Theoretically speaking, blog posts are easy to write. You just put your thoughts to paper with a suitable featured image and are ready to hit publish. Except, this is not how it works practically. Blog posts that your audience enjoys and consume from top to bottom require hard work. A lot of hard work.
But hard work without direction is almost always a waste of time. This is why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide for writing a fantastic blog post that your readers will love.
Let’s dig in:
First things first – what makes a blog post interesting to your readers?
That’s a tricky question as the answer depends on who your audience is. In general, you need to keep in mind three pointers as you aim to write blog posts that satisfy your readers’ appetite:
- Offer value by answering questions they have in their mind or solve a problem
- Converse with them. Blog posts are not cold pitches. They aren’t classroom lectures either. They are attempts at making friends and helping them
- Pick an evergreen topic that people search regularly
How to write a blog post? Let’s start from scratch
Ready to write posts that your readers will read thoroughly?
Here’s your guide:
Step 1: Ideation – come up with a topic for an awesome blog post
Some ideas are born from audience research. Others come from keyword research or plain inspiration that comes to you while reading an industry blog. In truth, the sources are numerous.
You just have to keep looking.
Some prominent sources for fresh ideas for your blog post are:
1. Your audience
What better way to write audience-appreciated blog posts than by asking them? Find places where your audience hangs out and interact with them. Ask them what they want to talk about.
How? Here are two solid ways:
- Ask on social
For instance, replicate what Austin does here for his team’s blog:
Hey friends and frenemies,
My design team at Microsoft is starting up a weekly-ish blog. What are some topics you're interested in reading about?
We put together a Notion page of ideas we'll probably hit on. Speak up if any stand out.https://t.co/49WlaKi9X0
— Austin (@AustinTByrd) July 3, 2019
- Conduct a survey
Distribute a survey form among your niche audience to learn about the topics that they’d want you to cover on your blog. The team over at Mio used a survey to gather blog topics and insights for the Workplace Messaging Report 2019 . Mio’s Director of Content Marketing and Communications, Dominic Kent, shared that the data collected provided, “a gold mine for blog post ideas.”
Tip: Know your audience like the back of your hand. This helps you craft audience-appreciated posts as you can cover topics that they are looking for. Additionally, you can write with their interests in mind. In simple words, you can share common ground with them, easily making friends.
Quora is a great place for gathering content ideas as niche-specific audiences participant in Q&A sessions. Again, start with a key idea. Let’s take “content marketing” as an example here:
Instantly, Quora throws some questions your way. You can convert these into topics for your blog. Make sure you select topics that have a good number of followers. These numbers tell you how valuable a topic is for readers.
You can also dive deeper. I clicked on the first question and landed on the answers page. There’s a related questions’ section here:
It gives a mine of other questions that you can convert into topics. For instance, write on “X best content marketing tools for busy marketers” from the question, “what are the best tools to use for content marketing?”
Here’s a detailed guide on how to use Quora for content ideas and more [insert internal link].
3. Competitor analysis
As complicated as this word sounds, it really isn’t. You need to take to Google and search for blogs in your sphere. Type in [your niche] + blogs. For instance:
Once you have some names in your notepad, survey the blogs and note the topics that their audience has loved (hint: look at the social shares or comments). The goal is not to copy and paste the topics. Instead, dive into the content with a fork and knife to dissect it and extract gaps.
Gaps in blog content are opportunities for you to fill. Prepare a blog post in areas where content is lacking. You can also take the same topic but only if you have a unique spin to add to it.
Quick Google search for “content marketing groups:”
Note that there isn’t a post that collectively discusses content marketing groups to join on various social media networks. Quuu’s post is the only one – jackpot!
Alternatively, plug in your competitor’s name into Ahrefs and find out its top performing content. Here’s an example:
Or, you can skip looking for industry blogs and type in keywords into BuzzSumo. For instance, let’s enter “social media management tool” into the tool’s search bar.
It spits back the following results:
The topics with high social shares and backlinks are the best ones to add to your to-cover list. To ensure that you add the most evergreen topics to your list instead of ones that gain prominence for only a short time, check out the evergreen screen.
All this gets you popular blog content. Study it to find content loopholes or add a unique twist, and your blog topic is ready.
Bonus: Plug your topic in Google Trends to see how well your audience receives it in the long haul. By plugging in ‘how to write blog post’ into Google Trends, I know that the topic has a good demand:
Looking for more ideas? Check out more sources for blog ideas. [insert internal link]
Step 2: Dig into supporting research
A blog post without research is like food without salt – bland and uninteresting. Supporting studies and data add a breath of authority to your work.
Without research, it’s “hey, take care of animals as they are nearing extinct.”
With research, it’s “hey, take care of animals as between 10,000 to 100,000 species are nearing extinction.”
See the difference? The second line is more authoritative, and the stat backs your point, making it trustworthy. So you need to research thoroughly for your blog post.
Divide this into three parts:
1. Topic-related research
Involves studying the topic that you are writing about. Read on any aspect of the topic that might not be clear.
2. Resource research
Involves digging up relevant statistics and studies that support your claims or you could conduct original research, which 94% of marketers applaud for enhancing their authority.
Google is your best friend here. On top of that, Google Scholar is a great resource for unearthing Google scientific studies or research papers.
Essentially, my research for a blog post begins way before outlining and drafting. You can follow suit if you prepare a content strategy beforehand. Or, work out a topic mentally and keep track of any related content pieces that you see in your network.
I save important research and related tweets on a Trello board like the one below and save and tag useful articles in Pocket.
3. Keyword research
Keyword research is crucial as it defines the structure of your blog post. Some keywords are pretty clear, which means you can research them and prepare an outline around them. A case in point is ‘social media management tools free.’
Other keywords such as ‘how to write a blog post’ are flexible, and you can create content around them instead of the other way around. You can try different tools for keyword research such as SEMrush.
However, three free tools to get you started include:
i. Google suggest
Note the keywords that show as you type in your query such as, “how to SEO optimize your blog?” Searching for this shows you that people are looking for optimizing blog, articles, images, and so on. You can easily weave a post around them. For example, talk about optimizing images for search in a post on optimizing a blog post.
Ubersuggest gives you related keywords in a bit. When I typed in ‘content calendar,’ the tool showed me that the keyword has good search volume (more and more people search for it) and high CPC (people will pay to click it).
And here are my keyword suggestions just below this:
iii. Answer The Public
Answer The Public will give a web of keywords to target in your post, giving you a thorough idea of what people are searching for. The screen below gives an example of what folks are searching for when looking for ‘productivity tools.’
Step 3: Sketch an outline to give structure to your thoughts and research
By now you’ll be having a lot of fodder for your blog post. It needs organization – a loose shape, so you can envision how the final version will be. Without an outline, your blog piece is most likely to be a tangle of thoughts instead of a coherent talk.
What’s more, an outline improves the reading experience. Thanks to the skeletal framework that it provides your thoughts.
Lastly, it saves time so you can write a blog post fast. Once your outline is ready, you can quickly dive into your draft, knowing what to discuss in each section instead of pausing mid-writing and wondering what to add next.
Your steps for prepping an outline are:
1. Choose your template
First off, select the type of blog post that you are going to work on. It could be a listicle, a guide, a how-to piece, or a case study to name a few. Brian Dean prefers chapter format when writing guides:Source
Or, you can resort to a good ol’ listicle like this post on this blog.
2. Write a makeshift headline
8 out of 10 folks read headlines, but only 2 out of 10 read the rest of the content. Put simply, headlines are powerful phrases that either encourage or discourage the viewer from reading further.
Besides, a headline gives you a jump start when it comes to writing. It’s the starting point of a map. So once you’ve decided your blog post’s format, write a couple of rough titles, pick one, and get started with drafting the outline.
It’s up to you to work on the final title here or later on once your draft is ready. These tips will help you write a magnetic headline:
- Be specific. Don’t dilly dally
Don’t be vague. Tell the reader what he’ll learn in your blog post, answering the crucial what’s-in-it-for-me-question.
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- Add brackets
This is a simple yet effective way to write powerful headlines that work. Hard to believe, right? A study by OutBrain clears all doubts as it confirmed that adding brackets to headlines can boost the CTR (clickthrough rate) by up to 33%.
👉 How to Write Truly Great Headlines (Plus 21 Creative Headline Examples) – Orbit Media
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- Add numbers, specifically, odds numbers. They’ve a knack for success
Study after study swears that numbers in headlines work wonders in getting readers’ attention. So if you are writing a post that contains steps or a listicle, make sure you add them. Stick with writing numbers in figures instead of adding them in words.
❌ Seven surprising elements that make your blog post perfect
✔ 7 surprising elements that make your blog post perfect
What’s more, try to lean on odd numbers as they tend to be more effective in fixating readers than even numbers. Data from 150,000 article headlines collected from Outbrain confirms that headlines with odd numbers show a 20% higher CTR than even numbers-containing headlines.
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- Use headline trigrams
Trigrams are one good way of writing your headlines. BuzzSumo’s study of 100 million articles concluded that the following trigrams make the most compelling headlines:
Here are more tips on writing truly great headlines.
3. Prepare your outline
Start with jotting down points from your research and whatever that is in your mind about the topic. Then give it all structure. For instance, decide what goes in the introduction, body, and conclusion. Add points under each. Once done, edit the outline to breathe some sense into it.
Before this post reached you, it looked like this:
Step 4: Start writing without stopping
The purpose of the outline you made above was to get you to writing without pausing. Imposter syndrome and procrastination can cause friction. Keep them at bay by writing without pause though. Edit later on.
This step can also be sub-divided into three parts:
1. Write your opening line or lede
The lede is the opening line that attempts to hook your reader to your post. Owing to the work it does, it demands lots of attention. Write at least 50 ledes before you settle on the most catchy one.
2. Write the body
Here’s the meat of the matter. Share your knowledge and experiences. Offer value. Pay attention to the readability (how easy to read) of your post as you write. This will help you save a lot of time when you edit your piece.
Some pointers to keep in mind are:
- Write short paragraphs with each paragraph discussing only one point
- Keep your sentences short. Use no more than 25 words in one sentence
- Use bullet points to explain your point, keeping each pointer short and to the point
- Divide content with subheadings
3. Write the conclusion
A conclusion is very important despite what you may think as it gives readers who skim your post a quick summary of the takeaways. Alternatively, you can leave your reader with some food for thought. In either case, don’t forget to add a call to action (CTA) that asks your reader to take a specific action after reading your work.
Quick tip: Write like you’re talking to a new friend who doesn’t know you well or the topic. Showing your personality, sharing vulnerabilities, and talking in plain English are some ways to connect with your audience.
Step 5: Edit your draft for a fluff-free, smart blog post
Now that you’re done with the draft, let it breath. Give it some space, say a couple of hours or even a day and revisit with a fresh pair of eyes. Then chop out all the filler content mercilessly.
Start with giving your post a read without making any changes. Then make some notes. Typically, I add comments for myself, so I don’t forget what I found lacking in a paragraph or what I thought needed rewording. Next, I get to work.
Here are some more things that need taking care of once you’ve edited the writing and removed fluff words:
- Make sure your headings and subheadings are formatted with H2 and H3 tags
- Ensure your all headings are consistent
- Redo the introduction and work on headlines if you decided to do that last like I do
- Add links to helpful external (other resources) and internal (previous blog posts on your site) write-ups
- Double-check all the links to ensure they are working and add links to any missing stats or research
- Add appropriate images as content with images get 94% more views than without them
While this may seem like a lengthy process, it really isn’t when you get the hang of it. Each step ensures that you’re putting out words that will appease your readers. So make sure you give each phase its due time starting from finding the right topic that covers a pain point to editing your piece mercilessly for a filler-free write-up.