Since I’m a copywriter here at d.trio, people seem to think I know what I’m doing when it comes to blogging. Boy, have I got them fooled! Seriously, I feel like I’m winging it just like everyone else. That said, if I really think about it, I guess I do have a certain process. And so, while there’s no specific way to write a blog post, I’ll share what works for me. Hopefully it’ll make your own process a little easier.
Choose a topic you care about.
It all starts with this. No matter who you are, it’s hard to write about something you have zero interest in. Of course, when writing is your job like it is mine, you don’t always have a choice. When that happens, the best you can do is find something within the topic that interests you. That’s because a big part of writing a good blog (or anything else) is adopting a good mindset. Approach it with energy, excitement, and a positive, confident frame of mind. If you can have fun with it, the writing will come easier and you’ll end up with a better finished product.
Do your research.
It’s easiest to write about a topic you’re an expert in. But that’s not always the case. If you need to do research, make sure your sources are accurate, reliable, and current. Try to explore the topic from multiple angles. Instead of rehashing existing content, consider how you can give it a fresh perspective. Which brings us to…
Choose your own point of view.
Blog posts should generally be short enough to read in ten minutes or less. And so they need to be tightly focused. Which means that even if there are multiple ways to explore a topic, you’ll need to make some choices. So spend a little time thinking about it. Find the part of the topic that interests you most and get personal with it. The stronger the point of view you can bring to the subject, the more interesting your post will be. (And the easier it will be to write.)
Write the headline.
Before I start writing a blog post, I like to come up with a headline. Now, it may not be the one I eventually use, but I find that having a working headline early on gives my writing focus. Consider it your blog’s marketing strategy. It’s like when us creatives do client work—we always work to a singular statement of what the communication needs to accomplish. Writing the headline first serves the same purpose. It helps you get clear on the end goal. If and when your article veers off course, it’s helpful to have that headline at the top of the page to steer you back.
Brainstorm your headline some more.
Don’t settle on just any headline. It’s arguably the most important part of your entire post. If it doesn’t compel somebody to read on, you’ve wasted your time writing the article. So don’t write the first headline that comes to mind and consider it done. Brainstorm a decent list. Come at it from different angles. Make it compelling and interesting. Clever if you can. Yes, it’s a lot to accomplish. Yes, it takes some practice to write a brilliant headline. But quantity leads to quality. And even a decent headline can be effective.
I realize this one may be somewhat controversial. But since this is my list of suggestions, I’m including it. Because I think outlines work. Even very rough ones. They clarify your thinking and give you a structure to write to. Some people believe outlines are too restrictive, but I think they do the opposite—they set you free. Once you figure out WHAT to say you can put all your writing energy into HOW to say it.
Write a (crappy) first draft.
Get all your ideas down. No editing—just fleshing out your outline with actual sentences. If the writing is less than great, don’t sweat it. You’ll fix it later. When you’re done, compare your draft against your outline to make sure you’ve covered everything. Fill in any gaps and eliminate irrelevant tangents. Make sure your article has a point that everything builds to. The first draft is the perfect time to make big changes if you need to. It’s also the time to keep these other things in mind…
Write the way you talk.
Be yourself. Infuse the piece with as much personality as you can. Don’t worry about trying to sound smart. If you ask me, the best posts are conversational and casual. They read like somebody’s right there talking to you. Remember, this is not a high school essay and you will not be graded on it. Worried that you’re not a “real” writer? You don’t need to be. Personality, authenticity, and a genuine point of view go a long way toward engaging your reader.
Bullet points are your friends.
Sure, it depends on the blog. But if you’re presenting a bunch of ideas or tips, bullets (or numbers) help keep things simple and organized. The article you’re reading now is a case in point. (I use bullets and numbers all the time.) Bullets are also great for skimming. Just read the title and skim the bullets, and you can get a lot of the key info. The structure of a list also makes blogs easier to write.
Revisit that all-important headline.
First draft written? Great! Now, go back to the list of headlines you worked on before. Do they match the finished article? Now that you’ve written the article, have you gleaned any new insights that might help you write a stronger, grabbier headline? Brainstorm a little more and see if you can beat your original list. (To learn more about writing great headlines, read our blog post here.)
Sleep on it.
Whenever I write a blog post, I make sure to finish it at least a couple of days early, so I can go back to it a good two or three times. Reading a piece with fresh eyes always reveals things that you didn’t notice before. Even if it’s not possible to come back to it over the course of several days, simply changing gears for a few hours can give you enough of a break to gain a fresh perspective. This, of course means you need to…
Edit, edit, edit.
While it may be tempting to crank out your first draft, fix a few typos, and send it off, don’t. Like all writing, if you want to write a good blog post, you need to edit. And not just the little stuff. Does the structure make sense? Is your point clear? Are your examples strong? Then, after you’ve considered all that, smooth out the language. The shorter the better when it comes to blogs, so cut out all unnecessary words. (Just don’t cut so much that you squeeze all the personality out of it.) If you have so much content that you can’t keep it short, break your post into two or three shorter ones. Once it’s all cleaned up, revisit your headline list one last time, pick your favorite, and you’re good to go.
So that’s it—everything I know about blog writing. While I wish I had a secret formula to offer you, unfortunately, I don’t know of any. Writing blogs is tough, even for somebody like me who’s been writing for a long time. That said, hopefully the above tips will make the process a little easier for you.
Good luck and happy writing!