As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my time writing blog posts. I write them for us, for outside industry sites and for clients. Luckily, blogging is something that I really enjoy and, because I do it so much, I’ve been able to create a pretty effective process for getting the words out and the posts up. When I was fishing for blog topics on Twitter last week, a few people suggested I perhaps write about how I go about writing posts and share any best practices I’ve found for making it easier. I thought I’d share my framework.

Here’s a look at how I write posts every day, regardless of the outlet I’m writing for. You may want to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink. This one’s kind of a doozy.

Picking a Topic

This is easily the most difficult part of blogging, at least for me. While I have editorial calendars to help, every blogger has those days where it seems like there’s absolutely nothing to write about. If this is a problem for you, you may want to check out our post on finding blog topics. If that doesn’t help, try doing some reading, searching your analytics or even asking Twitter. Like I said, Twitter gave me this idea.

Once you have your topic, research it to help you figure out what you want to say, what’s already been said and what you can bring to the table. I recommend dropping some notes and links into a Notepad doc this way you can refer to them and link out when appropriate.

Decide on the Goal

Before you put pen to paper finger to keyboard, decide on the goal of your post. All posts are not created equal and your motive behind the post will differ depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. When it comes to post goals, here are a few that typically stand out:

  • Optimizing for a particular keyword
  • Generating links
  • Starting a conversation
  • Expressing an opinion for thought Leadership
  • ZOMG DRAMAZ!

Whatever the goal is, keep it in the back of your head while writing. Ideally, you should know approximately how you’re going to start the post and how it will eventually sum up. You don’t have to know the actual words or lines you’re going to use, just a sense of where it’s going based on the goal you’ve selected.

Find Your Hook

Once you have a goal, you need a hook to draw readers in. Are you gonna play it straight? Are you going to try and evoke a humorous response? Are you going to use storytelling to draw people in and get them relating to you? Todd Malicoat wrote a great piece on linkbait hooks a few years back that still applies really well to copywriting. I recommend you not only read it, but bookmark it. He mentions using the following hooks.

  • News hook
  • Contrary hook
  • Attack hook
  • Resource hook
  • Humor hook
  • Ego hook
  • Incentive hook

Nailing down the hook will help you decide on the tone you’ll want to take to make your point. Once you’ve got that down you can start planning out all the super funny one-liners you’ll want to incorporate. Or…at least that’s what I do. Because I think I’m funny even if you don’t.

Start Writing It

I’m pretty much on blogger autopilot once I hit this point, but I know many people struggle with actually having to write anything. This is probably why I still have a job.

When you go to start writing, remember you’re not starting from scratch. You already have a goal, a hook, and an idea of how you want this thing to go. You’ve totally got this. My best advice for getting a post started is to just get into the meat. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to get into the post, start with a short sentence and get on with it. Ripping off the band aid and getting immediately into your post prevents you from putting so much pressure on the beginning that you never actually write the beginning. Or anything else. Give yourself a quick three word sentence to get the momentum going and then get out of your way.

Here are some other writing best practices I stick to:

  • Have a plan: In Dawn’s post about lessons from a first time speaker, she mentions creating an outline of what you’re going to say in your presentation. The same applies here. Don’t create a full high school-style outline, but jot down your major writing points to help you get an idea of the flow. If you’re not a natural writer, this can really help you get your words out and prevent your post from become an unmanageable mess.
  • Use simple language: Remember everything you ever learned about writing in high school – and then probably forget it. It’s not valid here. In HS you wrote to impress people. Here you want to encourage your reader to sit down, put their feet up and check out what you have to say. Blogging isn’t about impressing people with your vocabulary. It’s about communication. It’s an entirely different style.
  • Write only what matters: Many people will attempt to put everything they possibly know about a subject into a single post. My guess is they don’t want to risk being questioned about their knowledge, told they “forgot” something, or they simply feel it’s necessary. It’s not necessary. If I’m writing a post about the new Kia Forte, I don’t need to give people a history of every car ever made. Only write what matters. Don’t worry if you’re being wordy, just get it all out. But only get out what’s really relevant to this particular post.
  • Use your voice: The reason so many blog posts are unreadable is because there’s no taste of the author inside them. In order for people to care, you have to give them a little bit of you. Give them an opinion, wear your heart on your sleeve, and write like it matters. Awhile back I wrote about bringing your voice to your blog for Search Engine People and it’s still one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. I know I’m biased, but I do recommend it.
  • Don’t edit yourself: If you try to write and edit your post at the same time, it’s going to take you five times as long to get through the post. Just focus on getting your ideas out. You can (and will!) edit later.

There’s obviously lots that goes into the actual writing of a blog post[check out our writing tips post], but keeping the above in mind typically help me to get out of my own way and focus on the goal of the post. Often, the post is already inside you. You just have to get it out.

Write Your Title

Some people write their title before the actual post and others wait until they’ve already said everything they need to say to figure out what they said. I’m of the latter group. I’ve already written about the importance of blog titles and some tips on writing blog titles, but the truth is, I don’t consider myself all that good at either. People who ARE good at writing blog titles?

Those guys know their stuff. Trust them.  Also trust that if you can’t work your hook into your title, you probably haven’t explored it enough.

Grab Your Images

I hate inserting images in posts, but you need them. If you’re creatively-inclined, consider taking your own photos. This will ensure you’re not using the same shots everyone is so your posts don’t feel redundant. Otherwise, Istockphoto and Shutterstock are great solutions, even if you do end up grabbing a photo someone else used on their blog six months ago.

Edit!

What separates great bloggers from average bloggers is editing. No one sounds intelligent and polished after a first draft. Or, at least I don’t. I hope no one else does either.

The greatest piece of editing advice anyone can give you is to read your posts out loud a few times before you publish them. Read them in their entirety and look for places where you’re being wordy, where you can rephrase something to be clearer, for run on sentences, and for any other areas that you think you can tighten things up. Reading my posts out loud to myself is how I do virtually all of my editing and I think it makes a really big difference. If you’re reading your post and YOU get caught up, then you can be sure someone else is also getting caught up.

Once you’re done editing, congratulate yourself on being more awesome than most. And then go read your post two more times. I’m serious. Editing is key so that you’re proud enough of your post to actively self promote it.

That pretty much sums up how I write a blog post and how I’d advise others to do the same. Anything in your process that I didn’t hit? Or is my process so long you’re now wondering how I get anything done during the day?


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


30 thoughts on “How To Write A Blog Post (or how I do it)


  • Michael D on said:

    I read this twice and realize I do similar but oftentimes in a different order. For photo related posts I’m finding I start first by choosing images for the post, followed by topic, then goals. I could use a lot more hook in all of my posts, I’m going to use your approach on my next post.


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      Rae has recommended that I try to find the photo first when I’m struggling with a blog post – I think it’s probably great advice for people who are visual thinkers. I’m just the total opposite. If I had my way, I wouldn’t even put pictures in regular posts but then people would cry and whine and go away. :)


    • Kristin on said:

      Sometimes even if the photo has nothing to do with your entry it challenges you to be so creative… I was actually challenged to write a blog entry and include a specific photo as a joke, but it wound up being one of our most popular entries. It’s amazing when going from a different direction can provoke new thoughts and ideas.


  • Ryan Beale on said:

    Thanks for the Tips, Lisa! Like many other bloggers out there, my biggest problem is lack of time to write/post articles and with a “process” in place, it is much easier to GET IT DONE.

    @RBeale


    • Lisa Barone on said:

      I think that’s a big part of it. Once you create a process for what you need to do, it becomes a lot easier to actually do it. otherwise you’re staring at a blank screen going, “what the HELL am I going to write about?” And, well, that kind of sucks.


  • Pedro on said:

    Excellent post.Its a long post for a foreigner (I’m Brazilian and it means that im not so fluent in english), but worth it.

    Thx


  • Gil Reich on said:

    “is my process so long you’re now wondering how I get anything done during the day?” Well, even without looking at your process I wondered how much time you spend blogging. It does seem like a full time job. This post provides excellent insight as to some of the reasons why your posts are so useful and compelling, and I bookmarked this one so I can keep going back to it for help in my blogging. But the two main questions on my mind are:
    *How long does each post take you?
    *What have been the business benefits (to your business, I know it helps freeloaders like me) of your blogging.
    Each post I write takes me hours, and I suspect that it would take me even longer if I shared your professionalism. And I mostly justify that time as serving my psychological need to use my voice, as you so eloquently described in the post you linked to.
    I understand if you don’t want to answer these questions, though it could be the topic for another compelling post).


  • Kristy Bolsinger on said:

    zomg! You say you hate putting images in blog posts, but that cat image has me in stitches. You might hate it, but you’re good at it.

    Also, great tips in here Lisa. My plan of attack in writing posts definitely needs a re-vamp and your strategy will certainly help! Thanks :)


  • Dan M on said:

    Great content and lots of great links, thanks! Also, I found a typo:

    “prevent your post from become an unmanageable mess”


  • Heather Villa on said:

    This is a great article and I know many will benefit from it. Like you, I also find myself referring to an editorial calendar to be sure I am on track, covering the topics I that I have jotted down on napkins. I also like to blog topics relevant to the time of year. I had quite a few interesting entries leading up to April 15th! Blogging is definitely something that does not come easy to everyone but either does knitting, right? With all of the information you put together here I am confident that even the newest blogger who is still wet behind the ears will walk away with nothing less than a handful of ideas and resources!


  • Alex on said:

    Thanks for this, Lisa.

    My takeaway from this post is to start with a goal in mind. Too often I jump in with a story but no thought about how it’ll wind up. As a f/t writer, I’m pretty good at taking any series of words and bending them until the top and bottom meet, but imagine how much prettier it’d all look if I started out with a PLAN??


  • Catherine Daar on said:

    Hi LIsa,
    Thanks a lot for the great post.
    So happy to hear that “No one sounds intelligent and polished after a first draft. Or, at least I don’t. I hope no one else does either”!!
    Let me tell you that the end product of your blog posts are amazing..I am a big fan of your posts.


  • Jon Stribling on said:

    Thanks for the great post.

    I love that you stick to the fundamentals of having a goal, keeping on writing, sticking to what’s important and editing, editing, editing.

    As I write most of my posts during a commute I find it difficult to have a structured approach to writing, but have definitely noticed the difference a little editing and thought makes.

    I notice you didn’t mention tagging and categorisation. Do you generally do this last or first or does it depend on the goal of your post?


  • Jim Rudnick on said:

    “find the photo first” works for us…..or in our case, finding the “hook” in the “photo” can mean creating your own artwork….

    great post Lisa! needed it, I did!

    :-)

    Jim


  • Tola on said:

    Great post, as usual.
    I know I can’t do all what you’ve suggested. But I can definitely try some out. For one thing the thought of setting up topic timetables literally gives me a writer’s block!! I just write what I feel like and when I’m in the mood I write as much as I can and just pile them all up. I guess that’s the joy that comes with writing for yourself alone…


  • Kristi on said:

    Loved this, AS USUAL :) I will repeat everyone saying that :) Seriously though, I just started a new job and am heading up the blog and redoing it, etc, and your voice is something I want to have on the blog! Of course, not YOUR voice. My voice. Cause your voice in my head and my blog, yikes.


  • Danny D on said:

    I definitely agree with this!
    I have similar 5 points I follow –
    1. Write a good intro
    2. Use simple language
    3. Blog title must capture peoples imagination and be relevant
    4. Finish your post with a quick recap
    5. Read, read again and make sure it makes sense to you and then read it like your dad is reviewing it!


  • James @ PartTimePhoto.com on said:

    I advise readers of my blog, part time professional photographers, to keep their own photoblogs with some select conversational copy to help grow search engine traffic to their sites.

    This really is a great, simple, effective approach to getting blog posts out. Photographers often are not writers, and focus more on artistic expression than slipping in keyphrases and such, so it’s a struggle to help them grasp the value and method in producing good, tight copy to go with their photos on their blogs.

    Thanks for this great article, I’ll definitely refer my readers this way. :-)


  • Sandeep on said:

    Hey Lisa -Thats a vey informative post on how to write a blog post and editing is an important part that many of us miss out to do… I think it’s best to have a checklist to help us do that…

    Before we hit the publish button, we can use this checklist to check out if we have covered all those points..

    Cheers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments links could be nofollow free.