How to Write Content That Works

Picture of Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

how to write content that works

Want to know how to write content that works?

I.e., how to write content that gets RESULTS in the form of:

  • Engagement
  • Rankings
  • Leads
  • Trust built
  • Sales

You’re in the right place. Because not just any content will do.

Without strong writing that includes a can’t-look-away hook, credibility, and empathy…

Your content will go nowhere and do nothing. 👎

In fact, that’s the fate of most content. 😓

90.63% of all blogs get zero traffic. 66.31% get zero backlinks.

No one reads them. Ever.

To avoid this fate, it’s time to learn what does work, and how to infuse those techniques into your content.

Because the skills I’m about to share will help you write any type of website content to get read and get seen so your message can deliver.

In today’s video and blog, I’ll be showing you a content example that needs help, and how to rewrite it for 10x better engagement. In the process, you’ll see exactly what makes content work – and NOT work. 🔧

And it’s all based on my years of experience in successful content – over a decade spent writing and reviewing thousands of pieces of content, seeing what works, putting it into action, and then watching magic happen. ✨

If you write content as part of your day-to-day, or if you manage a writer, pay attention. This is for you.

how to write content that works

How to Write Content That Works: You Need a Framework

Prefer a video? Watch now to see me tear down and rebuild an existing content piece that could be better, using the techniques described in this blog:

Time and time again, I return to a framework when writing website content, which includes blogs, landing pages, and sales pages.

A framework gives you a structure to work inside. Ultimately, this opens up your creativity because there are millions of ways to play within that structure. It also makes composing your piece easier, because your skeleton is right in front of you. All you have to do is fill it in.

The writing framework we’re talking about today, one that will help you write content that works consistently, is the PAS framework: Problem, Agitate, Solve.

how to write content that works - pas framework

This framework is a proven way to hook your readers, grab their attention and keep it. Successful writers like Jon Morrow, Ramit Sethi, and Joanna Wiebe regularly use it to great effect.

It’s also one of my favorite writing frameworks, and we use it over and over across our Content Hacker content.

Let’s break it down, and then I’ll show you how to put it to use.

1. Problem

The first part of the formula is where you state the problem.

No matter the topic you’re writing about, there should be one main issue at the center of it for your audience. That part is important, because it’s not YOUR problem you’re talking about. It’s THEIR problem.

State it clearly – acknowledging it outright lets the reader know you totally get it.

Example: From a Content Hacker blog on Google EAT and YMYL, we state the problem for readers within the first three sentences.

PAS framework - problem

2. Agitate

Next up in the PAS framework: agitate.

This is where you get to stir the pot and press on that pain point a little bit. 🥣

Tell them:

  • Why they should care
  • What’s at stake
  • Why it matters
  • How it feels (bad!)

Example: In another Content Hacker blog on content marketing consulting, the “agitate” piece includes stat after stat that proves not only how essential content marketing is to a full marketing strategy, but also how important it is to do it right, and do it with knowledge and skill:

PAS framework - agitate

3. Solve

Once you’ve successfully stirred the pot, your reader should be dying to know what to do next.

Finally, tell the reader the solution to the problem.

  • Summarize the solution. You’ll spend the rest of the words in your content piece explaining it. For now, just provide the gist.
  • Tell it to them straight. Don’t hedge or try to sound mysterious. Give the people what they want.
  • Once they know what the solution is, they’ll want to understand how it works/how to do it.

Example: In our blog on money-making motivation, the solution is presented simply and plainly.

PAS framework - solve

Think you’ve got the hang of it? Then let’s get into the nitty-gritty of putting it into practice. Let me show you, step by step, how to rewrite a mediocre introduction and turn it into a compelling hook using the PAS framework. ⬇

Want deeper guidance on how to write online content that works, including templates and a student workbook? Get in my 1-hour workshop, Learn to Write Online Content.

learn to write workshop cta

Learn How to Write Content That Works, Step by Step

Learning how to write content that works is made easier, in my opinion, if I can actually show you how it’s done.

In that spirit, I’m taking a ho-hum, real-life example of content from the top (but not the very top) of Google, ranking for “how to write good content”, and transforming the intro into a killer hook using the PAS framework.

(By the way, no shade to whoever wrote this. We’ve all been there, myself included.)

Here’s what we’re starting with:

how to write content that works - old hook

Away we go!

Step 1: Start with the “P” in the PAS Framework

And so we return to the PAS framework. ✔

Remember, this is the formula that works to hook the reader.

It has a set structure to follow that’s proven to work. (And it’s not just me who uses this over and over with great success – reams of other content writers rely on it too. Once you know it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere.)

Let’s ask ourselves: Is the problem (or the pain point) clearly stated in this content example?


But I see an issue here right away.

how to write content that works

“Nothing is worse than bad content”?

The way the problem is stated lacks empathy. For starters, the entire world just went through a pandemic where people dying in the hospital couldn’t have their loved ones surrounding them.

There are plenty of things worse than bad content. Saying the opposite is downright tone-deaf.

To state the problem with empathy – knowing our readers and what will grab them without turning them off – is mega-important when writing a hook.

Here’s how I would rewrite it:

how to write content that works

Step 2: Prove It

Look at my rewritten hook above. How do I know good content is rare on the internet?

In the next sentence, I swoop in with a statistic that proves my point: 90% of all blogs don’t earn backlinks. That’s powerful, and if I link that stat to the original study, that’s proof I know what I’m talking about.

So, don’t just make sweeping statements with no context. Add statistics from well-known sources to your hook that prove your point. In one move, you’ll grab the reader’s attention while ALSO demonstrating your credibility.

Step 3: Cut That Gunky Fluff

The old hook is so fluff-filled and error-filled, that it’s hard to see past the gunk.

It’s long-winded. It meanders. This spells disaster.

Why? Your readers aren’t going to stick around to figure out what the heck the point is. They don’t want to play Where’s Waldo? to find your meaning.

wheres waldo

Don’t make your readers hunt through your sentences to find your point, like a weird literary version of Where’s Waldo.

If you can say something in one sentence, don’t write a paragraph.

Here’s just one example of a fluffy sentence rewritten:

how to write content that works

And, as you’ll soon see, much of the content from our example can be cut and reworded more succinctly and clearly.

Do you struggle with fluff in your writing? Want to learn how to write engaging content that converts – NOT long-winded essays? My course, Unlearn Essay Writing, is for you. Learn in one week – enroll now.

Step 4: Agitate

We’ve come to the “A” in PAS. It’s time to emphasize your hook and tell the reader why they should care.

Since my rewrite of the old content is super succinct, I effectively agitate the problem (that good content is rare) with two sentences:

“In fact, 90% of all blogs do not earn a single backlink. That means most content on the web isn’t worthy of a single mention.”

Most. Content. Isn’t. Worthy. Of. A. Single. Mention. 🤯

Do you see how I presented an incredibly powerful statistic but blew it up by agitating the problem? Explaining how raw data translates to real consequences, in your own words, makes it 10x more effective.

Relate the problem to your reader in language that will turn their head. Get down and dirty and spell out exactly why the problem is horrible. How does it feel? Why should they care?

Now you not only have their attention – you’ve grabbed their hand and you’re not letting go.

Step 5: Add Internal Links

As you write your hook, don’t forget to add internal links to your own site when relevant.

This is big for SEO.

For instance, in my rewrite, I could add links to other blogs I’ve written about good content, or a blog explaining ROI and what it means.

Step 6: Solve

Next: Present the solution.


Don’t forget to keep the hook alive.

Don’t peter out now. Keep the urgency going from the first line and continue to draw the reader into your content.

The original content example stumbled in that instance. It’s full of fluff, with little urgency.

Here’s how I would rewrite it:

how to write content that works

Look at how much I cut, and how I could summarize what was originally said with a line or two.

I present the solution simply, and tell my reader that the rest of the blog will answer all their questions.

Step 7: Include Your Keywords

Don’t forget to optimize your content. Include your focus keyword in key places – the H1, the subheaders, and inside the body text – to ensure your piece will get crawled by Google and ranked!

Put It All Together to Write Content That Works

Let’s combine everything to see exactly how my rewrite looks in comparison with the original piece.

how to write content that works

I think you’ll notice a few major differences:

  1. My rewrite is clearer and more succinct.
  2. It follows a proven framework.
  3. It’s punchier, with more urgency.
  4. It engages better.
  5. There’s NO fluff.
  6. It includes statistics for credibility.

Done and done. 🎯

Do You Know How to Write Content That Works?

…And if you don’t, you should learn.

Writing content that works is about more than inserting some keywords here and there or writing what you think your reader wants to know.

To truly grab them, drive your point home, demonstrate your credibility, and keep them reading, you need more.

✔ A hook.

✔ Empathy.

✔ Credibility.

✔ Optimization.

Don’t sell your content short. Learn to write content that works, and the results WILL come pouring in.

And, by the way, I have a one-week course for that. 🙌

If you’re ready to learn writing techniques that grab today’s online reader, you need the Unlearn Essay Writing course.

This course will teach you EXACTLY how to unlearn fluffy essay writing and replace it with honed, sharp writing for the web.

Enroll today, and start writing results-getting content.

Enroll now in the new online writing course

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