A 9-Step Process to Writing More Effective Blog Posts
Writing a blog post is one of those things that sounds easy until you try it - particularly when you’re an expert in your field. You want to share your knowledge and expertize, but you also need to produce a post that will strengthen your reputation and expand your network. That’s a lot of pressure, there's a lot of different elements to get right.
Relax. You can do this. All you need is a process and a little (ok, a lot of) patience.
The key to learning how to write a blog post that will grow your following is quite simple: Give your readers what they want.
Satisfied readers are much more likely to take action after reading your post - they'll share your content, explore your website, subscribe to your blog, download a guide, or perform any number of other desirable actions. When you give your readers what they want, it improves your reputation among your target audience. It can also impact your ability to rank in search, making it even easier to build a following.
So, with this in mind here’s how to write a blog post in 9 steps.
Step 1: Clarify Your Goals
Each piece of content on your website (including your blog posts) must have a purpose, and be aligned with your broader business goals. This means that your content needs to resonate with your visitors and encourage them to engage with you on a deeper level.
So, before you write your blog post, ask yourself why you’re writing it.
Who's your target audience for this particular piece of content? What are they trying to achieve? How can you make sure they get what they need, and what do you want them to do next?
Imagine you’re a consultant who helps B2B sales professionals close big deals. You decide to write a blog post about how to address budget concerns, one of the biggest objections sales professionals get from clients. Your goal is to connect with your target audience (B2B sales professionals) by showing them that you get what they’re dealing with, and by offering them actionable suggestions they can use today. And you would encourage them to take the next step by inviting them to download a white paper about calculating the ROI of large business investments.
Step 2: Research and Refine Your Topic
Once you’re clear on the purpose of your blog post, it’s time to do your research.
Jot down a list of keywords your target audience would actually use when conducting a search around your topic, then, use a keyword research tool to broaden and refine this list based on, search volume and competitiveness of each term. Use what you learn to select a target keyword, or keywords, and make note of any related phrases.
Next, examine the competition for your chosen keyword/s. Enter your term/s into Google and take note of the results on the first page or two. This can provide insight into what Google thinks the searcher wants when they perform a query using this term, while it also enables you to study how the competition is addressing the topic, so you can develop an approach that can compete.
Finally, put some thought into your headline. Your headline is an opportunity to convince people to read your blog - a good headline tells the reader what the post is about, and what they'll gain from reading it. It should be super compelling, but honest.
If you need a little help, check out CoSchedule’s headline analyzer which will assess the strength of your headline and give you tips on how to improve it.
Step 3: Develop an Outline
At this point, it’s tempting to forge ahead with the writing, but skipping this critical step can lead to unstructured posts which drift off topic and leave the reader wanting. So do yourself (and your editor) a favor, and take the time to jot down a plan.
A great way to introduce your topic is by acknowledging your reader’s pain point/s and showing them that you're empathetic to their plight. What would compel them to seek information on your topic? How might that make them feel? How will reading your post help? There’s no need to go into depth at this point - capture a few ideas and move on.
The body of your blog post is where you get to deliver on the promise of your title. If your title, for example, was “How to Overcome Price Objections When Selling to Large Businesses,” ensure you don't stray from this focus.
This is where you can apply your research - divide the body of your post into logical sections (with sub-headings) so you can explore your topic in-depth. If there’s a related keyword that merits its own section, this is a good time to build it in.
This is also a good time to refer to the goals of your post. How will you give the reader what they want, and what should they do next? Is there an obvious place to weave in your call-to-action? Make note of it, so you remember when you write.
Don’t spend a lot of time on this. The conclusion of your post will summarize your main points, and reinforce your call-to-action. After you write your blog post this generally comes naturally.
Step 4: Write Your Ugly First Draft
I first came across the concept of an “ugly first draft” while reading Ann Handley’s book, “Everybody Writes.” The idea is that you can take a lot of the pressure off if you accept that your first draft will be terrible - you don’t have to worry about creating a masterpiece at this stage, all you have to do is set aside some uninterrupted time and write the whole blog post, from start-to-finish, without going back to edit.
It'll be awful, I know, but it’s like organizing your closet - you need to dump everything out onto your bed and make a big mess. Only then can you dispose of the things you don’t want and put the good stuff back where it belongs.
Confession: I find it difficult to follow this advice myself, but it really does work. When I write my first draft in one sitting, I complete my blogs in less time, and with less stress. But it means I have to turn off my phone and let my other work pile up, which is hard for me to do.
Step 5: Ruthlessly Edit Your Work
Now that you’ve captured your thoughts, you can move on to the fun part of writing blogs - editing.
No one presents their thoughts in clear, concise, compelling prose the first time around, and learning how to write an effective blog post involves accepting this reality. The editing step is where the magic really happens - this is when you get to mold your work into something that'll make you proud.
If at all possible, put your draft aside for at least a day and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then review your writing for clarity. Are you getting your point across in the most effective way possible?
Remove unnecessary words or tangents that don’t add value, explain or replace confusing industry jargon with simple terms your reader will understand. Look for opportunities to add examples, diagrams or any other details that'll make your post easier to consume - you can even move entire sections around (if necessary) until your writing has a natural flow when you read it.
When you’ve finished making changes, ask someone to read your post and provide feedback - I guarantee they'll spot something you’ve missed.
Make any necessary adjustments, then run your post through a readability tool, like Hemingway. This will highlight any long sentences or passive language you may have missed. After you’ve corrected these problems, run a spell check as the finishing touch.
Step 6: Add Images
Every blog post should include at least one image, and ideally more. Images break up long sections of text and illustrate important points, which can make your post easier, and more enjoyable, to read.
Images also play an important role in social media promotion. Social updates perform better when accompanied by an eye-catching visual, so including relevant images in your post will also make it easier for your readers to share.
Whenever possible, you should also look to create your own original visuals. These can be screenshots, charts, graphs or even custom graphics. You don’t need to be a graphic designer, or even use expensive software - tools like Canva and Easel.ly are inexpensive options which anyone can use to create custom visuals.
Original images are also an opportunity to boost your search rankings - original images can attract inbound links, and all images contain metadata that you can optimize for search. Image SEO requires a little extra effort, but it can make a big difference, and it’s a tactic that’s often overlooked.
Sites like Shutterstock or Death to Stock Photo are great for finding images when you don’t have anything of your own, though many of their images do require a fee. If your budget doesn’t allow for that, there are plenty of other sites where you can download images for free.
Step 7: Optimize the Blog Post for SEO
When you think you’ve got a winner that your target audience will love, optimize the post for SEO.
Search engines value many of the same things as your readers - search engines want to know what the post is about so they can deliver it to the proper audience. They want clear, easy-to-read text that answers the searcher’s question in-depth, and they want links to other materials so the reader can build on what they’ve learned.
When you write a blog post that's focused on the reader, many of these things will happen naturally, but you need to know how to structure your content so your focus is clear.
A WordPress plugin, like Yoast, can help you optimize your blog post, but if you take the time to understand what the search engines are looking for, a plugin isn’t necessary. For step-by-step instructions check out “How to Write SEO Friendly Blog Posts."
Step 8: Publish and Promote
Finally, you’re ready to go. Load your blog post into your content management system, hit 'Publish' and get moving on your content promotion plan.
The specific promotional tactics that you choose will vary based on the goals of your post. Most of the time, you'll send the post to your blog subscribers, and/or certain segments of your email list. You'll also want to build a series of social media posts (with varying images and messages) and weave them into your social sharing calendar, but there are plenty of other things you can also do to promote your post.
For example, if you mentioned anyone in your article, let them know, and if there’s anyone at your company or among your contacts who might enjoy the content, be sure to bring it to their attention.
When you share your work with interested people, they may pass along your article, or share it on their own social channels, which will increase your exposure. Of course, if you’re looking for quick results, this would also be a good time to kick off any paid promotional efforts.
Step 9: Track Your Results
Lastly, make sure you have the proper systems in place to track the success of your post. Many organizations use Google Analytics for this purpose, but there are plenty of other solutions which can also fulfill this need.
What metrics should you track? Well, it depends on your goals, but here are some common metrics that provide insight:
- Traffic - How many visitors does the post attract to your site and where is that traffic coming from?
- Bounce Rate - What happens after someone finds your post? Do they click-through to other areas of your website or do they take what they need and leave?
- Shares - Do people find your message interesting enough to share it on their social channels? If so, which channels perform best and why?
- Links - Is your post attracting quality inbound links?
- Rank - What terms is the post ranking for and what page does it appear on in search?
- Conversions - Does the post inspire readers to subscribe to your blog, contact you or perform whatever other action you were hoping for?
- Average Time on Page - Are people spending enough time on the page to read and absorb your work?
Tracking results may be the least sexy part of learning how to write a blog post, but these numbers are important to your success. Decide on the metrics that matter to your business, monitor them over time, and use these insights to guide your next steps.
And don’t forget, you can always go back and make adjustments to your post to improve its performance.
Giving your readers what they want is the key to writing a blog post that will grow your following. Happy readers will share your work, respond to your call-to-action and explore what you offer/s, which will expand your reach and send signals to the search engines that you're a trusted resource, improving your ability to rank, and your subsequent visibility online.
Writing a blog post may sound like a simple task, but it actually requires deliberate effort. Adopting a repeatable process like this can help keep you focused.
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