When I first started writing blogs for clients, I crammed too much into each post. If I was writing a post about the Internet of Things, I’d bust my butt to make it THE ALMIGHTY LAST WORD on the Internet of Things.
And it would end up being too much. A blog post has room for only one idea.
So that’s the one thing every blog post needs to have: one thing. When you write a post, make it about one thing and one thing only.
That’s my thesis. It’s so simple it may seem like I could end the post right here. It may seem like dedicating an entire post to this one idea won’t be worth it. It may seem like, since clearly I have written an entire post, it’s bound to end up covering more than one thing.
But it won’t. I’m going to follow my own rule here.
Why I Can’t End the Post Yet
It isn’t hard to understand the idea that every blog post should only be about one thing. You already “get” that, in a way.
But there’s a difference between understanding something is true and incorporating it into the way you think. If I want to have that kind of effect on you — and I do — I can’t just state my thesis and say goodbye. Then you’d move on with your life and never think about this post again.
To really stand a chance of changing how you think about blogs, my idea needs time to sink in. So that’s one reason this post is still going: to make sure it holds your attention long enough to leave an impression.
Of course, it has to do more than fill your time. It has to be worth your time. It has to be relevant and engaging from beginning to end.
It does that by having a personable voice, moving along quickly and easily, and staying focused on its one main idea.
I don’t have to wow or woo you with gobs of information and layers of strategic argument. I only need to unpretentiously examine my main idea from a couple different angles. Walk you around the grounds a bit, show you the highlights.
Do less, and it isn’t enough to make the idea stick. Do more, and it’s overkill.
Why I Shouldn’t Shoot for More Than One Thing
If I try to get more than one thing across, those things are going to end up competing. Diluting each other’s impact. That’s no good. So I only write about one thing.
Also, we’re on the internet. Odds are you want to be in and out of this post super fast. Your appetite/attention span here is pretty much limited to one thing.
Your standard blog post is about 500 words, which also happens to be what it takes to cover the highlights of a single idea. This post tops 800, even though it doesn’t dig very deep or repeat itself too much.
Give one thing its due attention, and your reader will dig it. Give more than one thing its due attention, and your reader will think it’s too long and have a hard time discerning the point. Cover several things without giving any of them their due attention, and it may be the right length but your reader will have no idea what’s going on.
How I Succeeded in Writing About Only One Thing
I was tempted to weave in a lot of other blogging best practices. I seriously was. They’re relevant, and I want you to know about them. But I resisted.
I was also tempted to make jokes and asides. Go bananas with the meta aspect of this post. I resisted.
I kept reminding myself that what I really want is for you to walk away understanding and agreeing that an effective blog post focuses on one thing and one thing only. So I resisted writing anything tangential or incidental.
Doing This in the Real World
It turned out that obeying my own rule was pretty easy with this post. It’s not always this easy when writing for clients.
There are often several messages to balance. And there’s a compulsion to try to sound smart and authoritative, which leads to excessive proof points and off-topic pontifications.
First of all, no one sounds dumb or feeble for sticking to the point. And when it comes to balancing several messages, you just have to make a choice. Insist that not all are equal.
Choose the one that matters most. What’s the one thing your post should be about? Make that the leading message, and tuck in the other ones as supporting points. They’ll have their chance to be the leader some other time.
That’s about all there is to say about my one idea. I hope it sticks with you.
Image courtesy of David Barnas.