How to Write a Blog Post (That Actually Gets Read)

How to Write a Blog Post (That Actually Gets Read)
how to write a blog post

Blogging lets you teach, inspire, and engage an audience—even drive traffic to your products—at scale.

It gives individuals and brands an accessible way to share their voice. But that same ease also makes it hard to stand out, especially on an internet where it’s estimated that over 2.73 million blog posts are written every day and video seems to be the biggest crowd pleaser.

But that doesn’t mean the blog post is dead. The fact that you’re reading one right now is proof. It just means you need to take a different approach if you hope to rise above the noise.

So how do you make sure the time you spend on a blog post is time well spent?

The short answer is to look at crafting a blog post more like how you would selling a product:

  • You come up with an idea and validate it.
  • You source the materials you need to produce it.
  • You package them up in a pretty way.
  • You market your product to the right audience.
  • You track the results and try to improve them over time.

But before you put pen to paper—or rather fingers to a keyboard—you should decide whether it’s really in your best interest to do your own writing or outsource it.

Should You Hire a Freelancer or Write Your Own Content?

You’ll get different answers to this question depending on who you ask.

In my opinion, it comes down to three things:

  1. Are you knowledgeable about your niche and audience?
  2. Can you find time to write at least one post a week?
  3. Are you a capable writer or want to improve?

If you can check off all of the above, then consider doing it yourself—at least in the beginning.

Here’s why:

  • Putting your name on your content will build your personal brand, creating a more direct connection between your audience and you as the business owner.
  • You have more control over the voice and direction of your blog.
  • You can always let go at any time if you choose to outsource it, and you'll know enough about content marketing to work better with freelancers.

If you’ve never written a blog post before, or you’ve done it but to no avail, here’s a 5-step framework for creating a successful post.

Anyone can write. But there's a process to creating something that actually gets read.

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Step 1. Finding a Good Idea (And Validating It)

Whether you’re starved for ideas or have too many to choose from, you’ll need to know how to differentiate the good ones from the bad ones.

You can’t start, let alone succeed, without an idea you’re willing to bet your time and effort on.

What you write will also depend on where you'll be publishing. If you're writing a post for another blog to tap into their existing audience, for example, you need to look for ideas that align with both their readership and guidelines, as well as your own goals. If you're publishing on one of your own blogs, you have a lot more freedom.

There are essentially two ways to look at the content you can create:

  • Evergreen content will remain relevant and continue to bring in traffic for a long time to come. With this approach you compete by putting out quality work.
  • Topical content is short-lived but safe to bet on because you know it’s something people are interested in right now. With it, you compete by being fast and by being first. However, once interest has died down, so will the traffic you get from it.

If you're strategic about it, you can even create content that serves both purposes, such as a fall fashion guide that could be resurfaced next time the season rolls around.

Validating a blog post idea is like validating a product idea—in both cases you need to prove that there's an opportunity by evaluating the demand for what you’re doing.

Here are some places to go to inspire some ideas and confirm whether one is worth doing:

  • Reddit and other active communities where members of your audience congregate will reveal their questions and interests.
  • Twitter is home to trending news stories and conversations that you can hop on if you’re fast enough.
  • Keyword Planner can help you evaluate monthly search volume, identify opportunities to rank for keywords, and assess how many people are actively seeking out information about a topic.
  • Google Trends can help you make sure your timing on a trend is good.
  • Buzzsumo can be a source of inspiration through content that’s already getting shared about your topic.
  • Your existing customers can reveal pain points and passions that can inspire content—all you have to do is listen!

You should also try to get a good feel for the competition around your blog post idea with a quick Google search for your topic or by using Buzzsumo. This will help you gauge the kind of interest people have in your topic, as well as inspire new ways to attack it based on what works and what’s been done to death.

how to write a blog post

The next step, once you’ve settled on an idea, is to come up with a working headline to focus your post.

Here are some templates you can try:

Listicle: [NUMBER] + [ADJECTIVE] + [ITEMS] + [PROMISE]

Snackable and easy-to-digest, these are the Buzzfeed-style posts that are easy to create and relate to. 

The focus here can be on content curation or "rounding up" existing content, names or quotes. Featuring other people’s content or companies might give them a reason to also share your content with their own audiences.

Example: 7 Tasty West-Indian Foods You’ve Never Tried

How-to post: How to [SOLVE PROBLEM] + [BENEFIT]

These actionable posts typically answer pressing questions, making great long-term assets for attracting search traffic—if you can create a competitive resource. Plus, if you can actually solve their problem, your readers will be grateful. Use a tool like Keywords Everywhere to evaluate how much search volume there is for a specific topic.

Example: How to Keep Your Headphones From Getting Tangled Ever Again

Controversial post: Why [CONTRARIAN CLAIM]

Your audience is used to hearing the same things again and again. So why not tell them the opposite of something they’ve grown to expect? These posts need a headline that makes readers curious enough to click, while also providing a sufficient argument to support their point.

Example: Why Jogging Might Be Bad For Your Health

Storytelling post: How I [GOT FROM POINT A TO POINT B]

These posts often highlight underdog stories, interviews with customers, or experiments you’ve done, and have a more personal feel to them. If you’re chronicling your journey as an entrepreneur, sharing your own stories can help you create an authentic connection with your audience.

Example: 10 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned as an Entrepreneur

 

Your working headline should give you just enough focus to govern the direction and structure of your piece. Don't worry about getting it perfect until you're done writing. All you need at this point is an angle.

Step 2. Crafting Your Post

Before you start writing, it’s important to map out at least a rough structure for your post by writing your subheadings out. Imagine a table of contents, but for a blog post instead of a book.

Once you’ve got the skeleton—the reader should understand the direction of your post from the headline and subheads—it’s time to fill in the blanks.

While blogging obviously entails writing, a better way to look at your post is as a container for words, images, quotes, videos, infographics, slideshows and more. It's not about how many words you put in it; it's about whether you create something worth sticking around for.

Even the best writer in the world will still lose to some of today’s reader’s short attention spans. So ensure there’s a nice amount of visual variety at first glance in your post.

In fact, having a visual element every 75-100 words nets you double the number of social shares than posts with fewer images.

Depending on the type of piece you’re creating, you can rely on:

  • Giphy for fun gifs that you can use to support a Buzzfeed-style listicle.
  • Canva for creating your own mini-infographics or adding some visual flair to your quotes.
  • Meme Generator to create funny memes to add some humor to your piece.
  • Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for posts that you can embed into your own content.
  • YouTube or Vine videos that can be embedded into your post.
  • Infographic directories to find infographics that relate to your niche (reach out to ask the creator if you can embed it with credit, if they don’t provide explicit permission).
  • Strategic formatting choices like bolding or block quotes to make important or catchy text pop out.

Keep your "ideal reader" in mind

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King shares a strategy he uses for keeping his writing on track. He talks about keeping one “ideal reader” in mind—whether real or imagined—to keep your voice consistent and your discussion focused. In many cases, this will be the same as your buyer persona.

This is the only person you’re writing for and it’s your job to make sure they:

  1. Immediately recognize the value you’re offering.
  2. Relate to the language you’re using (they might not know the topic as well as you know it).
  3. Don’t get bored.
  4. Feel a connection to your voice or style.

From the headline to the first line to the last line, keep your ideal reader in mind and get it all down. Don’t worry too much about fixing everything. That’s what the editing stage is for.

Step 3: Editing and Optimizing Your Post

One of the biggest mistakes any blogger can make is to write something, proofread only and then hit publish without having properly gone through the editing process.

Proofreading should be the very last step of the editing process. There are few things you need to do first.

Ensure your structure is sound

The first step is to make sure the skeleton of your post still stands on its own—chances are that what you wrote looks different than what you set out to create.

Be critical—ask yourself if you’ve presented your ideas in the most effective order, in the most effective way:

  • Could you have used bullet points instead of a list in a paragraph?
  • Should you have created another section or gotten rid of one that wasn’t necessary?
  • Do your subheads effectively convey the “big picture” of your post within seconds of a reader landing on your page?
  • Does your headline connect with your introduction?

The primacy and recency effects suggest that people remember mostly the first and last thing they consume in a series. The beginning and end of your post or list is prime real estate for your best ideas.

Make it easy to scan (for humans and search engines)

Good content can have a lot of value driven through SEO—if you make it easy for search engines to crawl it:

  • Ensure you introduce the right keywords into your content in a natural way.
  • Mention the main keywords you're targeting early in your content and in your title.
  • Write descriptive alt-text for all your images that includes some of your target keywords.

But also enhance readability for humans, from hyperlinking meaningful text to bolding key phrases and using the formatting options at your disposal.

If we’re going to be honest, many people don’t actually “read” every word of what they read. They skim and they scan their way through—so make it easy for them by formatting your post strategically!

Take the pain out of formatting! 

If you're writing in a Word or Google Doc or some other app, copy and paste your work into HTML Cleaner to cut down on the time you spend reformatting a post all over again for your blog. 

Don't serve up huge blocks of text!

Large paragraphs and long-winded sentences are a mistake many writers make that may have been leftover from their school days.

Content is much easier to skim if it's presented in several smaller, conversational chunks rather than a few large ones. 

Which would you rather read (both are roughly 125 words)?

1. One big paragraph

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Cras hendrerit mauris ullamcorper, sagittis urna eget, fermentum arcu. Nam in tortor id libero consequat lacinia. Donec sit amet egestas lorem, vel dapibus dolor. Morbi facilisis, tellus nec convallis elementum, elit erat tempus justo, a auctor odio mauris mollis dui. Cras at dui eget lectus efficitur pellentesque. Donec eget lacus eu nisi suscipit feugiat. In ultrices dui quis dolor consectetur, id varius sapien scelerisque. Curabitur maximus sapien eget nulla ornare aliquet. Duis eget quam odio. Integer dapibus vel metus quis rhoncus. Praesent scelerisque, massa vel scelerisque dignissim, dolor diam pretium justo, sed tempor mauris massa dictum est. Nunc finibus facilisis tempor. Vivamus ornare volutpat pellentesque. Nulla ullamcorper cursus dui, sit amet vestibulum arcu commodo in.

Or...

2. Several shorter paragraphs

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Cras hendrerit mauris ullamcorper, sagittis urna eget, fermentum arcu. Nam in tortor id libero consequat lacinia. Donec sit amet egestas lorem, vel dapibus dolor.

Morbi facilisis, tellus nec convallis elementum, elit erat tempus justo, a auctor odio mauris mollis dui.

Cras at dui eget lectus efficitur pellentesque. Donec eget lacus eu nisi suscipit feugiat. In ultrices dui quis dolor consectetur, id varius sapien scelerisque. Curabitur maximus sapien eget nulla ornare aliquet. Duis eget quam odio. Integer dapibus vel metus quis rhoncus.

Praesent scelerisque, massa vel scelerisque dignissim, dolor diam pretium justo, sed tempor mauris massa dictum est. Nunc finibus facilisis tempor. Vivamus ornare volutpat pellentesque. Nulla ullamcorper cursus dui, sit amet vestibulum arcu commodo in.

A general rule of thumb is to try to keep your paragraphs under 5 lines with frequent breaks. Also, don't be afraid to use one-line sentences to create more white space and further enhance readability. 

Make your calls to action clear

Chart Beat actually found no real correlation between shares and people actually reading content, so it’s important to also optimize your post for the fleeting attention of today’s reader.

Whether it’s to get exposure or drive traffic to your products, you’re blogging for a reason. You want people to do something after they’re done reading so ensure that action is clear and easy to take.

Consider giving readers the option to share in the middle of reading by generating a Click-to-Tweet to entice readers to tweet stats or catchy soundbites.

If capturing emails is your goal, use a lead magnet—a premium guide or some other offer—to get readers to opt in.

If you're a Shopify store owner, you can also make sales within your blog post by adding a Buy Button as your call to action.

 

Revisit your headline and find a compelling hero image

Your headline and hero image are what sell your piece. Whether it gets shared on Twitter or through email or Facebook Messenger, these two things (along with your meta description) are ultimately responsible for the first impression your post makes.

A good headline creates a “curiosity gap” that evokes enough curiosity in your reader to earn a click.

We don’t click on content. We click on headlines.

If you’re not sure about your headline, Coschedule’s headline analyzer tool might provide that extra assurance you need to run with it. Or you can always just browse through other popular sites in your niche for inspiration.

For free stock images you can use for your post, you can check out these 22 Awesome Websites with Stunning Free Stock Images.

Finally, proofread!

The last step is proofreading or "copyediting".

Catch any stray typos and and grammatical errors, double check your facts and make sure all your links work.

If you've got a habit of being wordy (like I do), aggressively cut non-essential words and find shorter ways to articulate your thoughts wherever possible. You'll find a lot of things to cut at the beginning of your sentences or where there's uncertain language like "probably" or "maybe".

Read your work over slow, or better yet out loud, when you're doing this final quality check.

Step 4: Launching and “Marketing” Your Post

At last, it’s time to hit publish. If it’s your first time, publishing can be an uncomfortable experience.

What will everyone think? Criticism is scary.

But you’ve potentially got a more worrisome problem on your plate: What if no one even sees your post?

how to promote a blog post

Content—like any product—needs to be marketed or it might as well not exist.

It's a good thing there are a ton of ways you can promote your blog post:

  • Promote it on your social media profiles. Don't be afraid to do it several times, testing different copy and timing (Buffer makes this easy). Consider even spending a little money to get your post in front of more people.
  • Reach out to anyone you mention in your post to get them to share the post (email them or tag them on Twitter or Facebook).
  • Answer questions on Quora or Reddit.
  • Pin images from your post on Pinterest.
  • Send it to your email list to share it with your subscribers and customers.
  • Submit it to content discovery platforms like StumbleUpon and Flipboard
  • Republish your post (with a link to the original source) on blogging platforms with built-in communities like Medium, LinkedIn, WordPress.com or Tumblr.
  • And more: Check out 15 Strategies for Driving Traffic to Your Blog.

Step 5. Measuring Your Performance

It's hard to do better the next time—at anything—when you don't know how you're doing in the first place.

The same applies for writing a blog post. You might be inclined to measure your performance based on how many shares it gets. After all, that's how you as a reader probably judge the success of the content you browse.

While shares do give you a sense of how many people you've managed to engage, also look at:

  • Views to get a sense of your reach.
  • Time on page and bounce rate for an idea of reader engagement.
  • Traffic sources to understand where readers are coming from and what distribution channels work best.
  • Number of comments or, better yet, how many were truly engaged (be sure to reply to these too to encourage repeat visits from readers).
  • Conversions, whether new subscribers or sales.

Also eavesdrop on what others are saying and who's sharing your content outside of your blog. It's as easy as pasting your blog post's URL into a Twitter search, finding people who are sharing your content and engaging with them directly. You can use the Crowd Tangle Chrome extension to see some of the other places your readers are sharing your content, as well.

Encouraging those conversations online by replying to comments also helps to boost your post's visibility and stoke the fire further.

Write Something Worth Reading For the Right People

Writing a blog post can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the kind of post you're going for. Either way, it's no small investment of time or thought. But it's an investment that shows you care enough to understand your audience and build a brand.

Your success or failure ultimately hinges on how well you serve your audience in some meaningful way—whether it's through entertainment, education, inspiration or a combination of all three.

So make it about them—not just you—and you should do just fine.

About the Author

Braveen Kumar is a Writer at Shopify where he develops resources to empower entrepreneurs to start and succeed in business.

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