How to Improve Your Blog by Solving a Reader’s Problem

Today’s episode is a writing challenge and is all about how you can spot and solve your readers’ problems, which is a powerful way to grow your audience.

Do it well and you’ll make a positive impression on people, create a memory and give people a reason to come back, and give people a story to tell others.

In this Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment).

Also – if you have a moment we’d love to get your feedback on the ProBlogger Podcast with this short survey which will help us plan future episodes.

  • How to spot the problems your readers are struggling with right now
  • How to anticipate your readers’ future problems
  • 5 ways you can solve your readers’ problems

Tools Mentioned in this Episode

There are a variety of keyword research tools available but I’m going to recommend you read Rand Fishkin’s “Beginners Guide to SEO”, which has a section on keyword research. He recommends starting with:

The team at Moz also have good tips about how to do Keyword Research.

Further Reading on Solving Readers’ Problems

Also check out these previous ‘writing challenges’ in this series at:

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to the ProBlogger Podcast episode 16 and day 16 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, where I’m giving you a challenge every day for 31 days, which helps to build some habits for good blogging. Today’s challenge is a writing challenge. You’re going to write a post today that solves one of your reader’s problems. I’m going to tell you how to identify problems and then give you the challenge to go away and write that post. I’d love to see the post that you do write today.

You can go to the show notes at and share the post that you write as a result of today’s podcast. Today’s podcast is a really important one in many ways. This is what I build my business around, solving problems. I hope you enjoy it.

Hi, this is Darren from ProBlogger and welcome to day 16 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, where we’re going through 31 different ways to improve your blog. I challenge you every day to spend about 15 or so minutes working on a different activity. Today is another writing challenge. We’ve already had a few of these and I always hear back from readers that they love the writing challenges. After all, we are bloggers. Your writing challenge today is a little bit general. It’s not to write a certain type of post, but it’s to do something for your readers. It is to solve a problem for them.

This is the backbone of my blogs, really. If I have to narrow down what I do every day, my goal is to solve at least one reader problem. Not just a problem for one reader (although that’s part of it) but to solve at least one problem that might apply to multiple readers, at least one every day. I know that if I’m solving my reader’s problems I’m making a positive impression upon people, that I’m creating a memory for them, and giving them a reason to come back. I’m also giving people a story to tell others. 

If you think about it in your life and I think about my life, if someone solves a problem for me, it has an impact on how I see them. I see them in a more positive light. I want to interact with them more, and I’m likely to tell other people about them particularly that other person that has the same problem. My goal is to be a prolific problem solver for my readers.

The key to being a prolific problem solver first is to become a prolific problem spotter. This is what you need to turn your attention to partly today. Some of the activities you’ve already done may have already unearthed the problem that you’re going to solve. 

In the brainstorming exercise, we did a few days ago, you may have already identified some problems that you can solve. You may just go away and write one of those, but if you want to dig a little deeper, let me give you some suggestions on where you can find these problems. The chances are that if you’ve had that problem, someone else will have it too. 

In many ways, having these posts that are based upon your own problem is something that is very effective. They are very relatable to people and they actually break down the wall of people feeling like they can’t relate to you. Many times on blogs, the blogger seems like the expert and they seem like they’re much further advanced than their readers and that can be good on some levels, but it’s also nice to be able to show that you’re a human being and you have problems just like someone else. Even if you’re talking about problems that you’ve overcome yourself. It’s also quite motivating to hear how someone else has overcome a problem.

Do some analysis on the problems that you have or that you have had. What problems did you have when you started out in the area that you’re blogging about? What did you ask? What were the problems that you ran into about a year in? Two years in? And just track through your own journey with the topic that you are writing about and try to brainstorm on that from. 

What were the problems, and challenges, and roadblocks, and things that held you back from success in the area that you’re writing about? That may unearth a whole heap of problems for you if you’re a type of person like me who’s had many problems. I could go on and on about mine. That might be one place to look for problems.

The other place, which is really not rocket science, is to ask your readers about their problems. I mentioned this, too, on day 11 in coming up with your post ideas. Any way that you can ask your readers to nominate their problems or questions is a good thing.

We use surveys quite prolifically on Digital Photography School and ProBlogger. If you sign up for our newsletter particularly on Digital Photography School, you get sent an email about three months later just asking you to do a short survey. In that survey, we ask specifically about the problems and questions that people have that we can then write about.

That might be one way to set up a way of collecting those problems, but there’s plenty of other ways that you can get more immediate feedback. On Facebook, I quite regularly will start a discussion that simply says, “What’s the biggest challenge that you’re facing right now?” If you follow me on ProBlogger, on Facebook you would have seen me ask that numerous times. I do the same thing on Twitter, and from time to time I’ve done the same thing on LinkedIn. 

Another place that you can look for problems is on Twitter itself by doing a search for some of your keywords. Just put in a keyword that relates most likely to your blog and then do a search and see what people are saying about that keyword. You’ll find a lot of people are talking about the questions and problems that they have. That could be a good source of information also. 

You can write a blog post that simply asks people to discuss their problems. You could email some of your recent commenters and ask them if there’s anything you could do to help them or write about them that might solve a problem for you. You could run a poll asking readers to prioritize their most pressing needs and then to comment if the needs you mentioned in the poll are not their own. 

I’ve seen this done a few times on blogs, you can run a little focus group with readers and invite them to join a little Facebook group to talk about their issues. I’ve seen that used very effectively because it not only unearths some of the issues that your readers face, but it gets them solving those problems together which can then turn into content. 

The other thing I’d get you to ask is, “What do you notice about your reader’s problem?” Sometimes your reader is too close to their own problems to know that they have those problems. An example that comes to mind on this is with ProBlogger readers. I noticed that some of my readers, not all but some of them, spend so much time reading about blogging that they don’t actually blog. 

They fill up their time learning about the topic, but so much learning goes on that they don’t act on what they’re learning. This is a problem that I see amongst a good segment of ProBlogger readers, but I’ve never had a reader come to me and say, “How do I solve this problem?” I don’t think too many of the people who have that problem are overly aware of it. They’re stuck in that problem.

It might be worth asking yourself that question. What problems do I observe my readers having that they may not even know about? Those can be some of the most effective posts. If you can draw their attention to the problem that they have and put a name to it, then they have that “aha” moment about that issue and they’re in a much better position to be then taught what to do about that problem. 

The other thing I’d say about your reader’s problems is that sometimes their problems are not specifically related to your topic, although they impact your topics. Again, for ProBlogger readers, some of our readers struggle with fear. Others struggle with confidence. Some struggle with health issues that are related to their blogging. All of those things actually do impact their blogging and can be the result of their blogging also, particularly the health one.

I’ve noticed my own health beginning to suffer because I was sitting down all day and I wasn’t exercising as much as I could because I was sitting in front of a computer all the time. That was a problem I had and I noticed a lot of my readers have, but it wasn’t really a blogging-related topic. But I decided to tackle it anyway and it turned out that a lot of my readers really related to that and that led on to me starting a Facebook group on that topic as well. There’s a whole heap of ways you can identify those reader problems that may not even be specific to your overall topic.

A few other quick ideas. You can do a search on the forum that you joined a few days ago. You could be looking at some of those blogs that you might have subscribed to a few days ago. Both in the blog post themselves, but also the comments on those blogs.

The last thing I’ll talk about is keywords. One of the best places that I used to always go hunting for questions and problems was the data that Google Analytics reported on the keywords that people were using to arrive on my site. Google used to tell us exactly what people had searched for when they arrived on our site. They still do give us some of that data. You do get some of those words, but nowhere near as much as they used to. You need to be a little bit more creative about how to get that data now. 

There’s a lot of really good research tools available that can help with this. Some of you probably already use some of them, but I want to recommend today if you are just starting out with search engine optimization and digging into these data that you read a post that’s actually a guide that Rand Fishkin from Moz wrote called the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which has a whole section on keyword research. I’ll put the link in the show notes today, but he recommends a few tools in that that you can start with. They’re not the most advanced tools, but if you’re just starting they’re a good place to start. Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool is one of them. Google Trends, and there’s a couple of others. I would say Moz themselves have some great tools, too. 

That might be one place to go, but one last place I want to mention that I don’t really see too many people talking about and that is to do some analysis of what people are searching for when they’re on their blog. Most blogs, almost every blog I go to today has a search field on it and those search fields get used all the time by your readers to search for content on your blog. Many of the searches that people do on your blog reveal the problems that they have. Sometimes specifically and sometimes they just put in a word which shows you their interest which could be a problem.

There’s a variety of tools out there that could help you find that, but probably the simplest one is to look at your Google Analytics. If you have a word press blog, there’s a very simple way to do that if you have Google Analytics installed. I’m going to outline it on the show notes, but I’ll just quickly run through it now.

Open up Google Analytics. Log in and then in the sidebar on the left, look for the word Behavior. Click on that and a little sub-menu will open up and click on the words All Pages. This will show you the pages on your blog that have been viewed over the last month if you have those dates specified. 

What I want you to do then is to start scanning through those. By default, you’ll see the most-read 10 pages on your blog. You probably want to look at the biggest 100 or even the top 1000, then you can start to scan through those pages and you’ll see what pages are popular. 

But pay particular attention to any of the URLs listed there that have /?s= as the start of the URL that they show. These are the search results pages that people land on when they’ve done an internal search on your WordPress blog.

This is just for WordPress. I don’t know exactly what the URL would be for other types of blogs. It may be the same, it may be different, but I find those search results just illuminating and fascinating. You could actually look at the top of the page there for a little magnifying glass icon and you can actually put that /?s= into that and it will then filter all the pages just to those search result pages.

Again, I’ll outline this with some screenshots on the show notes for today, but those results are fascinating because they show you what people on your site are searching for information on and you want to pay particular attention to the questions that you see there or the problems you see expressed there. 

Let me give you two really quick examples. Today, I was doing this exact exercise on my Digital Photography School Google Analytics and I saw that 10 people in the last month had searched for the term “Best Lenses for Weddings.” That tells me that 10 people—only 10 but 10 is fairly significant—are searching for that exact term. If 10 people have searched for that exact term, there’ll be others out there who’ll search for other terms that relate to that that shows me that there’s a demand for knowledge for that issue.

I also saw in the same results that 15 people had searched for this exact term, these exact words, “How to name a photography business?” That fifteen people had strung together those six words in the exact same order and landed on that page. There are two problems that I could then go on and write about. 

To be honest, I’ve written about that first one before but that second one, I’ve never ever ever thought about that post topic and you could bet that we’ll be writing one on that exact topic. Check out the show notes from today to see how I get to those results if you haven’t been able to follow it.

So far we’ve just been talking about spotting problems that you can then go away and create a post on. Now it’s time for you to actually create that post and this could happen in any number of ways. Probably the most common one will be that you take the problem that you’ve identified and then you will provide the solution by running a blog post yourself. That’s probably the number one way. Most of you will probably do that today.

But some of those problems that you noticed, you won’t actually be qualified to write that post and that’s okay. You can write something that you don’t know the answer to and the second option I’ll give you today is to research the answer and to write a post based upon what you found.

This is what I used to do in ProBlogger quite a bit. I was relatively inexperienced, even though I was making a living from blogging, but I didn’t have all the answers so I spent a lot of time researching the answers because you want to give credit back to the sources of those answers, but you can write a post based upon what you found. It’s similar to what you would have done at school writing an essay where you had a topic, you didn’t know the answers, but you went and researched, and then presented an argument.

The third thing you might want to if you don’t know the answer to the problem is to interview someone who does know the answer to get their opinion on it. That could be a great post, too. Similar to that, you can ask that expert if they might write a guest post for you which saves you a little bit of work, but it means more work for them so they may not be as open to that unless you are able to give them something, some profile or some exposure in return.

Perhaps the last way to go about finding an answer to a problem that you don’t feel qualified to write is to do a search on YouTube and see if you could find the answer on that and then embed the video that you find the answer on and then do some writing of your own reflecting on that video.

There are five ways you can respond to a problem. I will just finish by saying again, you don’t have to have all the answers. I think most readers would be more than willing for you to admit that you don’t have all the answers and this was the case on ProBlogger in the early days. I was really transparent about what I did know and what I didn’t know. I would encourage you to do the same. It shows that you are human, but you’re on a learning journey as well.

I hope today’s been helpful to you. I really have built my whole business around today’s exercise of trying to identify and solve problems for other people. It’s obviously been something that has worked for me and I would really encourage you to make it a daily part of your own blogging experience.

I hope you found today’s challenge to be useful. As I said at the start of today’s episode, this is what I’ve really built a lot of my blogging business around, solving problems. I would really encourage you to make a daily part of what you do on your blog. You can find the show notes at and you could also subscribe to get updates from ProBlogger. New episodes and new posts on the blog at I look forward to chatting with you tomorrow on day 17 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

How did you go with todays challenge?

Do you solve your readers’ problems? If so – how did you work out what their problems were? Any surprises?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this approach to blogging in comments below.

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