Self-improvement is a hugely popular topic — the total U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.62 billion in 2014. That means there’s lots of demand for articles on self-improvement, and lots of competition. Whether you’re writing about weight loss, productivity, relationships or mindfulness, you want to write articles that actually help people.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways to make your articles stand out from the crowd. Posting information that targets a very specific audience, giving actionable suggestions, using plenty of credible research and including a few real life examples is guaranteed to keep your readers hooked.

Nobody wants to read another article titled, ‘10 Easy Ways to Lose Weight’ or ‘How to Procrastinate Less’. I mean, would you?

Follow the tips below to avoid wasting your time writing generic, dull content.

Hone in on a very specific problem

Imagine you’re a builder, and you’re searching online for ways to feel less tired. You see three articles:

1. How to Sleep Better and Feel Less Tired

2. Three Ways to Feel Less Tired When You Work a Manual Labor Job

3. Exhausted Builder? Here’s How to Feel Less Tired

Which do you click on? It’s pretty obvious.

People want to see advice that applies directly to them. The best articles feel like they were written for you personally, and it’s rare that very general, non-specific content achieves this.

Struggling to avoid the trap of trying to write for everyone? Try these strategies while writing:

Picture a very specific person in your mind, and write just for them.

Instead of, ‘person looking to lose weight,’ think, ‘wheelchair user in early 20s looking to lose weight.’ Your article will instantly be more interesting, and will often feel easier to write.

Write your initial title idea, then challenge yourself to make it more specific.

Then, challenge yourself to make it even more specific. Make sure you find a balance though — you might not see many hits on, ‘Cleaning Tips for Millionaires with 20 Cats’.

Get inspiration from question and answer sites.

If you’ve got a general idea for a topic or keyword but aren’t sure where to take it, question and answer sites like Quora can be a great source of inspiration. You might search for the keyword ‘anxiety’ and come across questions on managing anxiety at college, using exercise to reduce anxiety, or dealing with post-natal anxiety. This strategy often helps you consider angles that would never have occurred to you otherwise.

Provide actionable suggestions

There’s nothing worse than clicking onto an article for help, and receiving vague advice like, “Follow your dreams,” or “Stay true to yourself.” Your readers didn’t come to you for advice they could have read inside a greetings card. They came to you for solid suggestions to implement in their own lives.

There are a few key ways to make your articles as actionable as possible:

Include lists of possible actions your reader could take.

For example, in an article on insomnia, you could list different relaxing activities to try before bed. Having a concrete list of things to try is much more helpful than reading vague advice like, “Try to relax before bed.”

Encourage your reader to set measurable goals.

Instead of saying, “Try drinking warm milk before bed,” say something more specific, like, “Try drinking warm milk one hour before bed for 7 days, recording how well you slept each morning.” This helps readers feel empowered to make changes and measure the results.

Read each point in your article, and make sure it includes a clear action.

Taking action doesn’t always meaning jumping up and doing something. Actions can be more subtle, and you might be encouraging your reader to change their mindset, or catch themselves before they’re caught in a loop of negative thoughts. If you see a point that doesn’t include any action at all, ask yourself whether it adds any value for the reader — there’s a good chance it doesn’t.

Back up everything with research

There’s so much self-improvement content on the internet that readers struggle to decide what’s really helpful. Making your content as authoritative as possible is key to convincing readers that you know your stuff, and backing up points with research shows that you’re not just making things up as you go along.

Here’s what you should do:

- Include links to reliable sources (no Wikipedia!) that support the points in your article.

- Use evidence wherever possible, even to support ideas you might think of as common knowledge.

- Include recent studies to show that your content is on the cutting edge of self-improvement — unlike other sites, which could be regurgitating old ideas.

Use real world examples and personal anecdotes

Readers want to feel like they can relate to a real person when they read your article, and advice that’s based on real-world experience is much more valuable than theory. Compare the two article introductions below:

Example 1

Is your small business failing? Are you ready to give it all up and go back to the day job? Working for yourself isn’t easy, and it’s natural to make mistakes along the way. These tips will help you turn your small business from failing to successful.

Example 2

A year ago, I was running a failing small business. I’d quit my job, invested time and money into my new venture, and ended up $10,000 in debt. Using the tips I’ve shared below, I turned it all around, and now earn more than that in a single month. Read on to find out how I saved my business, and how you can do the same.

Which introduction made you want to keep reading?

The second, right?

That’s because it’s based on a real person who’s been through the same experience as you, and made it out of the other side. Give your readers something to relate to and you’ll see much higher interest and engagement.

Writing high-quality self-improvement articles can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.

Use the suggestions above to avoid sharing vague, unhelpful advice, and start creating content that really can change your readers’ lives.