There are apparently some 600 million blogs worldwide, and around 4000 blog posts are published every minute of every day!
And in case you need some more perspective, or have an interest in blogging statistics, here are some more Blogging Statistics.
Writing a good blog post is about writing a blog post that people will want to read and engage with. The tone of the blog post you write will depend on your target audience and the way you want to interact with them.
Whatever you write, make sure that you allow your personality to shine through … it’s your style and it’s going to be the key to your brand.
And … let’s be honest. Your first blog post is, sadly, probably not going to be that good. I have archived my first post in the “what does a blog look like after three weeks” section. Some of the 3-week posts are interesting but a bit cringy, and it’s clear that I hadn’t done any research on how to write a blog post!
I have learned a lot. I look back and I can see how my presentation has improved. It’s all about learning, practising and getting better. At some point, I shall revisit and rewrite the early Blog Post efforts but I shall make sure that I don’t remove the originals. The originals can stay, they will always be useful reminders to the potential for improvement.
I feel that I have improved … and as I developed my plan, it occurred to me that writing a better blog post could be expressed in 6-steps.
Here are 6-steps to creating a better blog post
- Every blog post begins with an idea – make sure that you have a good one
- Do your research – bloggers don’t know everything
- Think about what you have – think about what your audience wants
- Create an outline for the post – avoid the stuff that doesn’t matter
- Add the meat to the bones (or the cabbage to the broth) – write the post and make it your own
- Refine your masterpiece – read it out loud, listen and make the changes
The 6-steps outline a framework for creating a better blog post, but the framework applies equally well to the creation of a better blog page. If you look at them from a technical perspective, Posts and Pages are different, their functions are different and they are used differently. But that’s not particularly important, from the practical angle, the distinction between posts and pages will depend on the nature of your blog. The approach to writing is going to be pretty much the same.
I am using “posts” within the WordPress application for definitions, tutorials, “how-to” advice and “what is” articles. They can all be presented as stand-alone topics that can be read individually, or they can be used as support for longer, more complex articles.
I am using the WordPress “page” construct for presenting resource and framework information, supporting what you might call the bigger-picture.
Some blogging tutorial sites will tell you that Pages are for information that changes only infrequently, like the “About Us” page and contact information. They will then tell you that Posts are used primarily for information that changes frequently and is updated often, like diary (or blog) entries that are presented in chronological order. This was certainly true once but I don’t believe that it is quite as true today, the distinction between blogs and websites is a bit hazy.
The distinction between pages and posts is interesting but it’s not as important as the writing, and there’s more to writing a blog post than just writing a blog post. Each step in the process is important, and so is the order you approach them in.
In the beginning, I thought I knew better … but I didn’t!
Start your Blog Post with an Idea
All blog posts begin with an idea.
The idea is important but what really matters is what you do with the idea.
It may be your idea or it may have been triggered by something that someone said to you. It doesn’t matter how you came by it, it’s now the starting point for your post. The trick is to take that starting point and turn it into something that is coherent, engaging and consistent with the rest of the posts on your site.
What kind of post are you going to write?
The first thing you must determine is the type of post that is best suited to your idea. This will help you to define the structure of the post and the flow of the arguments you are going to write.
Your posts are going to fall broadly into one of the following post types:
- Tutorial – a teaching post designed to increase and develop your reader’s understanding of a subject
- How-to – a post providing a step-by-step guide to achieving a particular goal
- Comparison – a post that compares the features and benefits of two or more different products or services
- Review – a post that assesses a specific product or service, for the benefit of the reader
- List – a collection of products or ideas that might attract a reader to a post
- Interviews and expert commentary – detailed analysis collected from experts
- Case studies – a post giving a close-up and in-depth, detailed examination of a particular situation
Each post type is telling its own story, in its own way, and is better suited to its own style … and its own blog post template.
Picking a headline for your post
The headline that you write is the first thing your reader is going to see. The headline, or title, is going to define the post.
So … write a sentence that describes your idea, then write another sentence, and then another. Keep going. Write them from different angles, alternative perspectives and as if you were someone else! Keep in mind that the title is there to show the reader what to expect.
As you try different angles, don’t forget that you are looking for something that you can turn into an engaging headline for your post, and don’t lose sight of the fact that the headline is for visitors that aren’t you!
The title of your post is also key to its SEO performance and should reflect the questions that people might ask, so you need to write your headline in a way that will inform the Search Engine.
Your headline should be informative, it should be engaging and it should also be capable of capturing the imagination of the reader.
Research your Blog Post before you write it
Remember … Google is your friend!
But don’t forget … Google is also a friend of your visitor!
You want Google to return your post in response to a question, or a search request or a general enquiry. That’s what Google is for, and that’s what Google does. But Google will present your blog post in the search results only if, after assessing it for expertise, authority and trustworthiness, it concludes that your blog post is a suitable response.
Why should you do your research?
Nobody knows everything. Bloggers are no exception. Bloggers don’t know everything.
If you are going to analyse and evaluate the value of your blog post before you sit down to write it, you are going to need to understand the blog post context and how it relates to your current knowledge and expertise.
At this point, you have the idea, and you probably know quite a lot about the subject … but you don’t know everything!
When you start, you have the idea but you didn’t really know the sort of questions people are asking.
Without looking, you don’t know what has already been written on the subject.
It is unlikely that the stuff that you know will, all by itself, be a match for the questions people are asking. Some of the stuff that you know will be relevant to your blog post topic, but some of it won’t be.
And … you don’t know what sort of competition there is for your proposed blog post topic and your answers.
If you understand the context of your blog post, you will be better placed to ring-fence the relevant, discard the non-relevant and research the rest.
Research the headline before writing a blog post
You have the idea for your blog post, and you want to be able to evaluate it before you start to write.
If you have completed the headline-picking exercise mentioned earlier, you should now have at least a couple of potential headlines. Try searching – using your own idea headlines – and have a look at the existing blog posts on the topic. If there aren’t any, then you may be on to a winner, or you may have stumbled upon a subject that no one is interested in. In both cases, it’s good to know.
While you are doing your searching, keep a note of the Google suggestions as they pop up. They are what the auto-completing predictive text bot thinks you want to search for, and the bot is basing its thinking on what other humans have asked before. Maybe you have missed something and the bot will remind you. Trust in the Bot!
If there are comments at the bottom of the blog posts you are reading, read the comments and make some notes. You are going to be most interested in the comments that are asking questions that are not covered in the body of the blog. You can carry those questions over into your writing and add value to your blog post that your competitors have missed.
Sources and References
It’s time to start adding substance and moulding your idea into shape. You know what you know (and what is relevant) and you now know what you don’t know. Your research should cover both and will depend on just how much of an expert you are. You want to make sure that you can back up and support what you know, and you want to be able to fill in the gaps with information that is both relevant and authoritative.
Think about what you need to support what you are going to be saying, from the first paragraph to the last. Google likes to see reference sources, so I have heard, but the references need to be the sort of references that will give your blog post gravitas. In fact, everything you write should be demonstrating your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). If you need more food for thought, go and have a look at the Google SEO and E-A-T starter guide.
The research you do should be relevant and it should fill the gaps in the blog post, based on the context. Seek out relevant data and statistics from respected sources, read other articles on the same topic and look for supporting quotes from experts and other authoritative sites.
A word of warning: you’re just identifying and filling in the gaps, don’t let the research take over your life.
This is where we all need to rely on our BrainPower and Experience.
And here’s a hint, because it’s caught me out a bit too often … don’t forget to take note of where the references have come from so that you can attribute them properly in your blog post. Trawling the web to re-discover that specific reference you had in your mind is like looking for a snippet in a 600 million blog site haystack … not the easiest task in the world.
You’re nearly halfway there, more or less. You have had the idea, you have established the context and you understand the competition, but before you get down to writing your blog post, you need to consider your audience.
Consider the Audience for your Blog Post
It is important that you understand the needs of your audience, before you start to write.
- Who is going to be reading the blog post that you are writing?
- What sort of writing style should you employ?
- Are your readers going to be engaged by the content of your blog post?
- Do they care about what you’re saying?
You don’t need to know your audience personally, that would be silly and it would take a long time.
You probably need to know them collectively. You need to know what they are like and how they might behave. You need to be aware of their preferences, and you need to know what they like and what motivates them. The creative industries, like marketing, IT and design don’t tend to look directly at individuals for their information, instead they use idealised models of consumers based on consumer types … personas.
Developing Personas for Blog Posts
First, there is no such thing as an average user! Everyone is different and the idea that there is an “average user” is a fallacy. The US Air Force, for example, discovered the flaw of averages back in the 1940s and 1950s.
The same underlying principles are still true today, and they will still be true tomorrow!
We create personas because the single, historical model of an “average user” cannot reflect the full spectrum of users. The single “average user” does not exist and even if it did, it would not fulfil our needs. Similarly, a single persona is also of limited use as we are probably looking for a range of qualities and attributes that are distributed unequally across our users.
The personas we create are used to group together a set of common consumer attributes, allowing us to represent stylised and generic users, and to design, validate and test products and services … and blog posts!
Your personas are yours and are going to be based on your research, they are there to help you to understand your readers.
Maintaining a set of personas is going to help you to focus your thinking. When you write your blog posts, you can imagine yourself as one or all of your personas and temper or emphasise your message accordingly. Personas make the task of creating content less complex.
You should create a set of your own personas to help you focus your blog post writing.
I will be writing a guide to help you grow a set of personas relevant to your own blog post writing situation, but I haven’t written it yet. Until then, have a look at this introduction. My approach will be simpler as the focus will be on developing personas for writing blog posts.
Your idea is taking shape, you understand the context and the competition, and now you know what your audience might look like.
Create an Outline for your Blog Post
A blog post should flow, from the outline of an idea, through the development of that idea and on to a conclusion. It should follow a clear path and it should be supported throughout by qualified references and links … and it should avoid hesitation, deviation and repetition.
Just imagine that you are writing the blog post equivalent of “Just a Minute”. ?
Turning your idea into an outline
Use headings and sub-headings to milepost your blog post journey. Rumour has it that most readers do little more than skim the headings, sub-headings and pictured until they find the bit they are looking for or something else grabs their attention, at which point they will begin to read.
Your headings should stand alone as a narrative, with each one of them moving the story forward … by just the right amount.
When you are putting together the outline and writing your headings and sub-headings, you should include any relevant quotes, statistics and other data and information that is relevant to that section. Do it now and it will help you to crystalise your thoughts and your blog post will begin to take shape.
You should be aiming for a neat and tidy outline that is easy to follow … for both you and your readers.
How do you establish an outline?
A long time ago when I was at university and I used to write essays. As I recall, the short ones would have been around 1200 words and the longer ones around 3000-3500 words. In those days, I would write them in longhand, until I progressed to an electric typewriter – not a word processor, an electric typewriter!
There wasn’t really any room for error, there wasn’t even room for having a change of heart half-way through a paragraph. Writing longhand or writing using an electric typewriter required a certain amount of discipline and planning.
Writing an essay began with being given a subject or a title, which might indicate a certain direction and approach, or not. In either case, it was highly likely that some research was going to be required – and all this in the days before search engines.
The research (books in the library) was followed by some thinking time, which was then followed by a statement of purpose for the essay. It sounds a bit grand but it was a few lines, written by me, to ensure that the essay remained focussed on developing the arguments necessary to reach the desired conclusion.
Having established the conclusion that I was working towards, I would start by listing some of the points that I would make to get me to where I wanted to be. Then I would begin to place them in a logical order, at the same time as adding any new points that came to mind, reviewing and moving existing points and eliminating points that on reflection, were nonsense.
It’s all about revisiting and refining, and not being afraid of binning the rubbish.
I also used to write sentences and paragraphs on sheets of A4 and then cut them out so that I could rearrange them – cut and paste, anyone?
Some of the paragraphs I saved, some I rearranged and some I binned … usually because they were rubbish!
I do the same today using post-it notes and a whiteboard – I also use the iThoughts mind mapping software … it’s from Yorkshire.
The blog post outline is just that, an outline. It’s there to provide a focus for thoughts and to help make the best use of time. Planning an article around establishing headings and sub-headings provides a framework, and gives structure to the writing.
In the long run, planning your article before you begin has a positive impact on your writing. It’s not something that you are going to be forced to do, but if you do it, it will save time.
Take the time to write your Blog Post
You now have an idea and a conclusion … and a set of moves that will take you and your reader from one to the other. Each move is identified by its own heading or sub-heading, and you can now apply yourself to each of the moves as if it were a mini blog post.
Remember your personas?
Refer back to your personas whilst you are writing and make sure that the tone, language and the level of detail you are providing is appropriate for their needs – the right tone and the right presentation.
As a general rule, each sub-heading should be of a similar length … because it looks better and it improves readability. Having said that, don’t pad out sub-headings that look a bit thin and don’t worry if some sections go further than you intended.
Remember “Just a Minute” … no hesitation, deviation or repetition. Google, like me, might be a fan of “Just a Minute” but it’s not a fan of hesitation, deviation or repetition, it’s not good for SEO.
Writing is an acquired skill
The more that you write, the more your writing will improve. It’s like driving a car or learning to solve the Rubik’s Cube. When you begin, you know what you are trying to achieve, but you know it’s not yet hanging together. You practice and you practice and bit by bit, you improve. We all have to start somewhere.
I’m not sure that I’ve got it yet, but I am much better than I was when I began. My first article was “A Brief History of Blog“, which I completed without any understanding of blog writing structure or SEO. I thought it might be useful to look back, so I took a snapshot of the site at three weeks old. If you have a look, and you read it, you can tell, but there is no substitute for just having a go.
And at this point, I think will mention it again … avoid repetition!
Install some writing tools
I don’t mean install some tools that do the writing for you, although I have seen some that claim to be able to do just that. I mean install some tools that will show you your most obvious errors, because they are the ones that your readers are going to notice.
Nothing turns off readers and sends them running for picture-based websites about celebrity lifestyles and smiling cats than bad spelling and bad grammar. If you are trying to demonstrate your expertise and you want to come across as an authority in your chosen field, poor spelling and bad grammar are not going to do it for you.
Bad grammar is often taken as an indicator of low or limited intelligence.
I use Grammarly, which is ok but it’s not without its own little nuances of nonsense. I am using the free version but I have no reason to think that the paid version would advise me differently. It is quite useful because it can spot errors whilst I am writing. If you are going to use it, it also has its own whacky ideas about what it thinks you are trying to say and how you should sound to your audience. I have taken some screenshots to illustrate the point and I will be including them in a review of writing tools, shortly.
I also use WP Spell Check, mainly because Grammarly only checks the paragraph that you are writing, and it doesn’t always follow you when you move to a different paragraph. For example, as I write this paragraph, the Grammarly icon has settled in the previous paragraph. It won’t budge unless I go back and click on that paragraph and then return and click back on this one. I don’t always notice that my Grammarly friend is not following me, so having an additional global spellcheck is useful and helps to prevent me from looking like someone who can’t spell.
Keep paragraphs and sentences short
… which is someting that I sometimes have trouble with.
I have installed SmartCrawl for help with SEO, but SmartCrawl can also scan the article that I am writing and provide a readability score based on the Fleisch-Kincaid Test. This helps because long sentences lower the score, as do tricky sentences with words containing lots of syllables.
The Readers Digest scores in the mid-60s on the Fleisch-Kincaid test, I try to aim for the low 70s.
I was reading the BBC News site earlier and I noticed that the articles are nearly always presented as a string of one-sentence paragraphs. Occasionally there are paragraphs made up of two sentences, but the writers do tend to stick to short paragraphs and short sentences.
This post is so far scoring 67 on the Fleisch-Kincaid scale, and it’s nearly complete. I need to finish writing down to the bottom and then I need to review the whole thing, from the top. I’ll tell you the final score on the last line, down at the bottom but I don’t suppose it’s going to be much different. Perhaps if I use shorter words …
Given the intended audience for this article and based on the personas developed for the purpose, I think a score in the high 60s is fair. Going back and replacing long words with short words is not going to help the message.
Cut and Tweak
If there are bits you have written that aren’t relevant, cut them. They are not going to help your article … too many rabbit holes are going to muddy the waters, cloud the issue and mix the metaphors! But don’t throw them away because they may well become the foundation of another post.
If you find yourself heading off on a sidetrack, cut the paragraph but hold on to the idea. You are probably seeing the origin of another, so far unwritten post. I have cut several paragraphs from this piece, mainly because they are about tools and techniques and are therefore supporting articles. Supporting articles usually merit blog posts in their own right.
I may have cut them out, but I have replaced them with a placeholder paragraph so that when I have written the linked post, I can return and continue … all that’s needed is a link and a couple of hours.
I save the links in iThoughts (that mind mapping software from Yorkshire again), which is itself the subject of a placeholder paragraph and a future link to a future article about iThoughts, and it’s all stored in iThoughts. I have also created and saved links to the development and use of personas, and the use of Grammarly and alternative writing tools.
Add value … always!
Use your Brain Power and Experience to add value, no one else has your Brain Power and Experience.
Add value when you analyse and evaluate your subject:
- look at what’s already out there,
- look at what’s missing,
- ask yourself what you would like to see.
Add value when you write your blog post. You know what’s missing, add YOU to the mix and trust your judgement.
Read your Blog Post – out loud!
So, the last section is longer than the others, and there are more more sub-sections. I appear to have broken my own guidelines.
In my defence, I think I can be forgiven for writing an extended section about writing a blog post in a blog post about writing a better blog post. Hmmm! Maybe I’ll just read that sentence out loud again …
If you read your new blog post out loud, you will spot the bits that sound rubbish! If the words are put together badly and the sentences don’t make sense, you’ll know. If you read it out loud, bad grammar that hasn’t been spotted by Grammarly will try and grab your attention and if you read it out all in one go, you should spot any unnecessary repetition.
When you hear things that you don’t like, make the changes to what you’ve written and put them right, then re-read it. It helps me if I wait a few hours, or maybe overnight, before reading … having a break helps clears the mind.
Then … if you’re happy with what you have written, what you have read and what you have just listened to, press the publish button.
What have we learned?
We (I) have learned that no matter what it is that you think you might want to say, there’s always more to say!
Don’t fill up the post with peripheral stuff, make a placeholder for a link and write another post.
Your personality is your brand and should shine through everything that you write.
The best way to learn how to write is by having a go at writing!
There is a repeatable method for creating a blog post.
Do the research but do not overdo the research!
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.
Final Fleisch-Kincaid score is 68.