All savvy digital marketers know a good blog post is the foundation of your website.
Your website, in turn, will help you attract qualified prospects. Helpful, informative web content strengthens your position as a leader in your field and builds the trust you need to make sales.
That said, blogging can sure seem complicated at first!
If you want to ramp up your content marketing and reach your business goals, it always helps to start with a clear, consistent process. Only good processes can become habits, and only habits can determine what you achieve and how quickly you achieve it.
Let’s dissect the blogging process and figure out how to write a terrific blog post:
1. Know Your Audience
You can write whatever you want, but unless you have an audience in mind when you start, there’s no telling if anyone will read it. Odds are good that when your audience goes online, they have a problem to solve or questions they want answered – so, figure out what those are!
Use your buyer personas to inspire you as you brainstorm topics. What are your best customers interested in and how could your company help them?
At first, the easiest blog topics are “evergreen” – posts that will always be useful to someone and rarely go out of date.
These are usually introductions or basic step-by-step posts catering to people in the Awareness stage of the buyer journey: They are just learning they have a problem they need to solve and want to learn more about it.
Understanding your audience will get you at least as far as a general topic idea. Then, you need to narrow it down by mixing in some other important data points.
2. Identify Your Specific Topic
For a blog post to be successful, it needs to combine two factors:
- It needs to be helpful and informative, adding value for potential readers.
- It needs to be structured so search engines will understand the content.
It wasn’t long ago when people thought one of these considerations always came at the expense of the other. Any digital marketer over 25 has heard “write for people, not for search spiders!”
But, without thinking about search spiders, you’re shouting down a well. Good luck finding people there!
Luckily, we now know you can make an incredible blog post that also appeals to “spiders.”
That starts with your keyword strategy.
Step one leaves you with a general topic or question, such as, “How can I reduce the cost of regulatory compliance?” With that seed, you can look at your keyword research tool to find out exactly what kind of phrasing people type in about your topic.
One of those questions will become your principal focus keyword in the blog post.
The focus keyword will help you drill down to the specific details you want to cover in your post. It’ll appear in your text, headers, and usually in your headline. And that’s your next step!
3. Work Out a Headline
You might be asking: Why stop for a headline at this stage?
Why not just start writing?
It’s simple: Your headline tells your audience what the implied promise of your blog post will be. No matter what you decide to write or how you decide to write it, the rest of your text has to live up to that promise – “clickbait” is so frustrating because it fails to do that.
There’s way too much to be said about writing a headline to cover it here. Luckily, we’ve talked about good blog headlines at length because it’s so essential to success.
You can find out more at:
- How to Craft Headlines That Drive Engagement
- How to Craft Attention Getting Headlines to Captivate Your Audience
Your headline is what determines whether people actually click and read your work, and there’s tons to learn about the subject. You can even tell from looking at our own headlines that we’ve evolved on the best blog headlines over time – it’s definitely worth studying.
Ideally, you should sketch out 5-8 headline options for your post. You’ll ultimately choose just one, but you can use the others in split testing. It may take days or even weeks before you can confidently select the headline that offers the greatest draw for your readers.
4. Outline Your Post
Once you have a headline, you’re anchored to the purpose of your post.
In fact, the headline often gives you important clues about a post’s structure that will help you fill an outline. If your headline promises “7 Best Ways to Secure Confidential Business Data,” then all you have to think about is which seven methods to cover and in what order.
Some posts are sure to be a little more complex than that. Still, you should always strive to knock your reader’s socks off with how powerful (and useful!) your content is in relation to your headline. Ideally, your outline should include all the major subheaders you’ll cover.
You can never be sure exactly how much of your blog people will look at or even what order they might read paragraphs in. With that in mind, you should use as many subheaders as you need and try to keep each paragraph laser-focused on a single idea.
Later on, you can come back to your outline and revise it to show where things like bulleted lists, charts, and graphics can go. At first, it’s only crucial to set up the scaffolding of your topics.
5. Draft Your Intro
Making content that’s useful and informative is always the first priority of a good blog post. Your second mission is to make your content easy to skim and retain.
There’s a good rule of thumb for this:
- First, say what you’re going to say.
- Then, say it.
- Then, say what you said.
This structure serves you well when making any presentation, and you should always have it in mind as you start detailing your blog posts. Although you can’t guess how much deep reading anyone will do, you can take advantage of the common tendency to look at the intro and conclusion.
Good news: By this stage, whipping up a nice intro should be pretty easy.
Armed with your headline and a broad idea of where your post is going, all you have to do is give a general overview of the topic aligned with your brand voice. In most cases, that means a conversational tone that’s both friendly and authoritative.
Plus, an intro doesn’t have to be long. It should be just long enough to say what you’re going to say. That means it usually comes down somewhere between one and three short paragraphs.
Remember, this is just a draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you’ll have plenty of time to refine it in the future.
The big takeaway is to get started: With your intro as a launching pad, you’ll start building momentum that could help you coast through the rest.
6. Draft Your Conclusion (Maybe)
At this point, you should take stock of what you know about the topic and see if you can imagine what the conclusion will be. If so, go ahead and stick it in there with as much detail as possible.
Sometimes, you’ll know the topic so well that you can easily figure out where you’re going with it even before the journey is really underway. In other cases, particularly with new and emerging trends, you’ll have to do significant research before you can be sure.
Get used to dashing off the intro and conclusion for blog posts on all topics you know well. This helps you make sure that they connect together – they should reinforce and reflect one another – and your conclusion will help you make sure you hit the right CTA at the end.
7. Do Your Research
If you’ve written about the same topic – say, internet marketing – a million and a half times, odds are good your brain is packed with ready facts. You might even already have a deck of links to help you corroborate important stats you’ve drawn on in the past.
In these cases, you might breeze through most of your post with no research at all.
Still, it’s always a good idea to check your favorite sources before you get too far into the process. Incorporating the very latest ideas from the most trusted publications and platforms will help you ensure your post rings true with authenticity and authority.
Just a sprinkling of stats and sources will help you ground even the simplest blog post within the ongoing conversation in your field. It’s also worthwhile because it gives you more insight into the online publishers that serve your audience. That can lead to collaborations later on.
To find out more, check out 5 Essential Tips to Master the Content Research Process.
Now’s the best time to go back and fill out any gaps in your outline.
Because the next step is to jump in and...
8. Start Chopping Down That Post!
Now, it’s time to write your draft. And I have one simple rule.
Go as fast as you can.
That doesn’t mean you should just roll through whatever you can while checking your email, your clients’ social media, or your fantasy football results. Turn everything off except the one browser window where you’ll do your research, if any.
And then start a stopwatch.
There are plenty of stopwatch and timer apps out on the web, and most modern mobile devices come with at least one pre-installed. Setting a timer in the right situation can help you feel like you’re time traveling – by narrowing your focus onto the most vital task of the moment.
Set that first timer for 15 minutes. After that, move on to 30.
After that – if you need to – ramp it all the way up to a full hour.
Each time, you’ll find you’ve made massive progress and that the momentum is there to carry you to the next milestone. Unless you’re writing long, in-depth pillar content, you’ll usually find that 95 minutes will carry you to the end or at least leave you with the goal line in sight.
Get down to the bottom and then enjoy a nice latte. You’ve earned it!
9. Relax, Revise, and Edit
Hopefully, you’re using a content calendar that means you never have less than two full days to work on a post. Teams that are just getting started on a full-scale content strategy should have three days per major post with at least two sets of eyes on each post.
Lots of content marketers take the Swiss Army knife approach: They research, write, edit, and might even do a little design on the side.
With experience, this is okay. But you should always come back to each post the next day so you can look at it with fresh eyes.
Not-so-obvious mistakes become obvious once you have the opportunity to:
- Look at your content on a different display, program, or format than before.
- Read it out loud, either to yourself or to a member of your team.
- Review it again, reading one word at a time (or even reading backwards).
10. Do Final Checks and Let it Fly
Depending on your team’s workflow, you might have to send off your revised text to a graphic designer or other teammate. It’s critical to be sure you have all the visual touches, informative graphics, and CTAs you need.
Be sure to dig out the right lead magnet, subscription form, or other attention-grabber from your roster of conversions so your post does its part for the bottom line.
This 10 step blog process is an uphill climb the first time – or even the first dozen times – but once you get used to it, it’ll equip you to become a master of content marketing faster than you ever imagined.
Now you know, so get out there and kick some ass!