Blog Criteria: 3 Blogging Criteria For Writing Great Posts

By Andy Crestodina

I read a lot of blogs – some good, some bad. A few weeks ago, I read something by Bill Sebald that stuck with me. He said:

“I urge you to start writing content that actually is either
1) actionable, 2) a strong opinion, or 3) proven to some degree.”

These are great blog criteria. Basically, if it’s not useful, if it’s a weak opinion, or if it makes unsupported claims, it’s probably not good. This makes sense.

Then I came across something in a book called Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. Erin explains how good content works by relating to the context of the reader. There are three elements: physical (doing), emotional (feeling), and cognitive (learning).


Sound familiar? The three blogging criteria recommended by Sebald align perfectly with the user contexts described by Kissane.

  • Actionable = Physical
  • Proven = Cognitive
  • Strong Opinion = Emotional

Unless the post connects on one of these levels, it probably isn’t worth the reader’s time (and they’re certainly not going to share it). We all need to make sure that our content meets one or more of these three criteria:

  1. The reader can DO something.
    It’s practical. There are steps they can take. Actionable posts lend themselves to list formats, which makes a post more scannable and reader-friendly. Example: How to Write a Blog Post That Ranks High.
  2. The reader LEARNS something.
    If you want to teach something, you need supporting evidence. Facts, research, and expert input make your assertions more believable.
  3. The reader FEELS something.
    You felt something while you wrote it. It’s your voice and your opinion. It means something to you, good or bad. If you don’t care, why would your readers?

If your content doesn’t meet at least one of these criteria for writing, try one of these tips:

  • Give instructions: The step-by-step instructions (such as this one), a list of action items, or ‘How to’ posts are extremely popular for a good reason: the goal is to help the reader. Example: SEO Best Practices: On-Page SEO Checklist.

“Make the customer the hero of your story.”
– Ann Handley

  • Add examples: If you make assertions but don’t give examples, you may be making unsupported claims. This is why Harvard Business School focuses on case studies. Without proof, it’s just academic. Add examples, surveys, statistics, quotes, screenshots, and any other supportive content.

“The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
– David Ogilvy

  • Add some attitude: Don’t hedge your bets. Edit that first draft and take out all those qualifying words. They take the directness and edge out of your writing. During editing you can tweak the tone and strengthen opinions. Here’s an example:

…if you do it right and a group of sentences like this:
“In many cases, blog posts are vague and may not be useful to readers. This is often because they do not provide enough actionable advice.”

…becomes a sentence like this:
“Vague blog posts aren’t useful, since they just aren’t actionable for readers.”

…or even this:
“If a blog post isn’t actionable, it’s useless.”

Keep your standards high.

Honor your readers’ time by aligning content with at least one of these blog criteria, especially if you’re creating an email newsletter. They may reward you with a return visit.

There is more where this came from…

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