Writing a blog can be difficult. Keeping up with your blog and writing consistently can be even more challenging.
And while you’re already aware of the power of blogging for both personal and business brands, actually putting one together is another story.
To do it consistently, and to do it well, you need a process.
Your process serves as your armor for making sure you never just sit there, wondering what to do next.
Here’s a quote to inspire you (Chuck Close):
Having a sound process in place means you don’t need inspiration to create something that can have an impact on your readers.
The goal of this guide is to show you that process and give you a bird’s eye view of everything you need to write a blog and do it consistently.
Let’s get started.
The Foundation for Writing a Blog Post That Matters
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:
- The “Golden Rule.” Write for ONE reader.
- Determine Content Length. Focus on creating the right content.
- Create a Strong Headline. Intrigue your ONE reader.
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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.
What does the right content accomplish?
Fishkin outlines four things:
- The right content serves visitor’s intent by answering their questions and helping them complete their goals.
- The right content delivers an easy, pleasurable, accessible experience on every device and every browser.
- The right content gets the right information and experience to visitors FAST.
- 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
- 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:
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:
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:
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.
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 – Editing Like a Pro, Even If You Aren’t One
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:
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.
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.
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.
Coming Up With Blog Ideas
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:
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.