1. Have an idea
This is the tricky part, I admit. What you really need is a clear and focused idea. Blog posts can be about many things, of course. A popular theme, however, is solving problems for your readers. Get clear in your mind exactly what the problem is. This is your subject.
2. Find your keywords
If your reader were trying to solve that problem by searching on the internet, what search terms would she use? That, essentially, gives you your keywords. You could do a lot of work with sophisticated SEO tools – but if time is pressing, try using common sense. It will probably get you 80% of the way there.
3. Create a hook
A hook is a creative idea, usually in the headline and possibly backed up by a photo. It serves to give some personality to the post. Here, I’ve used the idea of ’12 easy steps’ to illustrate the post.
It’s not stunningly clever or original. But it does serve to add some colour and acts as a metaphor, which helps the reader engage. I’ve also added an allusion to the song ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ in the intro, something that is probably completely lost on our younger viewers.
4. Do your research
There are three basic ways to research your topic:
A: Do none – Write from your own experience. This saves you heaps of time and keeps things simple. It’s what I did on this post. I didn’t want other people’s ideas cluttering up my thinking.
B: Use the internet – You have a topic. You have keywords. Now use your search engine of choice to find relevant information. If you can’t find anything, you’ve struck gold. You can be the first….
C: Read a book – Books are great. They’re full of information and much of it has been researched and checked. Some of it is even accurate and true. Even better, other people can’t search a book online for the answer (although that may change), so you can bring something ‘original’ to the online world. Don’t plagiarise, however. Give credit where it’s due.
5. Order your ideas
Now that you have the information, it’s time to get it all clear in your head. A good way to do this is to talk it through, as if you were explaining everything you’ve researched to a friend or colleague.
An easy way to add structure is to use a list. People like lists. Blog readers in particular like list posts because:
- A: They can read the numbered headers only
- B: They can skip the rest
- C: It’s called skim reading.
6. Let it flow
Now you need to write it all down. If you’re having difficulties at this point, the real problem probably lies back in points 1, 4 or 5.
- Have you got a clear focus, one idea, one topic that you’re going to cover in this post?
- Have you done enough research? Do you have enough information to solve the reader’s problem?
- Have you sorted that information, got it clear in your mind, made sense of it – and turned it into a proper solution to a problem?
If you’ve done all the above and the words still won’t come, try sleeping on it, or going for a walk. Or pay a professional writer to do it for you 🙂
7. Tidy it up
Now’s the time to go back and fix those awkward sentences, correct your spelling, cut any rambling bits or anything unnecessary.
8. Add some links
Links are good – they show you are an active part of the blog / internet community. They show you’ve done some research. They’re good for your SEO (search engines again), and they might even bring in some attention – from the people you link to. Try it. Link to this blog in your next post and I’ll come check you out to see all the horrible things you’ve said about me.
9. Add a picture
This is optional. A great photo can really improve the impression your post makes on the reader but it can be time-consuming finding and preparing images.
10. Add a summary
Your post is nearing completion. But does it have an ending? If it seems to tail off, and doesn’t really have much bang at the conclusion, consider adding a quick summary of all that has gone before.
You’ll be doing your readers a big favour because repetition is essential to learning, and by providing a summary, you make it much more likely that your reader’s over-tasked brain will actually retain what you’ve provided for them.
11. Send them on their way
One further thing to consider at the end – what do want the reader to do now? Do you want them to take some action, such as checking out one of your other posts? Link to it. Do you have an ebook or report for sale that might interest them? Tell them about it. Don’t just stop. Try to influence where they go next, what they read or what they do.
12. Proofread it
Proofread it as many times as necessary to get rid of typos and mistakes. Then hit post.
What have we learnt?
To write a blog post, you need a clear idea, a topic on which you will focus. That should suggest some keywords that will influence the search engines. You need a creative hook to engage readers, you need to do your research (from experience, on the internet or from books), and then you should order your ideas and get it all clear in your mind.
Let the writing flow. Then go back and tidy it up. Add some links and a photo, add a summary, and decide where you want your readers to go when they finish your post.
Pic by Oblivious Dude via Flickr and Creative Commons.