Writing does not come easy for me…never has.
“Writing is a struggle against silence.”
– Carlos Fuentes
I don’t find the writing process natural. The words don’t just flow for me. To overcome this, I have developed a way to write a blog post that works for me. I have an engineering background – I like rules, steps and processes.
If you plan on having a successful blog you need to consistently produce quality content. I write my blog posts by following the 9 step process below. Whether you are a good writer, or struggle like me, these steps should help you craft the type of powerful blog posts that your readers deserve. Read on to learn how to write a blog post that compels your readers to take action.
Choose the Right Topic
The first element of writing a great blog post is to insure you choose the right topic. Make sure your blog topic satisfies the following requirements:
- Solves a problem – A winning post will identify a solution to a problem that your reader has. If you correctly identify a reader’s pain points and provide them a solution you will earn their loyalty.
- Has a singular focus – Your post needs to be about a single topic. Although this requirement can loosened for some posts, it is best to keep to one theme. If you write a rambling post that covers too broad of an area you risk losing your reader’s attention.
- Is something you are passionate about – If you are passionate about a topic it will show in your writing. I learned the importance of this concept when I took some public speaking classes. When the trainer asked me to speak on a subject I was passionate about, I was much more animated and effective in presenting the material. When I spoke about a subject that didn’t excite me (even though I was knowledgeable on the material), my presentation was flat and boring.
- Is a topic that you know well – Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean you are an expert on the material. If you don’t know your stuff, your readers will see that – and you will lose credibility instantly. If you intend to write on a topic that you are not an expert on, just be upfront about it. There is no shame in telling your readers that you are learning a topic and sharing the journey.
How to Choose the Right Topic
If you are stuck in choosing the right topic, here are some ideas to help you get going:
- Think like your reader – To run a successful blog you need to get into the head of your readers. When choosing your next blog topic you should picture your readers’ situation, questions, problems, and desires. The better you understand what your reader needs the better your post will be.
- Research keywords – A great way to brainstorm blog post ideas is to get a handle on what users are searching for. I recommend two tools for this: Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Market Samurai. Although Market Samurai is not free, I find it extremely useful in finding and evaluating topics to write about.
- Look at popular categories – Reviewing popular categories of blog posts can sometimes help spark an idea. Here are some of the more popular categories of blog posts:
- How To/Tutorials
- Case Studies
- Beginners Guides
- Tips and Tricks
Identify the Main Purpose of Your Post
A compelling blog post will have a central purpose to it – a take home message that can be acted upon.
The main purpose of this blog post is: “This post will teach readers how to write a compelling blog post”
After you identify your post topic it is important to hone in on the goals of the post – the single thing that you want the reader to take away. Identifying the main purpose of your post will:
- Keep you focused – When you identify a single, main purpose of your post you will avoid tackling too much and straying off course.
- Identify a call to action – A call to action is an important part of a good blog post. Your call to action will come naturally from the main purpose of your post.
- Insure your post is useful/valuable to the reader – When you identified your initial post topic you should have thought about your readers’ problems. The main purpose of your post will be to solve their problem – making the post valuable to them.
Know Your Audience
You’ll find that “Know Your Audience” is a recurring theme here on StartGrowProfit – with good reason. If you don’t understand what motivates your audience or if you write your blog posts from your own perspective, not theirs, you will never gain their loyalty. You must understand who your audience is, what level they are at, what motivates them, what scares them and what they want to accomplish. Here’s what you need to know about your audience (this can vary based on your niche):
- Age – Although not critical, if you know which generation (e.g., Millenials, Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers etc.) your audience is from, you can better understand their perspective and what resonates with them.
- Gender – If your niche pulls from one gender this can help you refine your writing by using appropriate analogies and anecdotes.
- Experience Level – You need to understand whether your readers are beginners, hobbyists, or experts in their field.
- Technology Level – Are your readers tech-savvy, tech adverse or in the middle.
- Educational Background – The importance of this may vary…but you may want to adjust your writing style based upon the educational level of your audience.
- Goals/Aspirations – If you can identify the dreams and aspirations of your audience then you should be able to write content that resonates with them.
- Challenges/Problems – If you understand the everyday problems of your audience then you will be able to provide them solutions. Solving your readers’ problems will keep them coming back.
Here’s how to find out who your audience is:
- Analytics – If you use Google Analytics (and enable demographic and interest reporting) you can capture data on your audience’s: age, gender, and interests. You can also track the behavior of your users based on these characteristics.
- Comments – If you receive comments on your blog you should be able to determine your reader’s experience levels, goals, and problems by reading and responding to their comments.
- Social Media – Similar to comments, you can better understand your audience by analyzing your Twitter followers and Facebook friends.
- Ask them – The straight forward approach is to survey your readers, either by an online form/survey or via email. Keep the survey short and to the point – but don’t forget to put an open-ended question at the end (i.e., “What do you want [me] to write about?” or “What’s your biggest obstacle to growing your blog?”).
Develop an Outline
Before you dive into writing your blog post, you need to develop an outline. A well-conceived outline is important for two reasons: it will insure the article is coherent and it will make your post “scannable”.
Your outline will become the sub-headings of your blog post. The first part of the outline for this article is:
- Choose the Right Topic
- Identify the Main Purpose of Your Post
- Know Your Audience
- Develop an Outline
When you spend time developing an outline it will force you to think logically about what needs to be in the article and in what order. The order of the sub-topics can be chronological (i.e., steps in a process) or by priority. The main purpose of the outline is to insure that your article is coherent and drives home the main purpose of the article.
A secondary benefit of developing an outline is that it requires you to put thought into the sub-headings of your article. When you format and publish your article, your sub-headings should be easy to see. For someone scanning your article, they should be able to easily identify your sub-headings and know in an instant what the article is about (and what sections most interest them).
Make it Unique and Readable
Make your blog posts unique and readable by keeping the following tips in mind:
- Develop and use your own writing style – When someone reads your article you want them to know that you wrote it and not someone else. Each article should give the reader the same feeling. If you are not an accomplished writer you may struggle with developing your own style. One way to develop your own style is to study the writing style of several writers you admire. Pay attention to their titles, introductions, article structure, use of personal stories/anectdotes, calls-to-actions, and conclusions.
- Keep it simple – Choose simpler words over complex words. Keep your sentences short. Each sentence should express one idea. Use short paragraphs too. Shorter paragraphs help your readers process the information.
- Use an active voice – A good sentence contains a strong, precise verb. Active sentences emphasize action. The format of an active sentence is Subject, Verb, Object. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action. In a passive sentence, the subject receives the action.
- Be specific – Your readers want specifics not generalities. Instead of saying that an action is possible, you should show them how it is done.
- Don’t repeat. Don’t ramble – Some writers can’t help themselves…they ramble. These writers typically ramble when they talk too. I call it stream of consciousness writing. If you are inclined to ramble, spend extra time in developing, refining and sticking to your content outline.
- Keep your reader first – Write for your audience, not yourself or your ego.
Include a Call to Action
Most of the visitors to your site will be passive. They won’t comment, they won’t subscribe, they won’t buy an affiliate product, they won’t tweet your article or recommend it to a friend. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it – these people are just not action oriented by nature.
Sometimes, however, you just need to invite them to take action – the call-to-action. If you want your reader to leave a comment, subscribe to your newsletter, or tweet your article you may getter better results if you ask them to.
Here are some important ideas to remember when considering adding a call to action to your blog post:
- Decide the one action that you want your reader to take – Don’t confuse your readers by offering conflicting calls to action.
- Make it easy to perform – If you want them to comment, don’t require them to log in to a system. If you want them to subscribe to your email list, don’t ask for too much information.
- Place your call to action with in the post content – A call to action within the blog post is much more likely to be seen and acted upon versus a call to action in a footer or sidebar.
Craft a Compelling Title
There is almost universal agreement that the title of your blog post is the most important part. I like to develop the title near the end of the writing process. I usually start off with a “working title” which is typically a somewhat boring phrase (“How to write a blog post”) that I believe is something my readers would be searching for. I focus on coming up with a final title after I have developed the outline and written the body of the article (but before I write an introduction and conclusion).
Here are some of my tips for writing a compelling headline for your blog post:
- Define actions and benefits – Tell your readers what problem you are solving and how they will benefit. Many times a potential reader will only see the title of an article (like on their twitter feed or feedly account). If the title does not immediately convey a benefit, they probably won’t click on the link. Example: “7 Ways to Cut Your Cellphone Bill in Half”
- Be clear and concise – Your title should clearly define what the article is about. Strive for your title to shorter than 10 words.
- Use strong, authoritative language – Write your title in a definitive way with an active voice. If you want to be seen as an authority on a topic you should not be using passive or indecisive language. Example: “The 5 Best Twitter Accounts To Follow Now”
- Use SEO keywords – When researching your potential topics you should have identified a key SEO phrase (I use mine as a working title) that you will hope to rank for. This SEO phrase should appear in the title (preferably towards the beginning).
- Make it interesting – This tip is more art than science, but there are plenty of ways to make your title intriguing, including:
- Make it controversial
- Invite debate
- Use trigger words
- Make it funny
- Make it mysterious
Create a Strong First Impression
You’ve spent a lot of time and effort on choosing your topic, writing the content and driving people to your site… you don’t want to lose them when they land on your article. If the look of your article is lacking or if you lose their attention in the critical first few seconds, you are doomed. Here are some things to keep in mind to create a great first impression.
- First sentence – If you don’t get a reader’s attention in the first sentence, you may never recover. Your first sentence should create curiosity or hook them with potential benefits.
- Lead paragraph – Your introduction to your article needs to serve two purposes. First it needs to be captivating – after reading it, your user must want to dive right in to the content. Secondly, it must define what the article is about and how it will benefit them.
- Appearance – Your post must be visually appealing. The formatting must be clean. You need to use sub-headings (from your outline!) and space between your paragraphs. You should include an image or graphic in the post that is both interesting and meaningful.
After you have finished writing your blog article, it’s time to put on the finishing touches. Before you are done with your article, make sure to take care of the following items:
- Edit/Proofread – Read your article over. Perform a spell check. Have someone else read it if possible. Fix your grammar errors. Rewrite and move copy around as necessary.
- Format – Format your headings and sub-headings. Make sure your paragraphs aren’t too long. Highlight key points and quotes in your article.
- Prepare for publishing – Review your URL to make sure your keyword is represented properly. Write a compelling meta description. Choose the appropriate categories and tags for the article.
- Publish and promote – After you hit publish you’re not done yet…make sure you put just as much effort into promoting your blog post.
What’s Your Formula on How To Write A Blog Post?
I’ve shared how I write my blog posts, but I know it’s not the only way.
Please share your favorite tips and tricks to writing blog posts in the comments.
Great post. One question – how long does it usually take you to write a post?
Good question! The amount of time I spend on a post varies by the complexity of the topic and how well I know the content. For longer, more complex posts, I typically break the process up over three days:
Day 1) Research and pick a topic. Write the outline. (1 hour)
Day 2) Write the body of the post. (6 hours)
Day 3) Write the introduction and title. QA, format, select pictures and publish. (2 hours)
Hope that helps!