How to Write Blog Posts That People Will Read
At Full Height Copy, we meet a lot of start-ups and charities that need guidance on how to write a blog post. Usually, it’s businesses that have hired us to write their website but can’t yet afford to outsource their blog writing. So, we thought we’d put some best practice guidelines together to give you some step-by-step direction.
In this post you will learn how to:
Plan your blog post outline
Approach your first draft
Refine your first draft
Optimise your post for search engines
But, before you sit down to write your first post, make sure you have an overarching strategy for your blog content. If you don’t, you will quickly lose direction, run out of steam and miss opportunities to boost your SEO.
Don’t panic. If you don’t know where to start with your strategy and SEO is yet another digital marketing term that you don’t understand, we can help. Grab a coffee and scan the following guides:
Once you’ve done your homework and crafted at least a bit of a strategy, you can start planning that post that we stopped you from writing.
Yes, that’s right, there’s the planning hoop to jump through before you can dive into writing the actual post. You’ll thank us for it in the end.
STEP 1: Planning your blog post outline
Think of this stage as the bones onto which you’ll hang the flesh. Planning your post creates a solid foundation. It will help you to write with purpose, conviction and direction.
You’re ready to plan your first post once you have identified the following core components of your blogging strategy:
Your target audience
Your umbrella subject (pillar post)
A list of topics that you will reference in your pillar post
The main keyword for each post
What format is your post going to take? There are tons of popular blog post formats trending at the moment. Look around your social media channels and find out what’s popular in your industry.
Here are some reliable favourites that are popular with our audiences:
How-To guides and tutorials
Answers to questions
If you’re still stuck for inspiration, visit Optinmonster’s 73 AWESOME Types of Blog Posts You Can Write Today.
You know your post topic, but what will you cover?
Ask yourself a few questions and do some research:
What are the pain points of your target audience in relation to this topic? What questions or problems do they need help with? Think about each stage of the buying cycle and the audience’s level of awareness of your products or services.
What posts already exist on the subject? Google your keyword and look at the top ten blog posts. How can you improve on the information that they provide? Can you approach the topic in a unique way?
Once you’ve done your research, take the main points that you want the post to cover and turn these into subheads.
This will help you to:
Cover everything in detail.
Maintain a tight structure and logical order to your post.
Prevent you from going off track.
Appeal to the online reader’s preference for scanning information. More on this later.
Decide on a working title
You don’t need to get bogged down in refining your title just yet but defining a working title will help you to stay focused.
Let’s imagine you own a hairdressing salon and your topic is short hair trends for 2019. You might want to narrow the topic and focus on “10 Easy to Manage Short Hair Styles for 2019”. There’s not much punch to this title but it’s good enough to help you focus your writing. Once you’ve drafted your post, you can evolve the title to become something more enticing, like “10 Stunning Quick and Easy Short Hair Styles for 2019”.
Make sure you include your main keyword in the title. We’ll explain why later.
STEP 2: The first draft
As with any piece of quality writing, it’s important to create a rough draft that you will review and refine. The trick is to not think too hard about the words that you’re using at this stage. Get your main thoughts and points down and you can develop the tone and language later. As Terry Pratchett once said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
Depending on how you work, you may want to write the intro first or save it until you’ve written the rest of the content. The latter can sometimes work better. As you write, you might decide to add more points or change things a little.
Whichever approach you choose, the intro needs to achieve two key objectives:
1. Capture the reader’s interest
If you don’t grab your reader’s attention in the first few sentences, they will lose interest and look elsewhere on the web.
You can capture attention in many ways, but here are some suggestions:
Entice the reader with an interesting or hard-hitting fact or statistic from which to lead into the topic.
Empathise with the reader’s problem/question.
Tell a short story that the reader can relate to.
Always have your exact target audience in mind when writing your intro. The read needs to feel that you are:
Talking directly to them.
Understand their questions and problems.
Have the authority and knowledge to provide them with the answers.
2. Explain what the post will cover
Let the reader know exactly what they can expect from your post and how it will help them in their working/personal life. This will give them a reason to read on and help them to skim for the information that is of particular interest to them.
3. Writing the main body of content
You’ve already created an outline for your post, so this stage is about developing your subheads and turning your notes into paragraphs. Begin with what you know about the subject and identify any gaps. You can then use books and the internet to research the topic further.
Where appropriate, use research studies, examples and data to back up your points. Don’t forget to clearly reference any external sources of information that you mention in the post.
4. The conclusion/round-up
Finish the post with a summary of the main points covered. This will help consolidate the key messages. You might also want to suggest the next steps that your reader can take (and link to a blog post that you have written about those steps).
5. Add a call to action
Every blog post presents an opportunity to drive your reader to take an action that will increase the chance of them becoming a lead. End blog posts with a call to action that will benefit both the reader and your business.
Examples of calls to action include:
Reading a related blog post.
Downloading a guide or template.
Booking onto an event or webinar.
Subscribing to your blog updates.
6. Take some time out from the task
We recommend stepping away from your copy for at least a few hours before you start on the edit. Fresh eyes and time away from thinking about the topic will give you a new perspective on what you’ve written. So, go and walk the dog, hit the gym or catch up on some other admin tasks for a while.
STEP 3: The edit and proofread
This is where you refine your post to make sure that:
It covers everything that you want it to cover.
There is a logical order to what you have written.
You have written in a tone that is suited to your target audience.
Your content is engaging.
The copy is well-structured, concise and easy to read.
There are no factual, spelling or grammatical errors.
The layout and format are consistent and clear.
You have included visual illustrations to expand on/explain points where appropriate.
Any hyperlinks work.
Writing for the online reader
Writing a blog post is different from writing a magazine article. The online reader has a short attention span. On average, you have a maximum of 8 seconds to capture their interest with your introduction. And once you have your reader’s attention, it can be a challenge to keep it.
Online readers skim for information. They HATE big, solid blocks of text.
Think about the way that you read blog posts. Do you read the whole post, or do you skip to the bits of information that you’re looking for? Chances are, most readers will only read the bits that interest them/answer their questions.
So, how do you make that an easy task?
Introduce each sub-topic with a subhead.
Keep paragraphs short and tight.
Make sentences easy to read.
No more than 25 words per sentence. Shorter is better.
Vary sentence length within a paragraph. It makes reading more interesting.
Avoid complex words and sentence structure.
Use active tense (Peter wrote the blog post). It’s far more engaging than past tense (the blog post was written by Peter).
Use bullet points to convey lists and main points – imagine if the bullet-pointed sections of this blog post were paragraphs. They’d be hard to digest.
Illustrate points with images, infographics and diagrams.
Use plenty of white space so that the post doesn’t feel cluttered.
Use easy to read fonts. Aerial, Verdana and Georgia are safe bets.
Checking for grammar, spelling, structure and style
There’s always room for improvement when it comes to writing. Luckily there are some fantastic free online tools that can help you to refine your post and that working title that you wrote earlier.
Check out The Best Free Writing Tools for Your Business, where we recommend using the following apps:
Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule
Microsoft Word’s Read Aloud
A human editor (!)
As a minimum, we suggest using:
Hemmingway Editor and Grammarly to correct any glaring style, spelling and grammar issues.
Headline Analyzer to sharpen up your title.
STEP 4: Optimise for search engines
You’ve reached the home run now. Just the search engines left to satisfy. But satisfy them, you must. A blog post that isn’t optimised is an opportunity wasted. In the long-term, well-crafted blog posts that have been optimised for low competition, high volume search terms will help you to rank in Google et al.
If you learned a bit about SEO before 2018, forget everything that you know. Google turned SEO on its head and started penalising businesses for stuffing their posts with keywords. We’re quite glad about that. Search engines now favour naturally written blog posts that cover a subject in depth.
What does that mean for your blog post?
If you stick to the following guidelines, your post should at least be indexed.
1. Choose one unique keyword to target per post and include it in the following places:
Once or twice in the main body of your post.
One H2 title (if you can make that happen naturally)
Image alt tags
2. Include a good range of other words that are (semantically) related to your keyword.
3. Make the copy easy to read with the use of headers, bullet points and simple sentence structure (you’re all over this already).
4. Include multimedia wherever possible – video, images, graphics, audio, etc.
5. Where possible, include 2-4 internal links to other useful and relevant content on your website.
6. Only link out to high quality, high authority sites.
If that all sounds a little confusing, you might want to check out the On-page SEO section of our SEO Guide for Beginners.
Here’s a quick summary of the main points to take back to your desk or your team.
You’ll get a lot more from your blog if you plan a content strategy before you sit down to write a post.
Planning your post will allow you to:
Target your audience and address their pain points.
Maintain a logical structure.
Cover the topic in detail.
3. First draft
Your first draft is where you flesh out your outline and craft the content, including:
Subheads and their paragraphs
Call to action
4. The edit and proofread
After a break from your work, the proofread and edit will turn your rough out into a masterpiece.
Make use of free online writing tools to:
Check for spelling and grammar errors.
Improve structure and flow.
Make the post easier to scan.
Create an enticing title.
5. Optimise for search engines
Identify a unique keyword for your post and follow on-page search engine optimisation best practices.
As you can see, writing a blog post is quite hard work when you do a decent job of it. Remember that the next time someone on Fiverr offers to write you 1000 words for a tenner!
Full Height Copy provides content strategy and blog writing services to businesses and charities of all sizes. If you’re interested in outsourcing your content creation, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to discuss your needs.