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How to write a blog post – in 12 easy steps

There are many ways to approach the writing of blog posts and this is only one of them. But if you always cover off these 12 essential steps, you should reach blogging heaven in short order.

1. Have an idea

OK, this is the tricky part, I admit. What you really need is a clear idea, a focused idea. Blog posts can be about many things, of course. A popular theme, however, is solving problems for your readers. Let’s use that as an example. Get clear in your mind exactly what the problem is. What is your focus in this blog post? What is your subject?

2. Find your keywords
If your reader was going to state their problem – what would they write down? That tells you what they would search for in Google (other search engines are available…).

Using a few keywords or phrases in your post is useful to bring in lots of search engine traffic. Keep an eye out for a post on how to search engine optimise your blog posts in the next few days. (There’s a subscribe button top right – to be sure you don’t miss it…)

There are ways to get very serious about your keyword research, and again it’s a topic I’ll be coming back to soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about how to use and research keywords here and here and here.

3. Create a hook
A hook is a creative idea, usually in the headline and possibly backed up by a photo. It serves to give some personality to the post. Here, I’ve used the idea of ’12 easy steps’ to illustrate the post.

It’s not stunningly clever or original. But it does serve to add some colour (it gives an idea for a photo) and acts as a metaphor, which helps the reader engage. I’ve also added an allusion to the song ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ in the intro, something that is probably completely lost on our younger viewers.

4. Do your research

There are three basic ways to research your topic:

    A: Do none. Write from your own experience. This saves you heaps of time and keeps things simple. It’s what I did on this post. I didn’t want other people’s ideas cluttering up my thinking.

    B: Use the internet. You have a topic. You have keywords. Now use your search engine of choice to find relevant information. If you can’t find anything, you’ve struck gold. You can be the first….

    C: Read a book. Books are great. They’re full of information, much of it has been researched and checked. Some of it is even accurate and true. Even better, other people can’t search a book online for the answer (although that may change), so you can bring something ‘original’ to the online world. Don’t plagiarise, however. Give credit where it’s due. Quote from the author and name the book you are using. Better still, give an Amazon.com affiliate link (or one for Amazon.co.uk if you prefer).

5. Order your ideas
Now that you have the information, it’s time to get it all clear in your head. You need to give it some structure.

A good way is to work it all over in your head. Talk it through, as if you were explaining everything you’ve researched to a friend or colleague.

An ideal way to add order to your information is to structure it as a list. People like lists. Blog readers in particular like list posts because:

    A: They can read the numbered headers only
    B: They can skip the rest.
    C:  It’s called skim reading.

6. Let it flow
Now you need to write it all down. There are likely to be lots of things holding you back at this point. I could point you the way of some good solutions, which involve hypnotherapy from some trustworthy and highly credible sources. They’re designed to tackle writer’s block and help to free your creativity.
An alternative is just to get typing.

If you’re having difficulties at this point, the real problem probably lies back in points 1, 4 or 5.

  • Have you got a clear focus, one idea, one topic that you’re going to cover in this post?
  • Have you done enough research? Do you have enough information to solve the reader’s problem?
  • Have you sorted that information, got it clear in your mind, made sense of it – and turned it into a proper solution to a problem?

If you’ve done all the above and the words still won’t come, try sleeping on it, or going for a walk, or meditating or something. Or pay a professional writer to do it for you 🙂

7. Tidy it up
Now’s the time to go back and fix those awkward sentences, correct your spelling, cut any rambling bits or anything unnecessary.

8. Add some links
Links are good – they show you are an active part of the blog / internet community. They show you’ve done some research. They’re good for your SEO (search engines again), and they might even bring in some attention – from the people you link to. Try it. Link to this blog in your next post and I’ll come check you out to see all the horrible things you’ve said about me.

9. Add a picture
This is optional. A great photo can really improve the impression your post makes on the reader. It can be time-consuming finding, preparing and uploading images however. There’s a great tutorial on finding pictures here.

10. Add a summary
Your post is nearing completion. But does it have an ending? If it seems to tail off, and doesn’t really have much bang at the conclusion, consider adding a quick summary of all that has gone before.

You’re doing your readers a big favour by doing this. Repetition is essential to learning, and by providing a summary, you make it much more likely that your reader’s over-tasked brain will actually retain what you’ve provided for them.

11. Send them on their way
One further thing to consider at the end – what do want the reader to do now? Do you want them to take some action, such as checking out one of your other posts? Link to it. Do you have an ebook or report for sale that might interest them? Tell them about it. Don’t just stop. Try to influence where they go next, what they read or what they do.

12. Proofread it
This is the bit I’m really bad at. But do as I say on this one, not as I do. Proofread it as many times as necessary to get rid of typos and mistakes. Then hit post.

What have we learnt?

To write a blog post, you need a clear idea, a topic on which you will focus. That should suggest some keywords that will influence the search engines. You need a creative hook to engage readers, you need to do your research (from experience, on the internet or from books), and then you should order your ideas and get it all clear in your mind.

Let the writing flow. Then go back and tidy it up. Add some links and a photo, add a summary, and decide where you want your readers to go when they finish your post.

Ask them to subscribe to this blog. Ask them to link to this blog. Suggest they should read more of this blog.

Or simply link to a post that they absolutely must read or the whole world will drown in sub-standard, so-called ‘content‘.

Pic by Oblivious Dude via Flickr (and badly cropped by me: the original has much better composition).

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mits March 17, 2010, 5:44 pm

    Man, you have an awesome blog simon. Articles like these will really help me out. Thanks aka Beginner

  • Mits March 17, 2010, 5:51 pm

    By the way, what exactly is copy-writing? It actually sounds like a cool job

  • Simon March 17, 2010, 6:07 pm

    Thanks Mits, glad you’re finding it useful. Copywriting is all about writing the copy – or words – used in advertising and marketing. A lot of people think of copywriting as writing those direct response pages you see all over the internet – the real hard sell stuff. But it’s actually much broader than that. It includes writing all sorts of things such as websites and brochures, direct mail, adverts, newsletters and so on. At the moment I’m writing a sustainability report for a multinational food company, which is hundreds of pages long. So there’s lots of variety. It’s a tough field to break into though, and lots of people trying their hand at it.

  • Alex March 23, 2010, 8:26 pm

    Man ! You can really exactly pin what the newbie writer should be focusing on. I think I’ve read similar pointers in a bunch of different places but nothing I read so far explained it so clearly. Thanks!

  • Alex March 23, 2010, 8:32 pm

    Another thought.Do you think in the future you could elaborate a bit on how to find the quality resources for the hook? (pictures, quotes , videos) Is it all just about the keywords or are there other elements involved?

  • Josh Hanagarne March 23, 2010, 8:35 pm

    Simon, you can’t ask that question to an English Major: I immediately thought of Aramis:) “Do none” as applied to research is probably the best thing I’ve read today!

  • Simon March 24, 2010, 9:16 am

    Alex – glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll do an article as you suggest in the near future (though please be patient – I’m not one of those folk that blogs ten times a day). When I discuss photos in the post, there’s a link to an excellent article by Skelliewag which is well worth reading. Everything I know about finding photos, I learnt from that post.
    As for quotes and stuff, I’m largely just using stuff that’s bubbling around in my head, some of it from decades ago, some it from things I read last week, or yesterday.

  • Simon March 24, 2010, 9:18 am

    Josh, glad the “do none’ appealed to you 🙂 Seriously though, sometimes you write better when you use what you already know and let the ideas tumble out of your head. Of course, that works better with blog posts than it does with term papers, dissertations and scientific papers….

  • Simon March 24, 2010, 9:21 am

    Josh – I love your blog’s brand. Great name.

  • lyndon at SEO Packages April 3, 2010, 3:26 pm

    I have forwarded this on to a writer friend of mine