I get up early.
I’m writing a blog post. I’ll write many blog posts today but this one is special — worth getting up early for.
The clocks have gone back and it’s dark outside. I make coffee, switch on the computer, and sit down to write.
I try to remember the incredible idea I had yesterday. And what was that completely perfect title that came to me just before I fell asleep?
Why didn’t I write it down?
‘Keep pen and notepad next to bed’ I write using the pen and notepad I keep next to my computer keyboard.
I underline the words in a satisfying way only avid list-makers will understand. Meanwhile, my computer has whirred into action. I should clean my desktop up a bit — get more organized.
‘Organize desktop’ I add to the list.
None of this is getting my blog post written.
If only I had a guide for writing a blog post that killed it every time. It would be a comprehensive checklist nudging me to produce a quality piece of work at every stage. It would save buckets of time and spadefuls of procrastination.
I glance at my notepad. Add it to the list?
No. I type ‘doc.new’ into my browser and — finally — I begin to write…
5 steps to writing a blog post that kills it:
1. Think and gather (aka plan)
Whether you’re gathering info from around the web or from the inexhaustible network of your own mind — or a bit of both — the first step to writing a blog post is to stop yourself from staring at a blank page.
Just get something down. What this looks like depends on how you work as a writer. It may be a case of listing your ideas, or it may be that you simply throw all your web research into a blank doc.
Either way, by the end of this stage you should have some information and/or ideas on a page. Half the battle is over.
Winning blog post: 1. Procrastination: 0.
2. Decide on an angle
Yep, information and ideas are not enough.
Trust me, it’s unlikely you’ll come up with anything that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. But you can find a unique way to say it.
When writing a blog post, your angle — your unique approach to the topic — may come to you in the planning stages, or you may need to brainstorm what your angle is going to be.
It’s a good idea to decide on your angle early so you and your blog post have a sense of direction throughout the steps that follow.
3. Research your keyword term
If you want your blog post to get noticed by the search engines, consider some keywords before you get too far into writing your masterpiece.
Don’t get too hung up on keywords, but set aside a little time to research what people are looking for online.
If you want to learn the quick and simple way I do my keyword research — plus exactly where to put those keywords in your blog post — read the article below:
4. Work on a winning title
Some (well-respected) writers say you should always decide on a title before writing a blog post.
Some (well-respected) writers say you should only settle on a title after you’ve written the thing.
I say you should do whatever the heck you like. Honestly, do what works for you.
I personally do both — I come up with a working title first as it keeps me focused as I write, ensuring I stay on-topic. Then I tweak the title once I’ve finished. A lot.
A few tips for writing winning blog post titles include:
5. Write your blog post
OK, so now you can start writing. If you work best by structuring your piece first by inserting subheadings and filling in the gaps, you’re a ‘planner.’
Some people get along just fine by hammering the whole darn thing out in one go with absolutely no planning whatsoever. That’s OK — you’re a ‘pantser.’
You do you. Don’t let any self-proclaimed content experts dictate how you actually write your blog posts — not even this one.
Once you have your messy first draft, use the following mini-checklist to improve it right away:
6. Ruthlessly delete
Now for the fun part. (No? OK, just me then.)
You might have expected this step to be called ‘Ruthlessly edit’ but here’s what I want you to do with your blog post:
Delete every word, every sentence and every paragraph that doesn’t add value to the reader.
‘Value to the reader’ may well be that entertaining quote or something that adds to the flow, tone, or character of the post. It’s a fine line. Please don’t delete all the fun and character from your blog post.
For example, you might have thought the lead-in to this blog post to be superfluous, but I’ve deemed it necessary because it strikes the right tone for me (my TOV is literally how I talk) and supports the advice and tips that follow.
The more you practice editing, the better you’ll get at spotting what should stay and what can go.
7. Proofread (aka: read as a reader)
Here’s a trick. Now you’ve got your post into some sort of orderly shape, check it flows — and check for typos — by reading it as a reader would.
You’re never going to spot all those mistakes by reading back your own work as a writer. You might spot some mistakes, but you won’t spot them all. Why would you? You wrote it.
To proofread means to read like a reader so you can distance yourself enough to correct, tweak and perfect.
How do you read like a reader?
I use this strange tip: convert your Google/Word doc into a PDF. Then read it back. I’m not sure why it works, but it does.
Other ways to read like a reader include reading your blog post out loud and printing it off to read old-school style.
8. Source image(s)
Look for an engaging feature image that conveys the ideas explored in your post — either literally or metaphorically.
Here’s the techy bit: If uploading to a website CMS such as Wordpress, add your keyword term to the image’s alt tag for SEO purposes. It’s also best to title your image file using your keyword.
Also, be sure your image isn’t too large as this can affect page-load times.
Always cite your sources and always ensure you have the right to a.) use the image and b.) alter it if you choose to.
Use Unsplash. They’ve made it so easy.
9. Give your blog post another proofread
When writing a blog post, I proofread four or five times — absolute minimum. I’m not kidding.
Yep, that takes up a lot of time, but would you rather build a reputation that means you’ll be paid more for fewer pieces of quality content, or spend the rest of your days banging out a high quantity of mediocre content for mediocre pay?
This is your reputation as a writer we’re talking about here — there are no shortcuts.
10. Get your blog post in front of readers
Learn how to market your writing.
Whether writing for a client or writing to attract one, share your blog post via the channels you own, e.g. social media channels and relevent email lists.
You can also email individual influencers who specialize in the subject of your blog post and give them a compelling reason to share your post with their followers. But don't be a jerk about it – build relationships first.
So, there’s your 10-step guide to writing a blog post. I got it down on the page for me as much as for you. Let me know if you've anything to add by logging in and leaving a comment.