Director of Web & Interactive Content, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast
October 16th, 2018
"OK, so uh... that's all I've got. Goodbye."
Whenever I get to the part where I'm supposed to write a conclusion for a blog article, I'm always tempted to write that.
"That's all the good stuff," I want to say. "Everything beyond this point is fluff, because I've emotionally tapped myself out. So, like... go do the stuff I just told you to do."
Like introductions, blog conclusions are not exactly a party to throw together.
But unlike introductions -- where most of us have a general understanding of what they're supposed to accomplish; we're just lazy -- blog conclusions have a tendency to stymy content creators, because our teachers from elementary and middle school did us wrong.
"Just restate what you've already covered, plus your thesis," they said. "That's plenty," they said.
No. No, no, no.
A blog conclusion is an opportunity to inspire people and make them see how great your brain is. You should leave your readers energized and leaping out of their chairs, ready to move mountains, make a big decisions, or at least try something new.
Unfortunately, many of you are writing garbage, throwaway conclusions, and you don't even realize it.
Never fear, blogging citizens! I'm on a one-woman mission to help you turn this ship around. Today, you're going to learn what bad blog conclusions look like (and why they're bad), and the blogging tips and processes I use to create winning blog conclusions every single time.
What Do Bad Blog Conclusions Look Like?
Before I can help you, first, you need to admit you have a problem.
(If it's any consolation, I was once in your shoes -- forced to confront the ghosts of terrible blog conclusions past, before I could embrace a brighter tomorrow.)
There are three common blog conclusion short-cuts you all need to stop using right now:
"Stop Me If You've Heard This One..."
What It Looks Like:
"Here's a thinly veiled attempt to restate my thesis without directly copying and pasting it from the introduction; I might have used a thesaurus to mix it up a little bit and keep things spicy. Here was the first point I covered in the second paragraph. Here is the second point I covered in the third paragraph. And here is the third point I covered in the fourth paragraph. Keep these things in mind as you move forward. Namaste."
Why It's Bad:
Even though we learned in grade school that this is how we should close out our essays and articles, you should never, ever do this.
It's lazy, and it adds nothing to the conversation. A conclusion is supposed to be a rallying cry to action. By simply rehashing everything you just discussed, adding no further context or insight, you're wasting everyone's time.
"The Audience Crutch"
What It Looks Like:
"This is the last paragraph of the body. It was a real zinger, driving home my last point. Gosh, you must think I'm so smart right now. You're on the edge of your seat wondering how I'm going to bring it all together. OK, here's the last sentence of the last paragraph of the body -- I've hit you with some tough love; you've got to make a change.
OK, audience! Now it's your turn! You can tell, because I've bolded this part! In what is an obvious cry for help, because I don't know how to end my article, what are your favorite ways to end blogs? Let me know in the comments, even though I'm dying inside and know no one will comment."
Why It's Bad:
Guys, seriously? Do I even have to explain why a blatant attempt to completely avoid writing a blog conclusion is a bad thing?
Half of the time, these questions are pointless -- and, as the reader, I can tell you that your "engagement enhancer" is really you just being lazy.
These types of tactics worked well in 2006, but think about why people come to your content. They want to learn from you, while doing their best to avoid any sort of conversation with a human being. (That's why inbound works.)
Also, think about what you want. If you're a smart cookie, there's some sort of call-to-action or content offer you want them to convert on, right? Why muddy the waters with a throwaway audience poll?
If people are moved by your content, they will still comment. Or, even if they don't, that's not necessarily the litmus test for success you should be looking for.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there are rare occasions where polling your audience in this fashion may work. But unless you've got a compelling, strategic reason beyond, "I don't want to write a conclusion, and this is probably a good question to ask," don't do this.
"The Hole in My Heart Where Your Conclusion Should Be"
What It Looks Like:
Nothing to see here, folks. You stopped after your last paragraph. Like a monster.
Why It's Bad:
I don't know how far down the rabbit hole I need to go to explain to you that not finishing your blog at all is a bad thing, but just in case:
In all fairness, there are times where you may unintentionally fall into this trap. For example, If you're writing a blog article that's really just a list or an overview of a step-by-step process, it may seem like the you're supposed to just end it after the last bullet point.
While that sounds logical, you should still wrap up your list or how-to article with a nice conclusion bow that brings it all together.
(Also, from first-hand experience, I can tell you this is Kathleen's #1 pet peeve in reading blogs. So, if your target audience is a VP of Marketing, that's something to keep in mind.)
How to Write a Blog Conclusion
I use a simple process to write all of my blog conclusions.
Once I get to the end of my last paragraph, when I'm ready to wow you with all that my brain has to offer, I imagine the reader sitting across from me, and I wait for them to ask me one of the following three questions:
"Why should I care about this? I mean, what you're saying makes sense, but so what? What does this mean for me? For my business? Why should I care?"
"Look, what you're saying sounds great, in theory. But I don't have time for this. Why should I make time for this right now? Why do I need to make changes to what's already working, what's easy, and what's comfortable in this very moment? What's the urgency? Are there any real consequences to inaction? Can't I just wait a little longer, when I have more time, more money, more people?"
"OK, What's Next?"
"Buddy, I am with you. I'm hooked, I'm in. But uh... what am I supposed to do? I'm excited, but I have no clue where to start. You gave me this huge, overwhelming laundry list of things, and I need you to give me that nudge in the right direction. What's the first baby step I can take to get me going on my big journey?"
When I'm ready to write the conclusion, I'll pause and ask myself, "Which one of these three questions is the most logical question a reader would ask me at this moment?"
Then, I write the answer. That's my conclusion.
Emergency Parachute: The "One Thing" Exercise
So, the above process works about 99.9% of the time.
But, if for some reason, you still get stuck -- it happens to the best of us -- here's what you should do:
"If my audience has the brain of a heavily-concussed goldfish, and they only walk away remembering one thing from this blog article, what should it be and why?"
Your answer is your conclusion.
"OK, What's Next?"
Now it's your turn! What's your favorite way to conclude a blog?
I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
What's next is that I have a challenge for all of you.
By the end of this month, I want you to revisit your top 10 performing blog articles and critically assess your conclusions. If a conclusion sucks, or it falls into one of the three short-cut categories I talked about, I want you to rewrite it, using the strategies I just taught you.
With that simple step, you'll transform your solid blog articles into content that is demonstrably more helpful than before.
You'll provide your audience with deeper insights and, in some cases, empower them put together a plan of action for themselves -- making themmore likely to consider you their go-to resource when they need an answer to another question later on or a solution to an even bigger challenge.
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