Today marks the 12th week of going ham on this blog game here at Hoot Design Co. TWELVE WEEKS! We've learned a lot in that time, mostly from making a bunch of mistakes, of course. 😎
But mistakes are super valuable, especially if you can learn from them without actually having to make them. As in, if you can get someone else to spill the beans on all the lessons they've learned. And after putting out 2-4 blog posts a week for the past 12 weeks, I feel like I've finally made enough mistakes to create a go-to process for busting out these puppies.
And I've distilled that process into a step-by-step blogging guide I'd like to share with you today.
I call it...
Ready to jump in and create some awesome blog content!?
Here we go! I present to you my go-to 10-step process for creating awesome blog posts:
1. Generate a BUNCH of ideas up front
I've found that it's far more helpful to produce great content ideas in ONE huge brainstorming session than to try and brainstorm concepts day-by-day. For a blog post to be successful, we've found that content needs to be both relevant and compelling, and absolutely must be geared toward your audience's interests.
So when I'm planning posts, I always try to keep in mind two questions:
- What is it readers WANT to know?
- What is it that I have high-quality knowledge about?
The ideas that occupy both categories are blog-worthy!
2. Plan out your topics IN ADVANCE
We have a whole Google calendar devoted to planning out our blog posts for the next few weeks.
Because we have multiple blog contributors (three! 😱) creating a legit calendar helps us stay on the same page all the time. But even if you're running a one-blogger show, creating a similar organization system is definitely beneficial to make sure your posts are spread out evenly!
Check out what we've got coming up over the next few weeks! Ta-da:
Of course, this calendar is totally not the be-all-end-all of our blogging schedule.
There are about a thousand reasons why we change topics or shuffle our order.
The most common reason? We find that a topic is just too broad for one blog post – like today: I planned for this post to be about blogging resources and my blogging process. But the blogging process itself is already enough for a full post! So you can bet you'll be seeing a whole post devoted to blogging resources soon. 😉
3. record your initial thoughts + resources
Making sure to briefly record your initial intent for the post guarantees that you don't come back to your topic wondering what the heck you meant when you scheduled a post for What to do when you hate hate hate what you're doing. Um, what?
Oftentimes I jot down a few pieces of essential information in Google Calendar directly. Other times (when I have already started composing paragraphs in my head) I create a new document in Grammarly (which we included as one of our best free writing resources on the internet too!) or start a new blog post directly in Squarespace.
4. Build your skeleton
Ahh, time to finally start writing!
The first thing I do when I actually sit down to write a post is sketch out an initial skeleton.
Taking the time to draft a very general concept makes you stop and think for a few seconds about what kind of format will be best for your content: Is it a list? An illustrated how-to post?
When you're drafting a skeleton, write out your essential section titles without worrying about filling in details just yet.
The goal here is to get your general plan down in writing.
You'll have time to add more detail and smooth out the bumps later.
And don't freak out if the plan changes when you actually begin to add content, of course!
5. Write your content!
Now, flesh out each section of content, adding in what you actually want to communicate.
Focus on the core of your argument or narrative, using facts, anecdotes, examples, or instructions as your flagship content. You can worry about more finessing later!
6. organize + Add formatting
Now is the time to revamp your structure and polish your content according to your readers' needs: Organized, consumption-ready information.
Divide your content into logical segments using varied headers, line breaks, and a logical progression. Try splitting paragraphs apart to help your readers' eyes move along the screen. And make sure to use strategic bolding to call attention to the essential pieces of information within a larger sentence or paragraph!
7. Images ftw
Finally, time to add in images!
If I try to add in images any earlier than this point, I find myself getting distracted by the wealth of options out there. GIFs, custom graphics, cheesy stock imagery, or real-life photos are all great options for today's modern blogger on the interwebz.
Why add images? Because Internet-humans LOVE them.
Your audience is being barraged by a freakishly huge amount of stimulus on the internet (433,000 tweets were posted on Twitter per minute in 2014!) and any additional attention-grounding visual cues definitely play to your benefit online.
Plus, images are a great way to add humor to your content, provide additional context, or present illustrated examples to your audience. And I'm counting emoji as images too, fyi 😁
8. ADD NARRATIVE ELEMENTS
Humans like stories way more than flat content!
We've been telling stories for hundreds of thousands of years – it's part of what makes us human! (This is totally a legit point because I learned it in my anthropology class last semester, bro).
Readers want to find a narrative arc in the content you create: We want to find a beginning, middle, and satisfying end even if we're reading a rather technical blog post on... how to write a blog post (so meta).
So how can you create a narrative arc in something as mundane as a blog post?
Well, you can certainly give it a shot by keeping a few key turning points in mind:
- Opening: Start out with an anecdote or similarly approachable opening – it's super boring to say simply, "Today I'm going to tell you how to write a blog post." Instead, tell a little story, give some background, or relay a problem you've been having to your audience. The goal is to create a connection right off the bat to make your reader want to continue on.
- Transitions: Including transitional cues (for example, using phrases like "then" and "next") helps to keep your reader moving smoothly through your content.
- Climax or shift: This might not be possible for every type of post, but if you're writing about how you solved a problem or made a decision, readers will appreciate a key climax of events or clearly stated shift in your thoughts!
- Wrap-up: You want your readers to take your message home with them. So help them out by providing a brief recap section where you restate essential info in a condensed form. A snackable form. Like a little fun-sized version of your blog post they can grab if they decide to head out early.
- Ending: You want to make sure you end most posts on a high note. Our memories are short on the internet, and what will stick with readers the longest is whatever final feeling you use to wrap up your post. By finishing on a high note, you reward readers who've made it all the way through and increase the likelihood that they'll come back for more!
9. Close-read your own work
Do you really *have* to read over your own writing? OF COURSE YOU DO!
Even though you know what you think you wrote, you're pretty much guaranteed to be able to improve it when you give your writing a full, critical read-through.
Setting aside time for a session devoted to reading what you've written with a critical eye ensures that you have an opportunity to catch errors in spelling or grammar, identify and correct sh*t sections of your post (like if your argument totally falls apart), and add a final polish.
AND! This is also a PERFECT opportunity to add in links you may have missed as you were typing away. Making sure to include links to related content serves a few excellent purposes:
- You can point your readers to related content on your own site
- You can reinforce your own expertise by linking to additional external resources
- You can build valuable backlinks to related content across the web (this is beneficial for your SEO presence! Google likes backlinks 😊)
Additionally, at this point make sure you check over your title. Does it make sense? Is it catchy and compelling? Consider using a resource like Coschedule's awesome headline analyzer to help you out.
And before you move on to step 10, glance over your post's categorization and tags: Relevant? Keyword-worthy? Helpful? Okay, let's move onto the final step then!
10. Get a Second set of eyes!
If you're able to get a second set of eyes on your post before you hit publish, don't pass up the opportunity!
I try to drag friends or family into reading over my writing as much as possible to help me out before I push content out into the vast reaches of the internet. Though a second set of eyes can help you spot errors you may have missed, the true value of a peer read can offer insight that's even more valuable: checks on your technical language and overall tone.
• Jargon check:
Why should you focus on keeping your technical language in check? Shouldn't you use your blog post as an opportunity to show off your deep subject knowledge? Well, yes, you DO want to demonstrate your expertise – but being able to simplify your language is a great indicator that you really understand what you're writing about! There's a great quote that is commonly attributed to Einstein (though I have never actually seen a legitimate source for the saying) that goes:
“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”
Even if it's not really a legit Einstein quote, the point is clear: Complicated language doesn't indicate a clear understanding – rather, jargon is a great way to hide the fact that you have no idea what you're talking about. And your audience will totally peace out if they find your language inaccessible!
• Tone check:
Lastly, a second set of eyes will be able to alert you if you've totally gone off the deep end with your tone (ever heard of a P.C. translator? That's me 💁). Your backup buddy will be able to throw out a red flag if what you're saying is offensive or inappropriate.
Maybe what you thought was a great joke is actually pretty hurtful. The last thing you ever want your blog to do is burn bridges with possible clients! The goal here is to avoid entirely avoidable facepalms.
There you have it: My go-to process for creating blog posts!
These ten tips largely focus on planning content, engaging your readers, and avoiding errors and issues in your writing.
I've found that sticking pretty closely to this game plan allows me to focus more on creating high-quality content and less on worrying if I'll ever finish the post I started. By breaking a larger task down into more manageable bites I'm able to be more productive in my time, and that's a total win for me. And for the blog, too, of course.
Three cheers for productivity!
Ready to get started with some awesome blog content?
I hope so! What are your go-to guidelines for writing up a storm? What are some practices or tips you recommend? Let me know!
Until next time,
We're working hard to show you what five years in business looks like. Comment here or on Facebook with topics or questions you'd like to see us cover. Or maybe just links to your favorite GIFS. You can also tweet us your feedback @hootdesignco or @averyenderle, follow us on Insta, come check out our Pinterest boards, and keep up with us on BlogLovin'!