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how to write great web content

Writing Great Web Content: Your Ultimate Guide

Fact: There’s too much bad content on the web.

In fact, there’s so much crap, people are having a hard time discerning which sources are legitimate, which facts are actually facts, and who can be trusted.

People’s trust in the mass media has largely eroded, as a Gallup poll has shown. This distrust isn’t random – the internet has largely helped sow these seeds.

So, what happens when you swoop in with accurate, valuable web content?

It’s a light in the dark.

lights

Great web content is a torch that leads the way, setting an example for other content creators.

Best of all, you give readers exactly what they want, need, and crave.

That’s why we’re here with this extensive guide on how to write great web content. Learn how to build this type of lasting, strong web content, right now in today’s “ultimate guide.”

ultimate guide on how to write web content

The Ultimate Guide: How to Write Great Web Content

7 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Blockbuster Blogs

  1. Make the Headline Sing
    1. Appeal to the Human Brain
    2. Keep It Clear, but Don’t Insult Their Intelligence
    3. Use Better Wording
  2. Give Away Your Best Information in the Intro
    1. Start with the Hook
    2. Tell Them WHY They Should Care
  3. Organize Your Points
    1. Explaining a Concept? Go from Basic to Complicated
    2. Writing a Tipsheet? Go from Most-Important to Least-Important
    3. Writing a Guide? Go Step-by-Step
  4. Reference and Link to High-Quality Sources
  5. Check Your Research
  6. Write the Right Blog Post Length
  7. Illustrate Your Points with Images

4 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Landing Pages and Web Pages

  1. Write an Actionable Headline
  2. Make the Body Copy Skimmable
  3. Stay Benefit-Focused
  4. Write a CTA That Shouts at the Reader
    • Take Cues from the Headline
    • Encourage, Inspire, and Motivate the Reader to Act

5 Examples of How to Write Great Web Content (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), Plus:

  • THIS Is How to Write Great Web Content
  • Examples of Lackluster Web Content – Don’t Make These Mistakes!
When you create great web content, you help set the standard for publishing useful, accurate information online. More in today's guide by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet Learn how to build lasting, strong web content, in our ultimate guide on the topic via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

What’s the Anatomy of Great Web Content?

Writing good web content calls for hitting a series of bullseyes.

All of them have to do with satisfying your audience. (No surprise, there.)

No matter which industry you’re writing for, no matter what topic you’re covering, greatness always follows this anatomical structure:

  • The Brain: Is it educational, informative, or practical?
  • The Skeleton: Is it well-organized? Does it make sense as a whole?
  • The Muscle: Does it pull you in? Does it make you want/need to keep reading?
  • The Heart: Does it entertain you? Does it resonate?

To make sure your web content hits home, include each of these vital parts.

Here’s how.

7 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Blockbuster Blogs

Web content like blogs requires a fair bit of finessing and fiddling to make them truly great.

Take the time to check off each of these boxes, and you’ll be well on your way to web content greatness.

1. Make the Headline Sing

A great piece of web content worth its weight in gold starts with an amazing headline.

We’ve written plenty about how to optimize your headline for SEO, but how do you craft a headline that appeals to readers? How do you create one that’s just plain good?

3 Ways to Write Better Headlines

1. Appeal to the Human Brain

Humans are really predictable.

human-behavior-predictable

Luckily, when you’re sitting down to write your headlines, you can bank on this predictability. There are a few things we love to see in headlines, stuff that makes us far more likely to click them or keep scrolling to read the content underneath.

Here’s what we know. Take these points into consideration when you write your headlines. Try to incorporate one (or a few) into your phrase/sentence:

  • The human brain is attracted to numbers. In fact, a portion of our brain cells is dedicated solely to recognizing and interpreting numerals. When you include them in your headlines, you tap into the human desire to quantify value.
    • Examples: “5 Easy Ways to Save Money,” “10 Tips for Baking a Delicious Cake,” “3 Great Reasons to Start a Savings Account”
  • Humans hate feeling uncertain. Let’s put it this way: uncertainty = anxiety = stress. If you leave your headlines too ambiguous, you’ll stir up that unwanted uncertainty and drive people away. According to a well-known study by Conductor, most people prefer explicit headlines that help them understand what they’re in for if they read your blog or article.

conductor_headlines-clarity

A portion of our brain cells is dedicated solely to recognizing and interpreting numerals. When you include them in your headlines, you tap into the human desire to quantify value. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
  • People are asking questions in search. In particular, more and more people are using voice search to get information, and asking questions in full sentences. Answer them in your headlines! Framing your headlines as answers will also help you rank for popular voice search queries.
    • Examples: “How to Jump-Start a Car” “How to Bake a Birthday Cake “Here’s Why You Should Start a Savings Account”

2. Keep It Clear, But Don’t Insult Their Intelligence

When writing headlines, many people forget about a key ingredient: clarity.

Without clarity, your headline will be too confusing to appeal to readers. Plus, it will stir up the uncertainty we mentioned above, which is never a good idea.

Of course, it’s just as easy to go the other direction and come up with a headline that’s way too simplistic and obvious. Case in point:

bad-headline1

Instead of stating the obvious, focus on readability.

To help you keep it clear and understandable, consider using a tool that will score the readability of your text, like Readable.io.

Just paste your headline into the textbox, and the tool will automatically give it a letter grade based on how easy it is to read.

readable.io_headline

The letter grade is based on a bunch of different metrics and scales, including Flesch-Kinkaid.

readable.io_scores

readable.io_grade-levels

Another free tool that works similarly is WebpageFX’s Readability Test Tool. Just paste your headline into the “test by direct input” box and click “calculate readability.”

readability-test-tool

Shoot for a low grade level – that means just about anybody who reads it will understand it.

readability-test-tool_results

3. Use Better Wording

Your headline is a short phrase that tells readers what to expect if they choose to read it. However, it’s better to think of it as a pitch rather than a summary.

Think about it: You have only one chance to convince your reader to bite. Suddenly, a trite headline that is nothing but explanatory seems wildly insufficient.

This is why you need to think long and hard about each word you use.

Take, for example, this unassuming headline:

How to Bake a Cake

It’s bare-bones at best, and merely states what you’ll learn in the article. Okay. That’s fine, but it doesn’t offer any reason to read more. There are hundreds of millions of articles about this topic on Google. Why should I read this one?

google-results_howtobakeacake

If this is your headline, you’re not giving me a reason to read your blog. You’re literally asking me to pass you up.

Instead, spice things up to show why I should read YOUR post instead of one of the hundreds of millions of other blogs about the exact same topic.

Here are some tips to make your headlines spicier:

  • Be specific – I don’t have time for generalities; the internet is shouting at me from all directions and my attention is limited. Tell me exactly what I’m in for. (I.e., What kind of cake will I learn to bake? Birthday cake? Chocolate cake? Lemon cake? Fruitcake?)
  • Use adjectives, but not too many – Adjectives make your headline more enticing and nudge your readers to an emotional reaction. For example, adding positive words like “good,” “great,” “best,” “awesome,” “exciting,” etc. will help create that positive association/emotion. Include at least one adjective to spark the emotion you want readers to feel when they read the actual post.
    • However, don’t fall into the trap of stuffing your headline with as many adjectives as possible. According to that Conductor study we already referenced, most people like to see at least one descriptor or superlative in headlines, but no more.

conductor_headlines-superlatives

  • Spice up your verbs – Even if the verb you’re using in your headline seems like the most logical choice, challenge yourself to see if you can find a better one. For example, the headline above uses the verb “bake.” But we could also test out “make,” “create,” “invent,” or “whip up.” (Don’t be afraid to consult a thesaurus to help you find alternatives for boring verbs.)

make-synonyms

When I use the above techniques to improve my headline, it transforms:

How to Bake a Cake” (*yawn*)

OR “How to Whip Up the Best Darn Birthday Cake Ever

Which blog would YOU want to read?

2. Give Away Your Best Information in the Intro

Once your headline draws them in, you have to keep convincing your readers to stay on your page.

To do it, you have to write the opposite way from what you learned in school.

1. Start with the Hook

Usually, with school papers, we hold our main argument close to our chests and wait until we’re well past the introduction to reveal it.

You can’t do that with online writing.

How do you write content for a website?

You have to start with the hook.

That’s right.

To build strong web content, give away your main point, your best information, at the very beginning. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Then, use the rest of the post to offer supporting facts.

Here’s an example from a fairly recent post on our site (Why Your Content Marketing Must Have Focus).

In the intro, I tell you my main point right away: Lack of focus in content marketing will lead to lower quality content, less revenue, and lost readership. Then, to lead into the rest of the blog, I promise to tell you how to focus your content efforts:

ew_intro-main-points

I did not withhold this huge point until later in the blog – I gave it to you right away, and then I promised to prove it AND provide solutions.

2. Tell Them WHY They Should Care

The reason you want to give away your best stuff right off the bat is the online reader’s attention span – it’s short.

They begin reading your blog wondering why they should care about what you’re saying. If you don’t tell them, their mind will wander. They’ll switch tabs. They’ll click the “x” in the top right corner of your page.

So, TELL THEM.

Start with the “why.” Give them a reason to stay on your blog – immediately.

Of course, there are more online writing tricks to keep your readers on your page. Check out my guide to SEO writing.

3. Organize Your Points

As a content creator, it’s your job to guide your reader through your research and thought processes effortlessly.

It shouldn’t feel like work to read your blog posts.

A huge part of making it easy is organizing your points logically. Of course, the best approach to this organization depends on what you’re writing about.

A) Explaining a Concept? Go from Basic to Complicated

Let’s say you’re writing a blog post about string theory, a concept in physics, for people who don’t know what it is.

Where do you start? How do you lay it out for them?

Start broad and basic, and then move to the more complicated aspects.

A great example is this String Theory for Dummies Cheat Sheet. It starts out broad, laying out the basic gist of string theory in the intro:

string-theory-for-dummies

Then, it dives into features of string theory, from most basic to most complicated:

string-theory-for-dummies2

This technique helps lay the groundwork for your reader, giving them information like rungs on a ladder. Each nugget of knowledge acts as one rung. The higher they climb, the more they’ll understand.

B) Writing a Tipsheet? Go from Most-Important to Least-Important

If you’re writing a series of tips, tricks, or hacks, you don’t need to write them in any specific order – but you should try to give away your most important, best tips first. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Much like how you should start with “why” in your introduction, this technique helps keep your reader on the page.

So, arrange your points with the most interesting or useful tips first, then move to ones that are more general or well-known.

C) Writing a Guide? Go Step-by-Step

Organization-wise, writing a guide is very close to explaining a concept.

For both, you start with the most basic information, then gradually move to the complicated stuff. The main difference is a guide must include different steps or stages to help the reader reach the desired result.

As such, start with the most basic steps first, then finish up with the most complex ones. Don’t forget to use different headings to help organize each step (including numbered lists), and make sure you directly address the reader like you’re coaching them on what to do.

4. Reference and Link to High-Quality Sources

Writing good web content isn’t just about how you organize your thoughts or present your information. It’s also about proving your statements and assertions are accurate and based on research/knowledge.

How do you do this? Make sure you reference and link to high-quality sources.

Here’s when to cite a source and provide a link:

  • Any time you state a statistic, i.e. “8 out of 10 people will read your blog headline.”
  • Any time you state a fact that isn’t common knowledge, i.e. “Most online readers don’t read to the end of an article, according to Slate.”
  • Any time you reference another website, i.e. “Hemingway Editor is a great tool for self-editing.”

If you’re not sure if you should cite and link to a source, here’s a good rule of thumb: When in doubt, cite the source.

How to Judge the Quality of an Internet Source

To help improve your search engine rankings, you should try to link to only high-quality, high-authority websites.

How do you know if a website is high-quality? There’s a quick way to find out:

  1. Download an SEO browser extension, like SEOquake or MozBar.
  2. For every website you want to link to, first check the domain authority (DA) score. The higher the score, the more authoritative the site.
  3. Sites will be scored on a scale from 1-100. In general, any site that scores above 50 is authoritative enough to link to. Moz will score all the listings in search results, making it easy to find authority sources:

moz_DA     4. You can also check the DA of a website directly from their page. It will be listed on the MoBar like so:

moz_DA-on-page

Remember: Well-known websites and brands probably don’t need to be checked. (Think The New York Times, Content Marketing Institute, or Forbes.)

5. Check Your Research

Along with vetting your sources, you should also double-check that you’re linking to original sources.

What do I mean by this?

If you cite a statistic from a study, link to the original study, not a recap of the study from a different site, or someone who merely cites the study.

For example, there are lots of stats round-ups like this one:

socialmediatoday_50-content-marketing-stats

There are lots and lots of valuable stats listed here about content marketing, but this page itself isn’t the source.

If you want to include some of these stats in your next blog, you have to do some digging to find the original posts.

socialmediatoday_50-content-marketing-stats-infographic

In an infographic full of stats, it’s usually at the bottom, in small print:

socialmediatoday_50-content-marketing-stats-infographic-sources

To make it easier to find the stat you want to cite on its original source page, use your browser’s “find” feature. (For Chrome users, just hit “Ctrl + F” on your keyboard. Then enter the statistic or phrase in question to find it on the page.)

search-webpage-chrome

You can also search PDFs this way:

search-pdf

Once you find the stat you’re looking for, you can cite the original source. This makes it much easier for your audience to read further about your topic/research. It’s also a better linking practice, which is better for rankings.

6. Write the Right Blog Post Length

Great website content is thorough.

And, usually, thorough = comprehensive = long form.

You’re not skimming the surface of a topic – you’re diving deep into its depths to explore every nook and cranny.

However long it takes to thoroughly explore your topic is exactly the length your blog post should be.

Keep in mind, though, that 74% of blog posts that get read are under 3 minutes long, according to Buffer.

That amounts to at least 1,600 words.

The content that gets the most shares is usually audience-dependent. For example, Buffer found that their most popular posts were 2,500 words and over.

buffer-word-count-social-shares

The main point: Despite what you may believe, long-form content does not daunt online readers. Don’t be afraid to go long when you’re figuring out how to write web content.

For more reasons to create long-form content, plus the best ways to do it, check out our long-form content guide.

web content CTA

7. Illustrate Your Points with Images

Here’s another factor inherent in most kinds of powerful, inspirational, great web content:

Images are peppered in with the text.

The best examples of this come from Neil Patel – each post is filled with examples, screenshots, and infographics that expand on points in the text.

neilpatel-images1

neilpatel-images2

It makes sense. Images add visual interest, clarity, and even humor or excitement to web content.

Images alongside the text also make it more fun to read.

Do you agree?

yes

The key is to use images that suit your brand’s tone of voice. If you have a more formal or elegant vibe, you probably wouldn’t use gifs (like the one above) in your blogs. Instead, you might want to stick to graphs, charts, and illustrative images.

However, if your voice is more laid-back, lighthearted, or casual, you can and should add a little humor in measured doses.

For more help on using images in your blog posts, check out our ultimate guide on creating blog images.

How to Write Great Web Content for Landing Pages and Web Pages

Landing pages are a different beast from blog posts.

This type of web content serves a different purpose, so it requires a different approach.

Landing pages serve as a place for visitors to land when they click one of your ads or CTAs elsewhere (in an email, a blog post, etc.).

Directing your traffic to one of these pages can help push them toward the action you want them to complete, like signing up for your newsletter or making a purchase.

Here’s an example of one of our higher-performing landing pages. This one generates a few subscribers daily. This particular page allows you to download our Easy ABC Content Strategy Checklist:

ew_landing-page1

ew_landing-page2

All the content on this page serves to get you primed to do one thing:

Enter your information to get a free download.

As you can see, landing pages are incredibly valuable for traffic-to-lead conversions.

Sound good? Here’s how to write great web content for your own super-powered landing pages.

1. Write an Actionable Headline

Great landing page web content begins and ends with a call-to-action. Start off strong and infuse that into your headline. Here’s how:

  • Use verbs and power words – Your landing page exists to convince/push the reader to complete the desired Think about what you want visitors to do once they land on your content, then tell them to do it using verbs and power words.

Here’s a good example from HubSpot:

hubspot_landing-page-headline

The headline includes a motivating verb: “Get Started

Here are lots of other suggestions for strong verbs and power words to use in your headline and get things off to a roaring start:

coschedule_words-phrases-use-in-calls-to-action

Via CoSchedule

  • Don’t get too wordy – It’s important to keep landing page headlines concise and to-the-point. If you get too wordy, the direction you want to move readers will become lost.

Here’s a landing page with a headline that’s too long (from none other than Adobe):

adobe_landingpage

Not only is it too wordy, there’s also zero action verbs or motivating language.

Even worse, the CTA simply reads “Submit”.

? Not good.

  • Use the word “you” – According to a HubSpot study, CTAs that directly address the reader (using the word “you”) are 42% better at converting them. As such, speak to the reader in your web content headline and make it 10x more powerful.

Here’s a great example of web content from Copy Hackers that uses all of the above principles:

copyhackers_landingpage

2. Make the Body Copy Skimmable

You’ve perfected an actionable, motivating headline for your landing page web content. Now you’re ready to craft your body copy.

There are arguments in favor of both short and long landing page content. According to Crazy Egg, the length you should choose is the one that meshes best with your audience.

However, no matter how long or short you go, you should always strive to make your web content body copy skimmable.

That means a few things:

  • Short paragraphs
  • Lots of line breaks
  • Using numbered and bulleted lists where logical
  • Using H2s, H3s, and even H4s when necessary

Here’s an example of super-long web content that still manages to be easy-to-read – but only because the content is organized with attention to all of the above principles:

super-long-landing-page

Image via The Daily Egg

As you can imagine, this page would be a nightmare to read without all that organization. For best results, don’t skip this essential part of the web content equation.

3. Stay Benefits-Focused

When writing web content, staying benefits-focused also means staying user-focused.

That’s because benefits convey your product/service features as they relate to the reader.

In other words, when you stay benefits-focused, you’re honing in on what interests your audience. You answer this burning question for them: How will this product/service/etc. positively affect their life?

Here’s an example of benefits-focused web content from the landing page for the Barnes & Noble Membership program. Benefits are underlined in red:

bn-membership-benefits

For more insights on how to stay benefits-focused in your web content, read our guide to conversion-friendly landing page copy.

4. Write a CTA That Shouts at the Reader

Web content without a call-to-action is ineffective. Period. When users land on a page, they won’t know what to do unless you direct them. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

So, direct them! Here are a few simple ways you can do that.

A) Take Cues from the Headline

The headline you crafted for your landing page web content is perfect to refer back to when writing your CTA.

For a cohesive page, make these two components match or mirror each other. That way, they’ll reinforce the desired action.

Here’s an example of a strong CTA from CoSchedule.

The headline says “It’s time to fire makeshift marketing”. Love it!

coschedule-landingpage-headline

Meanwhile, the CTA mirrors the headline: “Kick makeshift marketing to the curb

coschedule-landingpage-cta

The two play off each other, which builds up the CTA nicely. Similar wording helps drive the desired action home.

2. Encourage, Inspire, and Motivate the Reader to Act

A great CTA is truly motivating.

It will direct user action, but it will do so in an encouraging, inspirational way.

Take the CTA above as a great example: “Kick makeshift marketing to the curb”.

When we think of the popular saying “kick it to the curb,” we’re reminded of the freeing feeling of ridding ourselves of stressful or annoying baggage.

When you kick something to the curb, you’re lightening your load. You’re putting a spring back in your step. Now that’s inspiring.

For the CTAs you include in your web content, try the same tactic – put a little inspiration in there.

One of our own CTAs at EW does just that by inspiring you to think of content creation like baking bread or whipping up a fresh dish. To get a fresh final product that will tantalize their audience, all they have to do is step up to our “counter” and order:

CTA21

Helping your audience to think of taking action in a novel way is a great method to inspire them.

How to Write Great Web Content: 5 Good, Bad, and Ugly Examples

Want to know how to write good content for a website?

Learn by example.

Here are some good ones (and not-so-good ones).

THIS Is How to Write Great Content for your Website

Take inspiration from these blogs and web pages:

1. CoSchedule

CoSchedule regularly nails great content with their comprehensive blog posts. From the headline to the intro, to the organization, the writing, the research, and the value provided, you can’t go wrong studying their posts for a primer on how to write great web content.

coschedule_blog-example

2. SmartBlogger

For examples of great blog posts that are fun to read and informative, look to SmartBlogger. This blog, in particular, is well organized and bursting with valuable information.

smartblogger-blog-example

3. Airstory

Want stellar examples of landing pages and web pages? Check out Airstory’s website – they nail every facet of great web content.

airstory-web-page-example1

airstory-web-page-example2

Examples of Lackluster Web Content – Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Bad web content is out there. Here are a few examples to help make the distinction clear.

1. Confusing and distracting

Here’s an example of a landing page gone wrong – there’s no clear headline, no visible call-to-action (you have to hunt for it), and too many little pieces of information screaming for your attention.

Seriously, what am I supposed to do on this webpage?

sears-webpage-example

2. Thin and lackluster

If you’re writing blog content, don’t follow this example. It’s supposed to be a blog post with a recipe for a brownie ice cream sandwich, but the ingredients list unhelpfully calls for “brownies”.

Uh, what?

Plus, the content is nonexistent – there’s no information about what this tastes like, suggestions for serving, tips for decorating, or ideas for variations. We just get super-vague ingredients and instructions.

In short, there’s nothing here of value for me.

ice-cream-blog-example

The Final Steps for Writing Good Web Content

The anatomy of web content that wins includes brains, muscle, strong bones, and heart – lots and lots of heart.

You get all of that and more when you include all the components we’ve mentioned here in our guide.

Great web content is thorough, well-organized and logical, well-researched, easy to read, and provides that extra something that keeps readers on the page.

After you’ve crafted this kind of content – after you’ve poured in hours of work and painstaking attention to detail – make sure you go over it with a fine-tooth comb.

Write with care, research with detail, and edit, edit, edit.

And remember…

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is outstanding web content that wins over readers.

web content CTA

writing a blog

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule

Writing a blog can be difficult, especially for busy, nonstop marketers and agency owners.

We know it – trust me! With blogging as a #1 means of earning our traffic and revenue, we sympathize.

It’s never been easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding to maintain a business blog and write consistently.

To do it consistently, and to do it well, you need a process.

Your process serves as your guidepost for making sure you never just sit stuck, wondering what to do next.

The goal of this guide is to show you that process and give you a in-depth bird’s eye view of everything you need to write a blog and do it consistently. Then, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of how, when, where and what when it comes to impactful blog writing.

Ready?

Get a bird's eye view of everything you need to write a blog for your business, and do it consistently. 🐦📝 Click To Tweet

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule inset

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule: 7 Step-List

  1. Know the Foundations of Writing a Blog that Matters
  2. The Golden Rule in Writing Blogs
  3. How Long Should Your Content Be?
  4. 4 Steps for Creating Compelling Headlines That Click With Your Audience
  5. 6 Steps for Writing a Blog and Doing it Consistently
  6. Self Editing Like a Pro, Even If You Aren’t One (Infographic)
  7. How to Come Up with Blog Ideas (Infographic)

Let’s dive in!

Know Your Foundations: Writing a Blog Post That Matters

Here’s a quote to inspire you (Chuck Close):

quote chuck The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule inset

Just like anything else, the blog writing process starts with a foundation.

Without this foundation, everything else becomes confusing and inefficient. With it, you can regularly create great content that your readers will love.

The foundation involves three things:

  1. The “Golden Rule.” Write for ONE reader.
  2. Determine Content Length. Focus on creating the right content.
  3. Create a Strong Headline. Intrigue your ONE reader.
The foundation of #writing a great blog post: write for 1 reader, determine length, create a strong headline. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Let’s dive into these a little deeper.

1. Foundation: The “Golden Rule”

The “Golden Rule” of writing a blog is simple; write for ONE reader.

The hope would be that you already have a good idea of who your ONE reader is.

Hopefully you also have a good idea of where they are, what problems they’re having, and how they communicate.

Entire books and long form guides have been written on defining, finding, and targeting your ONE reader (also called target audience, target market, etc.)

You should read them. If you don’t have time for that, Forbes has a great evergreen piece on decoding your target audience.

Don’t fall into the trap of attempting to write for a viral audience.

As Forbes contributor AJ Agrawal points out, ‘Go Viral’ is not a smart marketing strategy.

Since most viral content is based on trends, it’s not evergreen and therefore has an exceptionally short shelf-life. That makes it a bad investment.

Avoid the masses and follow the “Golden Rule” by writing for ONE reader. It’s the only strategy that has long term value for your blog.

2. Foundation: How Long Should Your Content Be?

Google the above question and you’ll find that there are over 179 million answers telling you how long your content should be.

Everyone who’s anyone has tried their hand at answering this question – it’s clearly one of the biggest debates among content marketers across the web.

I’ll say that long-form has tremendous benefits. I’ve created an argument for long-form content here: in all reality, it does the best for SEO purposes. That’s also why I launched authority content at Express Writers last year.

But along with realizing the benefits of long, authoritative content, you want to think most about how to do the right content.

Less of the wrong, high-volume, no return content: more of the right content.

Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, has a great statement on this point.

He says: to focus on creating more of the right content.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule inset quote

What does the right content accomplish?

Fishkin outlines four things:

  1. The right content serves visitor’s intent by answering their questions and helping them complete their goals.
  2. The right content delivers an easy, pleasurable, accessible experience on every device and every browser.
  3. The right content gets the right information and experience to visitors FAST.
  4. The right content does all of the above better than any of the competitors in the space.

But that’s all well and nice to hear what you need to do. How do you actually go about creating the right content when writing a blog?

You create your content with these things in mind and use your editing efforts to ensure that they’re followed.

4 Steps for Creating Compelling Headlines That Click With Your Audience

While I’m sure you’ve heard it more times than you can count, compelling headlines are crucial if you want readers to actually read your blog.

Copywriting legend David Ogilvy is famous for saying:

david ogilvy

But you know the headline is important. How do you create one that works?

Do you use a template that so many others have already used? That’s certainly the easiest option.

Do you list a dozen different options and narrow them down one by one until you find a winner? That can work too.

Do you include a number or ask a question? Sure, go for it.

The truth is, there isn’t a stand-alone strategy that works best for creating compelling headlines when writing a blog.

What is a given, however, is that you must identify who your one reader is and you build your headline around what would intrigue them to read on.

How to Actually Create the Headline

While your headline will differ depending on your ONE reader, there is a simple formula that you can use to short-line the process.

After all, writing a blog is hard enough. You don’t want to spend five hours coming up with an intriguing headline.

Jeff Goins, founder and owner of the popular blog Goins, Writer, has a headline writing formula that many of the top bloggers in the world utilize.

It looks like this:

Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

Your best bet is to brainstorm at least 10 headlines that follow this formula. This shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes.

If you’re feeling ambitious and really want to nail it with your headline (which you should), using Upworthy’s editorial process is always a good idea.

Upworthy Editorial Process

If, after coming up with your headlines, you’re able to combine this simple formula with the four U’s of headline writing, you’ll have something that will truly intrigue your ONE reader.

Those four U’s include:

quote5

  • Unique
  • Ultra-specific
  • Urgent
  • Useful

Let’s take a look at an example of a high performing blog that has utilized Goins’ formula along with the four U’s and ONE reader philosophy.

hubspot Headline 1

First off, we see that the ONE reader is sales reps.

Following Goins’ formula, we can immediately write off three of the four factors that make great headlines.

Number or trigger word? Check. Adjective? Check. Keyword? Check.

While no promise is made directly, it can be assumed that Aja Frost, the writer, will provide alternative phrases for sales reps to use that aren’t so harmful (which she does).

What about the four U’s?

Well, is it unique? You don’t see too many articles related to deadly sales phrases.

Is it ultra-specific? No doubt about that.

Is it urgent? If you’re a sales rep then I’d say it’s pretty urgent to get rid of bad practices that are preventing you from making sales.

Useful? For sales reps, definitely.

Simplifying the Headline Creation Process

If you want a simple headline creation process that can consistently get you results, just follow the steps outlined below.

quote6

  • Step #1: Focus on your ONE reader throughout the creation process.
  • Step #2: Come up at least 10 (or 25) headlines using Goins’ formula.
  • Step #3: Create a chart to see which headlines pass the four U’s test.
  • Step #4: Choose your headline based on the results.

6 Steps for Writing a Blog and Doing it Consistently

Step #1 – Creating Outlines That Provide Structure for Your Content

Outlines are crucial if you don’t want to end up fumbling around for hours trying to come up with ideas for what to write.

While you already know that you should be writing for ONE reader, your outline helps ensure that you put yourself on the right path to solving their problems or answering their questions.

Putting this together should be a fairly simple process.

You’ll want to start by doing some research about your title so you have a general idea of what to include (20-25 minutes should more than suffice).

While you may be sucked into trying to find the perfect template and using it to detail everything you plan on writing about, this can be a huge waste of time.

The outline isn’t what makes great content, it just provides the structure to help you do it.

As you get into the actual stage of doing extensive research, you’ll also find that you’ll want to alter many of the things that you’ve included; either by including more, giving more detail, or eliminating parts of it.

Think of your initial outline as something that will guide your research. By thinking this way, you’ll ensure that you don’t end up wandering mindlessly with 53 tabs open during the research stage.

If you’re looking for some inspiration as to exactly how to structure your article, Ginny Mineo of HubSpot wrote a tremendous guide on how to write a blog post outline.

Her outline for a fictitious article titled “How to Use Images to Generate Leads on Twitter” looked like this:

Outline 1

As you can see, it isn’t overly extensive. It does, however, provide the structure necessary to move to the next step.

Step #2 – Researching for Your Blog Post

While every step associated with writing a blog is important, the quality of your research will have implications across the board.

As time consuming as it can be, it cannot be avoided if your goal is to create great content that your ONE reader will love.

Not only will it help you put together awesome content, but researching well means that you won’t give yourself the opportunity to have nothing to write when you get to the drafting stage.

Fortunately, you’re in a time when it has never been easier to find resources, data, case studies, images, etc. that you can include in your content.

Before we get into where and how to research, a few words of caution are necessary…

There are a TON of resources out there that you can use. And as we mentioned previously, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and end up wandering aimlessly with 50+ tabs on your screen.

If you take the route of trying to find as many resources as possible, you’ll turn a blog post that should’ve taken you 4-5 hours into one that takes 4-5 days.

Kevan Lee, the director of marketing at Buffer, says that the research phase tends to take him about 40 minutes per 2,000 word article.

His average time spent on each part of the writing process looks like this:

Research

While Kevan’s experience enables him to complete the process sooner than most, this is still a solid guideline for where you want to be.

A good rule of thumb is to stick to your initial outline as much as possible and find 2-3 resources per sub-heading that can be used within the content.

If you find something that doesn’t relate to your current outline but feel that it could positively impact your content, go ahead and include it.

Just don’t do this with every ‘great’ resource you find.

Where Do You Research for Your Blog Article?

While there are tons of options for performing research nowadays, nothing beats search engines.

Google, Bing, and Google Scholar are all great options that allow you to find relevant and authoritative content quickly.

Other solid options include StumbleUpon, Twitter and Facebook searches, online publications, research-based sites, industry blogs, and good old-fashioned books.

To make sure that your sources are legitimate and authoritative, your best bet is to gauge link quality using Alexa.

This easy guide should help you do that:

Link Quality Using Alexa

Last but not least, be sure that you understand how to cite sources if you intend to use them in your content.

Step #3 – Writing Your Blog Content

While it doesn’t always seem like it a lot of the time, actually putting the fingers to the keyboard and writing a blog is the easy part.

You have your outline. You’ve done your research. You know what you want to accomplish.

Now you just have to get to work!

Other than words, however, there are a few other things that you’ll want to keep in mind along the way.

#1 – Visuals MUST Be Included

BuzzSumo ran a study of over one million articles and found that articles that included an image every 75-100 words got 2x the shares of articles with fewer images.

Image Graph

Visuals, which includes images, videos, screenshots, and infographics, need to be a major part of your content if you want to keep your reader’s attention.

#2 – Keywords are Important, But Not More Than Purposeful Writing

SEO expert and Entrepreneur contributor Jon Rognerud recommends that you should include your keyword 2-5% of the time.

He warns, however, that including a keyword should never be your main priority.

Instead, focus on creating content that serves your reader’s purpose for being there and only use keywords when they make sense in the text.

Basically, when someone reads your content, they shouldn’t be able to pick out what keyword you’re using unless they’re actively searching for it.

#3 – Utilize Up-to-Date Statistics and Facts

Everyone wants to create evergreen content that’s still earning traffic years down the road.

But that doesn’t happen by accident. As Content Marketing Institute contributor Al Gomez points out, evergreen content is always comprehensive.

To be comprehensive, your content needs to include a strong mix of up-to-date statistics and facts.

And since search engines care about fresh content, you’ll also need to make sure you’re updating your evergreen content with new statistics and facts as time goes on.

Don’t Fret the First Draft

As you’re writing your article, don’t worry about getting everything right the first time.

Your initial content will be molded into great content through the editing process. For now, just get those fingers typing.

Step #4 – Self Editing Like a Pro, Even If You Aren’t One (Infographic)

Jeff Goins, of the Goins, Writer blog, has a theory about good writers.

His theory is that,

“The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.”

But while this may look like nothing more than inspirational talk to motivate writers, it’s important to understand that Goins is actually talking about the fact that good writers commit to editing.

As he says, “They’re (good writers) resigned to the fact that first drafts suck…”

Effective editing is the name of the game when it comes to creating great content. No one, not even Stephen King, regularly produces first drafts that are ready made for publication.

Here’s a look at a simple guide that can help you with the process of editing and proofreading your content:

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule - Proofreading Checklist

Our list of 25 Editing Tips for the Modern Marketer can also be used to help ensure that your first draft is eventually turned into content gold.

Step #5 – Optimizing Your Content for SEO

Optimizing your content for SEO isn’t easy, but it certainly is necessary.

After all, isn’t your goal of writing a blog to rank on search engines and generate traffic?

Rather than providing you with a short overview that lacks the girth to actually show you how to optimize for SEO, you’d be much better served taking a look at this extensive guide on How to Write Content for SEO.

You’ll find everything you need there to ensure that your content is performing up to its fullest potential in search engines.

Step #6 – Blogging Consistently by Creating a Regular Blogging Schedule

When it comes to content marketing, statistics across the board show that consistency is the key to success.

HubSpot’s survey of over 13,000 of their clients showed that the companies that published 16+ blog posts per month received about 3.5x more traffic than those that published 0-4 posts per month.

Monthly Blog Post Impact

This isn’t much of a surprise to anyone in the content marketing game. Everyone knows that more great content equals more success.

The problem that most bloggers face, however, is that they feel they don’t have the time to post consistently enough to keep up.

Fortunately, by organizing your content marketing efforts and creating a regular posting schedule, you can create an efficient system that allows you to consistently produce great content.

How Do You Create a Regular Posting Schedule?

Before you get started, you’ll want to choose the right platform for creating your editorial calendar.

If you’re looking for a free version to get started, Google Calendar can do the trick. Be aware, however, that it’s limited in its abilities.

If you want something that will make the process easier and are willing to drop some money to save time, DivvyHQ and CoSchedule are both great options.

These paid options are especially useful if you plan on collaborating with co-workers or contractors.

Ian Cleary of Razor Social put together an incredibly useful article on getting started with an editorial calendar on each of the three platforms. You’d be wise to check it out.

How Often Are You Going to Post?

You already know that more is better when it comes to posting on your blog. But what is even worse than not posting enough is not posting consistently.

It’s almost impossible to develop a loyal readership if you aren’t consistent with when and how you’re posting your content.

Be realistic about how often you can post. Once a week is fine if that’s all you can accommodate with the resources you have. When you make your decision, however, stick to it.

How to Come Up with Blog Ideas (Infographic)

One of the biggest fears of bloggers when they first create a regular posting schedule is that they won’t be able to come up with enough ideas to maintain their schedule.

That’s why it’s important to maintain a running list of 20-40 ideas.

Your ideas should be based on the main goal of your blog.

Are you trying to educate potential customers? Are you trying to build your personal brand?

Know what your main objective is and base your blog ideas off of it.

If you need further guidance or inspiration, this list should help:

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Blog & a Regular Posting Schedule infographic

Determine Your Process and Create Content Consistently

The key to positioning yourself as an authority within your niche is to create content consistently.

As this guide has shown, you can do that by determining your process for writing a blog and committing to a regular posting schedule.

Feeling overwhelmed and need some content assistance? We’re here for you.

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