How to write a blog post – from brilliant idea to publish (and everything in between)
How to write a blog post with step by step instructions to help you create an opening that compels people to keep reading, a body rich with information and a conclusion that prompts action.
You may also be interested in my podcast episode on three reasons why content fails and how to fix them.
Do you find yourself procrastinating when it’s time to write a blog post?
Content creators both experienced and new all face this challenge. People tend to believe that writing should be natural and easy. If it's not, you’re not good at it.
The truth is that even the best writers can struggle to make the words flow. A first draft is rarely brilliant, yet people feel pressured to deliver perfection. The secret no one tells you is the final draft of most blog posts looks nothing like the first.
What if you treat the first draft as a step by step information gathering process instead? You’ll take an enormous amount of pressure off.
Next time you write a blog post, follow these steps to make the process flow with much more ease.
How to write a blog post: Getting started
The hardest part of writing is starting. The idea of finding the words and flow is daunting. It seems like it’s going to take so long and be so hard.
My trick for overcoming that is to work in sprints. Whether it’s 20 minutes or a specific word count, I sit down and set myself a small goal for my first session.
In a 20 minute session I can generally produce about 500 words, but the actual word count isn’t important. Set a number that is right for you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
By the end of each session your first draft is another step closer to completion.
How to write a blog post: The idea and working title
Every great blog post starts with an idea. Sometimes it hits you out of the blue. Other times you have to push yourself for a bit of inspiration.
As you build your blog, it helps to keep an ideas files. I keep mine in Trello. My blog features six key topics so I have a board for each topic. The first card on each board is where I add ideas as they come to me. Then when it’s time to write, there are options waiting.
Always keep your audience in mind when you're choosing an idea for a new blog post. It’s a lot easier to write for yourself, but that’s not what you’re blogging for. Before you jump in too far, ask yourself – what does my audience want to know about this?
At this point it also helps to give your blog post a working title. Don’t worry. You can change it later. Your working title is a quick summary of what you want your audience to learn after reading your blog post.
How to write a blog post: The introduction
Writing should be expressive, but it helps to have a bit of structure to follow. Particularly in first draft stage. For your introduction follow this basic formula:
1. Start by stating the question or problem you will address.
2. Then provide specific examples of how this question or problem affects your audience.
3. Summarize the solution your blog post will provide.
4. Add a transitional sentence to link the introduction with the body of your blog post.
How to write a blog post: The body
The body of your article should guide the reader through the solution you're providing.
If you have a lot of information to include, start with a list of dot points covering the key areas you want to cover. Then review the order of your list to ensure the progression is easy to follow.
Now start writing!
For each point, it helps to start with an introductory sentence. This sentence explains what the point is about and how it fits in the sequence. Then add the practical information. This will vary depending on your topic. But it could be an example. Or a specific action the reader should take.
Even with an outline in place, you may find writer's block hits. If this happens, imagine you are in a conversation with the reader. Jot down the questions they're asking you. Then add the answers to those questions. Using this process will help you collect information to shape into each key point.
If all else fails, try recording yourself talking about the subject for a few minutes. There’s around 1000 words in five minutes of spoken content, so you’re bound to get something useful.
How to write a blog post: The conclusion and call to action
You are so close to the finish line, but you've still got to draft a conclusion. It can be tempting to skip this, but that short changes your reader.
Start your conclusion with a short overview of the solution you've supplied. Make sure you are tying this back to the original problem posed in the introduction.
Then add a clear call to action for your readers to help them apply the knowledge they've gained. This could be specific steps or actions. You're challenging them to move forward. If a reader gets even one actionable step from reading a blog post, they are more likely to become a loyal follower.
How to write a blog post: The headline
Now you’ve finished your blog post it’s time to go back and review that working headline. Chances are, after spending some time with the subject, you’re feeling a bit more inspired.
Don’t skimp on this step. Headlines are important. They're the first impression people get of your blog. And they can be the difference between someone clicking through to your post or not. Try some of these headline styles out for your blog post:
- Numbered headlines preview how much content is in the blog post: '13 ways to improve your writing'
- Guide headlines suggest a beginning to end process is contained in the blog post: 'The ultimate guide to becoming a better writer'
- How to headlines tell the reader you can solve a problem: 'How to write great headlines'
- Comparison headlines help reader’s make decisions: 'Why I use a professional instead of editing my own copy (and why my reader’s love it)'
- Urgency headlines compel the reader to get the information or miss out: 'Stop making these writing mistakes or you could lose your loyal readers'
- Curiosity headlines trigger FOMO (fear of missing out) with readers: 'The secret tricks I use to write a blog article every day'
How to write a blog post: Editing your draft
After all that work, you should have a solid 1000 words or so. Short blog posts are OK, but current best practices suggest 1000 words or more is the target for good SEO.
Now the editing process begins.
Start by reviewing the structure of your blog post. Is there a natural flow from beginning to end? Is all the important information there? And is it in a sequence that will make sense to the reader?
Once you're happy the framework of your blog post is sound, it's time to dive into the details.
When I edit, I do it section by section or point by point. This process allows me to check each part of the content starts with a strong explanation. And that I've followed up with all the key information.
Then I take a look at the readability issues. My secret weapon for this is the free Hemingway Editor. It points out the writing no no's, like adverbs, passive voice and difficult to read sentences.
The last step is to give the blog post a good proofread. Don’t rely on the spelling and grammar check in your word processing software. In an ideal world, you should get someone else to proofread your work with a fresh set of eyes. But if you're doing your own proofing, don't read, read aloud instead. It's easy to skip words when you're reading silently, particularly if you're familiar with the content. By reading it out loud, I find it's easy to pick up mistakes.
How to write a blog post: Reviewing SEO
Even if you are new to SEO or have limited knowledge, there are a few fundamentals you can apply to your blog posts.
You want search engines to share your blog post with potential readers. You can help the search engines by providing them with a keyword that summarize your topic. If you’re using WordPress, the free SEO Yoast plugIn will allow you to nominate a keyword for SEO. It will also prompt you to use it in the headline, first paragraph, though out the post and in H2 or subheadings
Search engines also want you to create blog posts that are easy to read. Yoast can help with readability as well. The plugIn will scan your article to provide an overview. You'll also get specific recommendations if improvements are needed. Once you get the green light for SEO and readability, you’re ready to hit publish!
Now you have the important steps to help you write a blog post from idea all the way through to publish.
A template like this is helpful, but remember to still let your unique voice shine through. There’s always a set of best practices but if your gut instinct is to leave in an adverb or change something up, give it a go. You can always go back and fix mistakes or change things after your post is live.
Now can you think of a topic you’ve been wanting to write about? Why not set aside your first 20 minute sprint session to get it started. After just a few of those sprints, you'll have your first draft finished. And not long after that you'll hit publish and wonder why you put if off for so long. Happy writing!
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