May 29, 2014 by Natalie

3 Signs Your Blog Is Formulaic

As you know from my last blog post, I think it’s incredibly important for everyone in your organization to blog. But it’s not always easy.

There are some formulas to help you out, but they often make blogs generic and unreadable. If you’re feeling impatient, scroll down to my list below. After all, I’m told that blogs with numbered lists are valuable because you are impatient and lazy. Is that true?

I was having some major writers block today, so I took to Hubspot’s blog idea generator. The concept is cool. You type three nouns that you’re interested in writing about, and Hubspot shoots out topic ideas for you to roll with.

My first three nouns were marketing, business, gender. BORING! But here’s what Hubspot recommended I write about:


Some of those sound like reasonable, if not dull, blog topics. But number three made me giggle.

Miley Cyrus always ends up in these, and a quick search shows that people don’t simply laugh at the blog topic ideas that include Miley Cyrus. They actually use them.


So, after enjoying the strange recommendations Hubspot made from my very basic nouns, I couldn’t help but abuse the Hubspot blog post generator to get a good laugh out of my frustrating morning.

Happily, when I entered Miley Cyrus as a topic idea, she was paired immediately with Miley Cyrus.


Then I just got sillier.


This formula for a successful blog topic may have once been compelling. But now we’ve all gotten so tired of seeing blog titles that look like this, we need something new.

So, without further ado, here are three signs your blog is formulaic, and what you can do to make it less so.


1. It compares Miley Cyrus to something surprisingly incongruous.

Yes, sometimes Miley Cyrus has 10 Surprising Things In Common With ________. But more often than not she doesn’t.

The reason that Hubspot uses this as a recommendation is because they want you to write about something topical. Miley Cyrus and her famous twerking/hair dying/wild partying remains surprisingly interesting to a whole lot of people.

According to Google Trends, she’s been in the top ten search terms for entertainers for the past 60 months, and has been number one for quite some time.

Miley Cyrus Trending in Google

So what can we learn from Hubspot? Blog posts that are timely with hot search terms or news items can be incredibly successful, but make sure you have something useful and interesting to say about those topics.

I don’t know anything about Miley Cyrus, so I shouldn’t write about her. I do know quite a bit about Arrested Development, though, and because of that I’ve written a (formulaic) blog about it, a blog that I loved writing and that displayed my vast and deep knowledge of the show.

When season four was released on Netflix last year, that was a great opportunity for me to use my knowledge and expertise (yes, I have A.D. expertise) to capitalize on higher search volume and get people to our website.

LESSON: Make your blog posts topical when you have something real to contribute or when you feel truly passionate about the subject.


2. It’s in the form of an ordered list.

Hey look. I did it for this blog. I do it all the time. Why do so many of us create blogs with numbered lists?

Every marketing writer in the history of the internet claims that blogs with numbered lists are always successful. And you know what else? Those types of blogs are easy to write. They’re good for quick content generation.

However, when I dive into our analytics I can see that the most successful blog posts, in terms of visits, were not numbered lists. Not one.

blog-postsOur most successful blog posts were written with knowledge, passion, and research. Maybe if you’re a writer for BuzzFeed then 5 Reasons You Should Eat Old Leather works.

But if you’re writing for an actual business, then take some time to think through what matters to you and your readers. Remember, BuzzFeed doesn’t actually sell a product or service. They sell ad space.

LESSON: Ordered lists are overdone, but if you really have insight that can be easily chunked out into lists, then go for it. But it doesn’t guarantee that your blog will do well.


3. It dispels common myths or misconceptions with sloppily researched rebuttals.

5 Myths About What Makes a Blog Post Successful! I could give a blog that title and use my evidence cited above, proving that ordered lists don’t ever do as well as blogs that don’t include ordered lists. But that would be bad research.

Just because our ordered lists haven’t done as well as BuzzFeed’s doesn’t mean they don’t work for anyone. In fact, they work well for a whole lot of people.

If I based my entire blog on the unproven fact that lists don’t actually work, then at best I’ve done sloppy research, and at worst I’ve misled my readers into making a mistake that could cost them valuable traffic.


Some people have every right to dispel myths. While I would need to do more research to effectively endorse or repudiate Michael F. Ford’s work, I assume that he, as the founding director of the Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream, has every right to publish Five Myths About the American Dream. He spends his life studying it.

LESSON: Don’t try to debunk myths that you actually know very little about. If you feel strongly about it, do your research and have strong evidence to back it up


My conclusion is this: in order to churn out a good amount of blog content, your blogs are going to probably be formulaic. However, this doesn’t have to mean that they’re always boring or uniformed and ignorant.

Continue to write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, and what you have time to support with evidence.


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