In this article we will look at a 10 step process on how to write a blog post. It’s a long read and there are a few hoops to go through before putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, but follow the formula and I’m confident you will soon be cranking out better blog posts than ever before.
So, let’s dive straight into it:
Step 1: Why are you writing the article?
First of all, you need to decide why you are writing the post and set the goals you hope to achieve. The most popular reason to write a post is to answer a question. For example, the goal of the article you are reading is pretty obvious, I’m attempting to answer the question; How to write a blog post.’
Answering a question your readers and customers may have is a great way of not only generating ideas for content, but is often the most effective way of engaging with your customer.
By answering a customer’s question, in a free blog post, you are not only providing a service you are also building trust. A reader who trusts the information you are providing is much more likely to purchase your product or service.
Which brings me on to another popular reason for writing a post. To sell your service or product.
A blog post about the services your business provides, or the new product you have launched, is a way in which you can pre-sell your customer. In an article you can go into more detail and answer more questions than you would in a product description or on a web page.
But, and this is a big but, don’t make your copy salesy or over the top. Inform, engage, and motivate the reader but don’t beat them over the head with a hammer. A blog post thinly disguised as an over-hyped sales pitch could lose you a sale rather than gaining you a customer.
Another popular reason to write a block post is what hip marketing executives call ‘influencer amplification.’ I’ll just pause here a moment while you try and decipher that. Any luck? Let me help you out.
Influencer amplification is basically using an article or blog post to build your reputation as an expert in your field. To be seen as an influencer builds trust in you and your business. This in turn leads to more sales.
However, to become an expert in your field or niche isn’t easy. You may have an insane amount of knowledge inside your head but, unless people, i.e., your potential customers, know it is there you won’t be seen as an expert.
Which is why you, or the copywriter you hire, have to create content. Lots of content. A blog post, or rather a series of articles, is the easiest way to establish credibility and, in turn, trust and loyalty amongst your readership.
Step 2: Think about your audience
At first glance this seems pretty obvious. You’re writing for your customers. Right? Well, yes and no. For the majority of your articles you will be addressing your core targets; those who are most likely to buy your product or service.
For example, my target audience are solo entrepreneurs, small to medium business owners, CEOs, and marketing directors & managers. Most of my content reflects the needs of that audience. But not exclusively so. Indeed my, and your, target audience could differ for each post.
You may be targeting new readers, in which case a round-up or introductory post may be appropriate rather than writing about a subject your regular readers may be expecting.
You may also be blogging to attract influencers in your niche. In others words, to get the attention of, and links and social shares from, authority websites in your market.
If, for instance you sell blue widgets, and write an awesome blog post of why everyone needs a widget in their lives, and then outreach the post to the good people at widgets.com they will hopefully share your article with their readers sending heaps of extra traffic to your site. This will help brand awareness, be good for your SEO, and, hopefully, result in some sales.
So defining your audience before you start writing is a worthwhile exercise and will help focus your writing.
Step 3: Research your subject
This step is split into two. First of all you need to research your subject matter. If you are writing about your own business you will know it inside out but you still may have to do some additional research. If, for instance, you are a builder writing about loft conversions you may need to brush up on the latest changes in the planning laws.
If you are writing about an unfamiliar subject your research will need to be more extensive. But, gathering information is essential and enables you to write with more authority and include or address topical comment or trends.
By the way, when Googling any topic online never take Wikipedia as gospel. The truth may be out there but on Wikipedia it is often distorted, misinterpreted, or just plain wrong. That’s not to say it can’t be a valuable resource but when taking ‘facts’ from Wikipedia always cross reference them against another source you can trust; BBC, CNN etc.
Step 4: Keyword research and analysis
The next part of your research is all about SEO. Note, you should only go through this step if you want your blog post to have a chance of ranking in the search engines.
Whoa, I hear you cry. Why on earth wouldn’t you care if your post didn’t rank highly in Google? There are a few reasons:
• Your content may be behind a paid portal
• You may be writing for a company intranet
• Your main source of traffic is from paid search
• Your website content is used as a brochure or point of reference rather than a lead magnet
This last point is one which applies to many. The article you are reading is designed to showcase my writing and knowledge rather than attract traffic from a high ranking in the search engines.
Free web traffic is always nice but I know the majority of my clients come from word of mouth, personal recommendation, or direct prospecting rather than search.
Potential customers will check out my website as they would peruse a CV from a potential employee. I also use targeted paid search to generate traffic so organic traffic isn’t important to me, though it is to many of my clients.
If you are writing with the intention of being ranked highly in the search engines diligent keyword research is essential.
Use a tool such as Keyword Explorer to identify three or four keywords and choose the one with the highest demand and lowest competition to focus on. Use your main keyword in your title and headline as well as within your copy and use the other keywords to support it and widen the potential reach of the article. See this article for more information on creating SEO content for your blog.
To complete your SEO research it is good practice to do some competitive analysis. Type the keyword you are targeting into Google and study the results on the first page. Click on the links and check out the content, particularly the quality of the writing.
Pay most attention to the top three positions. If you have access to tools like Keyword Explorer use it to dig deep and analyse the links and social shares the article has received.
Then ask yourself why Google likes the article and ranks it highly, why people are sharing it, and, most importantly of all, are you able to blow it away in terms of quality? If the answer to the last question is yes you’re good to go. If it’s no, go back to the drawing board and re-plan your content.
Step 5: Planning your blog post
We’re almost at the writing stage. But not quite. Now, it’s time to plan. This is actually the fun part. You need to draw up an outline of the post you intend to write. I like to do this the old fashioned way with pen and paper. With a bit of mind mapping thrown in.
Mind mapping is a simple but really effective way to plan your article, or, for that matter, anything else. I use the technique for everything from writing to planning a barbeque.
Anyway, simply take a blank piece of paper, A3 is ideal but A4 is fine, turn it to landscape (so the long edges are at the top and bottom) and write your topic in the middle of the page. Now just brainstorm. Let your mind wonder free but any words, sentences, or ideas which pop into your brain should be written on the paper and joined to the topic with a line.
OK. I know this may sound a bit kooky but it is weirdly effective. Once you have dumped all the ideas out of your brain onto the page you will have a massive amount of material to begin writing about.
If you ever suffer from writers block or can’t find a solution to a problem, try mind mapping. You will be amazed at the results. To illustrate, here is the mind map I drew for this blog post.
Step 6: Starting to write
At last. This is the easy part. After all your preparation and planning the actual words should literally pour out of you. I really love writing, which is handy considering my career choice, but I’m aware that for many the whole thing is a chore.
If this is you then just stick at it. Better yet delegate the task out to a freelance copywriter (umm…cough…me for instance).
But, if you are looking for a way to be more productive with your writing, the best advice I can give is to schedule a solid block of time and, with your mind map beside you, just start to write.
Turn off the phone, lock yourself away from colleagues or family, forget about email and any other distractions and just write. Try it for half an hour and you’ll be surprised at how much you get done. Give yourself a short break and then repeat the process. Rinse and repeat until the blog post is finished.
Step 7: Walk away
Eh? Let me explain. When you have finished your post don’t worry about reading it back and checking for errors. Just print it out and put in your desk drawer. Now forget about it. Don’t give it another moments thought. Leave it in your desk for 24 hours if possible, or at least a few hours if you have an emergency deadline to meet.
Step 8: Edit your masterpiece
Hopefully 24 hours have elapsed since you finished the blog post. Now comes the slog of editing and refining.
Why wait 24 hours? I know it sounds strange but give it a go. If you wait before editing and approach it the next day with your mind fresh you will see the article in a whole new light and will see better sentence structures, find where the words can flow more easily and spot things you have missed. If you edit as soon as you finish writing your brain just won’t function in the same way.
Editing a document can be split into two tasks; substantive and copyediting. Substantive editing is analysis based in which you review the flow and structure of the post whilst copyediting is the fine detail; spelling, punctuation, and grammar. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Honestly.
The best way to do this is by reading out aloud. Yep, I know it sounds ridiculous but it does work. When you read aloud you pick up on the flow of the piece and will identify where your copy ‘jars’ or rambles. Check the rhythm and flow of the article and that your words have achieved the goals you set in step one.
You will often find when reviewing the copy whole paragraphs can be shifted around and the article will be so much stronger.
You are checking for typos, spelling mistakes, and punctuation. The trusty spell checker in Microsoft Word will catch many errors but carefully scrutinise each sentence. As for grammar…..
The grammar police are everywhere. But. Who cares? This might be controversial, especially coming from someone who earns his living from writing but, don’t sweat the grammar to much. See what I did there?
The rules to follow here is, if it reads well and makes sense to you; go with it. Don’t worry about splitting your infinitives or using an adverb instead of a pronoun. You’re writing for your audience not a gaggle of Oxford University English professors. Of course, if your audience happens to be Oxford University English professors, ignore everything I’ve just written.
Once you have finished your editing ask a colleague to take a look. I guarantee, no matter how often you check your copy, you will have missed a typo or spelling error which someone else will pick up on immediately. If there is no-one you can ask to check your work repeat the ‘stick in a drawer and forget about it’ exercise and go through the editing process again after 24 hours.
Step 9: Upload the post to your blog
Before putting your post live spend some time sourcing images. If you don’t have your own images get them from a free site such as Pixabay or, for far more choice, Shutterstock or Fotolia. Include at least one image in your post and remember to include an alt tag containing your target keyword.
Don’t be in to much a hurry to press the publish button. First of all make sure your formatting looks right and include any appropriate links, both internal and external, along with a call to action. Your CTA can be anything from asking for a social like, a comment, or encouraging the reader to sign up for your newsletter.
Once your post is published don’t just forget about it. Update with new information when necessary and don’t be afraid to freshen up old posts with new text.
Step 10: Outreach your blog post
Outreaching their content is something most writers or owners of business blogs don’t do. They are missing a trick. But what is outreach?
Crudely put, outreach is hawking your blog post around websites and influencers asking them to share it with their readership. Instead of waiting for your post to be discovered, outreach is a proactive strategy which can bring quick rewards in terms of traffic and PR.
But, and this is hugely important, there is no point in outreaching a post unless it provides exceptional value and is relevant to the audience you are outreaching to. Web editors have so much content offered to them they can afford to be choosey and will not link to your post if is quickly thrown together nonsense, a blatant sales pitch, or poorly written.
As a quick aside, and just to be clear, when you are outreaching a post you are not asking a web editor to put the article on their website, you are asking them to share it. Either through a review, a link in a story they have written, or even as a tweet or other social media call out. Outreach can also be called amplification; you are amplifying the reach of your post.
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you start the outreach process. These are pretty obvious but:
Will people want to share my content? If you are super-confident your blog post includes insightful comment, new information, and is engaging and delivers great value to the reader then people will be happy to share it.
Who will I contact? Don’t just blast out an email to everyone you can think of. Carefully select websites and influencers you know will be interested in your blog post and send each prospect a personal email. With this approach you are contacting fewer people but you will have a higher chance of success.
How will I contact my prospects? From the answer above it can be seen I prefer an email approach. This seems to be more effective than a tweet or social media message but it is always worthwhile trying different options to see what works for you. Maybe even a phone call?
Free or paid outreach?
So far we have only discussed outreach methods will cost you time rather than cash. But, you can also pay for outreach. This is a quicker and easier process with which you will results much faster. The downside of course is that you are paying for the exposure.
Paid outreach can produce excellent results and, if you are a new business or don’t have a large following, it is a highly effective method of bringing traffic to your website.
Paid outreach is a huge subject but the best results tend to come from Facebook ads though Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks, but not Adwords, can also be effective. Just make sure if you go down the paid route that you allocate a budget, laser target your ads, and ensure you have a way to measure ROI.
If it works and delivers more readers or sales, happy days. If it doesn’t dig deep until you find out why.
But, whether you use paid or free outreach techniques, your blog post needs to be a cut above to achieve results.
Don’t forget to promote your blog post on all your own social channels especially, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Try boosting your post on Facebook for extra reach.
Craig Ellyard is an experienced copywriter and has written hundreds, if not thousands, of blog posts and articles. Talk to him if you need regular content for your blog by calling 07722 431483 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org