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Have you ever wondered how top-performing bloggers consistently publish exceptional posts? While their work may look like magic, it doesn’t happen by accident. They have processes that help them work efficiently and produce quality content.
This is true for most writers in general. Sitting down to write a piece without a clear workflow wastes time and undermines your own results. The old maxim “work smarter, not harder” may be cliched, but when it comes to blogging, it sums up what’s required for long-term success.
Fortunately, you can learn how to write great blog posts every time you sit down behind your laptop. Over time, you can even grow your audience and increase your traffic consistently and sustainably. Whether you’re building a blogging business or working within a marketing team, you can get the results you want with a little bit of planning.
The best part is how simple this process actually is, too. While there are lots of moving parts involved when it comes to to crafting content, the individual steps are easy to follow. Here’s how to write posts that stand out from the pack, resonate with your audience, and make you a topical authority (based on experience with what has worked for CoSchedule).
This post is packed with information outlining a complete blog writing process. But to make executing that process easy, grab these three templates:
It helps to know what a great post looks like before you try to write one. This detailed illustration from Social Triggers offers an excellent diagram:
Like this? Learn how to use psychology to get more traffic and sales with Social Triggers.
You probably have tons of ideas for blog posts. But are they the best ideas that are most interesting to your potential audience? Figuring this out takes a little bit of work, so follow this process to build a backlog of ideas you can write about for months.
Before you dig deep into research, there are probably some things you already know about your audience.
For now, these ideas can be broad topical areas. You’ll dive into writing hypothetical headlines and SEO considerations in the next step.
CoSchedule takes an SEO-driven approach to crafting actionable how-to blog posts. That process starts with identifying topical focus areas, then digging into keyword research to find ideas readers will want to read about the most. This requires understanding two basic keyword research concepts: volume and difficulty.
Keyword volume refers to how often a term gets searched on Google (or another search engine). Difficulty measures how hard it is to rank for a particular term. If this sounds a bit confusing, Ann Smarty wrote a fantastic keyword research guide that breaks down everything you need to know.
You’ll need a keyword research tool for this. There are tons of free and paid options out there to choose from too. Here’s a small selection:
For demonstration purposes, here’s how to use Ubersuggest. Open the site in your browser and enter a topic. Next, you’ll see something like this (in this example, we searched the term “blogging”):
In this example, you’ll see the total number of searches under Volume, and its SEO difficulty under SD. The higher the volume, the more opportunity there is to drive traffic. Meanwhile, the higher the difficulty score, the more work you’ll need to do before you can rank.
For each topic, build a list of keywords that blog post will include. This entails sorting out which keywords are most relevant to one another, and sorting out keywords that aren’t relevant at all.
Let’s say you wanted to write a blog post about how to start a blog. In the screenshot above, “blogging where to start” and “what blogging is” might be good terms to group together. Use common sense to determine which terms are relevant.
It’s easy to think you should only target topics with high volume and low difficulty. This is indeed an easy way to generate lots of traffic quickly. But it’s not necessarily the best approach if those ideas aren’t actually the most valuable things you could write about.
In order to narrow down ideas that balance value versus opportunity, ask yourself three questions:
It’s tough to determine exactly which posts will do best. However, combining data with experience will help you improve results over time.
Even if you already understand your topic, you’ll need to do research. This entails gathering data that supports your claims, rounding out your knowledge with reputable sources, and seeing what else has already been written about the topic.
Think beyond obvious sources to find information that hasn’t already been repeated a million times elsewhere on the web. That means going beyond Google to find unique information you can share.
Here are some basic things to remember when doing any kind of serious online research:
Wolfram Alpha is an extremely powerful research tool. It’s like an encyclopedia, calculator, and search engine all rolled into one. To use their own words, it works “by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods.” In plain English, it’s useful for calculating and comparing differences between different topics and pieces of data.
Here are some things bloggers can do with Wolfram Alpha:
There are tons of useful archives and databases out there, especially if your blog has an academic focus. Consider the following:
Outlines help you cover every detail to make sure you publish comprehensive content that solves all of your readers’ challenges with the topic. They make sure you don’t miss anything while also keeping you from going too detailed.
Writing without an outline is like driving without a map (or to use a more modern metaphor, your smartphone). You’ll be fine if you’re going a short distance. If you’re going to be covering a lot of ground, however, you need to know where you’re going. Otherwise, you’re likely to get lost, waste time, and probably yell.
In most cases, this simply entails listing your introduction, and then your subsequent section headings. Each heading should represent a main point you want to elaborate on. It doesn’t need to complicated. It just needs to be quick to put together and effective in guiding the flow of your writing. Here’s what a simple outline structure could look like:
Once you’ve established each section of your post, it’s time to drill down even deeper into your sub-points. Identify which points you’ll cover, underneath each section heading. Now, your outline might look something like this (this is an actual outline I wrote for this post):
Your headline is what makes anyone click, share, and read in the first place. It should capture your audience’s intention and clearly communicate the value of your post. Strong headlines should be:
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is the best way to write and test headlines before you publish. It’s available online at no cost (and it’s also built into CoSchedule too). Write 20 to 25 headline options per post and aim to score 70 or higher.
What does a great headline look like? Take a look at this basic example from Kottke.org:
Here are some basic headline elements present in this example:
Your headlines don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s advisable to avoid clickbait too. Just focus on nailing the fundamentals.
The introduction will be something you’ll revisit when you are all through with your draft. But writing it first helps you put into words what you’re going to say in your post.It might be clunky, but it’ll launch you into the writing of the actual copy. You can go back and make it amazing and full of hooks later, once your full draft post is done. Here are some tips to build your introduction:
Strong introductions also include some simple elements. Here’s an example from Lifehacker:
This introduction does a few things well that are worth noting:
Again, this doesn’t require an extreme level of creativity. It just takes empathy for your reader, getting straight to the point without wasting their time.
Ideally, your introduction should have set the stage for your body content to shine. If you took the time to write a strong outline, then writing the rest of your post should be simple.
Paragraphs in a blog post should be brief and to the point. Where appropriate, use single sentences to add punch behind statements (see above). Keep paragraphs down to two or three sentences for crispness and clarity (and avoid more than five at the most). This will keep your writing easy to read and skim through.
Give each section a descriptive heading. This is a good time to take the headings from your outline and turn them into something more attention-grabbing. Here are some tips for writing sub-headings:
Beneath each heading, you should have several sub-points that support the section’s theme or idea.
Take each bullet point you put beneath each heading in your outline. Then, add a few paragraphs on each one in the appropriate section. If you get on a roll and uncover more relevant information, add it into your post.
Let’s pull this all together to ensure you’re equipped to write awesome body content for your blog post. This simple yet effective process will ensure your post follows a logical structure:
A good conclusion should tie your blog post together. At the most basic level, your conclusion should do the following:
Take some time on your conclusion. It doesn’t have to be the amount of time you spend on your introduction, but do make an effort to tie things up and prompt a response or resolution.
Writing a great blog post takes more than words. It also needs excellent visual content. There are two ways to do this: hire a graphic designer, or create visuals yourself using free or low-cost design tools.
If you work with a designer, this is where they’ll apply their magic to your post. Add notes for image direction in-line in your text document instructing them on what you’d like. Include the exact copy and other information you need, and in most cases, they’ll take it from there.
CoSchedule’s team uses this format:
[Insert copy and general description]
That’s all you need to do. Every graphic you see on this blog starts this way.
However, if you’re working alone and don’t have design skills, you’re not out of luck. The following tools make it easy to design images (even with little or no previous graphic design knowledge):
If you’re looking for a helpful primer on design basics, check out this post from Puranjay Singh.
The answer is however many you need to serve your reader. However, that answer is vague. So, how many images should a post include (in a technical sense)?
In short: use common sense and do what serves your reader.
Once your post is written, follow these steps to increase your odds of ranking well in organic search.
Your title tag and meta description are what appear in search engine results. They’re the first thing people will see before visiting your post through a search.
Here’s how to write strong title tags and meta descriptions:
Use Portent’s SERP Preview Tool to test how your proposed title tag and meta description will appear in actual search results:
It’s important links to other posts related to your topic.
Links help readers find more information about your topic, help show where you’re finding your information, and increase the odds other sites will link back to you (and send traffic your way). They also help search engines determine what your post is about by drawing associations between linked content.
Here are a few additional points to remember about links:
Remember the keyword research you did earlier? Make sure you’re including your primary keyword (along with other variations of that keyword phrase) throughout your blog post. Don’t go overboard and stick keywords wherever possible. Instead, just make sure they’re present. This will help send a stronger signal to search engines to help your post rank in organic search.
Make sure your section headings follow a logical hierarchy by using proper heading tags. Use only one H1 tag per page (WordPress generally makes post headlines and H1, or “Heading 1”). Then, make each sub-heading an H2, and subsequent sub-headings beneath those with H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags.
This is the same process CoSchedule has followed to generate more than 1,000,000 blog visitors per month. It takes time to write a solid post, but if you’re disciplined about following this process, you’ll see your results improve. Bookmark this page and use it as a reference until you’re consistently writing the best posts you can muster. Here’s to your blogging success!
This post was originally published on March 28, 2016. It was republished with new information on Sept. 30, 2019.
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