If you’ve read anything about how to write solid content, we can almost guarantee you saw the word “actionable” appear somewhere in there. Posts should be actionable, we all say, so the readers know what to do next.
I’ve said this before. A million other great writers have, too. And this seems so easy, the thought of enabling users to take some sort of action after reading their content, as if you just need to flip a switch.
But what does that mean, and how can you adapt that singular-but-all-important technique for your own content?
In this post, we’re going to walk you through five different ways you can make your blog posts more actionable, increasing their value and thus driving more results.
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Table of Contents
What does “actionable” mean?
If users are able to walk away from a blog post after reading it and not only understand a theory but they’re actually able to take steps to solve a problem or complete a task, then that’s an actionable blog post.
Unfortunately, the majority of blog posts that you’ll see online do not meet this criteria.
There might be a blog post that’s titled “How to Create Strong Facebook Ads.” There’s a section within it that has the tip “Write great copy.” It says to make the copy persuasive and interesting.
That’s not actually helpful, right? It kind of tells you what you should do, but it does not tell you how to do it.
To make it actionable, it could include tips like “use feature and benefits selling techniques” and “include an offer with a number in a percentage or dollar amount off to catch user attention.” It takes a theory of an idea and it replaces it with specific how-tos.
5 ways you can make your blog posts actionable
You know we weren’t going to write a post about how to make content actionable without specific different ways you can do exactly that!
1. Be specific
Whatever you’re discussing or featuring with images in a post, make sure that you’re as specific as possible.
If I’m writing a post about tips to lower your cholesterol, for example, you don’t just want to say “Eat well.” You want to say “Eating foods low in saturated fats and a diet full of fruits and vegetables.”
“Eat well” is vague. It could mean to eat a lot, or to eat what makes you excited, or to eat healthy. And even if people assume you mean to “eat healthy,” they might not know exactly what’s needed to lower their cholesterol, especially if they have high cholesterol and are trying to fix that.
And when you’re uploading images, consider using added-on arrows, highlighter, or boxes for emphasis. This can help users see what you’re talking about and understand better.
Here’s a super-meta example, showcasing how to highlight information that we’ve already highlighted in one of our recent posts.
2. Include detailed visual & text examples
If you’re writing a blog post, it should be full of examples to help make it actionable. Examples (like storytelling) can get your point across, and it can take theory into reality.
I write plenty of posts about copywriting. If I’m talking about how to use feature-benefit selling, I would define the technique (listing a feature and then explaining how it benefits the user).
I’d then share this visual example and break it down:
The ad lists features of the product that make it appealing, like 70% more absorbent, soft, no diaper rash. It then explains how this benefits the viewer: More sleep for you and your baby. If you ask any parent, that’s about the ultimate benefit.
That’s a specific example that demonstrates the theory we’re discussing, which people can apply to their own copywriting projects. It’s almost like a template.
We’ve also included multiple examples in this post so far, including:
- The post titled “How to Write Facebook Ads” and the failed “write great copy” subsection
- The “eat well” example for a hypothetical post about lowering cholesterol
- The image above, which demonstrated how to show visual examples
- The diaper Facebook Ad above
- This section right here, which is showing examples of how to show examples
This post is staying meta, but we’re just going to keep rolling with it.
3. Include step-by-step tutorials
The majority of people end up on a brand’s blog for the first time because they’re looking to learn something. In most cases, they’re specifically looking to discover a solution.
How do I plan my soon-to-be remodeled kitchen?
How can I clean my laptop?
How do I set up Google Analytics?
How do I cook littleneck clams?
And the list goes on. How-to content is inherently valuable, and it’s useful for brands because these are keywords that are easy to interpret (and deliver on) when it comes to search intent.
In order to outperform other blog posts written about the topic, opting for step-by-step tutorials are an excellent choice. They don’t have to make up the entire post, but at least a solid H2 broken down into H3s.
Here’s an example from an outstanding post by Rocket Homes, on how to plan for a remodeled kitchen. They go step by step through the process, and break things down into additional subsections as needed.
Tutorial-based content should include as much information as needed to help users accomplish the task they’ve got their eyes on.
4. Embed relevant videos
Some things are just easier to show in video than in text.
If I’m looking up how to change a car tire or decorate a cake, it will often be easier for me to see and understand the steps if I’m watching a video that walks me through the process instead of simply reading about it.
To help your readers fully understand the solution or steps that you’re presenting them, consider embedding a relevant video from a non-competing source.
If you’re up for going above and beyond and breaking into a new media, consider extending your content marketing efforts to YouTube. This way, you can embed your own videos in your content to share as much relevant, actionable content with your followers as possible.
Social Media College uses this strategy, embedding high-quality videos in their blog posts like you can see here:
Added bonus: You can link to your blog post from your YouTube video, which people are just as likely to find through both Google and YouTube’s search engines.
5. Provide links to other resources as needed
Many of us try to keep our content relatively short. Think a five to ten minute read tops, which may average around 1200-2500 words.
Are there 10,000 word extensive guides out there? Absolutely! And they have their place in content marketing.
Yet there’s something to be said for the fact that keeping it to the 1200-2000 word range can keep your content scannable and digestible, giving users what they need and nothing more.
Fitting everything someone may need to know into a post is important to make it actionable, but also becomes difficult with the limited word counts.
Say you’re reading a blog post about how to set up dynamic ads in Facebook, and you’re told you can connect to a product catalog. Great… but what if you don’t have a product catalog set up and have no idea how to get started?
If you don’t want to spend time as the writer detailing that process, link to another post that you or a non-competing source have already written that explains in full.
After writing your post, go through it to look for opportunities to link out to different resources to establish more context as needed. This is not only good for SEO purposes, but it increases actionability, too, by making it easier for users to fully understand what you’re discussing.
How to spot less-than-actionable content
We all have great intentions when we’re pumping out blog posts or lead magnets, and what may seem useful when the concepts are rattling around in our brains may not be as actionable as we’d hoped once they’re on the paper.
The trick is that this can be hard to see when you’re reviewing your own content.
The easiest way to determine if your content can help readers with the solution they need is to try to read the post from their point of view.
Think of your least-knowledgeable and newest audience segment, and go through the post line by line.
Are there any questions that your audience asks you about any of the content discussed? If so, elaborate or add outbound links.
Could someone unfamiliar with a tool, premise, or software successfully complete the steps laid out for them? If not, get more detailed and use more images.
Are you positive that you’ve provided a bridge between theory and application with examples and instructions so that users can follow all the tips you’ve shared in the post?
When in doubt, you can also ask a third-party to review the content, especially when you’re in the process of trying to improve the actionability of your content. Ask a team member, a client, or a paid professional editor to review each post and see what they have to say.
If you want to increase subscription rates, retention rates, and relationship-building with your target audience, you’re going to want to make sure that all of your content is as actionable as possible.
Following the steps discussed here will ensure that you’re well on your way to creating the kind of content that your audience is looking for— and the content they’ll continue to seek out moving forward.
Interested in learning more about improving your content to maximize results? Learn more about content optimization here.