Creating high-quality instructional content (in a blog) is a highly sought-after income option. Isn’t it amazing it to share your knowledge with others and eventually being paid for it? Your writing may help a working mom to manage her time better. Your writing may allow a stay-at-home to add to her family’s finances. Your writing may help a toddler mom to learn how to engage her child. The possibilities are many. And they are all positive!
In my earlier post, I introduced you to the ARCS model of presenting instructional content. You learned about the importance of including the elements of attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in your writing. While the ARCS model will help you keep an overarching strategy in mind, you also need to work on the meat of the matter—your content.
7 Tips to Create Awesome Instructional Content
Know your audience
Nothing is more important for an instructor than to know her audience. It’s very well to consider your blog a creative outlet for you, but if you have any hopes of earning income from your blog, you have to write content that helps others. In doing so, if you can fulfill your creative needs, even better.
Think about what you can bring to the table for your audience? How can you change their lives? What tangible transformation will they see in themselves if they follow your advice? Think like your audience. When you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you will understand their challenges better and write for them instead of shooting in the dark. When you write in your audience’s shoes, your content will resonate with them. That’s the beginning of building a loyal readership, isn’t it?
Find your focus
Every blog post begins with an idea that is not just useful but hopefully unique. When you sit to brainstorm ideas, make sure that each post focuses on only one concept. For example, you want to teach your audience how to create a slideshow. However, creating a slideshow involves several tasks, including but not limited to:
- Choosing the software
- Choosing the template and theme
- Designing a master slide
- Creating engaging but minimal content
- Adding animations
- Viewing a slideshow
A high-quality post will focus on only one of the aforementioned tasks and go in-depth with it. This is true for all the other tasks—each task being its own post. When compiled, these will come together to form a series or a course. One more thing: for each of these tasks (posts), use the SMART method to draft the outcome or goal of the post. Yes, you can apply the SMART method to content creation too.
Begin with the outcome in mind
(a.k.a. Long-form vs Short-form content)
It’s widely advised to create long-form content (1500+ words—jury is out on what word count qualifies as “long-form content”). Here’s why: long-form content:
- Allows you to create in-depth posts
- Allows search engines to understand the purpose of your post and rank your content
- Increases the chances of reader engagement by keeping them longer on your blog
As a mom to a pre-K boy, I have limited time to read long articles. Even so, if I come across a high-quality blog post that I think will help me progress, I will bookmark it or save it to Pocket or Evernote. It may take me three days to finish reading it, but finish it I will!
That said, do not force yourself to write long articles just because that is the norm these days and you want to rank higher. Katina Davenport wrote a wonderful post about why you do not need to make every post of yours an epic post. Once you find the idea, find the outcome of the idea. And then, stick to it. Again, find your focus.
The length of your post should solely depend on the purpose of the post. If you force yourself to write longer posts, your focus will drift in and out and words will start to lose meaning. That cannot be good for your engagement numbers, yes?
Break up the content
Reading on a digital device can be tiring for the eyes. Additionally, too much content can result in information overload and again cause fatigue. So, if you decide to write a long-form content, make sure that you break up the content to reduce text fatigue. To do this, use:
- Headers and sub-headers to organize the content into logical chunks
- Add emphasis to power words or key takeaway sentences
- Bullet lists with short sentences
- Bright, relevant, and engaging photos or illustrations
- Colorful charts and graphs, where applicable, to present and/or summarize data
- Well-produced video or audio clips
- Examples of success stories or testimonials to add “human” or “emotional” element
- You may even consider splitting your long-form post into a series of posts (like this one J).
Use meaningful images
It’s true that content is king when it comes to traditional blogs. However, according to research, using the right image can help retain the same information six times more than usual.
The general trend has been to include at least two clean images in each blog post that are social media friendly. That’s great! But do you know why you are including these images in the first place (other than publishing to social media platforms?). Visual elements help:
- Add an emotional angle
- Break the blocks of text, which can tire out the eyes.
While text remains your primary data in blogs, images should complement the text. It should not take the focus away from the main content (unless it’s an infographic, in which case the body text becomes complementary).
Spend time looking for beautiful, powerful but more importantly, relevant images that evoke the necessary emotions in your readers. The other day I saw a Pinterest image about creating an online course. It was a great image and well designed. Except it used an image of a typewriter. Show me how you can create an online course using a typewriter and I will be happy to eat my words. Don’t be that person.
Don’t stop looking until you find the right images to support your content.
You may be someone who writes a post in one sitting or in installments. I aim to finish a post in one sitting but it does not always happen. For example, today is the third day I am working on this post. Sometimes I feel plain uninspired; sometimes my child needs my attention in the middle of my writing time; sometimes I will answer a call from my mom. But that’s okay, and in fact, it’s good.
Even if you work distraction-free, you still need to dissociate yourself from your content before you publish it. It is important to take breaks during your work hours. Granted, the aforementioned breaks are unplanned, but it refreshes my mind nonetheless. Walking away from your work helps you return with a fresh eye and more zeal. So, next time you work on a post, allow yourself to take small breaks. Here are some ideas to utilize your breaks better:
- Grab a glass of water and hydrate yourself
- Play an uplifting piece of music
- Listen to an inspirational TED talk
- Do nothing!
Don’t force yourself to write when your heart is somewhere else. It will show in your writing.
Be brutal with your edits
Many bloggers mistake editing for proofreading, but they are not interchangeable tasks. While proofreading helps eliminate language errors (grammar, mechanics, typos, etc.), editing tests the objective and usability of the post.
So, next time you sit down to “edit” your post, check if your content:
- Meets its objective(s) or outcome
- Focuses on one and only one idea; remove all superfluous content
- Uses a hook in the introductory paragraph (for more information, read the ARCS post I wrote earlier)
- Is organic—meaning, each post can be a standalone post without depending on another post
- Is logically chunked and organized
- Flows easily from general to specific concepts
- Is engaging to read
- Uses direct, easy-to-understand, and actionable instructions
- Uses relevant examples and images
- Is grammatically correct
I hope you found this post useful. Try incorporating these tips the next time you write instructional content or any content for that matter.
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