Are You Being Helpful?

Are your words actually helping someone else?

The most meaningful comments I receive on my blog are those that let me know how helpful my words are to different people.

Technically, those comments about how helpful I am being (yay!) are very helpful in return.

I come into contact with many bloggers who constantly struggle to continue creating content. Not because they don’t have ideas or don’t want to, but because they don’t know whether or not what they’re doing serves their audiences.

They worry that a lack of comments, or a stagnant readership, means they’re doing something wrong. But they don’t know how to figure out what that is.

I have a feeling that if I were to visit every blog with a writer worried about the loyalty of their audience, I would find a few key things in common with them. One of them being that the content on those websites may be well-written, and interesting, and insightful.

But it isn’t helpful.

It doesn’t provide the reader with a motivation to read, or keep reading, or come back later for more.

I frequently notice that any blog post I write that has a generic headline performs terribly. Notice how I’ve titled this blog post using a question and the word “you.” That signals (or should) to you, the reader, that you’re going to get a question answered — and it’s going to serve you in some way.

Sometimes it’s not someone’s blog, but their attempts at outreach, that hurt them. It’s a common practice in the blogging world to comment on others’ blogs. Yet I see way too many comments that simply repeat what the blogger has already said, or comment with a short few words like “great post” and then a link to their website.

That’s not helpful.

A comment — one that motivates someone to click and subscribe — should add on to what’s already been said. It should attempt to add to or branch off of a conversation. It should never be self-serving, because that’s unhelpful to everyone else — including you.

Before you publish — before you comment — ask yourself: is this helpful? How am I helping someone else, in posting this? What are they going to get out of it?

There are many different purposes for blogging. Maybe you’re entertaining or teaching or offering advice. But whatever you’re doing, it has to help. That’s what people want. Readers are selfish — not because they’re bad people, but because that’s the definition of what it means to be a human. You want to know how to make your life better somehow. That’s why you read. That’s probably why you’re reading this blog post right now.

Was this helpful? I’m assuming so, at least a little bit. That’s why I’m publishing it. Because I care about you, and I want all the time you spend writing to feel worthwhile to you — and to the people you’re writing for.

See how that works? :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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