5 Steps to Writing the Perfect Blog Post
This article is #2 of 6 in our series about content marketing. As a certified Content Marketing Expert, I share what I’ve learned at the Hubspot Academy and as Sunbird’s Content Manager.
Blog posts can be tricky. It’s hard enough trying to find time to sit down and write one, but it also has to be well-written and attract your target audience. Like all writing, blog post writing may seem like a mysterious journey with uncertain results. But it doesn’t have to be! Let’s break down the process into five simple steps.
Here are five steps to writing the perfect blog post:
1. Brainstorm a list of as many general topics as you can.
Before you start writing, you need to figure out what you’re writing about! Sometimes this first step can seem like the most daunting one. Begin by brainstorming—and don’t start judging the ideas you come up with until you come up with a set of 5-10 options!
If you’re stuck, try using Quora, the popular question and answer site discussed in our previous blog post, to find out what your audience is confused about when it comes to your industry. By searching your industry or offering, you can see what questions your potential customers are asking. If all of the questions pertain to one specific area of your industry, then you have a general topic you can add onto your list.
If you’re still having trouble thinking of ideas, log onto social media to see what your community is talking about. Engage with your audience, find out what interests them. You can only write blog posts that help them if you know them well.
Once you’ve decided on a topic, be sure to stick to it throughout the entirety of the blog post. You don’t want to confuse your readers by talking about more than one thing.
2. Start with a working title.
I first learned the importance of a working title from my English professor, who constantly drilled the idea into my brain. Whether you’re writing a 20-page research paper or a 500-word blog post, a working title is crucial. It will help you guide your writing and stay on topic.
Think of 5 to 10 possible titles, and then ask a coworker or peer for a second opinion. They can tell you which one(s) they like best, and help you narrow down your options.
There are nine common types of blog post titles:
The “List” format, which lists different ways to achieve a desired result.
The “Question” format, which is intended to pique your readers’ curiosity.
The “Negative” format, which warns the reader to avoid a poor habit.
The “Secret Of” format, which makes your reader feel like they are a part of an elite group of experts.
The “Little Known Advice, Tips, or Tricks” format, which again makes your reader feel special knowing something that very few know.
The “You Should Know This” format, which makes your reader feel like they are keeping up with current trends.
The “Interesting Data” format, which is also intended to pique your reader’s curiosity.
The “Quick Tip” format, which allows your reader to learn something new quickly in a short blog post.
The “How To” format, which teaches your reader how to do something. This post is a How To post!
Choose the appropriate format for your blog post title based on the reaction you would like to get out of your audience.
3. Write a blog post draft.
Make sure you go into the first draft already having done your research. This will ensure that you produce a post of substance that will actually help your readers.
Your draft should include headings, bullets, or numbered lists in order to keep the content organized. Hyperlink to your sources throughout the draft. This not only ensures that you give credit for the research you’ve done for the post, but also provides your audience with additional resources in case they would like to learn more.
The most important part of a first draft is getting all your ideas out into one place. Remember, this draft does not have to be perfect, as it will have many more rounds of edits before publishing. (Stay tuned for our next blog post all about the revision process!)
4. Refine the blog post.
A blog post needs to have certain elements in order to be attractive to your potential customers. Use this checklist to ensure your post is ready to be published.
- Does the post provide educational value? Your goal is to be helpful, not sound salesy or like a know-it-all.
- Be sure your main points are emphasized through the use of bullets, numbered lists, section headings, or bold and italic font. But try not to go overboard. The more you use bold and italic font, the less meaningful it seems. (And it’s kind of annoying, right?)
- Use images to attract your audience and to prevent your post from feeling too text-heavy. Since we were kids, pictures have made even the longest amount of text seem less intimidating. (Don’t we all just miss pop-up books?)
- After the first few paragraphs, try to insert a call to action—as long as it feels natural— through hyperlinked text. This could be to another piece of your content or to one of your services that would best help the reader who is struggling with the problem mentioned in your blog post. Include a call to action again at the end of the post to further help your audience.
- Avoid jargon. Using big fancy words actually makes you appear less trustworthy to your audience. Write as if you’re having a conversation with your readers (contractions are a must!). It’ll make you and your readers feel more at ease.
- Learn to love whitespace—like, a lot. A lack of substantial whitespace makes your reader see clutter instead of content. Whitespace makes your text appear a lot more digestible.
5. Perfect your title.
The first thing you should do is shorten your title, since Google only shows up to the first 60 characters of a title in its search results.
The next thing you should do—and arguably the most important—is to make sure your title includes popular keywords. Know which keywords your audience is searching for by doing your research. How exactly do you do keyword research? There are many free tools out there to get started.
Google Trends is a great way to see what other topics are related to the topic you chose to write about, and see exactly what people have searched pertaining to your topic.
Moz Keyword Explorer gives you relevant keyword suggestions based on your topic, and shows high performing content on your topic that is already out there.
Make sure your title is clear and concise. Your reader must immediately know what he or she is getting from it just from reading the title.
Bottom Line: Writing blog posts requires all 5 steps to be successful. Brainstorming topic ideas gives you a wide range of material to work with. Choosing a working title sets the tone of your writing. Writing a draft enables you to put your ideas in writing. Adding key elements to the blog post ensures that your audience will enjoy reading the content. Editing your title to better appear in search queries increases your visibility.
Any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below! We love to hear from you.