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Blogs have become the go-to for sharing information, whether on a product, service or general topic of interest. As of late 2016, data showed that 77 percent of online users read blogs, and companies that maintain a blog have 55 percent more website visitors. If you’re a professional looking to build authority, a business trying to boost content marketing, or an expert hoping to share insights, knowing how to write a great blog post can be extremely valuable.
Blogging doesn’t come naturally to everyone, though. The main difference between blogging and other types of writing, academic or otherwise, is the format and style.
Blog posts need to be bite-size; not in word count, but in style. That means the structure should lend itself to scannable, easy reading.
Running a blog also requires more than just writing articles. Nailing down a content calendar and distribution plan is critical to making your work worth the time you put into it.
The following guide is a resource to help you write your first blog post and create a strategy that will make it easy to rinse and repeat your efforts week after week.
The anatomy of a great blog post
The format of a blog post is different from that of an academic paper or even a news piece. Articles
in a blog should always have the following:
Scannable formatting: Use bullets and sub-headers to break up the content. Include keywords in your sub-headers when possible, which helps to boost the SEO of your post as well.
Images: Images can add value to your content and separate paragraphs of text. If you use charts or other graphics found online, be sure to source them properly by including a clickable URL at the bottom of the post or under the image.
Paragraph length: Keep sentences concise and paragraphs short — two to five sentences max.
Word count: There’s a place for both short and long content on your blog. While the average word count of top-ranking content (in Google) is between 1,140 and 1,285 words, short blog posts are easier for the reader to digest (and for you to produce). Make room for both in your content calendar.
Enticing headline: Your headline should accurately reflect the topic of your post, while also encouraging potential readers to click and share. Here is a great resource for testing different headline formulas: 52 Headline Hacks.
How to write a great blog post … the first time
Writing is the hardest part of blogging, especially on days when you’re feeling uninspired. Follow these six steps every time you sit down to write.
Step 1: Pick a topic
Determine your topic based on the audience you’re speaking to. If you build a content calendar before you start writing (see more about that below), you’ll already have a topic lined up. If you’re still brainstorming, dig through similar blogs for inspiration. You can also use Google’s Keyword Tool to find SEO terms with high search volume and low competition. Basing a topic around these keywords will help drive organic traffic because it means you are providing information people are already searching for.
Step 2: Outline your post
Write the skeleton of your article first. For me, this process is a mix of taking notes and doing some research. I start by writing the sub-header ideas that I already have in mind, fill in those sections based on initial research, and then write anything that comes to mind right then so I don’t forget it.
Pro tip: I always leave the introduction for last, so when writing it, I have a clear idea of what I’m introducing the reader to.
Step 3: Fill in the blanks
As you fill out the article, section by section, ask yourself questions as you go. This helps you find gaps where statistics and expert quotes should be added.
For example, if I wrote, “Most bloggers struggle with determining topics for their posts,” I’d then look for a quote to support that. The following sentence might be, “In fact, 30 percent of professionals bloggers surveyed cited this as their number one challenge in content creation, according to a study by the American Blogging Society.”
End your post by writing the intro based on how your article evolved during the production process.
Step 4: Review and revise
It’s time to go back and edit. Read the entire article once for any glaring mistakes. Add more quotes and stats as necessary. Once you’re done making edits, give it another read-through.
Step 5: Get a second set of eyes on it
Once you are done writing and reviewing your own work, send your post to someone else for proofing. Ask them to point out any grammatical errors, in addition to gaps in the content. If you share your article via Google Docs or Microsoft Word in Office 365, they can leave comments, rather than making direct edits or putting notes into the text.
Step 6: Look for engaging visuals
Find a great feature image, and any others that would support your text. You can download great free photos at Unsplash, StockSnap.io and Pixabay. There are also free photos at Freepik, but you have to include a source link somewhere in your post. I usually put it at the bottom.
Learn more about where to find royalty-free images for blog posts.
Don’t forget distribution
You’ve spent time writing and publishing, and now it’s time to get eyes on your new blog post. There are a number of ways to do this — via social media, email, distribution sites and even advertising. Here are a few of the easiest ways to promote your blog post after publishing.
Social media: Share your blog post on the social platforms which you’re active. Use a clever caption that doesn’t repeat the headline, but entices the reader to click through. For example, with a list post, you might write: “Are you as shocked about #5 as we are?” If you maintain a social calendar, plug articles into it before writing. Make sure your social strategy lines up with your content calendar so articles are ready in time for sharing.
Email marketing: If you’re interested in developing a readership, now’s the time to start building a subscriber list. Email is a great platform for sharing blog posts in a weekly or monthly newsletter.
Use GoDaddy email marketing services to reach as many as 5,000 people or more with professionally designed campaigns.
Auto-sharing: There are two ways to get your blog posts shared automatically via WordPress, the most popular (and in my opinion, the best) blogging platform available. The first is connecting WordPress with your social media profiles. When you publish, this automatically shares the post for you. You can also put a “Follow My Blog widget” in your sidebar on post pages. When people sign up, they’re automatically sent your new articles when they go live.
How to write a great blog post: It takes planning ahead
Planning is the key to being able to write a great blog post on a regular basis. The first step is brainstorming topics to choose from. When you’re ready to write, you can pick a topic and go, rather than having to brainstorm something each time. Use the same tactics suggested in Step 1 to create this list.
Make sure you have a mix of evergreen and timely topics. Evergreen content is content that can live forever and still be relevant and valuable, whereas timely content has an expiration date. For example:
- Timely: The Best Reactions to Trump’s Last Speech
- Evergreen: Presidential Elections: How They Divide Friendships
Additionally, don’t forget to brainstorm topics that promote your business in a casual and organic manner. For example, avoid posts like, “10 Reasons to Work with Our Marketing Agency,” and instead focus on topics that lend themselves to a natural company mention, such as “10 Ways to Achieve Your Business Marketing Goals.” Then mention your organization as a resource in the text.
Once you have a list of ideas, put all of your topics into a content calendar. Arrange them to correspond with seasons, holidays and other times of the year that are important to your readership or business. Use this guide to learn how to create a killer editorial calendar.
Finally, set a publishing schedule for yourself (or your team). Be realistic about what you or your team will have time for. If you’re a business looking to aggressively build your blog, try publishing at least twice a week. Neil Patel tested the theory of posting more frequently and examined how that affects blog traffic. His findings were shared on AutoGrow.co:
“KISSmetrics only started to see big traffic increases when I started to publish five pieces of content a week. But with KISSmetrics, we went from publishing two a week straight to five a week [and later to six]. My experience of working with 20 of the top 100 blogs showed that if we published three pieces of content each day (21 pieces a week), we could easily get our traffic to over a million visits a month over time.”
Obviously, it might not be doable for you to post three articles a day as a small business.
Increase this number over time as you’re able to allot more budget, labor and hours into your blog.
Knowing how to write a great blog post can be a challenge on its own, much less maintaining a blog and producing content consistently. However, with a content calendar in place and a production schedule you can maintain, you can start creating blog posts on a regular basis. Soon, it will just be an item on your to-do list or another part of your successful content marketing plan.
Work through the growing pains, be flexible with expectations, and watch your blog evolve into a valuable piece of online real estate.