Tell-Me-How Blogs

Readers Digest is obviously aware of a certain not-so-secret secret: Useful, everyday advice hits the spot with readers. The Digest “tips” are meant to apply to a broad range of consumers and describe easy-to-implement “fixes” and processes, including:

  • Clever uses – for ammonia, vinegar, club soda, aluminum foil, apples, you name it…
  • Safety mistakes to avoid – ignoring a burning smell in your microwave, letting your dog drink water from the Christmas tree stand, blaming heart pain on indigestion…
  • Ways to be more eco-friendly: use recycled gift wrap and LED lighting….
  • Myths you need to stop believing: about cell phone batteries, thermostat settings, Google maps

One form of intelligent reader-attracting article is the technical how to, explains Neil Patel in an article on blog content writing. “This kind of article is very straightforward. You simply explain, step by step, how to do something. In every niche, there are certain activities, processes, or techniques that people do. When you explain how to do those things, you gain the attention of deliberate and smart people who want to learn.”

“Does your advice stick?” is a question Moira Somers asks financial planners, explaining that the field of adherence research explores why people follow – or often don’t follow – advice. Key advice-giving “sins”, the author explains, include:

  • using incomprehensible jargon
    disregarding the emotional side of the client experience
    take a judgment-laden stance towards clients

Of course, in the case of the to-dos offered in Readers Digest, “compliance” is not an issue – the advice is “down-home” and applicable to a broad range of readers. The lesson, though, for us blog content writing professionals, is that we should follow the KISS principle, breaking technical information into bite-sized pieces, while basing our content choices on an understanding of our target readership’s needs.

Useful, everyday advice has an excellent chance of hitting the spot with readers!



How-To Blog Content is Harder to Write Than First Appears

giving directions


Giving directions is a lot harder than first appears. That point was brought home to us at a recent tutor training I attended at Ivy Tech Community College. An instructor may believe he’s given clear instructions to his class for completing a particular assignment, but different students interpret those directions… well, differently. Working together in informal study groups, students can help each other arrive at the correct interpretation, was the point.

We tutors were divided into small groups (3-4 people each) and given the following set of directions:

  1. Draw a circle about an inch in diameter.
  2. Draw a square so that each side of the square touches the circumference of the circle.
  3. Draw an equilateral triangle, making sure that one of the triangle’s sides is touching one half of one of the sides of the square.

Sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it? (After all, every one of us in that room has several college degrees!) Well, it wasn’t – it took much discussion and interpretation to comply with those “clear” directions.

There is no end to the technical information available to consumers on the internet. Therefore, as business blog content writers, our job is to help readers understand, absorb, buy into, and use that information. At Say it For You, I’m fond of saying that in blogging for business, teaching is the new selling. One way to empower customers to make a decision is to help them understand the differences between various industry terms, as well as the differences between the products and services of one business compared to those offered by another.

As bloggers, we’re giving readers the raw materials to think about, and even the how-to instructions. We need to go one step further, demonstrating ways different customers and clients have “figured out” how to interpret and use the “instructions” and “directions” we’ve offered for their own benefit.