – it’s easier than you think.Take Me To Part 2
Have you ever wondered how some writers churn out awesome stuff day after day? You can do it, too. In Part 3, I'll show you some of my best strategies and tips for creating awesome content every time. (My favorite tip? The “bar test.”)Take Me To Part 3
What’s the hardest part about writing? According to the thousands of people I’ve surveyed - it’s being creative on demand and stealing time from an already packed schedule to create content. In Part 4, I’ll show you how to crack the code on your creativity and find all the time you need to write remarkable content.Take Me To Part 4
What do top bloggers know that the rest of us don’t? I surveyed them to find out. In Part 5, I’ll share their best insights and secrets for building a huge audience and lots of raving fans.Take Me To Part 5
Want to know the secret to building your audience? Getting published on HUGE sites. In Part 6, I’ll show you how one of my students got published on a site that has a massive readership and made more than $30,000 with just one guest post. I’ll also hand you the exact scripts you need to replicate her success.Take Me To Part 6
No worries. Let me send you a copy so you can read it when it’s convenient for you. Just let me know where to send it (takes 5 seconds):
Just tell me where to send it.
The first time I sat down to write a blog post, I thought, “I talk all the time. And I never run out of things to say. Why can’t I just get this stuff down on paper?”
Writer’s block – that’s why.
Everybody hates staring at a blank page. So I’m going to show you how to do away with them for good. It’s all in the preparation. If you change the way you prepare, writer's block will be a thing of the past.
There’s a reason I don’t write about learning foreign languages or computer coding. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff! If I tried to write about it, it would be really hard to get started.
But since I write about topics I’m interested in – like psychology, money or business – it’s 10x easier for me to find the right words. I care about those things, and, more importantly, I WANT to write about them.
Being interested in what you’re talking about and knowing about the topic plays a huge part in defeating writer's block. And, you don’t have to be an expert to get started. You just have to know enough to write about one thing. After you write about that one thing, you can learn about something else. Then write about that.
That’s what great bloggers do.
Eventually writing becomes fun and the ideas start flowing. And, you’re no longer staring at a blank page.
(I save links in Delicious, but you can also use tools like Evernote, email, Google Docs, or even Word.) Just make sure to tag or name it in a way that will make searching for it easy. For example, label an article “productivity” if it talks about simple ways to get things done while you’re at the gym.
Later you can come back to this list for inspiration. These are ideas you’ve already captured and taken mental notes on – so you won’t have to waste time wondering where to start.
This one may seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people skip over it. If you don’t know enough about a subject, do a simple Google search. I like to read the first few posts that show up. Those are typically the most successful articles – so I want to learn what the writer did well. As I read them, I jot down notes or any interesting ideas that stands out.
Comments can be very revealing. A lot of times people will say what they loved about something. And even more frequently, they’ll comment on what they disagreed with. Those comments are PURE GOLD. Why? Because they show you exactly what people want out of posts like this. Do more of what they like and less of what they hate. That's a guaranteed formula for success.
When I finished my last English class in college, I told myself, “Thank god, I’ll never write another outline again.”
But boy was I wrong.
Over the last few years, I’ve written thousands of outlines. I use them for everything from emails to blog posts to sales pages. I’m not kidding when I say I use outlines for everything. I won’t even jot down a few paragraphs without putting together a quick outline first. I started doing this because ALL of my favorite writers said outlines were one of the secrets to their success. And 99.99 times out of 100, if everyone is telling you to do something, they’re probably right.
Outlining works because it helps you accomplish three things:
If you’re curious about what my outlines include, here’s a quick peek at a typical blog post:
Notice how simple this is. It makes it easier to get started. Your outline can be as brief or detailed as you want. You’re not doing it for other people. You’re just giving yourself a framework to start writing. And once you have the skeleton, you can turn it into great content in a fraction of the time.
Okay. You’ve done the research.
You have an outline. You know exactly what to write and in what order you should do it.
Next up? Start writing.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – and it won’t be. Just give yourself permission to write a “shitty first draft.” (I’ll show you how to polish it next.)
It’s one thing to TELL you how to write compelling content, but one of the best ways to actually be able to write content like this for yourself is to SEE the differences between copy that’s good and copy that’s truly great.
That’s why I wanted to go one step further and show you this difference. When you nail this down and know how to make good copy great, you won’t just get a few hundred more likes or a few dozen more followers.
No. Great content leads to dramatically different results. You can build a business around great content. But content that’s just okay...it falls on deaf ears.
So to show you this, I wanted to compare the copy that my friend, John Romaniello, writes on his site, Roman Fitness Systems. His content is truly remarkable.
And we’ll be comparing what he writes to another fitness writer. I purposely chose content that is already pretty good. But with a few tweaks, it could be truly excellent.
The first thing that we’ll be looking at is the hook. If you can’t get the reader past the first few lines, then you won’t get them to the meat of the post or, more importantly, to your offer at the bottom of the page. Let’s take a look at the difference in John’s hook vs that of the other fitness writer.
“Okay. Okay. Okay. OKAY. Look. I'm going to admit right off the bat that I'm making a bad decision. Something I shouldn't do. Something I always tell other people NOT to do: I'm writing this email in the midst of what you could call a heightened emotional state.
I'm not exactly pissed off, and neither am I perversely sad. But I'm definitely annoyed. And being annoyed gets my writing gears going, and makes me want to rant. In the interest of not being a total dick, I will do my best to keep this from becoming a rant, but I make no promises. Cool? Cool.
So. Here's the thing. I hate flakiness. I really can't stand it. It's one of the worst qualities in the world--for me, flaky people fall somewhere between people who don't like dogs, and those annoying couples who make JOINT social media profiles. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?
*sigh* (don't rant don't rant don't rant.)”
“Let’s be real. You found your way here because you have an interest in becoming healthier, stronger, and sexier. Respect. Everyone deserves to be healthy, strong, and sexy.
It makes the world a better place.
But with a stressful and busy life, you don’t know where to start.
Most are looking for the magic solution – a crash diet, fad workout, or false promise.”
Right off the bat, you can tell that John’s hook is super engaging. He’s talking to you just like a friend would. You don’t feel like you’re being sold. You just feel like you’re being entertained, kicking back with a friend to hear a good story.
The other writer doesn’t do a terrible job of using short sentences and writing in a way that’s laid back. But notice that you already feel like you’re about to be sold something. Also notice that – while all the right buzzwords are crammed into this intro – there’s no emotional connection.
John is talking about being upset. John is using words like “total dick.” But it works because John is being a real person.
Today, we’re all bombarded by content – from hundreds of different angles – the person who talks like a real person wins. Because nobody wants to be sold something. We want to be entertained and talk with our friends.
Now, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the differences between those two intros. But read them one more time for yourself and ask, “How can I make my content more real?” “How can I avoid saying buzzwords for buzzword’s sake? “How can I talk like I would to my friends?” “How can I craft a narrative in my content – so that I’m not always just selling something or telling people what to do?”
“It's really awesome how much the program has grown and changed over the past few years. With the recent improvements and stream.
But one thing that HASN'T changed is the incredible results my clients get--they make changes in their bodies, minds and lives that you have to see to believe. It's what I was able to do for Claudio; and I would like to do the same for you.
In this section, John does two things very well. He's talking to YOU – the reader – specifically and he's also making it about YOUR results. He's not focusing on the ways that he's so awesome. He's totally focused on the reader and what they want.
So, if you're interested in working with me, one of the top coaches in the world, a New York Times bestselling author, and advisor to just about every company you can think of...WAIT.
This is a subtle way to add credibility markers without overselling himself. Also notice that he pulls back and says "WAIT." This makes the copy a little more fun, but he still gets the point across that he's a very credible authority on this subject. He's showing you that he's someone who really knows what he's doing, without being sleazy about plugging himself.
Even if you want to work with me right now, I want you to wait a moment – because I want to give you some insight into EXACTLY the kind of changes you can make.
For example, here's my client Ian. Well, Ian isn't a client anymore. After he made an incredible transformation (his was also included in my book), he became an intern, and is doing great.
This is brilliant. Notice how much power is in this transformation. By showing the side-by-side comparisons, John is conveying 10x more of a powerful message than any copy could do.
Ian was an incredible client, and he made incredible progress. In just 16 weeks, Ian lost 18 pounds of fat while gaining 5.5 pounds of muscle. PLUS, he added something like 40 pounds to his squat. (That was a while ago – these days, he's front squatting more than I am!)
And as astounding as that sounds, those results ARE typical–my clients make progress like that all the time.
This proves that anyone can do it. This guy – his client – wasn't a freak of nature. ANYONE can go through the system and get results like this.
But more importantly, Ian changed every aspect of his life: he's doing better in school. His social is way more active—the increased confidence has allowed him to meet new people, bringing new friends and a lot of dates into his life.
It's important to go beyond just talking about the benefits of fitness. John does an excellent job of this here. He's talking about all the ways that improving his fitness changed Ian's life. That's important to show the reader. They want to imagine all the benefits that being fit will give them and. by telling about the other ways it impacts his life, readers naturally make comparisons to their own lives.
In Ian's words, "I just feel like the best version of myself."
That's pretty awesome, huh?
I have to tell you, the most satisfying thing in the world is helping people take control like that. And that's why I'm freakin' amped to work with 3 awesome peeps.”
This is giving some scarcity to his services, which is great for getting people to take action. He's excited to take on more clients and get them results like this. He's frustrated that a few people dropped off, but aren't you excited to join him on the journey to peak fitness? Getting people excited and giving this scarcity moves the copy forward in such powerful and compelling way.
“You’re intelligent, so you set out to figure everything out on your own.
After a few Google searches, you’re overwhelmed by the amount of contradicting and often misleading fitness information out there. You don’t know what to believe anymore.
This may be meeting the reader where they are, but it's not a super compelling way to move them to action. It's all about the pain. And it's not painting a positive picture of what's to come in the future by working with him.
You might even spend $99.97 on the latest generic product that promises to get you six-pack abs in 14 days.
Mentioning price here is jumping the gun. Even though he's not mentioning the price of his services, he's calling attention to the fact that you will be buying something. And in doing that, most people's defenses go up. They don't want to feel guilty about what they tried and be sold something. They want to hear more about the results your program can get them. Notice that John didn't mention price anywhere in his offer above.
Good luck with that.
This is an example of chatty copy that crosses the line. It makes people feel bad. Would you talk down to your friend like this when you're selling them? No. You'd keep painting a positive future of the benefits.
You need something personal that works for you as an individual:
- Your Lifestyle
- Your Struggles
- Your Goals
So you consider a Personal Trainer. This could be your saving grace, but keep in mind:
ANYONE WITH A NICE BODY CAN CALL THEMSELVES A PERSONAL TRAINER.
The thing is people want a nice body so there's no point in criticizing them. This copy unnecessarily draws attention to negative things. The reader may start to question this person: "Well, you have a nice body, are you really a good personal trainer?" There's no need to do this. A much better way would be to talk to what the reader wants. They don't care if you're a personal trainer or a guy living on the beach, if you can get them quick results and 6-pack abs they'll pay you thousands to solve their problems.
It’s hard to know if you’re dealing with a phony, or a certified professional that knows how to take an intelligent and proven approach towards your goals.”
Again, the reader doesn't care about this. Credentials don't matter nearly as much as results. That's what people want... so give it to them. That's the biggest thing missing from this copy, that is SUPER apparent in John's
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It’s a free guide, showing you 15 examples of remarkable content you can create for your audience.
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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.
When was the last time you said to yourself, “I’d love to write but I’m not feeling very creative right now.” That’s all well and good if you have nothing but time on your hands and your only obligation in life is to wait for the clouds to part and the brilliant ideas to flow so you can write your blog post. But my guess is if you’re reading this, you’ve not quite managed to arrange that situation yet. So, what do you do when you don’t feel like it or the creative juices aren’t flowing? You do it anyway.
I’ve studied dozens of books on the writing process, interviewed bestselling authors and blockbuster screenwriters, and written a New York Times #1 bestseller.
But one of my favorite examples of someone who has mastered the art of being creative on demand is Brian Koppelman.
Almost nobody is as consistently creative as Brian Koppelman. He wrote his first screenplay, Rounders, while working a full-time job. He only had a few hours every day to write. So he had to produce great stuff every time he sat down. If he hadn’t, there would be no Rounders.
He didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder or milk the same idea for 20 years, either. He wanted to learn how to beat the odds, not through luck, but through a creative process.
Brian went on to write Ocean’s Thirteen, and The Illusionist. And he’s also a novelist, director, and producer. Recently, he started a viral, Vine video series called The Six Second Screenwriter and became the host of the ESPN podcast, The Moment with Brian Koppelman.
That’s why I invited him to my studio for an exclusive 1-on-1 session to show us his system for tapping into his creative side and what it really takes to produce great ideas.
And I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt from my session with Brian. In this video, you’ll learn more about how to be more creative and write – whenever you want.
I used to be amazed when I saw really busy people produce incredible blog posts day after day. I’m talking about people with full-time jobs, businesses, families, and hobbies.
I couldn’t figure out how they managed their crazy schedules and still found time to write. Were they genetic freaks? Were they lucky? Did they ever sleep? I had no idea how they did it.
That is, until I started studying top bloggers, entrepreneurs, authors, and other experts. One of my favorite bloggers/authors, Cal Newport, built an entire system I’d love to show you.
Cal Newport is the bestselling author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You and other best-sellers. And he’s built a cult following for his blog, Study Hacks.
But he doesn’t spend his entire day writing.
He stops work at 5pm almost every day, so he can spend time reading and hanging out with his family. How does Cal “find the time” to write amazing content – and enjoy more freedom and success than most of us could ever dream of?
A while back, I brought Cal to the studio to find out his secrets. Here’s what he’s learned about carving out time and finding focus.
The smartest, fastest, and easiest way to start creating amazing content is to learn from the best. What systems do they use? How did they go from being unread to running one of the top blogs in their field?
I reached out to a hand-picked selection of copywriting and marketing experts – people who reach more than a combined 125 million readers every month.
Here’s what they’ve learned from years (even decades) of studying and writing.
I’m really excited about this section, and I guarantee it’ll be one of the biggest breakthroughs you have from this entire Ultimate Guide.
“5 Steps to Creating a Profitable Facebook Advertising Campaign” is my favorite recent post. It reminded me that you don't have to create advanced content to drive a lot of traffic. There are a lot of popular topics that still aren't written on well.
Something I learned recently is that most of the posts that have done well on the social web typically don't do as well on Google.
Writing basic content that has high search volume usually isn't as popular as click-bait from a social media perspective but, in the long run, these high search volume posts usually generate more traffic due to their search engine rankings.
Use a lot of statistics and data. Posts with stats tend to generate more backlinks, which will increase your overall search engine rankings.
Favorite thing I've written recently is "The Four Stages of Life" because a lot of the ideas came out of my own major life transitions happening this year. I also think the piece manages to be both intellectual and a bit poetic while not sounding up its own ass with self-importance. That's a hard balance to strike.
When to stop. I used to approach writing the same way most people approach work: do as much as you can. But what I've learned is that I really only have 2-4 hours of really good content in me each day. Anything past that, even if I push myself to get it out, it's probably not going to be very good and I end up just creating revision/editing problems for myself later on. So in a way, it's been more efficient to write less. Focus on quality over quantity. An amazing 1,000 words is worth more than a decent 3,000 words, both in terms of publishing, but also in terms of workflow and my own mental sanity.
When I get so sucked into it that I forget I'm the one who wrote it.
Publish now. On a blog. On Facebook. On forums. Wherever. Start putting stuff up and getting feedback as soon as possible. There's almost no downside today to putting as much of your writing out there as possible. It gets you used to exposing your work and receiving feedback/criticism. For me, you really aren't able to get a sense of how people are viewing your work until people are actually viewing your work. So get it out there ASAP.
“There's almost no downside to putting as much of your writing out there as possible.” — Mark MansonTweet this
Here’s why I love this piece of content:
I get comments like this on almost every single post that I publish:
I totally get where people like Andy are coming from. Creating epic content for a plumber isn’t easy. But as someone that’s ranked content in some mind-numbingly boring industries, I know it can be done.
And I love this post because it’s black-and-white PROOF that you can create remarkable content in any niche (even so-called “boring” ones). In the post I reveal how a Backlinko reader (Mike Bonadio) created a viral infographic for his client in one of the most boring industries online: pest control.
So if Mike can do it, so can you :-)
I also love this post because it shows that remarkable content can boost your bottom line. (Because last I checked you can’t pay your employees with Facebook likes) That means that it’s important for your content to be strategically designed for a positive ROI. And that’s exactly what happened with Mike’s infographic. Not only did Mike’s client get a surge of traffic, but the buzz boosted their organic search traffic by 15.5%.
That means that this single infographic resulted in more clients walking through the front door.
Pretty cool, right?
I always base my content on something that’s already proven to work. I used to fire up Wordpress and stare at the blank white screen. And I’d get NOWHERE. Today, I base my content on a topic, framework or structure that’s already performed well. (I call this The Skyscraper Technique)
For example: A while back I noticed that several other SEO blogs attempted to list out Google’s elusive list of 200 ranking factors. Even though these bloggers listed only 125 ranking factors, they got crazy amounts of links and shares. So I decided to take this proven topic and make something even better. The end result was a post on my blog called, Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List.
And to date that piece of content has generated in over 3,000 backlinks…
...and 363,000 unique visitors.
I recently learned that telling stories (ANY stories) makes your content 2x better.
When I first started blogging, I avoided personal stories and anecdotes at all costs. I thought to myself, “People subscribe to your newsletter for actionable SEO tips. They don’t care what you made for dinner”. But I kept reading about the power of storytelling. (I also noticed how much I enjoyed reading Ramit’s hilarious stories in his newsletter emails)
So I decided to give it a shot.
I published a post that had some actionable tips like usual... But this post also outlined the story of my SEO journey.
Even though this post was 70% story, it was well received. In fact, it has over 400 comments:
Don’t hit the “publish” button until you’re sure that your content is the bar-none, #1, undisputed heavyweight champion of awesomeness on that topic.
“Don’t hit publish till you’re sure your content is that topic's heavyweight champion of awesomeness.” — Brian Dean, BacklinkoTweet this
I'm lucky enough that I get to write lots of fun articles, but one recent standout is: A couple traveling from Thailand to South Africa without flying shares what it's like to live and earn on the road
I love getting to speak with people who are doing the things the rest of us dream of. Plus, getting to scroll through every single Instagram of their adventures isn't so bad, either.
What makes an article remarkable is generally one of two things:
1. Providing a unique insight or experience. If you've seen 25 articles sharing something you disagree with, write about your take, and why. If you had an epiphany that changed the way you think about something, share it. If you got to do something other people don't get to do — say, visited an unusual place, attended a cool festival, got access to somewhere other people don't get to go, met someone other people don't get to meet — you can bet people will be interested in reading about it.
2. Presenting information in an unusual way. Most of what's written and what we read is information we've heard before, and that's ok. In fact, it's a good thing — who remembers something they read once a few months ago? You can make your version stand out by writing it the way you'd want to read it. Do you like lists? Pictures? GIFs? There's no rule that says you have to write a neat article of five three-sentence paragraphs. If you write the way you want to read, other people will want to read it, too.
A great example of providing unique insights and experiences, and sharing in a different way is the website Wait But Why:
Why I'm Always Late — Being late isn't a revolutionary idea, and chances are, most people who are late have a similar process that they consider a boring, typical part of their day ... but people love to read about themselves, and people who aren't late are fascinated by the glimpse into an experience they don't personally have.
20 Things I Learned While I Was in North Korea — Who gets to go to North Korea?
You don't have to say it all at once. Every article doesn't have to be 1,000 words outlining your nine principles of wherever your expertise lies. What about sharing one at a time? Let's be honest: Everyone skims articles sometimes, so why not provide a little less information to digest at once? You readers will still get the information you want to share, but in bite-sized chunks that will hopefully keep them coming back for more.
You are the only person with your original experiences, insights, and opinions, and that's what will set you apart from everyone else.
“If you write the way you want to read, other people will want to read it, too.” – Libby KaneTweet this
Every quarter, I publish my epic business and lifestyle reviews on my blog. I purposely call them "epic" because these posts are different from everything else out there, written in an engaging story format so people get an insight in my business and life. They are several thousand words long, covering everything I've done for the past 3 months, the lessons I learned and goals for next quarter, mixed with text, a lot of photos and even some videos from time to time.
Not only have the epic review posts been very popular with my audience, but I also learn a ton from writing them myself, and reflecting over what I've accomplished so far.
I like to outline the blog post, epic guide or email first, and then write up my draft quickly so I have something to work with. After I have a rough draft, it's time to fine tune things, add images, more examples, possibly feature experts, add call-to action, set up a content upgrade etc., and anything else that can be of value for the content I've written. I usually create a Dropbox folder to keep things organized.
Something I learned very early on when I started publishing content online, was that if I do a lot of research, the content will usually end up much better, because I know exactly what my "competitors" cover. A great tool for finding the most popular content on a particular topic is Buzzsumo.com. You can even see the influencers who shared the content on social media, and you do outreach to them to see if they would be open to sharing what you've written as well.
That brings me to something very important; if you've written something great, be sure to spend a lot of time promoting it too. That's absolutely key, or nobody will read your epic content you spent so much time creating.
After I've written the content, before I hit publish, I tend to ask myself a few questions:
1. Would my target audience share it?
2. Is what I've written the best content out there on this topic?
3. Does it include inspiring stories to engage my audience?
4. Is it actionable?
5. Does it contain examples and original data that support the content?
6. Is it timeless/evergreen?
7. Is the overall content of high standard and quality (everything from design, images, easy to read, great formatting etc.)?
If the answer is yes to these questions, then I know that what I've written is not only good, but REALLY GOOD and will be well received by my audience and other people who stumble across the content.
Write 500-1,000 words every day, and make it a habit that sticks. The most successful people in the world produce something every single day, often in the form of writing daily. Everyone is different, but for me it works extremely well to get my writing done in the morning after my workout. Block off some time and just get it done, that's how you improve and get better.
Something very powerful I did in the very beginning to improve my writing and find my voice more, was to take a 30-day blog challenge. I went all in during this challenge, and wrote around 45,000 words... pretty crazy considering that I'm not even a native English speaker. That's how I became more comfortable in writing long form epic content, and even though it takes me 20-30 hours to write an epic guide, it's well worth it because it's the best content out there on the topic.
My most recent favorite is also the most personal that I’ve ever published, titled “There’s Always More to Say: Tattoos, Semicolons, and Suicide”, the post is more or less a rundown of my personal history with depression and suicide.
It’s my favorite for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that I feel was able to truly capture the feelings of the condition and allow people in. Like all personal posts, it was scary to write and publish, but I’m of the mind that such vulnerability is one of the missing pieces for anyone who publishes personalized exposition.
In the most technical sense, while it’s certainly a clearly written piece, it’s not my most impressive piece of writing. However, where I think it really shines is in the storytelling.
Which I think should be the takeaway here: if you tell good stories, and tell them well, people will read and absorb just about anything you write.
In The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
For most content creators (and here I am especially referring to myself) I think that overcoming the inertia and just getting started is one of the most challenging parts of the entire endeavor.
The specific reasons for this are probably different for every writer, but I personally seem to struggle with blank pages. Sitting down to write and starting at a bare word doc creates massive anxiety for me, which in turn hampers my ability to create.
To overcome this, I’ve got a few strategies.
Firstly, I notice that the more “formal” the writing seems, the harder it is to get going. While opening getting started in a word document is difficult, writing in an email comes more easily. For that matter, typing it in an app like Notes, or even in the body of a text message allows things to flow pretty easily. So I’ll often write up to half of an article somewhere else, and then copy and paste it over to a word doc. Further, I find that things flow more easily when I write by hand than type them, so I often get started in a notebook.
Secondly I create a simple outline. I more or less write my three main ideas, and then leave space for 1-3 supporting points for each of those ideas. From there, I write one sentence for each idea, and one for each supporting point. Many times, just creating this skeleton is enough to grease the wheels and let things flow.
Thirdly, I impose time limits for specific projects. When it comes to my writing, I can fall into the trap of perfectionism, and agonize over every word. Probably necessary if you’re writing the great American novel, but when you’re writing about nutrition, this is a waste of time. Once I’ve got an outline done, I like to force myself to finish a draft as quickly as possible.
Hemingway said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” No matter what I’m writing about, I try to follow this maxim.
As long as a piece communicates the information clearly and effectively, and there’s at least one sentence that I feel truly proud of as a writer, I’m confident shipping it.
Read everything you write out loud. In fact, have someone else read it out loud. If there are sentences that cause them to stumble or if the article does not flow well, be willing to go back and edit—a lot. If it sounds like shit, it reads like shit.
“Read everything you write out loud. If it sounds like shit, it reads like shit.” — John RomanielloTweet this
I recently wrote about How I Rebuilt My Savings After Losing Every Penny. I liked writing this article for a couple of reasons. First, it made me revisit one of the lowest points in my financial past, which wasn’t even that long ago, so it was satisfying to think about how far I’ve come. Second, I think it resonated with readers because it’s an experiential post and a failure post, which people love, but I also offer real-world, practical tips for how to overcome a blow like that. When I write about personal finance, I like to mix practical advice with anecdotes. Even embarrassing ones.
Hands down, a good story is what makes an article stand out. A good story can make even the most boring topic seem compelling. Personal finance topics put most people to sleep, so it’s my challenge to try and make those topics as accessible and engaging as possible, and I think telling a story is an effective way to do that.
I’m not always successful at it, and it’s especially challenging when you’re writing about something like social security or retirement plans, but the articles that get the most attention are always the ones in which I’ve illustrated my point with an anecdote or some other compelling story.
The concept of “shitty first drafts” helped my productivity immensely, because it’s the perfect antidote to writer’s block. The blank page is intimidating, and one way to overcome that intimidation is to write a shitty first draft.
It’s a term coined by writer Anne Lamott, and Stephen King called it writing “with the door closed.” Write like no one is going to read or judge your words. Write only to communicate your idea; don’t worry about it being beautiful, just get the words on the page. Then, go back, edit it, and make it pretty. But you can’t edit anything if you don’t have anything on the page, and shitty first drafts get words on the page.
Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing.
You miss out on your own unique perspective, which is a huge asset. I made this mistake with my own blog. Because I wasn’t 100% confident in what my perspective, voice, or niche was, I instead tried to mimic other websites that were doing what I wanted to do. In short, I wasn’t being myself.
After a while, I realized this was pointless.
Those websites were already out there, so what was the point in just copying what’s already been done? I stopped trying to fit in and instead focused on writing what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write, even if it changed as I changed. Not only are readers more receptive to that authenticity, but I actually enjoy the process, which is kind of the whole point.
“Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing. Your own unique perspective is a huge asset.” — Kristin WongTweet this
My favorite post recently is the article: Fat Shaming vs Body Acceptance: Is it okay to be fat?"
The editor on Team Nerd Fitness and I went back and forth with this article probably a dozen times, with 10+ hours invested into the writing of it. We took on a controversial topic, took a strong stance on it, presented historical and scientific evidence, personal anecdotes, and presented our case in a logical, fun, enjoyable way. Funnily enough, we received hate mail from both sides of the argument, but those were dwarfed by the 100+ emails thanking us for saying what needed to be said and not being afraid to do so.
I'm always reminded of a quote: “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”
The best possible cure I've found to overcome writer's block is to set myself up to succeed: a clean desk, a cup of coffee, distracting websites blocked (I use the program "Freedom"), and a great playlist (usually vocal trance).
I then task myself with writing 500 words of whatever. It can be terrible, it can be grammatically incorrect, but I need to write 500 words. Usually after 20 minutes, an idea is sparked, something new is discovered, something written gets me in the zone, and I can kind of zone out and just crush content.
This is a tough one, as it's pretty subjective. However, it's often the things that I have the most fun writing, the articles that I truly enjoy putting together, that tend to resonate the best with my audience. I love breaking down a difficult concept or a controversial topic and attacking it from a unique angle with our twist of Nerd culture references and lessons. Occasionally I'm off in my predictions, but when I'm writing something and saying "I can't freaking wait to publish this," those are the articles that go over incredibly well.
Please be freaking unique, especially if you're jumping into a crowded industry. Nerd Fitness has been successful because I write in a way that you can't find anywhere on the internet: diet and fitness advice, catered specifically to beginner nerds, wrapped in nerdy metaphors and video game analogies. Don't try to appeal to everybody - start by catering to a tiny subset of people that you can speak with directly, and only after you've made a name for yourself in that arena can you start to expand your target audience.
Now that you know how to get great ideas, beat writer’s block, polish your post, and steal from the masters, you have to make sure your writing gets in front of the people who matter most - your ideal target market. And trust me, they’re not going to hunt you down. You have to go to them.
The best way to get your work in front of millions of people is by guest posting on blogs that are bigger than yours.
Instead of spending years slowly gaining one reader at a time, tap into blogs that already have an engaged audience – audiences that are 2X, 5X, 100X bigger than yours. When you get your work in front of that many new readers, everything changes.
For instance, you met one of my graduates, Selena Soo, earlier. She had one guest post that changed the game for her. I asked her to share just some of the ways her business and life improved after a guest post on my site.
Here’s what just ONE guest post did for Selena, in her words:
Here’s a summary of what happened:
All that, and she was just getting started. You can see how she turned this exposure into $30,000+ in the field report at the end of this section.
But for now, let’s dig into what she did to land a guest post in the first place. You can copy the exact methods she used, even if you don’t have connections or a big following.
Most people start with an idea and immediately jump right into writing a post. In contrast, the very best bloggers and entrepreneurs are more methodical and deliberate.
Here are the most important questions you should ask yourself before a single word hits the page:
When you start by finding the right potential audience - and understanding their burning pains - your message will spread even faster. Be very specific. Think beyond just the demographics, and dig into their mindset.
For instance, for social skills, you might want to target job hunters who want to nail their next interview, employees who want to move “up the ladder,” or people who just moved into a new city and want new friends. Once you’ve answered these initial questions, you can start brainstorming ideas and begin your outreach.
Imagine that you get 1,000 emails every day. You’re busy. And have a lot on your plate. Then, out of the blue, somebody sends you a long, rambling email about how they want to write a guest post on your site. The email doesn’t explain how they can help you, and it’s not clear what you should do next.
Are you going to spend hours going back and forth with this random person? Or are you just going to hit delete?
That’s exactly what it’s like for people that run big blogs with big audiences. They get crazy requests like this all the time.
And if you send an email like that, you have zero chance of getting published on their site.
Here’s how you can be different.
Use my favorite strategy for getting any VIP’s attention. This technique makes it almost impossible for them to turn you down. Here’s an overview of what your email pitch should include:
Ever since I tried your ABC strategy, I’ve been getting amazing results. In fact, I already [INSERT SPECIFIC RESULTS YOU GOT FROM THEIR TECHNIQUE]
I seriously appreciate all the hard work you do to create useful, actionable advice about [SUBJECT].
I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. And writing the top-notch content you always produce takes a lot of time – so I was wondering if you’d like a hand with it. [THIS IS SHOWING YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR PAIN]
I’ve already brainstormed a few ideas that I think your readers would love:
- [INSERT IDEA 1]
- [INSERT IDEA 2]
- [INSERT IDEA 3]
I’ve written a lot on this [SUBJECT]. Here are a few examples of my work. You can see that other readers really enjoyed the level of detail I go into on each post.
- [LINK TO GUEST POST #1]
- [LINK TO GUEST POST #2]
You don’t publish guest posts very often, but I’d love to be able to write for [THE SITE NAME].
If you’re not interested, no sweat. I’ll still be an avid reader and fan.
Selena used this strategy, along with my word-for-word email scripts, to land a huge guest posting opportunity. And I want to share her field report with you. You'll see how it changed her business and her life.
Grab your copy of the free report “My $30,000 Guest Post” so you can write a game changing guest post like this for your business.
You’ve learned some of the key systems and strategies you need to create unforgettable content.
And you’ve seen how to do it in days or weeks, instead of the years and years it took me. Now, I want you to have even more of my best material on how you can turn your writing skills into an even richer life.
“I want to learn how to boost traffic and sales for my online business – without spending years ‘figuring it out.’ Send me private material from The Call to Action before anyone else sees it.”