Be an Expert: Write Articles, Not Blog Posts

December 19, 2010

To become an expert on a topic, write original, helpful, and research-driven articles about the topic.

The blogosphere is drowning in a cacophony of commodity posts. Be different. Create useful, expert articles, written in your own voice.

Jakob Nielsen, “the guru of web page usability,” criticized commodity bloggers who write superficial posts. He advised experts and would-be experts alike that:

To demonstrate [your] world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

Nielsen’s advice is solid. But his article seems to be written for people who are the “#1 expert among the 1,000 people with websites in their field.”

But what about the other 999 of us who want to contribute to our fields? What about those of us who want to become recognized experts?

That’s what this article is about:

To become an expert, avoid hastily written, superficial posts that parrot others. Instead, write original, helpful, and expertise-driven articles.

Wait, didn’t I just parrot Nielsen? Read the rest and you decide.

This article answers three questions:

  1. What is the difference between superficial posts and expert articles?
  2. Why should you only write expert articles?
  3. How can you write expert articles if you’re not yet an expert?

1. What is the Difference Between Superficial Posts and Expert Articles?

Here’s a superficial post:

Joe Blow wrote a cool piece about blah blah blah. You should check it out. It’s good.

Actually, that post is not so bad because at least it’s short. And it might even provide a helpful link.

But it’s neither original nor expert: The author doesn’t share any of his own ideas or knowledge.

Here’s an expert article: 8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content by Pamela Wilson.

Her article shows how you should write if you want people to actually read your writing.

In her article, Wilson is:

  1. Original: She shares her own ideas.
  2. Helpful: She provides useful tips that you can use immediately.
  3. Expertise driven: She couldn’t have written this article without the knowledge she had gained from other experts and from her own experience.

2. Why Should You Only Write Expert Articles?

Because you want to be an expert — and experts write expert articles. You don’t become an expert by dashing off posts that lack profundity.

Do you believe that it’s a grandiose ambition to want to be recognized as an authority in your field? I think that it’s a common aspiration among bloggers.

Let’s say you write a post about “5 ways to be a better leader.” Do you want people to regard it as the trivial ramblings of a dilettante, or as the helpful insights of a knowledgeable professional?

To be respected as a thoughtful voice in your field, you don’t have to know everything and you don’t have to write in an authoritative tone. But you do have to write thoughtfully.

If you only write shallow posts that echo the thoughts of others, you won’t brand yourself as a thought leader who has ideas worth listening to.

3. How Can You Write Expert Articles if You’re Not Yet an Expert?

How does anyone become an expert? It takes time and diligence. Become more of an expert with each article that you write.

Invest the time to write diligent articles:

1. Be original:

Create your own ideas. Don’t just quote or regurgitate what others have said.

We’re all influenced by others, of course. But you can expand on someone else’s idea in a unique way:

  • Give your own interpretation.
  • Provide your own examples.
  • Discuss a related idea.

Give us your own commentary and critique. Be a creator, not a parrot.

2. Be helpful:

Solve a problem. Give useful information. Or at least be entertaining.

If you just report a problem or refer to a source, then you’re not acting like an expert.

Experts do research and then recommend solutions.

3. Be expertise driven:

Write based on knowledge, not just opinion.

How many times have you heard a communications trainer or some (not so) Very Smart Girls claim that “93% of communication is nonverbal”?

Either they didn’t read the research or they misinterpreted it. And now they’re offering baseless advice.

By contrast, Olivia Mitchell (definitely a smart girl) carefully explains the research as she explodes the 93% myth. She’s an expert.

In academic journals, an article is authoritative if many reputable journal articles have cited it. But those authoritative articles couldn’t have been written until their authors had first read the works of other experts in their field.

If you want to write authoritative articles (or blog posts), first read the works of other experts in your field. Your understanding of their work will increase your own knowledge and credibility.

And keep your articles short!

I hope this article doesn't appear to have been written by a parrot?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

WiseNinja December 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Unfortunately even drab content makes profit! These content farms and article spinning sites can pay quite well, but they won’t make anyone famous.


Kevin Kane December 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Ninja, I’m not as worried about content farms as that author seems to be.

The SERP links to content farms just means that we have to look at the domain name of sites before we click on them: If the domain is either, or eHow — don’t click on it.

These sites are the fast food of the web — they don’t have much meat or value. Their content is generic and superficial.

It doesn’t take long for users to wise up: Once they read a couple of shallow articles from these sites, they won’t go back.


Judi May 3, 2011 at 1:40 am

I got tipped off about your blog from the Toastmasters group on LinkedIn. Browsing your site is time well spent. I look forward to following your posts!


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