Now that you have a solid foundation, it’s time to write. This chapter will help you turn your ideas into shareable blog posts.
If you’ve never written a blog post before, it’s important to spend a few minutes becoming familiar with this form of writing.
When I started blogging, my writing experience was all academic. Academic writing calls for three to five sentences in each paragraph. Long sentences are encouraged, especially if they use lots of academic vocabulary. Writing without personality is just fine.
I was used to writing this way, and my early blog posts would have earned an A in an English class. The problem? Blog posts aren’t supposed to follow an academic mold. They have their own format.
Here are six key features of great blog posts. They:
1. Are easy to scan and read quickly.
2. Have images.
3. Have a clear purpose.
4. Use a conversational tone.
5. Have short paragraphs.
6. Provide helpful links.
If you aren’t used to writing for the web, these will help you. Let’s look at each feature in more detail.
Online readers don’t have a great attention span. Instead of reading your post word for word, almost all your readers will scan it first. If you catch their attention and they like what they see, they might go back and read it.
Because of this, you need to make sure your post is easily scannable. Your goal is to get rid of long blocks of text. You can do this with:
> Bullet points
> Numbered lists
Break up the text and make it easy for readers to tell what your post is about.
I covered images in chapter four, but I’ll reiterate their importance here. Put high-quality images in your blog posts. Images break up your text and make the content more shareable.
#3: Clear Purpose
Why are you writing a blog post? Before you put any words on paper, you need to have a clear purpose. Start by knowing what your readers will get out of your post. Then do the actual writing. This will help you stay on topic.
#4: Conversational Tone
Your readers want to hear your voice—not a professor’s voice, or a robot’s. You should write a blog post like you’re sitting down with a friend talking over a cup of cocoa.
I must admit, this is the part of writing blog posts I struggle with the most. I spent so much time writing without my voice that it took me a while to find it.
One strategy that helped me was to read each post aloud. This shows me whether it sounds like something I’d actually say. If it doesn’t, I know I still have some polishing to do.
You can also think of a person you know who fits your ideal reader persona. What would you write to this specific person?
#5: Short Paragraphs
In school, you may have been taught to use three to five sentences in every single paragraph. But to keep your post flowing and scannable, your paragraphs need to be shorter.
Sometimes a single sentence will do.
Other times you need more. And you might even use more than five sentences in a paragraph, especially if your sentences are short. Like this one. It really depends on what you write about and how well the ideas flow together. If you think it’s time for a break, end your paragraph.
#6: Helpful Links
Providing links in your posts helps your reader to learn more about the topic. In a single blog post, you may link to:
> Other blog posts on your site
> Blog posts on different websites
> Resources (such as books, tools, etc.)
Interlinking (including a link to more of your content) promotes your content and builds a strong site. It keeps your readers on your website for longer and increases the likelihood that they sign up for your email list.
If you link to another website, be sure it’s one you trust. You don’t want to send your readers to an unreliable site, or worse, one full of spam.
When you link, use anchor text. Instead of having a link visible, such as sallyannmiller.com, you will provide the link within a word or phrase, like this: Check out Sally’s website for more information on making money from home.
You can add links in Word, Google Docs, or the WordPress editor. Simply highlight the word(s) you want to use. Then, click either the link button (the icon looks like two links of a chain), or insert hyperlink.
You will see a space to add the web address. Make sure you type it correctly and include the whole thing. To avoid mistakes, open the page you want to link to and then copy the URL from the address line in your Internet browser.
Emails Asking for Links
At some point in your blogging career, you’ll likely receive an email asking you to include a link. It’ll read something like this:
I just read your post (post name). I wrote a post on a similar topic. I’d love for you to link to my post in yours. It’ll give your readers useful information.
Let me know if you want to hear more about my post.
Do not feel obligated to provide the link. These people are trying to get more links to their sites. These links help their ranking in Google. But giving this link isn’t helpful for you, or your blog.
You must decide what you want to do. If you don’t already know and trust the person who is reaching out to you, I recommend declining. This helps prevent you from accidentally linking to any unscrupulous sites. You can either ignore them or email back and decline.
Ignoring them will likely result in a couple of automatic follow-up emails. Link hunters are persistent!
The Writing Process
You need to decide where you are going to draft your posts. Here are three popular options:
1. WordPress: You can type directly into the WordPress editor. That’s where I draft most of my posts. But if something goes wrong, you risk losing everything. Save frequently. If your computer crashes, be sure to check your drafts section on WordPress before you panic.
2. Word: You can write directly in Word, like any other document. The spell checker is solid here, and you can often spot errors you might miss in another program. However, your formatting may not transfer correctly into WordPress if you simply copy and paste it. This means you’ll need to spend a little extra time preparing your post for publication.
3. Google Docs: When I write blog posts for clients, they almost always want it submitted as a Google Doc. Copying and pasting into WordPress will keep the formatting.
Now that you know what blog posts should look like, you are ready to write some. I’ve found the fastest way to do this is to follow a writing process. There are four steps in the writing process:
1. Outline your post.
2. Research your idea.
3. Draft your post.
4. Edit your post.
And remember, the more you write, the faster you will get. Don’t be surprised if your first blog post takes hours to compose. You will get better and more comfortable over time.
Step One: Outline Your Post
I used to argue with my English teachers in high school about outlines. I didn’t see the point. I thought they were just a waste of time. Whenever one was required, I wrote it after I drafted my paper.
However, as a blogger, I finally realized the point of an outline. They make the writing process easier. Instead of trying to figure out the direction while you write, you can take care of it before you start. Outlines are your map for your blog post. An outline helps you to plan the beginning, the end, and major landmarks between the two.
Knowing where you are going is beneficial, especially when you’re trying to write while your kids are interrupting your work. Having a basic outline will help get your mind back on track each time you find time to write.
Here are the steps to make an outline:
1. Read through your headlines and pick one you feel like writing about.
2. Write your headline at the top of the page.
3. Think about what you want to tell your reader. What is the point of this blog post?
4. Write down any subheadings that come to mind. These are your main points.
5. Can you divide any of your subheadings further? Write down the possibilities.
6. Look over your outline and see if everything is on topic. Are there any subheadings that need to be rearranged to make sense?
7. If you have a number in your title, make sure you have the correct number of points.
Your basic outline is now complete and you can move on to the research phase.
Step Two: Research Your Idea
You don’t need to do tons of research for each post. But you do need to figure out which links you want to include. By taking time to find these now, you will avoid getting sucked into the Internet while you’re drafting your post. It will save you time in the long run.
Copy and paste any links into your outline, in the section in which you plan to use them. This way you can easily grab them when you are ready.
Don’t ever take someone’s words and try to pass them off as your own. This is stealing, and it’s not right.
Likewise, you don’t want to copy someone else’s outline. Make it your own. Your readers want to hear you, not a regurgitated version of someone else.
On a similar note, cite your sources. If you include statistics, provide a link where your readers can check out the data for themselves.
There’s nothing new under the sun.
Whatever topic you plan to write about, it’s probable other bloggers have already covered it. You aren’t likely to come up with an idea that’s completely unique and has never been done.
Your job is to put your own spin on the topic. Even if thousands of other bloggers have already covered it, you can bring something new to the subject. You can bring your own experience, stories, and perspectives. That is different. It’s you that separates you from all the other bloggers out there.
Step Three: Draft Your Post
With an outline in place and your research done, it’s time to draft. Use your outline as a guide. In general, an outline has three parts: an introduction, the main points, and a conclusion.
The introduction is often the hardest for me to come up with, so I skip it at first. After everything else is done, I go back to the top and write the introduction. If you can’t think of how to begin, I highly recommend this method.
Your introduction should catch your reader’s attention. Here are five suggestions for how to start each post:
> Ask a question
> Share a story
> Share a quote (with credit given, of course)
> Present a statistic
> Let loose with a bit of your personality
You want your introduction to draw your reader in. But since it’s the hook to the rest of your post, it should be relevant to the topic.
After a compelling introduction, it’s time to work on the main points. For each section, write down what your readers need to know. Focus on getting your ideas down for now. You will go back and edit later, so it doesn’t need to be perfect.
If a section gives you trouble, skip it. You can either go back and fill it in or decide to delete it altogether.
When you are finished with your main points, it’s time to wrap up your blog post. A conclusion is a brief way to tie it all together. This is also where you will include your call to action.
What do you want your readers to do after reading your post? Do you want them to share it with their friends? Or add a comment? Perhaps you want them to check out a product.
Think about your post. Then pick one call to action and include it at the end of your post. By limiting it to one, you aren’t asking your readers to make a choice. A single option makes it easy for them to know what to do.
Here are some example calls to action:
> Leave a Comment: Have you read any of these books? I’d love for you to share your opinions in the comments below.
> Share: If you enjoyed this post, please share it.
> Subscribe: Interested in more homemaking tips? Subscribe today to get them delivered straight to your inbox.
> Check out a Paid Product: For even more tips on making money from home, check out Sally’s other books in the Paid to Stay Home series.
Step Four: Edit Your Post
Once your draft is done, save it and walk away. You need to clear your head and give yourself some space before editing. Otherwise you risk missing errors.
When you’re ready to edit, read your post aloud. If you read silently, your brain can sometimes trick you. Instead of reading what you wrote, you might read what you meant to write.
By reading the post out loud, word for word, your ears notice errors your eyes might have missed. As you read, look for:
> Fluff: Get rid of extra, unnecessary words.
> Jargon: You don’t want tons of unfamiliar terms in your posts.
> Areas that don’t make sense: Do you need to add something to clarify a point?
> Difficulty with organization: Now is the time to rearrange if needed.
> Repetition: You only need to state something once.
> Errors in grammar or spelling.
Make the changes you find, and then read it aloud again. If possible, get someone else to read it for you. I often have either my husband or our teen read my posts.
Once you have your post in decent shape, here’s a tip to make it even better. Copy and paste it into the free Hemingway App. This editor helps you improve your writing. With color coded highlighting, it points out overly complex sentences and common errors. Work through the suggestions, and your post will be ready for readers.
Publish Your Post in WordPress
Before readers can see your post, you must publish it with WordPress. Here are directions for doing that.
1. Log into your WordPress account.
2. Click on “Add New” at the top. From there, select blog post.
3. In the text editor, copy and paste your post.
4. Double check your formatting. On the right-hand side, select “Preview.” Your post will open in a new tab, and this is what your readers will see.
5. Make sure your subheadings are in H2 or H3 instead of just in bold.
6. Click on your links and make sure they work.
7. Set the featured image from the option on the right-hand side. Once you click the button, select “upload file” then “set as featured image.”
8. Add any other images to the body of the post by selecting “Add Media.” Then upload the pictures and insert them into the post.
9. Preview your post once more to verify the images.
10. If you want to publish the post immediately, hit “Publish.”
11. If you want to schedule your post, select the date and time from the right-hand side. Then hit “Schedule.”
1. Pick the headline you want to use for your post.
2. Outline your post.
3. Complete any research.
4. Draft your post.
5. Edit your post, making sure it’s in blog format.
6. Use the Hemingway App to help with proofreading.
7. Get your post into WordPress and either schedule it or publish it.
8. Celebrate writing your first blog post.
9. Repeat for additional posts.
Crafting great blog posts takes time. It’s helpful to create a content checklist. This ensures you don’t forget any steps, such as including appropriate links or keywords.
You are making great progress on your blog. You have your foundation in place and know how to create quality content. You’re ready for readers. In the next chapter, I will show you how to start attracting readers to your blog. Let’s drive some traffic.