How to write a good blog post – Part 1: Getting Started

Marketing / 09.01.14
Mark Vaesen

The benefits of having an active blog on your website are well established – in fact, we’ve written a blog post about it – but I’m well aware that for many, the prospect of writing a few hundred words once a week brings them out in a cold sweat.  So I’ve put together a more detailed guide to Writing a Blog Post, to help make the whole process a little more palatable.

Initially, I was planning on writing a single post on this topic, but soon realised (by following the principles I’m going to tell you about in a minute) that the amount of content lends itself to splitting the post into 3 parts;

Part 1:  Getting Started

Part 2:  Writing good content

Part 3:  Finishing touches

By the time you’ve read all three parts, you’ll be equipped with the tools to write useful, coherent and structured blog posts on a variety of topics without too much stress.

So – if you’re ready, let’s get started with

Part 1: Getting Started

1. Choosing a topic for your blog post

Where to look for inspiration

You’ll find the best blog posts tend to be written by an author with a real passion for their subject.  Most people also find it easier to write about a subject they’re interested in and have an opinion about.  If you’re writing blogs posts for your business, consider the things you deal with regularly that float your boat or – because you’ll want variety, after all – look for an interesting angle on a particular topic that will help you write about it.

Write down topics as you think of them

The first step on the path to writing good blog posts is to have a list of topics readily available for when you want to write.  You don’t ever want to sit down to compose a blog and have to think “right then…what can I write about?“  Keep a list somewhere – anywhere – and add to it as ideas come to you.  You might find inspiration from an exchange on Twitter, a blog post you’ve seen somewhere else, even a conversation overheard in the office or in Starbucks.  Capture it.  Write it down.  Build your list.

Consider online marketing

One of the biggest benefits of blogging is that it can bring customers to your website.  Let’s say you write a blog post called “How to light an open fire”.  Someone searching for the term “how to light an open fire” might well see your blog post in their search results and click through to your site.  If your business sells firewood, that visitor could become a customer.  When you’re thinking about your topics, give some thought to what searches you’d like to be found for, and see if you could write a post about that.

2. Split blog posts into headings

The next step (let’s call it Step 2, cos that’s what it is) gives you the necessary momentum to really get stuck in to the task of writing an eloquent, well thought-out blog post.  It’s a vital step for three key reasons:

It breaks blog posts down into bite-sized chunks for the author (that’s you)

Imagine you had to eat an elephant.  The minute you saw it on the enormous oversized plate, your stomach would shrink to the size of a walnut.  The very idea of tackling such a huge task would seem so daunting that you wouldnt know where to start.  So you don’t.  You put it off.  Before you know it, weeks have gone by and you’ve not done anything about it.  But if you ate it one mouthful at a time, you could manage it.

By breaking down the task of writing your blog post, you’ll avoid procrastination and find the task much less intimidating.

It helps keep the post on-topic

This is a problem that affects a lot of people.  You’ve got a great idea for your post.  You’ve got lots of good stuff to say.  But somehow it ends up wandering off course like a small child at a school summer fair and before you know it, you’ve got a 2000 word rant about something entirely different.  By setting out your headings, you give the blog post structure; then all you need to do is fill in the gaps and get the post from one heading to another.

It makes it easier for the reader to scan

Huge areas of copy will put your reader off.  You’ve probably experienced yourself that sinking feeling you get when confronted by enormous blocks of heavy text.  How many times have you just switched off and gone somewhere else?  Your average web user’s attention span will make a goldfish look like the guy who can recite pi to 67,890 places.  Headings break down your text and make it easier to scan read, so your audience can easily find the information they’re after.

What you need to do

Right; this is dead easy.  Simply write a maximum of 6 headings for your blog post.  The first one should be called “Intro” and the last one should be called “Conclusion and call to action”.  Don’t worry about the wording of the headings because we’ll change them later.  At this stage, they’re just notes for you.

Start by writing down the key headings of your blog post.
Start by writing down the key headings of your blog post.

3. Write brief notes for each heading

At the risk of getting stuck in a metaphor, we now have the foundations and framework for your blog post – next you need to put in the walls and ceilings to complete the structure.   The plastering, flooring and decoration all comes later.

The purpose of this stage is to give you the outline of the actual copy of the post, without you actually needing to write it.  Here’s what you do:

Write 3 things you want to cover for each heading

Under each of your headings, write a short sentence that contains three things you’re going to cover in that part of the post.  In this blog post, my heading was “Write brief notes for each heading” and under it I wrote:

note three things for each heading, helps focus your thoughts on what to cover, continues to break down the post content

Add a sentence below each heading that contains three things you want to cover.
Add a sentence below each heading that contains three things you want to cover.

Again, at this stage these are notes for your eyes only.  It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else but you.

This helps focus your thoughts on what to cover in each section

The purpose of this step is to help you focus your thoughts on what you’re going to cover.  It’s a bit more detail on the “don’t wander off” scenario we talked about earlier.  You might find that you’ll want to change the order of the three items, or that some of the items need to be moved around from one heading to another.  What you want to end up with is an even spread of items for each heading and an overall structure and direction to the post that makes sense.

It continues to break down the post content – making your life easier

Here’s the great bit; this is all you need to do for now.  Nothing else.  At this point, save your work and walk away.  Go and do something else.  I don’t want you to come back to this blog post for at least 24 hours.  Hopefully this will give you a sense of achievement and give your brain a chance to recharge before we add some detail in the next part…

Coming soon:

Part 2: Writing good content