How to Write a Blog Post
Don’t be scared, blogging is actually fun! Although it may take a couple of tries to get in the swing of it, everyone has the ability to be a good blog writer. I promise. Your blog post could be one of many formats and the array of potential topics is endless, but there are some guiding principles and established practices available in the world (yes, even in the form of other blog posts) that will prevent you from getting overwhelmed.
First of all, the best blog posts will 1) be interesting and entertaining enough to stand out and 2) support your business objectives without being “salesy.” If you keep those two things in mind, you are already in good shape. Here are a few more tips and best practices to help you get started.
Be a human. You’re already doing this, so you’re off to a great start. Simply put, this means to write in a way you feel comfortable writing—much like how you’d speak normally. Getting wrapped up in making your post sound overly authoritative or informed or witty, etc., is going to cause you stress and probably result in something that is less enjoyable to read anyway. At the very least, start out writing casually and edit it later for a more sophisticated voice later.
See What’s Out There
HubSpot does an amazing job with blogging, and their quality blog content is part of what kept us at NeigerDesign interested in them until we finally decided to become inbound marketing partners. Naturally, they have several blog posts about blogging, and also templates for different styles of blog post if you get desperate, but be warned: a template can be very limiting for creativity. However, I definitely recommend taking a look at other blogs. Seeing and reading what others are doing can be a great starting point because it could spark ideas, but also it could inspire you in ways you could do better.
You don’t need to subscribe to a dozen email newsletters and click all the links to see every article in order to see good examples of blog posts—online articles are everywhere and you are likely encountering a large amount of writing every day. Although you should probably not model all of your future blog posts off of Buzzfeed articles (even though they are popular for a reason, besides cute animals) you have likely internalized blogging best practices through the content you have encountered and the judgements you have made on what works and doesn’t work.
Monkey See, Monkey Do Better
No offense to those existing blog posts you may have found to be lacking, but sometimes there are simply posts that sound interesting but end up falling short of what you hoped it would be. For example, what if you were searching for a how-to article about a specific topic and one of the top results was a blog that turned out to be a summary of the topic but not actually helpful? You have just discovered an opportunity—not just to create a more helpful blog post about that topic but also to unseat that post in search results.
If you found a post online that was lacking, then why not take that topic and build upon it to write the post you really wanted to read? Chances are, you’re not alone in what you want to read in a blog post. When others search the same thing and realize that your post is more than just a summary, your post will be more likely to get shares and clicks and will rise to the top. Sorry not sorry.
Get Googley Eyes
Looking for opportunities for winning blog posts is good, but you don’t have to wait around to happen upon them, either. Here’s an exercise:
- What questions did you have when you first started learning about your industry, or learning the latest new tech tool your organization uses, or the new product your company is offering to your customers?
- Think about those questions or thoughts you had and then enter them into Google.
- Look at the top results. How much information do they offer? Are they appealing and make you want to read them? Do they answer your question?
- Click through to the one that seems like it might answer your question the best, or which seems most appealing. How does the page you land on live up to your expectations?
- Take out your notebook and write down the five ways the page doesn’t satisfy you as a reader, and use these ways to inform the points that your own post will include and which will make your post all the more satisfying for other readers.
Let Autocomplete Lead the Way
While we’re on the topic of using Google as a tool, let’s talk about autocomplete. That’s when you’re typing into Google and a series of possible phrase completions show up under the search bar.
This is helpful for a very important reason:
If no one is looking for your content, then no one will read the content you write. [Click to Tweet]
Before you start writing, research or at least consider what people will want to read. The autocomplete function is a quick way to discover what others are searching for. To demonstrate, here’s another exercise:
On paper or in a Word document or Google Doc, start brainstorming keywords:
Think of words around your organization and the product or services you offer.
Think of words around your competitors.
Now, add two- or three-word phrases about some of these keywords.
Then, Google “how to” + “[your keyword]” in incognito mode (so the results aren’t tailored to you specifically based on your search history and browsing history). Pay attention to what shows up in the predictive text (below the search bar). Choose a topic from what is showing up and click enter to complete the search. Scan the results on the first page, and locate the three most recent posts about the topic.
Read the posts. Write three things that are lacking about those posts. Think of three ways those posts could be better. Then, write a blog post that is 10x better than those posts. Use keywords and semantics within your post. This is how your post will rank better in results than the existing posts.
Practice Makes Perfect
The adage that practice makes perfect seems to be fairly true for blogging—or, at the very least, it will feel easier to write a full length blog post after you’ve done it more than once. Because the hardest part is getting started, I’ll reiterate that it is okay to check in with the masters for advice and examples.
Contently offers this great advice for creating how-to posts, if that’s the angle you’re taking:
Let’s say you want to educate people on how to plant roses. Can you add more to the discussion than just the obvious? How about insider tips and tricks? What’s your unique angle?
If you’re unsure of where to start, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you aware of any pitfalls that readers should know about?
- Are you aware of any shortcuts or tips that would help the reader?
- Can you describe common use cases that apply to the instructions?
- Can you provide context or history on the topic?
- Can you compile your own research or data that proves one technique is better than another?
- Can you create your piece of content in a more intuitive medium?
Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can move on to evaluate what content about your topic already exists.
If you’re really stuck, CoSchedule compiled a bunch of blog post topics in an article that includes ideas such as, “What is your favorite thing that you do? Write about that,” and “What movie did you see recently? Tie it into what your company offers.”
Also, don't get too wrapped up in writing for a very specific end result (such as getting x amount of more leads or engaging with a certain target market)—at least not at first. If the pressure is what is holding you back from getting your writing flow going, try simply writing about what you know best and then refining for your goals from there, even if you start with simple recommendations. People like reviews and recommendations and who knows, maybe the company whose product you like will retweet the blog link!
Hopefully by now you’re believing me that blog writing is not nearly as difficult as you thought it was—and if you take away even a couple of the tips here then you’re on your way to being a great blogger. That is not to say that these are the best blog tips of all time, but that it really is much simpler than you think. Don’t forget: you're not alone. There are plenty of resources available to help you learn more about building in keywords or even to choose a topic. And if you're in need of an overall blogging strategy, I might just know some people who can help with that...
So with all of this in mind, here’s the final exercise:
Breathe. Don’t stress. Start writing. See what happens, and if all else fails, make an infographic.