This article originally appeared on the HubSpot Inbound Insiders Blog. It has been slightly modified and republished below.
Whether you’re a blog contributor, editor, or just a regular reader of blogs, you’ve probably read posts that left you scratching your head, wondering “So, what was your point?” Even if you’ve been blogging for a while chances are you’ve created a post or two (or more) that never got published because after you finished writing you re-read it and quickly realized you’d just given birth to drivel!
Here’s an approach we advocate to prevent wasting time writing (or worse, publishing) pointless posts: always start with a thesis statement. This is going to help ensure that what you write is focused, relevant, and valuable to your readers.
A thesis statement is a fundamental element of any good writing, for the simple reason that it serves as the foundation and frame for whatever argument you want to make or point of view you want to advocate.
As a writer, your thesis helps you focus by forcing you to declare what precisely you’re proposing, arguing or defending. When you provide readers with clearly understood focus, it’s far easier for them to make a quick judgment on relevance; they can see instantly if your point of view is something that matters to their life or business.
Which brings me around finally to my thesis in this blog: Bloggers will improve the overall quality of their posts and in the process attract more readers and followers if they write a thesis statement for every post.
In fact, it should be part of the introduction of each post. It won’t be just quality that’ll be improved; you’ll probably be more efficient, too.
Here’s how to write an effective thesis statement that will lead to more powerful blogging:
1. Start with a specific answer to a relevant question.
Lots of great bloggers are “how-to” experts, and you can see that they’ve learned how to listen to customers or prospects for questions about the best way to do specific things. “How do you caulk a window?,” “What’s the best way to interview a CFO candidate?,” and “How should I train for my first marathon?” are all great starter questions that lead to specific answers. These are non-controversial, but still lead to relevant theses and potentially compelling blogs.
Another prime subject area is “What’s better, A or B?” The question could be about competing software, techniques to locate the perfect hotel, or selecting an in-ground swimming pool. Your answer takes a position, hopefully without ambiguity, even if your answer needs to be qualified somewhat (“I’ll explain why concrete swimming pools are the best choice for durability and value, except in situations with soil drainage issues.”).
The important thing is to demonstrate in your thesis statement just how specific you’re going to get, because specificity = relevance for readers.
2. Set readers’ expectations
The expectations you set with your thesis either lock the reader in to finish reading your post, and maybe subscribe to your blog, or cause them to bail from your site out of apathy about your subject. Going back to the pool example, if your research says maintenance is a big concern or interest area for potential customers, your thesis should mention maintenance as a dimension you’ll address.
3. Frame an issue and provide evidence for your point of view.
Whatever the topic, you must make it clear where you stand and why the reader should pay attention. “Google just released its controversial Hummingbird algorithm; I’m going to tell you why the company’s reduced focus on keywords is actually good for inbound marketers.”
Once you’ve got all your writers trained on the use of thesis statements, don’t let anyone start writing until they’ve presented the thesis to your editorial team to review and challenge. Challenging it isn’t an attack, it’s a quality check and an opportunity to improve. Ask these questions: Is it framed as an issue that’s relevant to your key personas? Is it specific enough that you can make the case in the space and words allotted? Do you have evidence or expertise enough to make a strong and believable argument? If the answers are all yes, it’s time to start writing.
There’s one other thing to consider. When you’re done writing, go back and check to see if the article fits the thesis perfectly, or if in the writing it was natural to go further than you’d originally intended. If after review you see that you could make an even stronger claim in your thesis, reflect that, since it’s bound to help reader engagement.