6 Ways to Write an Epic Blog Post | Criminally Prolific

6 Ways to Write an Epic Blog Post

Dima s
Dmitry Dragilev Last updated on May 17, 2016

A week ago I got the following email from a friend:

Hey Dmitry-

Hope the weather is getting warmer over there in Boston and you’re doing well. Have a question for you, we’re trying to get our blog crankin’ and are in need of figuring out how to create awesome content that engages with readers and gets us more traffic.

We have tons of smart folks working here, and no doubt got awesome stuff to share, but we’re trying to pick topics/titles/format for blog posts which will become popular and go viral. There are tons of info about best titles, format, etc out there but it’s hard to figure out topics. Any advice would be appreciated.



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I get asked this by a lot of startups quite frequently so instead of replying in an email I decided to write my answer in a blog post. Believe it or not, figuring out what content will be popular and engage your readers is actually not that hard, most of the work has been done for you by others already. What I tend to do is look at what has already worked for others and try to replicate it. Here are 6 ways I go about it:

1. BuzzSumo

Let me just say: “I love BuzzSumo”. A friend shared it with me about two months ago and I have been using it ever since. Let’s pretend I want to write a blog post about growth hacking, I type in the term into the tool and it shows me the most shared blog posts on this topic.

By looking at what most shared articles are on my topic I can start to get a sense of what type of content I should be writing. I can click on the article to read it to get a feel for the format, the voice, and title of the post.

Going a little further I usually like to know who shared this article, as I’m writing the article I might reach out to the sharers to let them know about my own post and maybe ask them for a quote. Once I publish my post hopefully they’ll share it. To see who shared a particular article I click “View Sharers” button next to the article and take a look. I can sort this list by number of followers the sharers have.

I can also adjust my filter settings in case I just want to look at guest posts or only infographics or only in past 24 hours. Pretty nice little filter:

As mentioned I’m in love with this tool. It just kicks ass at helping people figure out what type of articles people share most and how you can replicate the same format, content, etc. They actually just wrote a post on Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us, great read!

2. Reddit, HackerNews and GrowthHackers.com

These three sites are goldmines in terms of figuring out what type of title and content people engage with. Keep in mind that each of these sites has a somewhat different audience. HackerNews audience are a bunch of whiny entrepreneurs, developers, marketers who love free stuff. GrowthHackers audience is pretty obvious. Reddit has a section for any topic so the audience is segmented by subreddits.

Lets look at Reddit as an example. Lets say I’d like to write an article which attracts startups and entrepreneurs, the subreddit I would check out is Entrepreneur subreddit. Just by taking a look at the top posts in this subreddit I can start to get an idea of which types of articles engage with this audience the most and get upvoted to the top:

From there I can take a look at the discussions on each article to see what people are saying about it and finally click over to the article and read it to get a feel for the format, tone, voice. I love to use Reddit this way, it gives you great ideas for content which becomes popular. I use HackerNews and Growthhackers.com in the same way.

3. Wikipedia.com

A good friend back on the west coast taught me this trick and I have used it ever since. Let’s say I’m writing an article about growth hacking and I want to know which topics, titles, content I should write about.

I go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_hacking and take a look at the References section at the very end of the page. These are the articles that have become so popular that they are listed as references in Wikipedia defining the very topic I’m writing about, if these articles are not epic content which has become popular I’m not sure what is! Wikipedia scrutinizes every word of these entries, so these articles are gold mine examples of the type of content I should be writing on this topic.

So again, I can look through these articles, figure out what to write based on these titles, format of the post, etc. You can do this for any term or topic of course, Wikipedia has a page for everything!

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4. Backlinks Tools

Taking a look at what your competition is doing in terms of popular content is a legit way to figure out what to write on your own blog. If the content worked for your competition chances are it will work for you as well. The interesting part about Backlink Tools is that they tell you which other blog posts and websites have linked to blog posts on your competitors blog, this will give you more ideas about the blog posts you should be writing on your own blog about this topic.

Since we’re talking about marketing, lets use KISSMetrics blog as an example. We want to know which blog posts are linked to by outside blogs and publications? We fire up Open Site Explorer and type in the URL for KISSMetrics Blog. Now lets take a look all the inbound links from other blogs to KISSmetrics Blog posts:

We are sorting these by page authority so we can see what are the highest ranking (most popular) publications which have linked to posts on KissMetrics blog. Clicking through to these articles and taking a look where they link to the KISSMetrics blog posts we can get some ideas for the type of content we should write for our own blog. We might even contact the authors of these articles and share our own blog posts with them if they have relevant and related content.

5. Google Search

Yup, good ‘ole Google Search is a fantastic way to figure out which articles have become epic on any given topic. The reason results show up at the top is because they are the most linked to and the most shared pieces of content out on the web for that specific keyword according to Google. So lets take a look, we start with looking for “best growth hacking blog posts” to get an idea of what we should write about on our own blog. Google gives us some great ideas back:

Now if I click on those posts which list the “best growth hacking blog posts” I might get more ideas for the content that becomes popular. Playing around with keyword search might give me more relevant ideas of the content which is engaging, if I change the search to just “growth hacking” here is what I get back:

6. Quora

People always forget Quora but it’s absolutely crucial in terms of figuring out what content people want to read and find engaging. What questions are people asking about about Quora in your topic?

Lets say I’d like to check the topic of “growth hacking”, I type in the term into Quora search and get a lot of questions to choose from, this one captures my attention right away: Growth Hacking: What are the best books or web resources on Growth Hacking and User Acquisition?

This Quora thread gives me a perfect idea of the type of blog post I should write and I’m pretty sure it will do well. Just take a look at how many people are participating in this question. It’s a hot question and people are looking for answers. If I take a look at the whole section on http://www.quora.com/Growth-Hacking and find questions which have a lot of participation will give me even more ideas for the type of content I need to be writing on my blog.

These 6 ways above at the best ways I have used to figure out what title, topic, format I need to pick for a blog post which will engage with my audience.

Sometimes I look at most popular blogs that are for sale on Flippa.com and try to see what are the most popular posts on those blogs, that works sometimes but is usually too much work for the benefit you get out of it. Sometimes I look at latest trending tweets on Twitter with a given keyword to see which blog posts are getting tweeted real time on a given subject. This too works sometimes but is usually too much work for the benefit you get out of it.

Keep in mind that all these tricks above are nice and work well but the utlimate reason people read articles and vlog post is the quality of the actual content. So don’t get lost in picking the hottest title and following the best format for a popular article. Sink most of the time in crafting quality content.

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