This post discusses how to write great answers on Quora. I’ve been a Top Writer and Question Writer on Quora since 2014 and over the last 7 years I’ve written over 3,000 answers. Some have have been great. Others have not managed to get any upvotes in 7 years. So I will share some of my experience in writing answers that get upvotes. If you apply these rules you will be able to write better, more entertaining answers and you will fly high.
The first thing that you need to worry about when you try to write a great answer on Quora is what you are writing about.
Who You Are is Important on Quora
People write great answers on Quora about things that they know about. When I say “know about” I mean that you have a lot of expertise. I can go to Wikipedia and read up on the Saturn V rocket. The highest rated answer will usually be written by someone who works at NASA or JPL. It will be full of interesting material that is just not found in a simple internet search. In a subject matter where you are not an expert your answers will go unread. The ‘experts’ will get the upvotes’.
Quora is broad enough that everyone can find an area of expertise. My daughter is an expert on Musical.ly and lip synching. I leave those questions to her. I can claim expertise in a few areas
- Malaysia – because I’ve lived here for 10 years
- Running – I’ve done a lot of marathons
- Triathlon – I’ve done several Ironman races and am a referee for Ironman
- Startups – I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years
- Business Strategy – it’s what I do for a living
- Railways – I was a railway engineer
Those are areas where I get a reasonable number of upvotes. In each of those cases I can make a compelling case for knowing more that 95% of other Quora users. I can write long and detailed answers with little need to refer back to reference material. When I do it’s generally a higher quality than other people writing on the same subject.
This is the first thing that you need to do. Identify areas of life where you are an expert and write on those areas.
What You write about on Quora is Important
Quora gives you upvotes. It does this by sending people to your content because they like you, the topic you are writing about, the question or they have upvoted previous questions of yours.
If you write about a random bunch of questions people will upvote a good answer in a topic they are interested in. The next question will be on a topic that they are not interested in. Do this a few times and your answers stop appearing in their feed. Then you have lost your fan and a source of upvotes and visibility.
The more focused you are on a topic the better you are in developing a great quora following. More importantly, for the purpose of writing awesome answers you get a reputation for writing really well on the subject
How Do You Write a Great Answer?
There are three basic components that you need to get right on an answer for it to start gathering upvotes
First you need to have an image. Images are clickbait and engage people. Awesome images are great. Relevant images are much better. This bad photo of my leg propelled one of my answers to almost 2,000 upvotes
Second, your first paragraph has to capture and engage people. This is what they see in their feed and will encourage them to click on more. If they don’t read your answer you can’t get an upvote
Third, you need to break up your answer into sections. A wall of text is a turn off. An answer chunked into sections with bold headings is very easy to digest
Use Images in Answers
Images in answers will increase the average upvotes by about 50%. That’s based on experiments with my own answers. They have got to be great images. I used a stock image from Unsplash at the top of this page. It’s a beautiful photo but it is eye candy. It would make an answer prettier. It does not educate or inform the reader. On Quora it would be useless.
If you are writing about mediaeval knights helmets you shouldn’t be doing a google search. I’d expect you to be in the British Museum website, Tower of London or Warwick Castle looking for the absolutely perfect photo of a real helmet that is very relevant to your answer. You will get pulled up and downvoted if you use a 15th Century French helmet rather than a 14th Century Scottish one. Get it right.
Get the First Sentence Perfect
There are dozens of ways to get the first sentence right. People read answers for two reasons. First the question looks interesting. Second the first paragraph or two of your answer make it worth looking at the rest of your answer. There are a couple of approaches to using the first sentence as a springboard to a good answer on Quora.
If you are writing the obvious answer your answer won’t stand out. If your first sentence is distinctly contrarian and clear then people may well dive in. Don’t do this for politics or religion. You just upset people quickly. What you should do is something like this.
“What is the best way to grill hamburgers?”
“Cooking hamburgers sous vide is far better than grilling or BBQing”
What you have done is challenge the question and taken your answer into a different place, you can now tell an interesting story about sous vide and juicy succulent burgers. That’s different. Its educational. And that is what people on Quora want
Another approach is to tease in one of my better answers the question was
“Would it be possible to throw everything away and spend the rest of your life living in a rainforest?”
My answer started
“See the little scar on my ankle, the purplish one”
There’s immediate engagement. Why is the scar relevant? there must be an interesting story behind this. Has the author actually thrown everything away and gone and lived in the jungle? That’s crazy. I have to check it out.
Break Up Your Answer
The third thing that you need to do is to break up your answer into chunks.
I find that the rule of three generally works quite well. Divide your answer into three parts. Then divide those into three paragraphs. Each part should have a subheading.
The longer it is the more you break it up. Keep doing it in threes. That way every section has a beginning middle and end
Let’s show this with some bullet points
- Teaser paragraph
- What we are going to cover
- Whats next
- Introduction to main story
- Main story
- What the main story was about
- What the impact of the mains story was
- Why this was important
- How this answers the question
That’s a sample framework not a template. It gives you a sense of how to structure. Whatever you do put lots of paragraphs in and then break them up with bolded headings.
Stories are Critical to Writing Great Answers on Quora
It’s entirely possible to write answers that get a lot of upvotes on Quora without making it a story. I’ve done some good ones like that. They normally stall and die at a maximum of 100 upvotes though. The reason is that it is so easy to find factual answers using Google. What Google can’t do is allow us to dive into the reality of human experience.
- What is it like to kill someone?
- How do you con a con man?
- What is it like to be a billionaire?
- Can a rapist ever be redeemed?
These are great questions. Many of those have people sharing their stories of what they did. You get the real experience and the wisdom that the answerer gained from the experience. Humans for all our undoubted talents and difference to animals stand out in one respect. Homo Sapiens tells stories. Almost all we do is to tell stories. I tell my wife a story about how I want the day to go. When I get home she tells me a story of how her day went and then immediately starts another one about my smallest child’s illness.
When you don’t tell a story you cut your answer off from the core of human experience. You leave the wisdom and knowledge that Quora readers crave on the table if you don’t tell a story. If you don’t tell a wonderful story then someone else will. Often, when there are no stories all the answers languish with two or three upvotes. Then someone will tell a story and an obscure question will suddenly be getting hundreds of thousands of views.
I wrote an answer a long time ago about how to get the most out of Quora. I haven’t looked at it in many years. Almost certainly big chunks of it will be no longer relevant because the Quora has changed so many times since then.
There are hundreds of small tips and tricks but these are ephemeral. At the moment requesting more answers on a question and sharing your great answer can give you a boost. They will be gone in a few years, or Quora will tweak the algorithm and change how they work.
So what is important is to remember what Quora wants.
Quora wants great answers that engage people. It wants answers that go viral and are shared by people. it wants them to bring new readers to the site who will be enthralled by what they read and learn. Quora is far less curated than TED. It has the same core belief. Knowledge is worth spreading. Write answers that spread interesting or useful knowledge and your answers will be worth reading.
If you have any more tips on how to write a great answer on Quora do share them with me in the comments below
This is one of a planned series of articles on how to develop your Quora Strategy. I love Quora and I’ve spent a lot of time there. It is also a great social media platform to develop your brand with – even if it is a little quirky.