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How to Get In Tune with Your Readers Needs [and Produce Compelling Content]

Posted By Darren Rowse 28th of July 2009 Featured Posts, Writing Content 0 Comments

Compelling“having a powerful and irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect”

compelling-blog-content.jpgImage by margolove

Compelling content is a cornerstone of all great blogs. But what is it? How do you write it? Why do some blogs have it and others don’t?

Over the next week at ProBlogger I’ll be exploring a number of important principles (I have 7 so far) of producing compelling blog content. Not all of the principles covered will be relevant for every post you write or even for every type of blog but hopefully in these principles you’ll find something that helps to take your own content to the next level.

Make sure you’re subscribed to ProBlogger to get updates of each post in this series.

Principle #1 – Being In Tune with Your Readers Needs

For content to be compelling it needs to connect with needs of those consuming it.

Whether those needs are for entertainment, news, inspiration, community, instruction, intellectual stimulation, a laugh/or a cry etc – if your content meets the need it goes a long long way to being compelling – after-all, who pays attention to something that has little relevance to them?

Staying in tune with these needs can be done in a variety of ways including:

  • watching the comments section of your blog for questions and problems
  • watching your metrics to see what words people are searching for in search engines to arrive on your blog
  • watching what people are searching for when they are on your blog using your internal search tool
  • running focus groups with loyal readers (something I’ve done a few times with real success)
  • keeping an eye on what questions are being asked on other blogs, forums and on social media sites
  • writing a post asking your readers for their questions or giving them an opportunity to share their needs

3 Hot Tips For Connecting with Reader Needs

Hot Tip #1 – Best and Worst Posts

I’ve recently asked my readers to share their ‘best and worst’ aspects of blogging at the end of a week. One of the benefits of doing this (and one I didn’t anticipate) was that it identified some common and recurring problems that my readers were having. The comments on these posts have led to me writing numerous posts that directly seek to solve their problems.

Ultimately your goal as a blogger should be to produce content that adds value to people’s lives. Produce this and you’ve got a great foundation to build a successful blog upon.

Hot Tip #2 – Ask So What?

I love the question that Chris Garrett (the co-author of the ProBlogger book) encourages bloggers to ask every time they write a blog post.

The question is – ‘So What?’

This question is all about asking yourself whether a post actually matters – does it have any point? Will it help people in some way?

Write it out in bold lettering and put it somewhere prominent in the place that you blog. Before your hit ‘publish’ on any post ask it to yourself – ‘SO WHAT’? Does your point have a point? Does it meet a need? Who will it help?

Hot Tip #3 – Solve your Own Problems

One of the best ways to ensure that your content is meeting real needs that people have is to Solve Your OWN Needs and Problems.

An exercise that I do every time I start a new blog is to not only brainstorm a list of topics I have expertise on and things that I can help others with – but I also create a list of things that I need to learn for myself on the topic. What don’t I know yet? What challenges do I currently face? What aspects of this topic do I ask others about?

Once you’ve got that kind of list you have a list of real needs that people have and your goal needs to be to learn more in order to be able to answer them or to find someone else to help you write content on those topics.

Another useful list to create is a list of problems that you have previously had and have overcome. Think back to when you were just first exploring your topic (or if you can’t remember put yourself in the shoes of a complete newbie who has just started out). What questions did you have? What mistakes did you make? What challenges did you not know how to overcome. These beginner questions and needs are GOLD – write them down and write posts that answer them.

Homework – Go Do This!

Take 15 minutes to go on a Reader Need Hunt

Your goal is to spend the next 15 minutes compiling a list of needs that your current readers and/or potential readers might have.

Start in your blog’s own comment section and hunt for questions and then proceed through the list mentioned above. If you don’t have any readers or those you have are not verbalizing their needs yet – focus upon the last two items on the list.

You can’t find enough of these types of problems and needs. Compile them all in a list and keep it somewhere that you can begin to work through.

What You Said on the Topic

When I asked you what compelling content was to you the themes I’ve explored above came up a lot – here’s some of what you said on the topic:

  • “Content that teaches you something that you can walk away and hold onto. Any bit of information that you can apply to your life.” Mitch
  • “It helps me solve a problem that I have” – Jan
  • ” it needs to be a useful or helpful to the targeted audience. People likes to learn something useful or helpful” – Bash Bosh
  • “Helps me solve a problem that I have” – Dave
  • “The important of audience is pretty obvious – write what appeals to your readership.” – Jeffrey
  • “I enjoy content that logically lays out a problem and then shows me how to solve it.” – Jarie
  • “To me, compelling content is content which falls into one of – 1) Educates me on something I am interested in. 2) Provides insight into something I am interested in. 3) Helps me solve a problem” – Wesley
  • “Helps me to solve an issue or makes something easier to deal with, whether professional or personal. Sometimes its even straight forward advice you read and then think, this is it – this will work – this is my answer! These are often called my “Lightbulb Moments.”” – Denise
  • “For me, compelling content answers a question, solves a problem, or teaches me something I need to know.” – Judy

Thanks to everyone for their comments. I’ll feature more in coming days as we explore more on the topic of how to create compelling content.

Make sure you’re subscribed to ProBlogger to get updates of each post in this series.

Update: I’ll list future posts in this series as they are published:

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. That will be great, Darren!

    I like to find out more on my target audience too.

  2. One question I occasionally ask myself (but not often enough) is, “What one problem could I solve for my customers that would make me a million dollars?” Asking that reminds me to think about the big issues and concerns, and the million dollar part adds to the motivation! ;-)

  3. Very helpful post. Compelling content also brings to light an issue of interest to your readers. Sometimes posing the question is just as good as providing the answer. And now I’m off to start my Reader Need Hunt…

  4. great post, I totally agree on what you said about that the blog post got to help the readers out. The main purpose of the blog post is still offering value to the readers. It need to make the life of the reader easy. I think that is exactly what you are doing. Great job. Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I tried the focus group idea, and it went over like a lead balloon :) I do have an informal group that freely gives their opinions.

    I have 9 other writers on board so that The Casual Observer can cater to a variety of needs/interests. We’re nicheless, attempting to be a web magazine along the lines of The New Yorker – with a broad spectrum of (hopefully) interesting articles.

  6. Hi Darren!
    Here you have very interesting post so I thank you a lot!
    I like idea that you present about interacting with real people and helping them to solve their problems!
    The second interesting thing that have to be pointed is improving yourself throughout constant introspection and looking for greater post!
    Keep on improving!

  7. Awesome, Darren I will surely publish a post every weekend to ask my readers their best and worst experiences.


  8. Darren,

    This post came at the perfect time for me. I am currently in the process of switching my website over to WordPress to egage more with my audience. This is a great reminder to keep the content valuable and interesting and educational. I always try to share something of interest or teach something to help my community grow and this post hit that on the head. Thanks for the tips on checking out the metrics too, so I keep my content along the lines of what my readers want the most.

  9. Hey ,
    The home work that you normally give is worth a try .. Excellent post for sure ….
    Understanding the reader with Lijit have helped me a lot .. I normally plan my topics after reading what the readers search on my website .. helps me a lot too ..

  10. Wow, everybody wants to have problems solved.
    What do you mean by focus groups? Do you have posted on that before, I like to know more about them!
    Great post Darren, I am looking forward to the other posts in this serie!

  11. I like hot tip #3 very much! It is useful for me. I did not care and solve my needs and problems so that i had not any readers.
    But now it is not happened.

    Thank your idea so much!

  12. Wow you will be surprised how reviewing your content multiple times actually still shows you mistakes and things that you could be doing better. I appreciate this article, now I can focus on delivering better content which will receive better comments.

  13. Great post Darren. The “best and worst posts” concept is great. User interactivity increases tenfold.

  14. Thanks for this great post.
    It will be helpful for me.


  15. Hey Darren !

    I am back and every time i do come back I am surprised by the utility of all your posts. It will be really good to know how to write what your readers needs.

    You have put up great and practical things about a reader’s needs. This is exactly what I look for in a blog when I visit one.


  16. I would like to emphasize the importance of Hot Tip #3, solving one’s own problems first to find the compelling topics for the readers. It’s very important not to forget that the bloggers themselves are also the readers of the blogs, looking for the solutions.

  17. Great post Darren and I agree, the “best and worst posts” concept is a great idea.

    I find that I can get a new blog post idea from reading my comments, ideas that I wouldn’t have come up with myself.


  18. This is great, my first and primary blog is humor/weird foods and I didn’t really need to know much more about my audience than that they liked to laugh and be grossed out every now and again.

    I’ve started another blog to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned about how to do things online. One thing I’m doing is paying attention to the questions the posters on my forum have and using those to get ideas for posts. They are more or less my target audience (obviously I’d like for more than them to read, but I think they are a good snapshot of a demographic’s needs) and I’m looking to serve their needs.

  19. Good Post Darren.

    I still have to get my readers to comment more freely and more thoughtfully. Questions about best/worst experience could be just the thing. Right now most of the comments on my blog read like this:

    Good Post Casey

  20. Wonderful insight as usual… iam gonna do your homework and provide the readers with compelling content over and again;)….. I hope!!

  21. Hi Darren,

    After taking Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind and reading some of your material here, I feel that I’ve been armed with some really strong points for creating compelling content.

    Sometimes I focus more on structure (bullet points, “how to” articles, etc.) than on the actual content I’m going to deliver; and that sort of shoots me in the foot because I’m not helping others and don’t feel fulfilled writing these types of posts.

    So I guess becoming prolific at blogging is the ability to harmonize the structure and the content elements together in this sort of synchronicity that creates great content.

  22. Fantastic topic, Darren! I wrote about persuasive writing at Writer’s Round-About this week. I’m just dipping my toes into these concepts so I am really looking forward to your series on compelling content!

    *kneels at the feet of a master and listens attentively*

  23. I love the use of the “So what?” test. I trained sales people for many years, and it was the best way to get them to start to think about benefits, rather than features:

    “This product will help improve your writing skills” “So what?” If you write more compelling stuff, you’ll get more readers and more………..” Well you know the rest.

  24. the ‘best and worst’ post idea is fresh idea that i never heard before.Will definitely try it after this.

    i have question though. If we brainstorm a few ideas that can be compiled into a series of post (under one topic) should we publish all the post subsequently? or is it best to alternate between other topics?

    Love this topic.Helps me build better content.

  25. And your hits just keep on coming. Thanks!

  26. @Terry Heath

    But what if you solve important problem to million people in unique and interesting way :)

  27. I’ve been working on solving a problem for a while now, the only obstacle is I can’t figure it out. One flaw with this kind of post. However if I can figure it out I will definitely do a full write up on it.

  28. Well I’m only new to the blogging business and I have very few comments. You post, however, makes me ask myself quesions like why are people not posting? and what exactly am I provinding to people in my posts?
    This is good food for thought. I guess I have to work on clarifying exaclty what it is I am doing.
    Thanks for the prompt.

  29. very thanks, to guide us for this major issue

  30. Its quite helpful with topics like this one. Also to read the feedback of readers on the blog too. Very useful blog. Thanks.

  31. Awesome article. I’ll definitely need to do some thinking about what my reader’s ‘need’. I’ve honestly got no idea…

  32. This was a great article, however, I have a question. I have read plenty of times, including in this article, how I should look at my searched keywords and write based on these keywords. My problem is that if I have a specific search, such as “setup facebook url” and it sends the readers to a specific post that I have based on that search, what else am I supposed to write about?

    I know it sounds like I am limiting myself, but I honestly do not know what to do with these type of specific searches. Any advice?

  33. 3 excellent tips for connecting to reader’s needs. I think I do number 3 (solve your own problems) pretty well but I love the idea of a best and worst post. I also think the focus group is a great idea.

  34. I think I do an excellent job of being in tune with my readers.

    My comments aren’t as high as I want them to be, but so far I’ve gotten a lot of positive response and people just telling me in general that it really helps them with something.

    That’s what I’m gonna strive for, really. To keep hearing more and more of my readers say that I helped them out with something.

  35. Thanks for your research, I believe it’s a great help both for new and experienced bloggers!

  36. Excellent post Darren! I always look at what new and interesting thing to include in my blogs for content generation.

    I especially like #3 – Solve your Own Problems. It is interesting to look at how solving your own problems can generate great content.

  37. Hey Darren, as I’ve mentioned to you, this post is extremely timely as I’m in the process of reviewing my content and improving the connectivity with my readers. I’ve already gotten several new ideas from this post and I totally look forward to the remaining articles in the series :) Have tweeted this post out too!

  38. Useful post, Darren. Working on my list now.

  39. This is great advice for all bloggers trying to improve their content. Writing for your readers and not yourself is surely the most important aspect of having great content. Listening to your readers, giving them what they want, and checking your comments will compell you to write better content.

  40. Darren!
    This is priceless information. Hope to know more information from it.

  41. Can’t wait for the other valued information any longer. Thanks for all the effort made.

  42. Great Tips, Will follow these for sure

  43. Thanks for all the tips i am just barely starting to get into the blog scene and i like to read your articles and comments. thank you
    phillip madsen

  44. It all comes down to who and what. Who are your readers and what do they want to find out at your site. Cheers!

  45. Thanks so much Darren, can’t wait to learn more!

  46. compelling content sparks my imagination. Gives me ideas, holds my interest.

  47. I do the Reader Need Hunt once every day. And I did find a lot, just by beginning at the comment’s section there where already a bunch of great ideas for a future post.

  48. great post, I absolutely accede on what you said about that the blog column got to advice the readers out. The capital purpose of the blog column is still alms amount to the readers. It charge to accomplish the activity of the clairvoyant easy. I anticipate that is absolutely what you are doing. Abundant job. Keep up the acceptable work. Thanks for sharing.

  49. Hi darren,
    Good post.First of all I’ll say content is king.But if your content is king and the king without public what does mean?
    May be less public(Traffic).
    Without feedback or comments we can not realize that content is best.
    So how to know that content is best?

  50. Putting yourself in the shoes of your audience is very important. You have to anticipate what they would like to see and read.

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