The Tips & Tricks post is a classic blogging staple. By providing tips, tricks, shortcuts and hacks, we provide “the good stuff” to our potential clients and at the same time impress them with our knowledge and authority.
This type of post is different from a how-to post in that you’re not instructing or teaching people how to accomplish a series of tasks step by step. Instead, you’re providing random helpful tidbits of information in no particular order, but which are related to a subject.
On its surface, this type of post seems so simple, you might be wondering if there’s anything new or worthwhile I can bring to it for you that isn’t already obvious. Well, what’s obvious to me may not be obvious to everyone. And besides, you know I love to be glaringly obvious.
The 5 Kinds of Tips
Tips that Save Time & Effort
This is by far the most common kind of tip. Its appeal is universal and people never tire of it. The best way to present this kind of tip is to use the classic advertising formula of problem, agitation, solution. Show the old way and how it’s bad, then show your tip and how it saves time and effort.
Tips that Save Money
Everyone loves to get more bang for their buck, and everyone loves tips that tell them how to do just that: save money. A great way to present this kind of tip is as “insider secrets.” Everyone is running around out there in the world secretly worried that other people know “insider” stuff they don’t, so this will always have appeal.
With this tip, you can take a lesson from how numbers are used in sale advertising. When telling how much money the tip will save, use whichever number is the most impressive. For example, you may save $7.49, but it’s much more impressive to say you’re saving 25%.
There are things you’re not supposed to know, and people are forever wanting to know forbidden knowledge. While this kind of tip can also save time or money, sometimes its appeal is just for the sake of having forbidden or restricted information.
For example, knowing cheat codes in a video game serves no real purpose other than the thrill of the cheat. They may save a player time in some cases, but they defeat the entire purpose of playing the game. Yet players always want to know them, even if they don’t use them all the time.
Software, gadgets, computers and many kinds of equipment and tools may have unexpected and undocumented features or uses.
A tip may be something that is simply rarely known by most people and so it’s considered “secret” or “insider” information and so it can be dramatically presented as “forbidden” even though technically there’s nothing forbidden about it.
The Mistake: the Opposite of a Tip (Sometimes)
I don’t really feel that a list of mistakes deserves to be its own post type, since it’s identical to a tips post in every other way possible. The free report you get if you join my email list is on the 10 Tragic Mistakes Bloggers Make. The classic headline “Do You Make these Mistakes in ____________?” is a staple for a mistakes post.
One additional consideration for a mistakes post is this: do you provide the solution as well as mentioning the mistake, or not? For example, you could have a post that is “7 Mistakes Your Accountant is Making Right Now (and What to Do About It)” or just leave it at “7 Mistakes Your Accountant is Making Right Now.”
If you provide the solution, you’re creating an honest tips and tricks post after all. If you only write about the mistakes and their consequences, however, you’re much more likely to get the reader to follow your suggestions to feel relief.
For an unexpected twist, you can present “anti-tips.” This take on the tips and tricks post is often tongue-in-cheek and humorous (and often a little sarcastic), but it doesn’t have to be. If humorous writing isn’t your thing, you can always be righteously indignant.
This kind of post often has a headline like: “10 Ways to Get Instantly Fired,” or “3 Things to Make Your Customer Never Return.”
Demonstrate Clear Value
For any tips and tricks post to be effective, the appeal to saving time and effort, money, or gaining forbidden knowledge must be strong. Saving only a small amount of time or money is hardly worth mentioning. Presenting an exaggerated case of “forbidden” knowledge that is in fact commonplace will not only fail to appeal but invite derision from commenters.
How Many Tips?
For a number of tips less than ten, odd numbers of tips seem to appeal the best. Three or five is better than four. One big tip is better than two tips. Seven is better than six or eight. Just look at the headlines on the magazine stand next time you’re shopping, and you won’t find a single one with an even number in it.
Once you get past ten, things change. The best thing to do is to use the exact number of tips because specific numbers have more credibility and impact. You could eliminate a few tips to have an even 20, but 23 is more specific and appealing. With 20, you assume something either got left out or made up as filler. With 23, you believe that is every tip worth mentioning.
Now for Your Own Tips Post
If you’ve never really written a tips and tricks post, or you have but they seemed to fall flat, try to write one using what you learned from this post. Remember the types of appeals and a strong demonstration of value. Be conscious of your numbers. And, most of all, have fun!
Get on the List So You Don’t Miss the Next Post in this Series
Subscribe now so you don’t miss the rest of this series. Join below. You’ll also get my “10 tragic blogging mistakes” report.
Image by Muffet