Does Your Blog Pass the “Inconvenience Test?”

This post is by Matt Alden, publisher of Dividend Monk.

All too often, bloggers fall into the trap of producing less-than-stellar content. They write generic material and focus on their traffic or subscriber numbers as though it were a game rather than real people coming to read their website. Or, over-eager marketers pitch their products in ways that underestimate the discernment abilities of their readers.

If you intend your content to have staying power, and especially if you’re selling products or services rather than relying primarily on advertising or passive affiliate sales, then it’s critical to pass this test.

The Test of Inconvenience

Put simply, the test of inconvenience is an informal analysis of whether you have readers that are willing to go through hoops to interact with you, or to achieve your call to action, or to just generally spend extra time interfacing with your content, products, or services.

Your readers are a complex and diverse group of individuals, with different problems and needs, and your content is generally intended in one way or another to entertain them, solve their problems, or provide them with opportunities.

Rather than being traffic numbers, they’re people that are scrutinizing your content, agreeing with it, disagreeing with it, being inspired by it, or becoming frustrated with it.

Nurture that. Respect it.

Examples of Successful Inconvenience

Your website is passing the test when some readers are spending time to genuinely interact with you on a free level. So this doesn’t include people that are commenting just to get a few clicks to their site, or that are calling your tech support about an issue after they’re already a customer.

The “Thank You Email”
The most common example is probably the “Thank You” email. If you’re writing content that solves enough problems for enough people, or intrigues them in some way, then you’re likely going to get some detailed emails. They could be thanking you, or sharing their story with you, or asking you intricate questions for a deeper understanding of your topic.

Readers Spreading your Content via Word of Mouth
This is difficult to measure if they’re literally spreading it verbally, but with the internet it means something different now. On the simplest terms, it could mean someone sharing your content on social media that isn’t just a blogger trying to balance favors with you. It’s a regular reader with no reason to share your stuff other than that they like it.

Alternatively, it’s the fellow blogger or reader that mentions you somewhere on the internet where they wouldn’t expect you to know about it. Or it’s the reader that forwards your feedburner email to a friend because she thinks it will be useful to her.

The Odd Event
Back in early 2012 I started a free monthly email dividend stock newsletter for my readers. It’s my email list; a vehicle of content marketing where I provide value and try to turn one-time readers into regular readers.

I once received a letter in the mail by a teacher that asked me for a previous issue of my free email newsletter. I don’t have any encouragement to physically mail me on my blog; the only place where the address is, is obscurely at the bottom of emails where marketers are required to have an address. He sent a typed and signed letter asking me for a copy of a previous email newsletter because he liked the one he had just received so much, and sent extra stamps so that the charge was on him if I sent him a copy.

This ended up being a pivot point for me where I started archiving my newsletter articles as back-end pages of my blog rather than only in email format.

Buying Your Stuff Despite Problems
Marketers know that, generally speaking, you’re going to get more sales if your calls to action are crisp and clear, and if it’s very easy to buy what you want them to buy.

Sometimes you may have technical issues. Or you may be running fine, but your customer has a technical problem on their side. If that’s the case, then do you have readers reaching out to you about buying your products or services that have a question about it first, or that are having trouble with a technical issue?

With the highly competitive nature of the internet, and landing pages being optimized for conversion rates due to how statistically fickle and fleeting readers can be, a customer that goes through hoops to try to do business with you is a valuable sign.

People Reading 10+ Pages of Content
Google analytics provides useful overviews of the broadly useful figures like average pages per visit right up front. But it’s worth going a bit deeper and looking at Engagement figures. How many readers read 5+ posts? 10+? How many readers spent 10 or 15 minutes on your site?

Reducing your bounce rate and increase our pages/visit ratio can be useful goals, but I certainly think it’s valuable to make note of the people that find your site and then venture deep into it. Write each article with those new visitors in mind.

The Epic Comment

Have you occasionally had a reader post a relevant comment so large that it could have been a small blog post on its own? Has someone taken 10 minutes out of their day to craft a masterpiece where few people will see it down below one of your articles?

Two Tips to Boost your Reader Engagement

If you’re looking to improve the genuine connection between your content and your readers, then there are some straightforward strategies that can help. What’s really behind these two strategies is a major shift or focus in mindset, though. It’s about improving the underlying purpose and tone of your content.

Easiest Tip: Use “You”, or Variants of it, More Often

If you look at the most successful marketing blogs, or practically any leading blog that matters, you’ll see that they’re using the word “you” rather often. That sentence was even rather meta because it’s right in there as well.

Unless it’s a special circumstance and your lifestyle is inherently earth-shatteringly awesome and unique, your blog isn’t about yourself. It’s about your readers. It’s about their problems and their opportunities.

I fell into that way of writing early on until I read about not doing it. More specifically, rather than using the word “I” all the time, I would use generic and distant phrases like “If one wants to…” or “An investor could…”.

So the easy action here is to proofread some of your key posts and see the ratio between yourself (“I”), your reader (“you”), or generic third-party people (“one”, “they”, “an investor”, “dog owners”), and then to consider tweaking it to your readers’ viewpoint.

But the more fundamental shift is that in all future posts, if you start with that grammatical rule, it can literally change the focus of the content itself. What you write about can truly be shaped a bit simply by focusing more heavily on these word choices because you’ll be starting out each post with that mindset.

Of course this doesn’t mean never to use “I”. Talking about yourself personalizes your posts and allows you to tell stories. It’s just about being aware of when and why you’re using the pronouns you are using.

Harder Tip: Establish High-Water Marks of Quality
When you’re setting out to write a piece of evergreen content, or any content that has already been written about in some way (which is practically everything), then it’s useful to spend time searching the content that already exists to see if you’re adding something better or different. This is the part about writing epic shit that Corbett has posted about.

This is where it makes sense to blend search engine optimization with market research and creativity. When people are doing SEO research to pick out the best key words for their title and their content, they’re missing the best part if they’re not doing genuine marketing and competitor research along with it.

The process I go through whenever I’m writing a key foundation post goes something like this:

1) Brainstorm the topic I want to write about.

2) Use the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool to determine what words people are using when they’re searching for that topic, and what the volumes are like for the best phrases.

3) Type those terms into Google, and then actually read through most of the articles on the first two pages of the search engine results. How good are the articles? Are they all the same, or are they varied? Can I do better?

4) Use a tool like Open Site Explorer or the Mozbar to see what kind of ranking power the top search engine results have. Are they within reach?

At this point the path splits one of two ways.

The first way, is you could use a unique selling proposition on that article, which simply refers to a different and original way of presenting it. In this case, you take whatever topic it is, and you write a high quality article for a certain demographic. Now you’re competing less with every other article on that topic, and you’re instantly the best resource for that topic for that demographic.

You can write the perfect article for them, which builds an instant connection between you and her. There are plenty of blogs out there where one post resonated so strongly that I still check back from time to time simply as an echo from that powerful connection.

The second way, is that you’re ambitious and you want to write the best article in general to compete for a wider audience. In this case, you have to basically be strictly better than any article there. So identify weaknesses of the top articles. Maybe some of the articles aren’t very good but the site is large enough to land them on the first page of the SERPs anyway. Then there could be a few that have excellent content but are boring.

So now the job is to write something that covers the topic better than or at least equal to the best article there, while also being more entertaining, interesting, personal, and flowing. And with a stronger title.

That’s the cool part about the Internet. If you’re going to write a book on something and you want to research all the competition to make sure yours is better, then good luck to you, because you’ve got months of research to do. You’ve got to research the top books, read them, and then construct yours to be better.

But with online content it takes a fraction of the time: hours instead of months. Google and other search engines will literally put all of the most popular comprehensive articles within a few clicks, and you can read them all side by side right now and then push the level of quality up with your article.

This whole exercise can lead to strong search traffic, but more importantly, it serves as the fire by which you mold your epic post. The edge you have here is that the majority of bloggers won’t do that; they’ll stop after keyword research and the superficial results.

When you do put in the effort and establish the new level of quality and authority on that topic, then not only could it eventually rank well in search engines, but it will lead to links, shares, and engaged readers.

So what about you? Have any of your readers inconvenienced themselves to interact with you? Please share in the comments below.

Matt Alden publishes Dividend Monk, a site about achieving financial freedom through investing for the long term in dividend stocks and other assets.

20 thoughts on “Does Your Blog Pass the “Inconvenience Test?””

  1. I’ll go even simpler. The most immediate failure of convenience these days is the opt-in pop-up. To me, nothing says “I don’t mind pissing you off” like arriving at a new blog, getting two words into it, then a screen-wide pop-up obscures the view of the article/essay/post, asking for a subscription. Either the content is engaging, warranting the brief search for a subscription widget, or it isn’t. I don’t even read them anymore – I just look for the ‘X’ to get it out of my way.

    1. I’m with you on that. I’m personally not a fan at all of pop-ups, and I don’t think I’ve ever subscribed to a site that way. I subscribe to their sidebar or below-the-post forms (or their about page) if the content is exactly what I’m looking for, and/or if they have compelling subscriber-only content.

      That being said, if the sites that I already like put pop-ups on, it doesn’t really bother me much as a reader. They’re a turn-off when it comes to websites I’m not already familiar with, but if I’m already familiar with a site and like it, then I’m kind of blind to pop-ups at this point.

  2. This post makes me reading three times to fully understand the information it is delivering. And I draw some good lessons from it. First is the attitude to the online business. I used to write a genetic review, correct as blog mentioned, just for get backlinks and sales, not for the convenience of readers. And second, using “You” in conversation.

    Thanks for your great post, Dividend Monk.

    1. Glad it helped.

      Sometimes I go and review older content that I’ve posted and add a personal touch to it, or re-write portions of it using the same message with different pronouns.

      On certain types of posts I write more generically on purpose (usually stock reviews), and on other types I tend to be more personal (usually tutorial posts).

    1. Happy to hear it.

      This can apply to main pages such as your “about” page as well. For example, in Corbett’s About page here on Think Traffic, the very first words in his video are “Are you satisfied with…” and it’s mainly about the viewer.

      As a less straightforward example, I have a page on my site called “Portfolio” that just lists all the stocks I own. But on investing blogs, these are actually some of the most popular pages, at least in my experience, since if the writer knows what she or he is talking about, then it makes sense to see what they own. My portfolio page gets thousands of views per month.

      It used to be exactly what it is- a page listing stocks I own. But when I realized how much traffic it continually gets, I saw that I was not using it to its full potential. So the first line on the portfolio page is not about the portfolio, but is instead about what the whole site is about. Then at the bottom I have a call to action to sign up to my newsletter. Even something as basic as a list of stocks can be altered in such a way to still be about the reader and what you can do for them if the traffic levels justify the change.

  3. Using “you” as a pronoun is the simplest, most effective tip I have found for a while!
    Thank you so much, it completely changed how I view writing blog posts, and it will definitely help me get out of my current writing block!

    1. Great!

      It’s not a new concept, just an explanation of my own experience of seeing how useful it is. I started focusing on it a while back after reading some leading blogs talk about it, and seeing how much sense it made. My niche of investing can sometimes be a bit impersonal, so helps to be different than some of the others.

      I put the “you” pronouns in action wherever it seems to make sense, which I find is more places than I would have originally realized.

  4. Well, as I’m barely starting a new blog and it only has like 30 views per day I think it’s going to take a while to find out, however I will keep this in mind, thanks a lot Matt!

    1. Good luck Rodrigo.

      Getting those first few readers that contact you via email or a thoughtful comment about your material in a positive way can lead to a motivation to get more. And if you’re starting out, then writing for those potential readers in mind can likely make a big difference.

  5. I’ve been trying to consciously use the personal “you” in all my posts as well. I’ve found that it does help me to remember who I am writing for and about: not myself, but my readers. I want to help them solve their problems and achieve their dreams of an awesome career as a veterinarian, not simply share about my own experiences.

  6. Hi Matt,

    Excellent post. Those two bonus tips were a plessent surprise! It almost felt like they deserved their own separate articles. Loved the advise about talking to the audience directly through the use of “you” – what a powerful and brutally simple way to shift your focus AND connect more personally to the reader.

    “Successful Inconvenience” – what and interesting angle; and a fascinating metric to measure the commitment/loyalty/trust/thankfulness of your audience. I love hearing the “Thank you email” emails people send guys like Pat Flynn. Infact I’ve set one of my goals as – “Effect at least one persons life on such a significant level that they contact me with a heartfelt thank you for the change I have brought to their life”. This will mean so much more then any other “number” that I’m striving towards.

    1. “Effect at least one persons life on such a significant level that they contact me with a heartfelt thank you for the change I have brought to their life”

      The bonus is that by working with this goal in mind, if you get an email like that, then there are probably a bunch of other people that were helped in a similar way but didn’t take the time to write the email. When a blogger has readers that spend 10+ minutes on the site, or look through 10+ pages in a row, then a subset of them are clearly walking away from that experience with something useful.

      Personally, there are all sorts of things I’ve read online that I still remember years later, despite the fact that I never sent an email about it.

      -A recipe blogger publishes a recipe that the reader uses for years.
      -A blog owner convinces readers to start their own business and it works out very well for them.
      -A personal finance blogger provides useful information about home buying or index investing or saving money.
      -A publisher convinces a reader about a change in diet or exercise, or gives them motivation, and they lose 25 pounds and/or build muscle.

  7. Wow, you gave a lot of excellent and useful advice, Matt. Thank you. I especially loved the idea of using a USP for each post. I love that idea. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  8. This is awesome Matt. Thanks for sharing this. There is nothing quite like getting those thank-you emails. It makes you realize that this blog is so much more than just building your numbers. I am not going to lie, every once in a while, I get stuck in that mode until I hear back from someone how a certain post hit them at just the right time. This concept reminds me of the book the go-giver. Best way to do business or anything in life really as far as I see it is to give first. Give back and everything will come to you.
    Thanks for the inspiration and reminding me of my higher purpose

  9. Loved this post. Even though I *know* I should write to my readers as “you,” sometimes it’s easy to get into the impersonal habit. But, I usually fix it in the editing phase.

    My blog is new, as well, so I don’t have anyone asking me questions. But, it’s a good goal to work towards!

  10. I am really trying hard to put the “you” into my new business blog as I’m used to doing a personal blog. All of these steps sound like a lot of work, but I’m going to start with editing the posts I have already done! Thanks for a refreshing take on blogging.

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