That’s what my instructor would hammer into my head over and over again when I was learning how to write songs.
And every time I ignored him, I wrote lyrics that rambled on and on without a beginning or an end, or even a break in between.
In fact, one of the songs I wrote was actually three songs jumbled up into one. Back then I couldn’t understand why people weren’t in love with it! Now I can laugh about it because I get it. That song suffered from a major identity crisis. I kid you not, it’s the most confusing song I’ve ever heard.
And it’s all because I didn’t stick to a structure.
This got me thinking about the challenges of entrepreneurs and bloggers. Is there a way we can limit our rambling so we don’t confuse people? What if we used a song-structure approach to create great content that’s easy for people to digest?
Here are seven songwriting-inspired tips that helped me write better posts and grow my blog:
1. What do you want people to do?
Every great song has an unforgettable chorus or “hook”. Those are the lyrics you write first and then your intro, verses and pre-chorus lyrics all lead back to your hook. It’s the part of the song that everything leads back to.
If you apply this to blogging, you have to think about what you want people to do once they read your blog? It’s highly unlikely that they’re going to go to your Contact page and fill it in. They’re still in the get-to-know-you stage and need to build up more trust first.
The best way to lead people through your sales funnel at this stage is to include a button at the end of every blog that brings people to a premium piece of content (a content upgrade). This is probably the single biggest thing that has helped me grow my blog.
Use these tips to maximize the value of your content upgrade:
- Turn it into a checklist. Checklists are very actionable, and although they may take a long time to apply, people can easily digest them in a couple of minutes.
- Keep it tightly related to your blog post. Resource lists are a great option here. Let’s say you write a blog on fitness. You can create a resource list of the best online workouts, as well as sources for fitness gear, healthy recipes, the squat techniques, and more.
- Focus on one thing. Your ebook should solve one big thing for your target audience. If you try to cover too many topics, you’ll wind up sounding vague and readers will have a hard time figuring out immediate action steps to take.
2. Add a second link
The same way that some people don’t listen to an entire song, some people won’t read your post all the way through. So they won’t see your content upgrade at the end of it.
Knowing this, place a second link to it within the first few paragraphs of your post. Your offer can be as simple as a one-page guide or template. You definitely don’t have to re-invent the wheel here, just make sure it’s related to your post and flows naturally with your writing.
By doing this, you’ll grab the attention of people who are pressed for time and double your chances of converting those who do read your post from top to bottom.
3. Link to a follow-up post
Most songs have a pre-chorus section that connects the verses to the chorus. Songwriters use it as a bridge to build up excitement leading into the chorus.
You can create a similar anticipation in your blog by giving readers a follow up post or “next step”. A link like this makes readers feel like they’re not done yet, and that there’s more for them to know.
As the next step you can take them to what appears to be another blog post, but is actually a content landing page with a CTA and a lead capture form. If you design your content on this page to be free of clutter and focused on the action you want people to take, you’ll have a good chance of getting them to click.
4. Write a killer title
Writing great blog titles is just as important as writing a great song title, and it’s definitely something that has helped me grow my blog. There’s a big difference between “meh” titles and titles that people just have to click.
Your blog title is the first interaction people will have with your post, and it may be your one and only chance to grab their attention. Make sure you let your readers know immediately what they can expect once they accept your click. But here’s the trick – you want to make them curious enough that they wonder what they are missing out on if they don’t click.
In order to capture people’s attention the right way, you have to really know who your audience is, what their goals are and what challenges they face. Then you can write titles that address their problems and grab their interest.
More than anything else, make sure your blog title focuses on customer value. You want to set realistic expectations with your title so that readers don’t feel betrayed and tricked, thinking you’ll do anything to get them to read your post (which definitely won’t help you build trust!).
A good way to provide solutions and spark curiosity at the same time is to use numbered lists, like this post. Take these titles for example:
- 20 Ways to Find Targeted Twitter Followers
- Top 7 WordPress Plugins That Will Turn Your Blog Into a List-Building Machine
Blog titles like these work because they ensure that your blog post will deliver on the value you promise and make people curious enough to click through.
5. Write a great intro
The minute I hear the opening guitar riffs of Heart’s Barracuda, I’m ready to start singing from the top of my lungs. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the song.
When people read your posts, they’re going to quickly scan your first paragraph to decide if they want to keep reading. That’s where having a great intro comes in. You have to capture people’s imagination and create momentum the same way that the most memorable songs do.
Here are a few ways to get creative with your intro:
- Ask a question to spark their curiosity
- Share a quick story or anecdote that leads in to main point of your post
- Use analogies in your story to help people can visualize their own story in yours
Just be sure you stay on track and don’t lose focus with the opening. You want to tell enough of a story to make people curious without going off topic and sending them down the wrong road.
If you keep the opening paragraphs short and make your point as quickly as possible, people will know immediately why they should keep reading.
6. Avoid using buzzwords
One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to avoid using buzzwords like “secret” “simple”, and “tips”. Words like these can date your content, and they can date your brand.
The thing about them is that one day they’re popular, and the next day they’re so overused that they sound spammy. After being bombarded with buzzwords over and over again, people become desensitized to them and they no longer have impact.
With this in mind, stay away form these words from Hubspot that have been shown to decrease click through rates (instead of increase them):
Put these words aside and focus on the value you’re providing audiences. Speak to them conversationally, the way you would in person, and use words and a tone of voice that are genuine and consistent with your overall brand.
7. Use short paragraphs
Songwriters usually use a framework of eight measure verses to tell their story. And trust me, it takes quite a bit of practice to write lyrics in that short time.
The same is true with your blog. People are in a hurry and have short attention spans. Even though your post can fabulously helpful and informative (which I’m sure it is!), people will have a hard time getting past your first few sentences without some visual cues.
One of the simplest things to do is to break up long paragraphs into bite-size chunks and use subheadings and bullet points. Try using fewer words to express your idea and keep your paragraphs to one topic.
Subheadings are great because they give readers anchor points to lock on to. Try to write them so they tell the complete story so people can easily see what interests them.
Pro tip: If you’re struggling with what to write or start going off topic, speak what you want to say out loud first. Then write down what you just said. When you speak you usually find the most direct way to say things, and your readers will love you for it.