Two Paths to Successful Blog Posts
A blog post must met at LEAST one of these two criteria in order to be considered a success:
- “MUST CLICKS” – If the reader sees the preview blurb on our homepage (or in their inbox), they simply CANNOT RESIST clicking through to read the rest of it.
- “SEARCH SPECIALS” – A post that will forever attract lots of search engine hits, because it matches a question (or questions) that lots of people have.
Examples of #1 – “Must Click” posts:
Note how ALL of them offer a compelling title, and a compelling featured image.
BUT… here’s a surprise recent example, that led to our single all-time most page views in a single day: https://powerpivotpro.com/2017/03/two-great-new-power-bi-features/
So apparently… new features are a hot thing too.
Examples of #2 – “Search Special” posts:
Note how two of those contain DAX function names, and two of them are questions that we can EASILY see how lots of humans type those questions into search engines. All four of these posts are CONSISTENTLY in our top ten most-viewed posts EVERY SINGLE DAY. And all of them have been viewed at least FIFTY THOUSAND times lifetime, even though they never had a single “monster” day in terms of views.
In short, we need both kinds of posts, and have no real preference for one over the other. And YES, some posts are BOTH, which is great, but there’s zero pressure to try to BE both. Just be focused on one or the other and you’ll be fine.
It’s NOT just about selecting your topic!
Yeah, you DO want to pick something that fits at least one of those two criteria. A hyper-obscure technique that is not very visual and also not widely-applicable WILL be hard to make work, of course, but really, you weren’t likely to pick such a topic in the first place right?
The more important aspect of “MUST CLICK vs. SEARCH SPECIAL” is crafting your post to fill the role it’s meant to fill.
Example: Once you “know” it’s a MUST CLICK post, you should begin by figuring out what your featured image is going to be, and what it’s going to be titled. Do NOT start writing the post until you know those answers!
Another example: if you know it’s a SEARCH SPECIAL, spend some time thinking about how people might phrase the question when entering it into search engines. Maybe even make one of those questions the title of the post… and make sure the variants of the question are asked in the first paragraph. Also… what tags should the post have? Are there any error messages that the users are likely to encounter that would LEAD to them asking Google for help? Cuz if so, those error messages should also appear prominently in the blog post.
You are executing on a mission. And once you know your mission clearly, the entire post becomes about that mission.
Regardless of whether it’s MUST CLICK or SEARCH SPECIAL, a featured image should generally be one of the following:
- A clear example of a problem.
- A visually-compelling end result.
- A problem and its end result.
- A cool and intriguing custom image like this or this.
Obviously, you may need Rob’s help if you go with #4, but Rob absolutely LOVES that stuff, so… hit him up.
Make your Post Scannable!
A reader should be able to skim your post, and ONLY look at the images and section headers, and get a GREAT sense of what the post entails. As in… they already know MOST of your post’s content, without reading a single paragraph!
The paragraphs and the formulas are the details – the things they read AFTER they’re scanned the “skeleton” of the post, and after they’ve decided to learn more.
Got it? Images and section headers. Plus image captions, and an occasional piece of bolded text. That’s it. I should be able to skim all of those and get a complete picture of what you’re telling me – not all of the details, but complete in an end-to-end sense.
Don’t be afraid to explain!
It’s pretty common for us, as blog authors, to overestimate our audience.
Don’t do that
Seriously, explain everything. Don’t assume the readers are experts. Experts won’t mind the explanations, and novices will crave them. You can’t lose by explaining things.
Avoid Long Sequences With No “Why”
Contrast these two explanation sequences:
- First we need to use CALCULATE
- Next we need to nest a FILTER within the CALCULATE
- And then we need to use an ALL() inside the FILTER
- Since we need to override the pivot’s default filtering, we are going to use CALCULATE
- And since we need to do some complex filtering (i.e. we can’t use the kind where we can’t just do Column=<fixed value>, we need some variable expressions), we need to employ the FILTER function.
- And within the FILTER, we need to make all rows of the Calendar table “candidates” for selection, and not just the rows corresponding to the original pivot filter context, so to start from a fresh, all-inclusive state, we use ALL(Calendar) within our FILTER.
See the difference? We sustain the reader at all times. We don’t lead them down long, winding paths without telling them why. Because if we do the latter, they either a) check out b) feel stupid or most likely, c) both.
This is exhausting writing sometimes. It is worth it.