You’ve done it. You’ve opened the “new post” page and you’re sitting down at your laptop. Now what? While blogging can seem daunting for new bloggers (and sometimes it is daunting even for those of us that are seasoned at it), there are some things you can do when you begin writing your blog post to ease the pain you may feel when starting out.
At SocialNicole we break down the writing of a good blog post into 3 parts: Planning, Writing and Editing. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be an expert writer to publish a great post; you just have to be an expert about what you do and be willing to share your skills with others!
Planning Before You Begin To Write Your Blog Post
Some people can sit down and write without coming up with a plan, but chances are, if you’re like me, you’ll need to think ahead. Taking time to plan your blog post before you begin writing will give you a roadmap to complete the post and will speed things along. In the end, there will be less editing and less starting over when you realize you don’t like what you have created. Planning can also lead you to think through the content more clearly and ensure that you include relevant items like keywords, special points you wanted to make and information that is important to be shared. I tend to plan a lot of blog posts in my head, thinking through what I want to say and in what order, when things start to gel I will jot down a quick outline to help guide my final writing process.
Here are a couple of steps to take before you even start writing:
One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to keep in mind keywords that will drive traffic to your blog post, and therefore your website. Please don’t get me wrong – your post should not be some robotic page with hundreds of places where your keywords come up. It’s incredibly important that your writing is solid and that keywords are integrated into a natural fashion that does not feel forced. When a person reads your blog post they should enjoy the process, not feel like you are selling the latest widget or pushing certain keywords forward.
If you do not know what keywords you should be focusing on, the best place to start would be with some research to find out what keywords have the best volume and are less competitive so you can focus on quality keywords that will help your SEO. Check out our post How To: Use Keywords to Optimize Your Blog Posts for more information on choosing top keywords. Choose keywords or phrases that your audience will search for when seeking a service or product like the one your provide. Once you have a keyword or phrase selected you will be able to keep that in mind when crafting your blog post.
Having your audience in mind is essential to writing a good blog post. It’s important to think about how informed your audience is or if they need to be educated on the topic you’re writing about along the way. Is it wise to use jargon from the industry, or do you need to be careful with how technical your language is?
You should know who your target audience is and this should always be your focus for your blog posts. Remember the more you narrow down your target audience the more effective your social media marketing will be and this goes for your blog post writing as well. When you have a clear picture in your mind of the exact person you are trying to reach you will be able to write for that person.
Create An Outline
Remember that high school English class where we all had to write outline after outline before every single paper we wrote? The teacher would grade us on our outline and you could not move ahead until you had a passing outline? I remember thinking that was kind of a drag. Yet I find that jotting down a quick outline helps immensely. The outline allows us to think a bit about the different components we need for an effective blog post including the introduction, body, and conclusion. I like to sort out the subheadings of the blog post before I get started. The more I plan and write down the quicker my blog writing process is. I cannot stress enough how important it is to write your plans down.
Writing Your Blog Post
One you have a solid outline for your blog post, you have your audience identified and you also have a clear idea of the keywords or phrases you want to focus on it’s time to start writing your blog post. Remember that writing is a process and the more you do it the easier it will get. Be open to feedback and guidance from others you trust and make every post a learning opportunity.
Here are some things to keep in mind while in the composition process:
Blog posts need to be readable. You are not writing an academic research paper, nor are you writing an essay. Blogs are their own genre of writing, and they should be treated as such. Some important tips for good flow in your blog post are to keep your sentences fairly short and your language accessible. You may also benefit from shorter paragraphs and dividing your post with headers and subheaders, as I’ve done in this post.
With Google algorithms changing extensively in recent years, it has become more and more important that you spend time developing blog posts that are extensive and show your knowledge. If you are blogging for SEO you will want your posts to ideally be around 3,000 words. We tell people to minimally shoot for 1,500 but that 3,000 plus is optimal. That is a long blog post. But don’t let that get you down. if a shorter post is all you can muster that is better than nothing. As you gain experience it will be easier to create longer and more extensive blog posts.
Personalize your writing
The best blog posts are those that have personality. Bringing your own personality into your blog posts is a way to make them well…more personal…
Oftentimes business blogs tend to have a corporate feeling and voice. While your brand voice is important, it is also important to have a human voice. Blogs exist to allow individuals to self-publish. They are the extension of a social media post as they allow individuals to publish on their own website or on another established website not owned by the social media companies. Blogs also offer people a chance to extend their thoughts beyond a social media post. The power that blogging holds is amazing! But again, they are in essence a personal social media channel. For business blogs, it is recommended you identify who is writing the post and allow that individual to bring their personality into the post. Also including a biography of that person so that people can get to know them will help. You can experiment to find what will work best for you.
For purposes of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), external links are not necessary to publish in a blog post, but they are helpful. An external link is a hyperlink to another webpage outside of your own site. If I link to another blog post on my own site, that’s called an internal link. Internal links are good for increasing traffic on your website once visitors have already arrived. If the site you’re linking to is paying attention to who is talking about them, they may see you’ve linked to their site and they may return the favor or otherwise engage with you and your brand. It’s worth it. Just be sure to not link to your competition! Thinking of these links as you write will benefit you in the long run. You don’t need a ton of them–just one or a few will still work.
Some writers choose a title first and write the post after, and some don’t give their blog post a title until the end. Either way, a good headline is essential to the success of your blog post. A headline’s job is to compel a reader to read the post. It’s that simple. But it is very important and headlines can make or break how popular and well read your post is. Headlines can be informative, manipulative or funny. Your approach is up to you, but keep in mind that your readers will trust you more if you don’t lead them astray or say one thing and mean another. Going for a headline with personality and enthusiasm may be your plan, or you may opt to go for humor or puns/wit. No matter what you choose, make sure it aligns with your branding and messaging.
A picture tells a thousand words and can make all the difference in the appeal of a blog post to a reader. We try to have one or more images for every blog post. Capturing people’s attention with visuals is a huge part of any content marketing strategy. Make sure your blog post has stunning images that will get the reader’s attention. There are plenty of free image services online to help provide you with images for your blog. Please note that searching Google and using an image from that search is not the best approach. Most images on the web have a copyright. To avoid copyright issues try using your own images, use creative commons images on Flickr or search for free photos websites (read and make sure the website allows for creative commons sharing).
As you’re writing think of what kind of image would go well with your content. If you don’t have a photo you’ve taken yourself, look up images within the creative commons license online. Be sure to always give credit to the artist or photographer, as I’ve done at the bottom of this post. Your words may be beautiful and may speak for themselves, but the internet is a visual place. Pairing your content with an image can really add to what you’re saying, drive more traffic to your website and make your article more aesthetically pleasing. The image does not have to be literal–if you’re writing about ice cream, your image does not necessarily have to be of ice cream–but it’s good to have a related image or an image that complements the written content.
Edit Your Blog Post and Then Edit It Again
That’s right–it’s time to take a look at what you’ve written and polish it. Some people will need to spend more time editing than others, but absolutely everyone should read through their blog post at least once before publishing. This is bare minimum! At SocialNicole we employ editors to help with our own blog posts and also to help with editing our client blog posts. While I am perfectly capable of editing a piece of work, I find that people who are actually true writers and editors are really amazing to work with and their expertise is worth every penny – especially on larger client projects. Consider hiring your own editor to preview your posts before you publish. It is always a good idea to get a second or third opinion.
Read it aloud
One of my best tricks is to read the blog post out loud. You may feel silly sitting in your cubicle or office reading your writing out loud for everyone to hear, but it is one of the secret tips to successful writing. When you read silently, your eyes can easily pass over typos or missing words. When you read out loud, you’re forced to read more slowly, which will help you catch mistakes as well. If you’ve read your entire post and not made a single change, I would strongly recommend reading it again. Even the best writers go through several drafts before publishing.
If you read through your blog post and cannot tell me what it’s about, you may need to do some reworking. Blog posts have a lot of variability in their purpose and style, but almost all of them have some kind of narrative structure or thesis. Summarize your work to yourself and see if you can say what you’re talking about concisely. Make sure that your post is easy to read, clearly organized and makes sense. This is where a summary can help tremendously.
Believe In Yourself: Final Thoughts
Writing blog posts can be incredibly rewarding and also very frustrating. Overall, I love this process as it allows me a chance to sort out my own thinking and learnings. I enjoy putting words down on paper and crafting them into a story and message that can be useful to others. I do admit though that for every blog post I have published I have at least 20 unpublished posts that may never see the light of day. And that’s ok! Part of blogging is the process and the process helps bring forth the actual public posts that you will share.
The tips above are a good starting point and will help you take the leap to writing that post that is stuck in your head. And remember writer’s block happens to us all. If I shared all the half-written blog posts that have sitting around you would be shocked. If you are feeling frustrated step away from the post and come back when you are able to focus. You cannot rush great work and writing a great blog post takes time, creative license and room to start over again and again if need be. Go forth and blog!
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and ask! We are always happy to share our expertise.