Two of the most common content marketing challenges for both B2B and B2C businesses today are:
- Writing blog posts that are good.
- Writing blog posts at a consistent pace.
Why is that? Well, anyone who’s ever had to sit down and write a 600 word article from scratch knows that creating any kind of content (blog posts included) takes some finesse and know-how. Anyone can write a blog post – literally, anyone; there are about 350 million blogs on Tumblr alone and nearly 77 million on WordPress. But not everyone can write a great blog post.
But if you want to write a great blog post—a compelling blog post that’s entertaining, holds value to the reader, generates leads for your business, and ranks highly on Google—well then, buddy, you came to the right place.
First, let’s look at the structure of a good blog post.
- Catchy headline. This is the first thing the reader sees, the first thing they’ll see in Google, and, often, the only thing they’ll see. Make sure it’s short and to the point and compelling enough to get users to click. Don’t use clickbait or incite negative emotions. That’s just tacky.
- Dynamic visual. Below the headline you should have an eye-catching picture. Not only does it catch attention—especially for mobile users quickly swiping through their feeds—it breaks up the headline and the rest of your piece. That’s just good blog formatting.
- Punchy introduction. Don’t bury the lede. Get right to the point. And don’t waste readers time with traps like “Back in the days of blah blah blah…” You’re lucky enough you got readers at all, so state your thesis and get on with it.
- Main arguments. The meat-and-potatoes of your article. This is where you chisel away, bit by bit, at a long-standing myth in your industry or build a case for why readers should use your product or service. Be convincing and be bold.
- A pithy conclusion. It’s not an academic paper, so sum everything up in a couple sentences or end with a clever one-liner.
- Call to action. Then remind them to like, share, or subscribe. Or whatever you want the reader to do, whether that’s to share the post on LinkedIn, tweet a quote from the post, or subscribe to a newsletter.
- Other stuff. Below the post, include related posts, comments, or whatever your CMS allows. This is also where you can place a sign-up option for your newsletter (that can also be at the top or in a sidebar) and social media buttons.
How do I start?
Whew, good question.
This is up to every individual writer, but generally, you want to start with a strong intro. Let readers know what the article’s going to be about.
State your thesis, or your main idea. Pretend you’re a lawyer and you’re making your opening argument. Ask a question or explain a problem or situation such as “How do I wrote a good blog post?” And then hint at why the reader should listen to you and how you’re going to solve it.
To let readers know you mean business, include a statistic. Everyone loves a good number, especially if it backs up your thesis. And if you can provide multiple stats in the same breath, then your case just gets stronger. For example, this article about Hollywood comedies bombing all over the place backs its idea up with the box office takes of numerous flops. That’s solid evidence.
Speaking of comedies…Be funny—if you are. Humor is highly subjective. Most people who think they’re funny aren’t, and that includes big-budget Hollywood filmmakers—most comedies flop. So, uh, work on those juicy bits with your closest writer friends and good luck!
Now that you’re past the intro, what next?
Some writers like to create outlines. For advanced topics or in-depth features, they can be extremely helpful. An outline, in case you don’t remember school, is basically a roadmap for every point and subpoint you’ll flesh out in the complete piece. For example, an outline could look like:
How to create a good blog post:
- Start with main blog post structure
- Don’t use clickbait
- Dynamic visual
- Keep mobile users in mind
- Punchy intro
- Use a statistic
Once you got a solid outline you already wrote a good skeleton of a blog post. All that’s left is to fill in the rest of all the connective tissue.
You can also include all your research in the outline—all your links and quotes and sources that’ll you refer to in the full piece.
Oh, hey speaking of research! Do it! You can do it before your start or while you’re writing.
No writer is fluent in every subject, but a good writer can write about any subject well. If you don’t know anything, don’t be afraid to ask—reach out to Subject Matter Experts, use Google, refer to trusted sources.
Not sure what a trusted source is? Well, jeez, that’s sort of a hot topic these days, but these are generally well-regarded. But don’t believe everything you read online either. If something sounds fishy or too good to be true, do some sleuthing to figure out if it’s legit. There’s a lot of bad info that gets echo chambered and it can be maddening to find out what’s true. Maybe you heard attention spans are shrinking? Everyone says so. But it’s a load of bollocks. Get your facts straight—one honest mistake could be all it takes to hit your reputation.
Some extra writing tips:
- Use bullet points. As you can see, it makes text easier to read and easier to skim. And like images, they break up the flow of the post so it’s not just a huge wall of text.
- Read what you write out loud. It helps you fix problems with flow and tone. Not sure how something sounds? Just say it out loud!
- Use a font that’s easy to read. Natural blog selection has pretty much killed annoying fonts online, but occasionally you come across something questionable. No Papyrus or you’ll anger Ryan Gosling.
- Use short sentences, small words, and space out your lines. These make things easy on the eyes and easy to skim. Also, go easy on the $10 words.
- Use bold text to mark out sections. Another useful trick that makes reading and skimming easier.
A couple other questions to ask yourself:
Is my content valuable? Are you solving the user’s problem or answering a question? Has this question been answered elsewhere? How can I make my writing unique and worthwhile? These are questions only you can answer. If you’ve got answers, great job! Keep on writing. If not, take a break and do some brainstorming.
What’s my goal here? To generate more leads? To get visitors interested in your product or service? To build thought leadership? Make sure every word in every sentence pushes you toward accomplishing your goal. If you’re not sure of your goal go back to the drawing board and figure it out. Or take what you’ve already written, choose a different goal, and adjust accordingly.
And once you’re all done, give it a quick look-over:
- Tighten up the intro and conclusion (or any part that looks long-in-the-tooth). Delete any extraneous words (or entire sections!).
- Check your links. Broken links are bad for business.
- Check proper nouns and names for misspellings. No one likes to see their name misspelled, and getting brand and company names wrong looks amateurish.
- Check your headings and formatting. Just because those bullet points look good in your Word file doesn’t mean they’ll translate into the CMS you use to publish.
- Make sure your statistics and sources are up-to-date (anything older than a year or two or three needs to go). Things change. That stat you found may look good, but if it’s ancient it’s probably meaningless at this point.
- Kill your darlings (nobody knows what Typing of the Dead is, dude (see below)). Look, we all have our styles or flourishes. A good joke, turn of phrase, or reference can brighten up even the driest of prose, but don’t go overboard.
Fix any glaring errors and mistakes, then send it off to your editor.
Blog post completed!
But wait, what tools do you use?
Me, I prefer good ol’ Microsoft Word. It’s relatively inexpensive, uses cloud saves which means you can work from home or the office and then pick up where you left off at a coffee shop, and an Office 365 subscription comes with a bunch of other nifty programs like Excel (great for editorial calendars). Plus, you can write it off at the end of the year! Cha-ching!
There are plenty of free variations, including Apache OpenOffice, and of course, Google Drive, which is free, instantly shareable, usable on any device, and great for collaborating and brainstorming.
Want to type faster? I learned from Typing of the Dead and similar “X Teaches Typing” games.
No, really. They’re what I used when I was younger, and now I can type around 60 to 70 words per minute. That’s not a super impressive wordcount (there are savants out there who can do 80 to 140) and sure I’ll have to go back to correct a few dozen typos, but hey, it’s still pretty good. And I credit it all to blasting zombies away in my downtime. Well, that, and crunching like crazy before deadlines. Don’t get into that habit! But if you’re writing, let’s face it, you’re already there.
Speaking of which, don’t get distracted. Do all your writing in one session, unless it’s a big project, then of course you should break it up into smaller chunks. But generally, shorter daily posts should be done in about two to four hours or so.
Having trouble getting things done in that time? Understandable. FOMO is a powerful force and the human will is only so strong. Twitter and YouTube–full of many glorious distractions! If self-motivation really does become problem though, there’s an app for that. Block Site for Google Chrome does exactly what the name says it does, so you can get in the right headspace to write those headlines.
As for capturing images and light image editing, there are plenty of free tools out there. We like Gimp and Paint.net, and there are free trials of Adobe Photoshop out there if you want a taste of the good life. Your phone also comes with a solid basic image editor if all you need to do is capture, crop, or resize.
Before we wrap up, let’s talk quickly about SEO and keywords. To rank on Google, you want to lace your content with the appropriate keywords and phrases, which you can find with Google Keyword Planner. These keywords should be in your headline, mentioned a couple times in the body of your content, and they should go in the URL and image and meta tags. With the right keywords, your audience will find your content.
And if it’s any good they’ll keep coming back for more. Which means you’ve got to write all over again.
Hopefully this overview gave you a good start. If you’re still curious about how to write cracking good blog posts, bookmark this space, or subscribe to our newsletter. And if you want help with your blog writing, contact us.