Soon you find yourself torn between the urge to express yourself and the fear of doing it the wrong way. No matter if it’s the first or the umpteenth time you’re about to write, the jitters remain. As any writer out there, you want people to want to read what you have to say. SEO, CTAs, and conversions aside, what you really want to do is bring value. Since you found your way to this article, you want to know more about creating useful content. But before we dive into how it’s done effectively, let’s first cover what and why.
What is a blog post?
Long story short, a blog post is a piece of text that’s published in the Blog section of a website. As it usually goes with written content, a blog post covers a specific topic and varies in length. The length and topics will depend on the type of blog you’re writing for and the guidelines set for writers.
For example, at Assist-o, the default length of a blog post is no less than 1200 words. That said, even though we did set a minimum, we opted for not setting the maximum. While this might be strange to some, the thought process was simple: if you have a lot to say without repeating yourself, go ahead. And if it turns out to be much longer than expected? We can simply break it up into multiple blog posts. It’s a win-win situation.
Besides the obvious component of a blog post, that being the text, you can also add media. Whether it’s images, videos, infographics or something else, it should add value. You can use media to illustrate your point, break up a wall of text, make your readers laugh – the possibilities are endless. Now, since most businesses decide to have a website Blog section, there has to be a reason behind it, right?
Benefits of having a Blog section on your website
The obvious benefit of having a business website Blog section? You can publish news about your company or opinions on industry developments. But when you think about it, your business’ blog is much more.
Writing about industry-related topics helps you increase your credibility. If you do it often and well, it will also result in greater brand awareness. And if your readers love your blog, they are likely to recommend it to friends as well, which will drive traffic to your website. See where I’m going with this? A good blog brings in more traffic, which brings in more conversion opportunities.
Choosing the right blog post format
Let’s start by acknowledging that, when it comes to blog posts, there’s no format to rule them all. Yes, there are many types of blogs out there, but what form is best for what you’re writing about depends on, well, what you’re writing about. To present your topic as well as possible, you have the choice among the following formats.
Question mark posts
These usually answer questions that start with what, why, and how to. As you already know based on the amount you’ve seen, they are highly popular. The main goal here is to educate your readers, meaning you’ll need to explain your topic.
List posts, also referred to as listicles
You’ll have no problem recognizing them when you see them because the title usually gives it away. If you’re just beginning your writing quest, this structured format might be the place to start. And if you sighed with discontent as soon as you saw this on the list, I hear you. Saying that there are a lot of low-quality listicles out there would be the understatement of the century. But if you do it right, a list post can be a great piece of content.
Curated content posts
I know, sounds lazy at first. But when you think about it, a lot of work goes into research before your curated post is ready. Think of it this way: you’re saving your readers’ time and giving them all the information in one place. And to top it off, you’re bound to mention businesses and bloggers whose content you’re using. Can I get a yippee ki-yay for networking?
This is another format you’ll recognize right off the bat. As the name suggests, this format is great for showing another perspective on the topic. And while they share the benefit of networking with curated posts, they also hold the potential of more reach. Think about it – if you interview someone, they’re probably going to share the post with their network.
These are similar to listicles in the sense that they’re great for beginners. The implied Q&A structure keeps you on track because it doesn’t leave much room for going off topic. The best part? Your colleagues in customer service and sales already know all the questions people have. Ask them to send the list over and get to answering!
Comparison posts are tricky
When readers decide to dive into this format, they are ready to buy a product or service. They aren’t sure who the best provider is, so they turn to a comparison post to make the final decision. Needless to say, you need to do your research and cover all the bases if you decide on this format.
News-related posts, also known as newsjacks
To be able to write in this format, you’ll need to be in the know when it comes to popular news stories. What you need to do then is use the news to push your agenda forward. And if you find just the right news piece that ties in with your industry, be aware that the clock is ticking. The news won’t be popular forever, so you’ll need to make sure your post isn’t too late.
Ultimate or complete guides
This may be an obvious statement given the format type, but I’ll say it anyway. Ultimate guides should be the most extensive piece of content on a particular topic. As such, a lot of work goes into writing them with the added bonus of not being allowed to miss anything. Before you start your complete guide, you’ll need to know everything there is on the topic, so this format isn’t for the faint of heart.
How to write a blog post that people will actually read
Now that you know all the technical information, one question remains: What makes a good blog post? In short, it’s a combination of text flow, some personality, and the offer of a solution. But getting there isn’t exactly a walk in the park. The writing process differs from person to person, so the following steps are in the order that works for me. They are all integral parts of writing a blog post, but they don’t necessarily have to happen in this exact order for you. Once you find your own rhythm, you can reorder the steps and make the process your own.
Make reading a daily habit
Read the news, other people’s blog posts, books, magazines, lyrics – anything. Going through others’ writing and identifying what you like and what you don’t will bring you closer to finding your own voice. In addition to that, you’ll subconsciously pick up phrases, expressions, and witty retorts.
As you read, try not to be on autopilot. For example, I always keep an eye out on word play and interesting turns of phrases. After I stumble upon something I could potentially use in a piece of writing, I note it down. I’ve always been a pen-and-paper kind of person, but any text editor will do the trick as well.
Create a list of topics
Another great thing about reading is that you never run out of topics you could write about. Besides seeing what others are doing, it lets you see gaps that you can fill. Start your writing adventure by dealing with topics that are interesting to you so you get a bit of practice. It will come in handy when you start working with clients and have to deal with less-than-exciting subjects.
Dig through the archives
Once you have your topic set, it’s time for research. Whatever the subject, it’s almost impossible that nobody in the history of the internet has never written about it. Your job now is to see what they said and figure out if any information is outdated. When you gather all the data you need, proceed with covering the same topic, only better.
It’s also important to note that collecting the facts is also a part of this process that varies from person to person. Copy-pasting useful information, memorizing it or keeping several tabs open in your browser are just some of the ways to go about it. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it isn’t distracting. For example, I find it hard to focus on how I would say something if I have someone else’s words in front of me. That’s why I choose the combo of memory and open tabs just in case. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to do it as long as it works for you.
Create an outline
Whatever your writing style, an outline is the one thing you absolutely need. Besides giving you an insight into what the finished blog post will look like, it keeps you in check. Blog posts can contain a huge amount of information – help yourself and your reader by organizing it. Leave the stream of consciousness for your future novel and create a logical order for your blog post.
Keep in mind that the outline depends on the format you chose and the amount of information you’re presenting. That’s why each of your outlines will have only three constant components:
- a title
- an introduction
- a conclusion
All the headings that come between the introduction and conclusion depend on the topic. If you have more than 300 words to say under one heading, break it up. Sometimes it’s as simple as removing fluff and lowering the word count. However, if the topic is extensive, you may need to add subheadings.
While you theoretically can start writing without an outline, I would strongly advise against that. The thing is, the absence of an outline shows in the finished blog post. And if it doesn’t, it means that there was some heavy editing involved. To save everyone’s time (and your own patience), start the process off right by creating an outline. Here’s how.
1 Pick a title
…And know that you can tweak it along the way. Treat the title you put in the outline as a working version – a placeholder for the real deal. That way, you can adjust it later to fit the topic better. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore the title, let your imagination run free, and create a Blogenstein. I’m saying you may be more inspired to write a concise and to-the-point title at a later stage in the process. And if your placeholder ends up being the real deal, even better!
2 Determine what your headings will be
Apart from the intro and conclusion, you’ll need to use your research to create sections. Those sections can then have subsections as needed. To give you an example, here’s the outline for the blog post you’re reading right now:
3 Add some bullet points (if you need them)
When you have your headings and subheadings sorted, there are two courses of action you can take. This will mostly depend on your memory and writing style. Some people like to add bullet points under the sections so they remember the information that needs to be there. It’s a good strategy if you think you need it. If not, you can just skip this step and get to writing.
Proofread, edit, take a breather, repeat
I regret to inform you, but the blog post isn’t done once you type the full stop in your conclusion. While you might have your first version, there’s always something that you can improve. Take some time away from your new creation and come back to it in a few hours. Read it out loud and make sure the rhythm works. If you can’t read a sentence in one breath, it’s too long.
And while you’re already editing, make sure to proofread for typos. If you have the time, go through the whole thing again later. Or, even better, have someone else take a peek and tell you what they think. This eliminates your subjectivity and provides you with feedback, which is crucial for progress.
Make it pretty
The final step before you hit that publish button is to make your blog post human-friendly. Nobody likes to read a never-ending wall of text, so make sure you break up your bigger paragraphs. And for that extra visual oomph, you can always add media. Consider stock photos, infographics, videos or memes – whatever fits the tone and topic goes.
Bonus track: Useful writing tools
As the heading suggests, here are some tools that can help you with your writing. Don’t say I never gave you anything!
- Hemingway Editor is my absolute favorite. It displays your word count, tracks your readability score, and lets you know when you’re out of line. The best part is that you can write directly in it, so you’re basically writing and editing at the same time. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it.
- Thesaurus.com comes in as a close second for obvious reasons. It completely cuts out the time to remember another word for that thing, giving you more time to write.
- Grammarly seems to still be the crowd pleaser. I only use it to check for plagiarism, but it can also help you with your grammar. Make sure you take the suggestions it gives you with a grain of salt and you’re good to go.
- Yoast will give you an SEO instant analysis of your text. Since you want people to find your blog post, you should optimize it – this is an easy way to see if you’re on the right track.
- Unsuck it prevents you from using unoriginal business jargon. If you aren’t happy with a phrase but can’t unsuck it yourself, this is the page for you. And as an added bonus, you can click on “I’m feeling douchey” for a random overused expression.
- Cliché finder lets you keep your writing interesting by highlighting unoriginal phrases. You’ll have to remove them yourself, but at least you’ll know they’re there.
Let’s wrap this up
Phew, that was a lot of information, but you powered through. All that’s left to do now is take what you read and start writing. If you ever get stuck and need help, you can subscribe to our newsletter and the Assist-o team will be there for you. And if you already are what some would call a writer, we may be looking for you. Drop us a line and the next post on our blog might be yours. Until next time!