Writing can be fun, or it can be hellish. Writing for a blog or website is usually both. Writing for a blog or website quickly, professionally and creatively can be nearly impossible if there is not a method to the madness. The reason people read a blog is to be entertained and/or to learn something new. Getting visitors and keeping them coming back is the trick. Content must be great, and that means creating great blog posts. Approach it like a great general approaches the coming war.
1. Have a Reason for the Battle, and a Battle Plan
Finding a topic to write about is not hard. Narrowing down the choices to just one is hard. Make a list of everything that interests you and that you think you can write well about.
Google Docs can suggest topic ideas, your friends, the books or blogs you read, or the questions you answer from customers. Keep a little notebook with you wherever you go, and jot down ideas whenever they occur.
Once you have picked the topic of the day, start making your plan or outline. This will be your roadmap to the journey of writing your blog post. It doesn’t really matter what method you use to outline your post, as long as you do it. A few tried and true techniques:
– The traditional outline lists the main points of your post and adds some sub-points. Rearrange the points in the outline until the flow makes sense. Cut and paste in a word processing program is a marvelous invention for this activity.
– Verbally outline your post using a digital recorder. Do the same outlining steps as in the traditional manner but out loud. Do this as if you were relating a story or explaining something logically to another person. Take the recording and turn it into an outline on paper.
The journalism class method also works for outlining blog posts as well as it did for print articles. The journalism method outline answers the “W” questions: Who, why, what, when, where, and also how.
- Who is your target audience?
- What are you trying to tell them?
- Why should they care about what you write?
- When or in what circumstances is this information applicable?
- Where in their lives can they apply the information?
- How can they implement this information?
- Return to the main point and add sub-points or rearrange things to make sense.
Your choice of target audience will inform your goals and the expectations of the reader. Use the tone that is most appropriate to the blog and the audience, and write consistently in that tone.
Be clear about your goal for the blog post. Blogs and posts are written for keyword density/SEO, how-to articles, selling something, reviewing something, stating an opinion, news posts etc.
If you write for marketing or SEO choose one primary key phrase and one or two keywords to use. There are key word tools online including KeywordStrategy.org, KeywordEye, HubSpot and Google’s keyword tools.
2. Choose Your Battle Site
Choose where, when and how you will write your post. Make it comfortable, convenient and low on distractions. Get your hydration and a snack at hand, use the toilet and generally get ready to be in your chair for a bit. Put on mood music if that inspires you. Write when you feel like writing and when you write best. There is no “right time for writing.”
3. Create a Battle Flag
The headline is the flag of the post that will wave in the proverbial wind, capture the initial attention of your reader, and draw them into your article. A good headline must be short – five to ten words at most. It needs to include your keywords. The headline must match the article content and be creative and engaging to the reader.
Some writers create the headline after the main article is completed. If this works well for you, do it that way. Remember to be tactical about it, though – the war is drawing in the reader. You are still in the planning stage until the article is posted!
4. Throw Down the Gauntlet
The introductory paragraph is the “hook” to get the reader interested and tell them what they can expect to read. This paragraph needs to be clear, concise, creative, and directed at your target reader. Hint at the answers to the “W” questions or main points from your outline.
5. Fill in the Basics of Your Battle Plan
Also known as writing the rough draft, you will write details about each main point in your outline. Just start writing. Do not edit in your head or in the post yet. You are focusing on getting the information out of your head and onto the proverbial paper.
Do not stop until you have reached the end of the outline. Realize it will look terrible at first, like some Frankenstein monster of prose with stitched together parts and missing pieces. That is ok as long as you don’t hit “Publish Now” on your blog.
Once you have the basic filled-in outline completed, warts and all, take a brief break. Get away from the screen, walk around, and eat your snack. Give your brain a chance to reset itself for the details.
6. It’s All About the Details, Troops!
Go back through your post and fill in more details and information.
– Add depth to your post. Add examples, illustrations, charts and your own words. Answer the questions and fill in that outline.
– Add an opinion to your post. This is a good tactic for drawing readers into your post. It prompts them to comment and to become engaged in your blog.
– Add quotes, if you can find something good that someone else said about your topic. If you know an expert on the topic – or someone who thinks they are an expert – ask them their opinion or a few questions about the topic.
– Suggested related articles or posts. By adding links to other relevant articles – especially internal links to articles on your own site – is a great way to build traffic and keep visitors on your site.
– Make sure your post has original content, not just a list of links to other posts. Readers have come to your blog to read your article, so give them reasons to stay. Summarize what is in the other articles and give an opinion or add context for your reader.
– Always give proper attribution or credit if you are using information or data from another source. Failing to do so is a copyright violation and can be a legal nightmare. Also, stealing other people’s work just isn’t cool. If you cite another blog or website, be sure to link back to the original source article.
– Write short paragraphs to maximize visual appeal of the content. Four or fewer sentences per paragraph are adequate. Keep plenty of white space in your post so your readers do not become overwhelmed.
7. Logistics Win Wars
Go back through your rough-but-detailed draft and make sure your key phrase and keywords are there. Include them in the headline, subheadings, and throughout the post itself. Add the keywords to page meta-data, URL and image tags, too.
Add photos, video or other media
Images will catch the attention of readers. Put at least one great picture near the top of the post. This image will post as a thumbnail when you publish and share your post to the social networking sites.
Good images relate to your content and the audience. They should set the tone for your post. The most relevant images will get a higher click-through rate, driving traffic to your site.
8. Polish that Brass!
Putting the final touches on your article means going back through every word of the Frankenstein monster you have cobbled together, and making it post-worthy. Take a break before you start this step to reset your brain again.
- Start by re-reading your post and turning phrases into sentences, correcting grammar and spelling and other editing tasks.
- Re-read your post again out loud. Correct the tons of errors you will likely find. Reading a post out loud is the single most effective way to ensure the readability and coherence of your writing.
- Go back and add in a sentence or idea if something needs it. This may be the most compelling bit of your article in the end analysis.
- Do not get hung up on everything being perfect. Perfect does not exist. Make the post good – really good, but recognize when it is good enough and stop overworking it. Move on when it is good enough.
- Run this close-to-final draft through the plagiarism checker(s) of your choice. It is easy to unintentionally phrase something in an identical way to one of your sources or references. Many checkers also offer a grammar and spell checker, and it never hurts to cross check your word processing program.
- Format the post, the headers and sub-headers, the internal links and bullet points as needed. Think about how to make the post easily scannable by the reader. More white space is needed online than in print.
- Check your links both for internal and external connections. Some blogs use Content Management Systems (CMS) to display other recent and relevant internal posts at the end of every new article you publish. This will ensure you have internal links even if you don’t add them in the body of the article.
9. Think About the End Game
- Wrapping up a post provides the coup de grace of article effectiveness. Give a brief summary of the article in one to two sentences.
- Some writers use a “call to action” by asking readers to complete a project, send a comment, sign a petition or take up the challenge. Ask readers a question for their input or opinion.
- Request happy readers share your post throughout their social media network. Include “like,” “subscribe” and “share” buttons with a blog plug-in to make this step very easy for readers to execute.
- Make sure you review the comments you receive. These will be great idea-factories for more blog posts, as well as for understanding your target demographic.
10. Execute the Plan
Publish your one-hour masterpiece and share it on every social media network possible. Use an automatic plug-in for your blog that shares on your behalf to every configured network you choose. Alternately, use a plug-in that adds “share” buttons to your post to remind you to cross post.
Content is not awesome if no one reads it because they don’t know it exists. Posting to several networks helps cover different audience niches, reading times, time zones and blog visitors. These tactics give your blog some inbound links pointing back to the post. Search engines like inbound links.
You have now completed the Academy for blog posting generals. You can make an outline and fill it in with content. You can optimize a post. You can create a headline that grabs attention, and maximize reader engagement. It will get easier with practice, so keep at it and keep improving!
Written by Jamie Sue. She is a digital marketer and freelance writer. She provides writing and consulting services to various clients of different niches.