The Essential Guide To Writing Great Blog Posts
Is blogging working out for you? Some people find it comes easy, but many really have to think about what they’re doing to get anywhere. Writing great blog posts is hard work. You need to master your techniques.
My own process for writing is something of a combination of techniques. Sometimes I’m super organized – I know the topic, the headings and subheadings all in advance. It makes writing so much easier.
Other times, inspiration flows, and I have to scramble to catch ideas as they come. I can be mid-sentence and come up with an idea I need to note right then, or the idea will be gone before the sentence is complete. It’s so frustrating trying to remember that perfect addition to a post when the idea vanishes.
And of course, everything in between.
While this may look like a lot of steps to get ready to write a blog post, it really doesn’t take that much. Most things are a matter of routine, and won’t take any significant time at all. Some parts may take a while on some subjects, but that’s when they’re important to the quality of your post.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Where do you do your best writing work? Is that your best place today, for this article you’re going to write?
Most days, I write in my office, at my desk. It’s private enough that no one is looking over my shoulder, but I leave the door loose enough for the cats to come in, so they don’t pester me clawing at the door.
But there are days that my office is just not the right place to work. That’s okay, being able to work in many places is one of the perks of working at home, after all.
The right place to work is often a balance between comfort and distractions, along with your needs for the day. If you have young children, there may be days when you have to work in the same area that they’re playing, because they need supervision. Other days, you may need to work behind a closed door because you need them to let you work, and someone else can take care of them.
Make your home office a great place to work. The more you love your home office, the more you will use it.
Have a healthy snack and drink at hand too. I keep an insulated water bottle at my desk at all times, so that I don’t have to get up for a drink. The insulation ensures that it doesn’t leave water from condensation all over my desk.
Generate Brilliant Ideas
There’s no way to start writing great blog posts if you don’t have great ideas. There are a lot of ways you can generate blog post ideas, given some time.
Once you have the basics of an article idea down, it can be very helpful to sit and brainstorm for a little. There are few things as frustrating as staring at your computer, with the start of an idea, but no idea where to take it. Brainstorming can help you work past that.
Start out with your basic topic, and then figure out what you want to say about it. What are the major points you need to make?
Brainstorm in whichever way works best for you. Some people prefer pen and paper. Some like to use mind mapping apps. Do your brainstorming in whichever way works for you.
If you need to choose an app, consider your needs, and try a few out first. Many let you make three or so mind maps free. That’s enough to get a feel for if it’s the right solution for you without paying for the full version. Free mind mapping software tends to not have as many functions as the paid versions. There are free, web based tools such as WiseMapping you can consider as well.
You don’t have to use every idea you come up with in your brainstorming for your current post. Some will be much better suited to future articles. If you plan well, you can make these so that one post can be linked naturally to the other, encouraging readers to spend more time on your site.
Note which areas will require more research as you brainstorm. There will be things you know off the top of your head, and things you don’t.
You can also create a basic outline for your blog post if you like, using the points you brainstormed. I only occasionally make outlines, but there are times that they’re a huge help.
Brainstorming can be a great activity to do when you have distractions and can’t sit down to write for an extended time. You don’t have to brainstorm for something you’ll write immediately. It can be for the future. Some people brainstorm a full week’s worth of posts or even a month or more ahead.
Come Up With A Great Initial Blog Post Title
Once I know what I’m writing about, it’s time to give the post an initial title.
This doesn’t have to be much. Sometimes, it’s just the keywords for the post. Other times, I think I know what I want the title to be right from the start.
If you want to give your blog post a really interesting title that pulls readers in, you can use a blog post title generator. Sometimes these will even give you an angle for your post that you hadn’t previously considered. Here are some of the blog post title generators I use:
- Portent’s Content Title Maker
- SEOPressor Blog Title Generator
- Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator
- Fatjoe’s Blog Post Title Idea Generator
Coming up with a tentative title can be done before or after brainstorming ideas. It depends on where you are, idea-wise. Sometimes your blog post title will send you right back to brainstorming.
You want a title to start off. This is what gives you direction in your writing. You can change it later if you realized it’s not the best title after everything has been written.
Beware These Title Mistakes
If you do much reading online at all, you know there are a lot of awful article titles out there. People do strange things when crafting their blog post titles, all because they want to get attention. Here are some of the biggest blog title mistakes you can make.
Inaccurate Blog Post Titles
Readers hate inaccurate blog post titles. They want to know what to expect right from the start.
Clickbait titles do a lot of this. They make it sound like the story or article they link to is a big deal.
Something life-changing. Something you never thought of.
And then it’s something routine.
You know how annoying that kind of title is. Don’t do it for your own blog posts.
But it doesn’t take clickbait to create an inaccurate blog post title. All you have to do is write a title that sounds like your article covers information it doesn’t. Consider these examples.
How To Have A Great Work At Home Day
If you use this as a blog post title, you need to consider the entire work day, not just the start of the day. You’d probably want to include break times, distractions, and prepping for the next day in your post.
10 Great Affiliate Marketing Tactics
You share nine great affiliate marketing tactics, but you ask readers to supply the tenth tactic in comments.
If you say how many tips you’re providing in a post, you need to provide at least that many tips. It’s okay to provide extras and call them bonus tips, but don’t shortchange your readers.
Titles that don’t make it clear what the article is about are annoying. They don’t bring in traffic because they leave readers thinking “huh?” when they read them.
A good title makes it clear what the reader will get from spending their precious time reading your blog post.
Bad post title examples:
One Year Of Working At Home
This title could be so much more interesting. There needs to be more information about why that year mattered. A whole year is a difficult time to cover in a single blog post anyhow.
Are You Ready?
Ready for what? You might be trying to build anticipation with a title like this, but it won’t work in isolation, and you have to assume readers will come upon your blog posts on their own.
Sunsets are beautiful, but what’s so special about this post discussing them? The title could be improved by saying where they’re from or noting something else of significance.
Your blog post titles need to give enough information to attract readers. Unclear titles don’t do that. Add in a little more information to make your titles stronger.
Too Many Words
It’s easy to get wordy in your blog post titles. It’s how most people talk.
A great blog post title isn’t wordy. It may be long, but the length is necessary in that case.
Use power words as much as possible in your blog post titles. This list from Sumo may help.
A power word evokes emotion or triggers curiosity. Clickbait titles use a lot of power words, but you can use them effectively. Consider this title rewrite:
How To Get Your Teen To Listen To You When They’re Stubborn And Moody
Sure, that’s a problem lots of parents have, but it’s also a lot of words for a title. Your title needs powerful words to make it more effective. Something along these lines may be more effective:
Effective Ways To Talk To Your Headstrong Teen
Lists of power words probably won’t be enough to fix every title you write. If you’re concerned that the word you want to use isn’t strong enough, look up synonyms for it. You will often find a stronger word that has the meaning you need.
Keywords are necessary to a successful blog post, and putting them in your blog post title can help. What you don’t want to do is stuff them in.
Your blog post titles should read naturally. Titles such as The Best Work At Home Tips For Work At Home Moms don’t read that way. Changing it to The Best Tips For Work At Home Moms makes a much better title. You still have to live up to that title in your post, but it’s better.
Avoiding all of these doesn’t guarantee that you have written a great blog post title. It doesn’t guarantee that your post will get a lot of attention. But it should help.
I’ll readily admit my titles aren’t always great. They’re one of the things I’m trying to improve. It takes practice, but it’s worth the effort.
Research Your Great Blog Posts
The best blog posts often take a little research. Citing other resources can make your blog post look more authoritative to both readers and the search engines. There are a few ways to do research for a blog post.
Solid research for your posts should give you things to add to your posts that you hadn’t considered before. There will be times that researching your post takes more time than writing it. When done properly, that’s a good thing.
Choose your resources wisely. They should make you and your post look good. Inaccurate information will make you look bad. Take the time you need to gather accurate information.
The Article That Inspired Your Post
If an article elsewhere inspired your post, try to use it as a reference. This can be as simple as a brief mention that you had been reading it, or as detailed as crediting it with whichever information you took from it.
How much credit you give depends on how much you took from the article. Be clear about what in your article came from elsewhere.
If you need solid information on a subject, you can also search on Google or other search engines to find what you need. Make sure you appropriately credit the resources you find, of course.
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is great if you want to ask people a question and share their responses in an article. You can get anywhere from a lot of responses from questions posted there, to no responses at all. It depends on the kind of question for how many people consider it something worth answering.
Tell people upfront in your HARO request what they can expect from you in terms of a link back or other credit. Subscribe as a source to get a feel for how people phrase requests in your niche. I’ve seen requests that promise not only a link back, but a link to a social media account and request a headshot photo to use as well.
Consider Your Own Experience
Some of the information for your blog posts will relate to your own experience. It’s much easier to write clearly about things you understand well, even when you have to dig up more information on the topic.
In most cases, you should make it clear when discussing your own experience. Not everyone will have the same experience, after all. This is especially true when making financial or health claims. Your experience is an anecdote. It probably won’t hold true for everyone, even if they do exactly as you say you did.
Start Writing Your Great Blog Post
Once you feel you have everything you need pulled together, it’s time to start writing.
One tool I use sometimes is Google’s voice typing feature in their Docs software. If you know what you want to say in your article, it can be faster to say it than to type it. This can also give your article a more conversational tone.
It can also take a lot of editing. Voice recognition is pretty good, but it’s not perfect.
Otherwise, start writing.
You don’t have to start at the beginning of your post and work straight through to the end. There are times when it works better to start with a subtopic and write the introduction later. Do what makes sense to you for that blog post.
The most important thing to do is give yourself enough time to write. Writing great blog posts takes time. The more information you want to get across, the longer it will take.
Not every blog post you make as to be this huge deal. You can write simpler blog posts that are useful to your readers as well.
Write A Great Introduction
You don’t have to start with your introduction, but you probably will most times. It’s a logical place to start.
There are several ways to start a blog post out to draw readers in. You only have a short time in which to do that. If you bore readers from the start, they won’t reach the finish.
Introduction questions can make for an excellent beginning to a post when used correctly. They can get readers thinking about the topic you’re writing about. Consider these possible starter questions:
- What if your kids kept their rooms clean?
- How often have you tried making graphics for your blog posts, but ended up with a mess?
- Have you ever wished your yard was easier to care for?
From there, you can take your readers from that question to the solution you’re providing.
You need to consider your readers’ needs right from the start. While starting with a question isn’t the only way to do that, it is an easy way to start.
Write With Empathy
If you’re writing about a subject you know well, you were probably in the same spot as your readers at some point before you gained the knowledge you’re now sharing.
Think back to when you were learning. What was hard to learn? What obstacles did you face?
If you write as though you’re far above the readers who are learning from you, they won’t enjoy reading what you write. Be down to earth. Share your challenges and mistakes.
When relevant, share a personal story. You don’t have to do this every time. It will make your writing more when you do.
I’ll admit I don’t always get personal. I suffer from a miserable level of social anxiety. Writing personal things can bring me close to panic on bad days. I’m working on it.
See what I did there? It’s only a brief mention of something personal (and it was hard to write and hard to leave in), but odds are you found it more interesting than the more informational parts of this post, which can get dry at times.
Give More Than Expected
Readers love it when you give them more than they expected to get from your blog posts, so long as that extra is high quality. This is how you stand out from the crowd of other bloggers in your niche.
Don’t give the exact same advice that you see on every other blog in your niche. Give contrary advice when it works. Sometimes it helps your readers to see that the most popular advice is not the right advice. Challenge your readers.
Write A Great Conclusion
Just as you want your blog posts to start strong, they need to finish strong. Don’t leave your readers disappointed in the end.
What makes a great conclusion depends on what you’re writing about. If you want readers to take action, make sure there’s a strong call to action at the end of your blog posts. If you want them to laugh, make the end of your post funny.
Where’s The Money?
A part of writing great blog posts should always be figuring out appropriate ways to monetize that post. In the long run, that’s often what people need most from their blogs. The readers and fans are nice if you get them, but money pays the bills.
Be picky about how you monetize your blog. Don’t add links to just any old product. The items you recommend must be high quality. Great product recommendations help you build trust with your readers.
Remember to use a link shortening tool such as Thirsty Affiliates to make it easier to manage your affiliate links. There are other ways to make it easier to manage your affiliate links in your blog, but a plugin is often the easiest solution.
If you can’t find an appropriate product to recommend, don’t recommend any. Lowering your standards just to monetize a post won’t do your reputation any favors. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Do not overdo the affiliate links in your posts. There’s a definite difference between recommending products and being a shill. It doesn’t matter if they’re all great products – stick to the most relevant ones to the post.
Links To Make You Think
A great blog post often has a lot of links.
You should always link to your resources, of course. They deserve credit, and it makes you look more like an authority. Search engines also like it when you link to high quality resources.
Make sure you also link to other posts on your blog. The helps keep people on your site, which is good both for added chances to make money and to make you look good to search engines.
Blog Post Writing Fails
We all make a lot of mistakes when writing. We stress over the wrong things. Consider these mistakes, which can take a blog post from great to merely adequate, or even terrible.
Stressing The Deadline Unnecessarily
If you work for someone else, you probably have hard and fast deadlines. if you work for you, they’re probably self-imposed.
If you aren’t meeting a deadline you set for yourself, rethink whether it’s necessary. Sure, you may like to post on a schedule. Your readers may be used to your schedule.
But if missing your self-imposed deadline means you write a better post, so be it. Readers can be very forgiving if the wait is worth it.
In the long run, it’s a much bigger mistake to publish a post that isn’t polished and ready to go.
For example, I had originally planned to finish writing this blog post on Saturday, so I could create images for it and polish the writing on Sunday, then post on Monday. The posting date was pushed out to Tuesday as I thought up more things to add to the post, and was still writing late Sunday night.
No Examples When An Example Would Help
Oh, the temptation to leave this section blank. It would be the perfect example of what this section is about.
But it would be too confusing if I did that. An example with no explanation is often worthless.
If you’re explaining how to do something, give an example whenever possible. Recipe posts do this with photos of the recipe in progress on many sites.
Your example can be an anecdote about how you did something related to your post or a tutorial on how to do the thing. It can be a hypothetical situation used to explain things. Think of things that will make your point clearer, and use them as examples.
It’s easy to be inconsistent in a blog post. If you want your blog post to look good, you need to fix that.
Don’t start out calling things “tips” and change to “reasons” or “steps” mid post, for example. If the post title says you’re giving tips, that’s what you call them.
Your overall style should be consistent as well. If you use a personal tone, keep being personal. If your tone is more professional, keep it professional.
The Importance Of Formatting
Formatting is a big part of a well written blog post. If it’s nothing but paragraph after paragraph, it gets hard to read fast, even if the information is solid and well written.
Headings Make A Difference
Use headings to break up your blog posts into sections. WordPress makes this easy with the different types of headings, so you can have subheadings for each section as well.
Many blog themes use Heading 1 (H1) for the blog post title, so I suggest leaving that one alone unless you know it isn’t used for anything else. Heading priority uses the smallest number for the most important topics, which is why your title gets the H1 format.
This means the main sections of your post will use the Heading 2 (H2) format. If you need subheadings, you can go to H3 and so forth.
You should start a new heading or subheading every few paragraphs. If you use Yoast SEO, you will note that it marks your Readability score down whenever you go over 300 words in a section. That’s a fair approximation of where you should add a heading. There are reasons to make sections longer, but think it over when you do so.
Headings and subheadings should be treated somewhat like titles. They’re for smaller subjects, but they should be interesting when possible. They should be relevant as well as interesting. Plain is appropriate at times, but not all the time.
Lists Add Style
When appropriate, numbered or bulleted lists can add interest to your blog posts. Sometimes your entire post will be a list, such as 100 Simple Work At Home Tips. Other times only a small part of the post will be a list.
Blockquotes & Pull Quotes Get Attention
Using blockquotes to emphasize examples on your posts can make them much more visible. That’s the quotation mark button on your Visual Editor in WordPress. In most themes, it indents the enclosed part of your post and sets it off in some way, such as a change in color or with a border.
If you’re comfortable with CSS or can have someone make some up for you, you can change up the blockquote formatting to suit your preferences. The Customize section of the Appearance menu has a space where you can add additional CSS to your theme.
Pull quotes are a great way to emphasize important points that don’t belong in a blockquote. A pull quote is usually off to one side or the other and is in a larger font.
You can use CSS to create pull quotes, or you can use a plugin such as Perfect Pullquotes. I don’t consider a plugin necessary for this personally, but I can see where someone who isn’t comfortable with CSS might make that choice.
It only takes a few moments to create the CSS to make your pull quotes pop. HTML Dog has some great tips to set your pull quotes aside so they don’t cause problems for visitors who use screen readers. Not all of your visitors will necessarily use your typical visual browser, after all.
Add Images And/Or Video For Emphasis
Relevant images and videos add a lot to most blog posts. They give your readers something other than a wall of text to look at. They can be a huge help in illustrating the information you’re trying to share.
When possible, use images or videos that are informational. Recipe bloggers do this when they include images or a video of how a recipe is made. That’s a huge help when explaining a complex process or trying to show exactly how something should look as you make it or when it’s done.
Screenshots and screen capture videos are extremely helpful when you’re writing about something that can be done on a computer. You can mention a feature of a piece of software you’re reviewing, for example, but if your readers can’t find that feature, it won’t do them any good. A screenshot or screen capture can help them understand how it’s done.
If the post doesn’t need images or video to explain things, you may still want to include images to make the post more visually appealing. Find images that relate to the post in some way. You can even take a quote from your post and overlay it on an image, as a fancy pull quote.
High quality images are also important for social media uses, especially visual sites such as Pinterest. I’ve written in the past about how you can control which images can be used on Pinterest. It’s important that you do so, or readers may pin images from your post that you don’t want on Pinterest for one reason or another.
It’s easy to find free images you can use on your blog posts. Be picky about the images you use when you don’t create your own. You want your images to look professional, no matter the source.
Rework Your Blog Post Title
I always give my blog posts a tentative title right at the start. Mostly it has to do with the keywords for that post, although I try to take it far enough to know what direction I mean to go with it.
But the title isn’t final until the post is completely written. That’s because writing will sometimes take your post in an entirely new direction from where you started.
Take a look at the title you started with. Does it fit with what you said?
If it doesn’t fit, you have to rewrite it. But there are more factors to consider. You don’t want all of your blog post titles to be boring. Just dropping your keywords down as a title isn’t enough. You want to grab potential readers’ attention.
While you don’t want your blog post to look like utter clickbait, you do want it to appeal to readers. You need to use words that make your subject more interesting.
There’s a reason why titles such as “The Ultimate Guide To (fill in the blank)” are so popular. But if you’re describing your post that way, it had better meet the expectations created by that title. Given how often such descriptors are used, I think there are better ways to bring attention to your blog post. Consider some of these lists of blog title tips:
- 74 Attention-Grabbing Blog Titles That Actually Work
- 101 Title Ideas for Your Next Blog Post
- Here Are The 101 Catchy Blog Title Formulas That Will Boost Traffic By 438%
The great thing about social media is that you can use several different titles or descriptions to link to your blog post. It doesn’t always have to be the same phrase over and over on all your social media accounts. Change it up. Test things. Consider what works on each social media site, rather than doing the same thing on all of them.
Yes, you should look at your blog post title both when you start writing and when you finish. It’s what readers see first. A great title can have a huge impact on the success of your blog posts.
Look Again With Fresh Eyes
If at all possible, take a look at your blog post with fresh eyes before publishing. This makes it easier to catch mistakes and gives you time to think of things you need to add to your post. There are a few ways you can do this.
Wait A Day
Wait a day or so before editing your blog post. It won’t be so fresh in your mind, so you’re more likely to catch any mistakes you’ve made. This can make the difference between writing great blog posts and writing pretty good blog posts.
Editing right after writing is often a mistake. You know what you meant to say. That makes it very easy to see what you think is there, rather than what is there.
While your word processor or web browser probably has a spell check function that automatically marks when you’ve misspelled a word, it probably doesn’t have a grammar checker. Grammatical errors are very common.
I like to use Hemingway App to check my posts. It’s easy to copy and paste into the editor to see what it thinks. I don’t make all of the changes it suggests, but I consider them all. It’s free to use. There’s a desktop version as well.
Read It Out Loud
Reading your post out loud can help you catch mistakes you didn’t notice while reading silently. There will be times that you’ll say “wait, that doesn’t sound right” when you read something when it sounded just fine when you wrote it.
Have Someone Else Read It
This is the one I’ve always found most difficult. Have someone read your blog post before you publish it, and give you feedback.
This can be incredibly uncomfortable. It can also be effective.
The other person has to be someone whose judgment you trust in matters of writing. You should use your own judgment in any changes you make, regardless of someone else’s recommendations, of course.
Trim Your Post
After you’ve looked things over, you may find things to cut out of your post. This is a good thing.
When you use more words than your blog post needs, it’s harder to read. Long sentences are also hard to read. Read through your post looking for things to cut. This goes for individual sentences as well as the overall post.
Short is not the goal. Effective use of words is.
Do I Have To Write In This Order?
No. Not a chance
Starting out with brainstorming, doing research and such before writing is not absolutely necessary. There will be blog posts where you sit down and write the whole thing out with no trouble at all.
These tips are helpful for those times when the ideas aren’t flowing and you need a little extra help to get things moving. They’re a way to work around writer’s block, or to work when you have distractions keeping you from fully focusing on your writing.
Many of my posts I start out just writing, then get an idea that requires some research, and then go back to writing some more. Other days, I need that brainstorming time. Odds are, I’ll get more than one blog post idea out of that step.
Writing a great blog post won’t always be easy. It’s hard to create something that will draw readers in.
You have to keep trying. You won’t improve if you don’t.
The more you work on your blog, the more naturally it will come. The steps that seem so difficult now will become easy with practice. You’ll learn how to make it work.