One question we get asked a lot is “How do I write a great blog post?”
It’s a very good question! In our last few articles we explored why blogging is so essential, how to use lead magnets with your blogs, why MailChimp is so awesome for email marketing, and how content and content marketing are inseparable.
But what about writing blogs in the first place? You know that publishing regular, good quality content is the key to growing your email list and therefore your potential customer base. But how do you actually go about producing that content?
Let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks.
1. Choose a topic
Choosing what to write about can seem like the most challenging aspect of blogging. In fact, it’s probably the biggest hurdle to regular writing for most people.
The key things to remember here are that your content needs to be:
A blog post about an embarrassing best man’s speech you witnessed at a recent wedding might be entertaining, but will it be relevant to your audience? If you’re selling wedding related services then, yes, definitely! You might write a very informative article about the history of housing market trends, which is very relevant for your property management business, but is it entertaining? Will your readers engage with it and want to continue reading beyond the first paragraph, or even beyond the headline?
The best place to start is with your audience. It’s so important to get to know and understand your customer base, including your readers and email subscribers.
Who are they? What are they interested in? What do they need? What problems do they face that you can help solve? If you know your industry and your customers well, you may find you already know the answers to these questions. Or you might prefer to devise a questionnaire that you send to your customers or display on your website, to get valuable insights and feedback.
You should also do some research in your industry or field of expertise. What are other people talking about? What’s getting people excited or fired up? What’s trending on social media? Are there any gaps where you can sense people’s frustrations but their questions aren’t getting answered?
Whatever business you’re in, there are topics you can write about. You just need to do a little digging to get started. Just remember who your audience is, keep it informative and entertaining, and you can’t go far wrong.
2. Write a killer headline
The title of your blog post is just as important, if not more important, than the content itself. According to Copyblogger’s 80/20 rule of headlines,
“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the content.”
The title is what draws people in. There’s no point having great content if nobody reads it. And they won’t read it unless you grab their attention with a great title.
A great title should make a promise. It should clearly state what the reader will learn or gain from reading the article, with just the right amount of mystery to keep them intrigued.
According to the 4-U approach taught by AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc), your headlines must:
- Be USEFUL to the reader,
- Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,
- Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and
- Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.
Two of the most popular types of headline populating the internet right now are:
- The “How to” headline, and
- The “list” headline.
The “How to” headline is one of the most effective headline types in the world. To maximise its effects you should emphasise how people’s lives will be improved by reading the article, using words like “easier”, “better”, ”happier”, etc. It’s also important to focus on the benefits.
- “How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event” (Entrepreneur)
- “How To Create An Easy Content Marketing Strategy You’ll Actually Use” (Forbes)
- “How to Plan Meals and Make Your Life Easier” (Huffington Post)
The “list” headline is also very effective and makes a very specific promise. It makes the article easy to follow for the reader and also provides an easy structure for the writer to follow when crafting the article.
- “8 Public Speaking Techniques To Wow Your Audience” (Brian Tracy)
- “5 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing” (Shutterstock)
- “13 DIY Decor Solutions That Will Make Your Life Easier” (House Beautiful)
For a more thorough look at writing headlines, read our guide How to write killer headlines for your blog.
3. Craft your copy
Now you have your topic and headline, it’s time to write the main body of your article.
The best place to start is with an outline. What are the main points you want to cover? If you’re writing a list piece, what are those list items? Make sub-lists of the key points to cover in each section.
Include a paragraph or two of introduction to summarise what the article is about. Remember this is where you need to engage your readers the most, so make sure your intro is entertaining and relevant, and this will encourage them to keep reading.
Do you need to do any research for your article? Make sure you include exact quotes and references to the original sources.
Conclude your article by summarising and reminding your readers of the key points. Make sure you check back to your heading. Have you delivered on your promise? There’s no point making a promise in your headline if you don’t actually deliver on it. Your readers won’t come back for more if they feel dissatisfied.
Lastly, ensure you’ve included some kind of call to action. What do you want your readers to do next? Sign up to your email list? Contact you for a free consultation? Download a free guide? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clear, concise and easy.
For a more detailed guide to crafting your copy, check out our post How to craft awesome blog content.
4. Make it search engine friendly
One of the key elements of online content creation is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Many people hear this term and recoil. They don’t know what it means, it sounds too technical, or it’s too difficult to get their head around.
In a nutshell, all it means is making sure your content includes some basic elements to help it appear higher up the rankings for the search terms you want to be found for. These search terms are called keywords.
So, if you run a gardening business in Chichester, you might choose to focus on keywords such as “gardening services Chichester” or “landscape gardening West Sussex”. There are online tools you can use to find out which keywords are searched for the most within your industry, and what level of competition they have. So, rather than focussing on a keyword that is already very competitive, you may choose to focus on a more niche keyword instead. For instance, if there are only a few eco-friendly gardeners in the Chichester area, your aim might be to become the most well-known and well-respected business of this type in this area. And you could achieve this through the use of a targeted keyword content strategy.
Once you’ve decided on your focus keywords, you need to make sure these are included throughout your copy and in your headings and subheadings wherever possible.
You also need to add the SEO data – page title, page description and focus keyword – to each page and post on your site. If you have a WordPress website you can do this using the Yoast SEO plugin. In fact, if you’re not using this WordPress plugin, you should be – it’s become the gold standard!
5. Format like a pro
The formatting of your blog post is very important, both from a reader experience point of view and for SEO purposes.
- Break it up: Make sure you use short, easy to read sentences. And keep your paragraphs to only 2 or 3 sentences. Long, unwieldy sentences and paragraphs are not conducive to easy online reading and your readers won’t thank you for it!
- Add the subs: Subheadings are a great way to break up your text, and to include those all-important keywords. They’re easy on the eye and allow the reader to scan through your article to get a good gist of it.
- Link away: It’s good practice to include internal links to cross-reference your own content, as well as external links to other relevant websites and sources. Make sure you test all your links before publishing.
- TweetThis: You can also include added extras and WordPress plugins. Our current favourite is TweetThis which allows your readers to tweet a particular quote from your article in one click.
Using a blogging platform like WordPress makes formatting your posts a breeze. Don’t forget to add other relevant elements, such as author, excerpt, tags and categories.
6. Use compelling imagery
The images you add to your blog post can make a big difference to the attention it receives. A compelling image will stand out and help grab your reader’s attention.
Here are our top tips for using images online:
- No stealing: Don’t ignore copyright issues. If you’re running a business online, you should never use free images you’ve found via search engines, unless they’re ‘Labelled for reuse’. If you go to Google Images and select ‘Search tools’ from the menu bar, you’ll see a dropdown menu for ‘Usage rights’, which can help you find free images without breaking any copyright laws.
- Give credit: If you do want to use someone else’s image it’s best to ask their permission first. Most people will be fine with it as long as you credit them as the image source.
- Visit the library: Online image libraries are a great way to source high quality, legitimate images. There are millions of images to choose from and you pay for them with credits, which you can buy in bulk. Our favourites are iStock and Shutterstock.
- Size matters: The biggest mistake people make when uploading images to their website is not re-sizing them first. Did you know that an incorrectly sized image can seriously harm the performance of your site on search engines? Website performance is one of the many factors Google uses to rank a page. If an image is too big and takes too long to load, your readers are likely to get bored and leave the page without completing the task they intended to do.
For further help with images, check out our Guide to creating images for your website. There’s even a free video tutorial showing you how to resize images for your website, email marketing and social media.
7. Spread the word
Once you’ve crafted your awesome blog post, added your SEO data and uploaded your compelling images, the final step is to send it out into the world. After all, there’s no point doing all that hard work if no-one’s going to read it, is there?
Ideally, you want to be blogging regularly. And we mean like clockwork. At the same time and date. Religiously. So if you’re writing weekly you could publish at 10am every Monday, or at 6pm on the last Friday of each month if you’re a monthly blogger.
The exact time and date you publish your blogs will depend on your audience. You can track this using analytics software like Google Analytics, to find out when your site usually has the most visitors. It may also depend on your industry or niche, or on trends in the current market.
The best way to deliver your blogs directly into your readers’ inboxes is through email marketing. You may decide to send out weekly or monthly newsletters but, again, make sure you keep these as regular as clockwork so your readers know when to expect them. Not sure where to start with email marketing? Read our Top and sign up for the free video showing you how to set up a free MailChimp account.
And last, but by no means least, there’s social media. Be sure to share your blog posts across all your social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Write different posts for each network and include appropriately sized images for each. Using a social tool like Hootsuite is a great way to manage all your networks from one place. Not sure which social networks are right for your business? Watch our video What social networks should my business be on?
Need help getting started?
If all this feels a little daunting, don’t panic! We’re here to help soften the blow.
Our packages are the perfect way to get you started on your digital journey and help you grow your business. We can help with audience research, topic selection, content scheduling, blog formatting, image sourcing and SEO. So you can simply focus on writing great content and let us do the rest.