The step-by-step guide to writing a blog post
Part of the Step-by-step writing guides series
Business owners know by now that they should be blogging to promote their business and share their knowledge with their audience. And yet, I so often hear that they’re not blogging. I hear that:
- they would if they had any idea how to write blog posts
- they have lots of ideas but just can’t get them down coherently on paper
- they have no idea what to write about, and don’t you run out of topics eventually?
Today we’re going to go through the exact steps I recommend you take if you’re interested in writing a blog post but have no idea where to start.
@@Exactly how to write a blog post, from brainstorming to marketing@@
It’s important to note that this step-by-step guide is only one way you could tackle the task of writing a blog post, and everyone will have their own preferences—but this is the way I have found most effective.
The first step before starting any of this is to get comfortable in a distraction-free space (yep, that means somehow ignoring all those Facebook notifications that keep popping up on your phone). I generally brainstorm and write in my favourite café, or at my desk or in bed with some music on in the background.
Step one: Brainstorming
Although I think the brainstorming stage is the most open to experimentation, here’s what I suggest.
1. Spread your brainstorming tools of choice out in front of you. I recommend a cheap notebook and some cheap pens (cheap because then you don’t worry so much if you use them for terrible ideas). You can use your computer, but I always find that this initial planning step is best done on paper—the ideas flow better, and it’s easier to map out your thoughts.
2. Write down the topics that you’re an expert on. Write down everything that comes to mind. If you find yourself writing down broad topics, that’s ok—but make sure you get more specific, too.
For example, in this step, I would write down topics like proofreading and writing and blogging. But those are too broad, so they aren’t going to be all that useful as potential blog post topics. Still write them down, but then drill into them and find the more specific topics that come underneath the broad topics.
- how to proofread well
- how to proofread your own work
- how to make proofreading less boring
- why you should proofread.
Tip: Turn off your inner critic when you’re brainstorming—it has no part to play in this stage. Let your ideas flow without judgement. You can cross out the unusable ideas later.
Spend as much time as you like on this step—and have fun! If you rush through it, you won’t delve into the topics that are really interesting, which tend to bubble up when you spend a little bit of time exploring.
Tip: Once you’ve been writing blog posts for a while, you’ll start getting more and more ideas. I recommend setting up a system to keep a track of your ideas. You could carry around a notebook and write all your random ideas in that, although I find the most effective way to track ideas is to create a list for them in Trello. Then you can add details to the idea in the comments of the Trello card. (If you’re interested in using Trello and want to find out more, this will help you with the basics and this post might be useful in explaining how to use it for your writing.) Tracking your ideas like this will mean that next time you sit down to write a blog post, you can skip the brainstorming and move right onto the planning step.
If you’re finished brainstorming for now and you think you’ve got some interesting ideas, move onto the next step.
Step two: Picking a topic for your blog post
Go through all your ideas and find the one that you’re most interested in writing about right now. Usually, for me, that means that I’m thinking past the brainstorming stage already for that particular idea—I know what I’ll write about and what I want to say on the topic, and I’m excited to share it with my audience.
But if you don’t feel that way, just pick one topic and go through the rest of the steps with that topic.
Some of the things you might consider when you’re deciding whether a topic is worth writing about are:
- Does this topic align well with my target audience? (E.g., I once wrote a whole blog post series about how to become a better editor… and when I got to the end, I realised that my target audience are not editors—they’re writers—so the series wasn't at all useful. Would’ve been great if I’d thought about that at the start!)
- Is this something my audience needs to know and will want to read about? (That second part is vital. Even if your topic is the most important topic in the whole world, if your readers aren’t really interested in reading about it, there’s no point writing about it.)
- Do I know enough about this topic to expand on my initial idea? (If you’re unsure, take it through the planning step. If you get to the end of the planning step and you don’t think there’s enough to write about, just save it for later—you might be able to use it in the future instead of right now.)
- Can I write about this topic in a way that will be new to my audience? (You might not be able to answer this question if you haven’t done a bit of research into the bloggers already covering your topic. If you’re interested in researching, start with Pinterest. Type your topics into the search bar and see what pops up.)
Have you chosen your topic? Great! Time for the next step.
Step three: Planning your blog post
This is my favourite step! It’s where your idea takes shape and you start seeing the awesome content you’re going to deliver to your audience.
1. Write down the topic that you’ve chosen to write about. Again, I recommend doing this step on paper, but do whatever works for you.
2. If the topic isn’t already in the form of a title, come up with a title. It’s important to consider that your potential readers probably see a lot of content, so you need to make sure your blog post will stand out in their social media feeds or inboxes (which is most likely where they’ll encounter it).
Make sure your title isn’t cryptic—it should be easy for readers to understand exactly what benefit they will receive from reading the post.
This blog post is a good example. The title, The step-by-step guide to writing a blog post, tells you exactly what you’re going to get and why you should read it.
A bad example of a title for this blog post might be something like, What am I doing writing a blog? That title doesn’t clearly state to readers what they’re going to learn if they read the post.
Some easy ways to make sure you’re crafting an attractive title include:
- starting with ‘how’ or ‘why’ (e.g., How to start feeling healthier)
- adding a number of steps or ways (e.g., Seven ways to start feeling healthier)
- adding a simple adjective (e.g., Seven easy ways to start feeling healthier)
- using a second-person pronoun (e.g., Seven ways you can start feeling healthier).
If you need more help with your title, check out these useful resources:
- Make writing effective headlines easier
- 102 headline formulas
- The most popular words in most viral headlines
I always recommend coming up with your title before you start writing your blog post, because it gives your writing a direction. Without a title, you’re more likely to go off topic.
If you finish writing your post and realise the title no longer fits the post, either you re-evaluate whether the content of the post is actually useful (i.e., have you gone off topic?), or you change the title. Easy!
3. Think of all the different points you’d like to discuss on this topic and write them down. This step is similar to brainstorming in that you should write down whatever comes to mind—you can always disregard bad ideas later on.
Coming up with different points for this step is always easier if your post is in the form of a list or steps. For example, one of the easiest blog posts I ever wrote was Ten proofreading tricks for when you need to self-edit. I wrote down the title of the post, then wrote down ten proofreading techniques I knew of, and added details or comments about those techniques based on my experience. Planning your post can be that simple, no matter what you’re writing about.
Once you’ve finished this step, you should have a basic outline of your blog post.
Ok! Done that? Got an outline with some points you want to discuss? Next step, then!
Step four: Writing your blog post
1. Prepare your writing equipment. Although I suggest that you do steps one to three with pen and paper, I usually hop onto my computer when I start writing, unless I’m feeling really uninspired and need to physically write to make the words come out.
If you need to, transfer your outline from paper to computer. I generally write my blog posts in a Word document (saved in Dropbox).
2. Start filling in the sections from your outline. The points you wrote down in the planning step can be your subheadings, and you can elaborate under those subheadings.
Using that example of the Ten proofreading tricks post again, here’s a bit of what that would look like.
Tip: Try to refrain from editing as you write. Whatever comes out, let it—no deleting or second-guessing yourself. Just write. We’ll edit in the next step.
Tip: If you’re really struggling with this step, use pen and paper instead of your computer. You might find that the ideas come out better that way. If that doesn’t work, you could try recording yourself talking about the topic, or you could just talk about the topic casually with your partner or a friend.
I think the trick here is to avoid feeling pressure just because you're writing. You know your stuff—all you’re doing is putting your expertise down on paper.
3. Add some sort of introduction. Because you’ve already written the bulk of your post, this part should be easy peasy.
In your introduction, tell your readers what you’re writing about and why they should care. Why will reading this blog post help them? What will they have learnt by the end of the blog post?
4. Add a short conclusion. Although it will depend on what sort of post you’re writing, the conclusion in blog posts is generally very short and encourages some sort of communication from the reader.
For example, you might say something like, Do you use any other proofreading techniques? Let me know in the comments—I’d love to hear.
If you’re using the blog post to advertise something, you can put your call to action in the conclusion, too. Using the proofreading blog post as an example again, I might say, Not sure about proofreading? Get in touch now for a quote.
Or, even better, advertise something you offer for free (usually in exchange for the readers signing up to your email list). For example: Liked this blog post? Enter your email address and name below to receive my list of 100 proofreading tips straight to your inbox.
Finished writing? Congratulations—that’s the hard part over! Now we just have to polish, publish, and let people know about your blog post. Onto the next step!
Step five: Editing your blog post
Unless you’re in a hurry, I don’t recommend editing your post immediately after you write it—leave it to sit for a day or two. When you come back to it, you’ll have fresh eyes and you’ll be a much more effective editor.
1. Read through your blog post once, all the way through. Do your best not to modify anything at this point—instead, look at the overall content. Does it all make sense? Is it structured logically? Do you want to add or remove anything? Does your voice sound authentic?
Tip: Do this part first to avoid having to proofread more than once. If you proofread first, then go back and add more stuff to your post, you’ll have to proofread all over again.
2. Once you’re happy with the overall content and structure of the blog post, look for smaller issues—grammatical errors, style problems, and things like that.
If you need help with this step, you might want to take a look at some of the other posts on the blog, take my free mini-course, check out my writing and grammar workbook, or contact me for help.
Tip: Particularly useful blog posts at this step are Ten proofreading tricks and How to get better at identifying errors in your own writing (coming soon).
Right. Satisfied that you’ve picked up all the errors you can and that your post reads well? Yay—you’re done! (Read on for the bonus steps…)
Tip: If you get to this step and you’re still not completely confident in your post, get in touch with me. I can edit the post for you or just make suggestions for your own edits.
Step six: Publishing your blog post
No matter what platform you're using to publish your blog post, you’re probably going to have to do more than just hitting the ‘publish’ button.
If you don’t have a publishing platform yet, here are some resources that might help.
If you want a website or blog of your own:
- How to choose the best platform for your blog
- Should I use WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, or Squarespace for my blog?
- New to WordPress: Where to start
- Blogging with Squarespace
- Get started with Blogger
If you don’t want a website or blog of your own (you want to use another platform):
- How to use Medium: A beginner's guide to writing, publishing & promoting on the platform
- How to publish on LinkedIn Pulse: A beginner's guide
1. Transfer your content into your publishing platform. For me, this means copying and pasting from Word into the Squarespace blog editor.
2. Go through your post carefully and check that it all looks good. Sometimes when you copy and paste, your formatting gets messed up or things don’t look the way you want them to. This is the step where you make sure all your subheadings are in the right font, all your links work, you’ve added all the images you need to, etc.
Tip: I normally read my post again at this point, even if I’ve already edited it. Transferring it into Squarespace means that it looks different, which helps me to pick up errors I may have previously missed in Word.
Tip: Often readers will skim your post before they read it in full—they want to make sure that it’s going to be useful enough to spend time on. To ensure that they get the information they need as they’re skimming, make your subheadings stand out. You might also bold important points in the body of the text.
3. Hit publish! Congratulations!
But it doesn’t end there… now you have to tell everyone that you’ve published a blog post!
Step seven: Spreading the word
1. Make sure you know the link for your blog post.
2. Share the link (with a small blurb, usually, that concisely describes the blog post) wherever you think your readers are hanging out.
Here are some of the ways you might share the link to your blog post:
- tweet about it
- post about it on your personal Facebook profile or business Facebook page
- post about it in Facebook groups (if the group allows it—very, very important to check first!)
- post about it on LinkedIn, or republish it using LinkedIn Pulse
- share an image on Instagram or Snapchat
- email your subscribers about it
- add it into your email signature
- sign your blog up to Bloglovin’ or Feedly, both of which will automatically share your post.
Well, that’s that! By now you should have a fully written, edited, and advertised blog post. How did you go? Let me know in the comments—I’d love to hear from you.
@@The step-by-step guide to writing a blog post@@