According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. So, if you’re planning to use blogging as a key content marketing tool, you’re definitely off to a great start. But your blog is only going to drive traffic to your website and help boost your sales if you stock it with fantastic content. That’s why I’ve written this whole article about how to write a great blog post.
8 Steps that can teach you how to write a great blog post
I’m not going to lie to you, writing is both an art and a science. If you want to consistently write great content, an innate writing skill is a big help. But it’s not a necessity and you can always improve your writing with practice.
But even the very best writers don’t necessarily know how to write a great blog post. And the reverse is also true. Those without any great innate writing skill can quickly learn how to write a great blog post and then improve their writing over time.
All it takes is practice and knowing these 8 steps.
Step 1. Do your keyword research
If you want people to find your blog posts, they need to show up in search results. Sure, the right tactics and techniques will get your content shared on social media, which will drive some traffic to your blog but if that’s the only way people can find your content your blogging success will be limited.
Getting your blog posts to rank well in search engines means implementing on-page SEO techniques. And that, in turn, means choosing the right keywords.
Keyword research is a whole topic unto itself, but the basic steps are:
- Pick a topic for your blog post. Your topic needs to be relevant to your goals and so should be guided by your content strategy. You should also have a clear idea of how your blog post will lead back to your sales content (even if that’s a convoluted path through a number of pieces of content).
- Once you have a topic, think about what keywords you would use if you wanted to learn about it.
- Type those keywords into a tool that will enable you to determine how popular the search term is and how much completion there is for those keywords. The Google Ads keyword planning tool is a decent free one that’s frequently recommended for beginners. (You’ll need an Adwords account but you don’t actually have to run any ads to use it.) I prefer and recommend Ubersuggest as it’s easier to use and it provides extra information that’s really useful once you’ve had some practice.
- Play around with the keywords until you find a set that is relatively popular as a search term but doesn’t have much competition. According to Wordstream, 50% of search terms are 4+ words so that gives you a good number of words to work with.
Once you have your keywords, you can start to plan what to include in your blog post.
Step 2. Structure your blog post
And that leads us to the second step you’ll need to take if you want to write a great blog post, which is to use a good structure. This consists of:
- an awesome headline that attracts attention and makes your readers want to learn more
- a short and engaging introduction that’s consistent with your headline and tells your reader what they’re in for if they keep reading
- a concise segue into the body of your post that helps it flow
- an informative body that provides value to your reader and follows a logical train of thought
- a satisfying conclusion that rounds off your post and doesn’t leave your readers hanging
- a way to learn more such as links to related posts or links to related information
Depending on your audience, you may also want to invite readers to comment or provide feedback.
It’s also a good idea to include at least one image in each blog post. This could be a ‘featured’ picture that displays behind your blog posts’s headline (certain blog platforms and themes make this easy) or a still image or video just before or just after the introduction. Depending on your audience and the length of your blog post, you may also want to include additional imagery throughout your post. Infographics and other visual representations of data are great if they’re relevant to your niche and target readers.
Step 3. Craft your awesome headline
As I noted above, your headline needs to attract the attention of your target audience and it needs to make them want to read more. This step can be tricky but with practice you’ll learn what kinds of headlines are attractive to your target readers.
Thankfully, I’ve also got some tips to get you heading in the right direction:
- Don’t make it too short or too long. According to HubSpot, “titles with 6-13 words attract the highest and most consistent amount of traffic”.
- Include your target keyword. This is a key on-page SEO tactic.
- Questions, how-tos, ‘ultimate guides’ and headlines that evoke strong emotions (whether negative or positive) typically perform well.
Step 4. Plan your blog post
Once you know the topic of your post, know what search terms you’re targeting and have a guiding headline, you should plan out your blog post. Write down what you’re going to cover and where and make sure the plan has a logical flow.
Step 5. Do some research
Once you know what you’re going to cover, do whatever research you need to in order to have enough evidence to back up what you’re saying. Some audiences require very little in the way of references but others expect to see copious amounts of evidence. Take a look at what your successful competitors are doing with their blog and use that as a starting point. But you’ll also want to experiment with more and less evidence to see what resonates best with your target audience.
You may need to adjust your plan a little if your research turns up additional points that you feel you need to cover. Or if your research contradicts something you were going to include.
Step 6. Write your blog post
Now you can actually start writing your post. As you write, slot in your keywords. But only add them in when it makes sense and feels natural. You want to aim for a keyword density of between 0.5 and 5% but it that density inhibits the readability of your text, don’t force it. You should always have your reader’s experience front of mind.
Most audiences will respond best to blog posts written in a conversational style. So, skip really formal language and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ where possible.
I recommend writing the introduction of your blog post first. This gives you a guiding paragraph to better frame your post. You can always re-work it once you’ve written the body if needed. Your introduction should:
- restate the solution you promised or the problem you identified in your headline
- summarise what the blog post is about
- tell your reader how they’ll benefit from reading your blog post
Once you’ve drafted your introduction, you can go ahead and write the body. This is where you provide all the information you promised in your headline and introduction. This is where you will provide most of your blog posts’s value.
As you write, follow the plan you developed in step 4. To make it easier to read, group closely related paragraphs under meaningful subheadings. For the best SEO results, try to include your keywords in one subheading if you can do so naturally.
When you’ve drafted the body of your post, read back over the introduction to make sure it matches and flows with the body.
Only once that’s finished should you write your conclusion. This final part of your blog post should give a satisfying end to your article. Usually, you’ll summarise the main points of your post and include one or more links to further reading. Your conclusion should also have a call to action, which might be as simple as ‘read this other relevant post’. Alternatively, you might invite readers to share their thoughts, subscribe to your newsletter, download a file, purchase your product or book you for your service. As you’ll see below, I like to use a ‘next steps’ heading for my blog posts.
Step 7. Edit and proofread your post
Once you’ve drafted your whole post, read through it to check that it flows well. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for errors.
You’ll likely find it difficult to spot your own errors because we all tend to read what we intended to write rather than what we actually wrote. You can maximise your chances of spotting errors by forcing your brain to perceive it differently. Some techniques you might find useful include:
- taking a break before you read through your work – ideally, let it rest at least overnight
- reading it through back to front
- changing the size of the text and/or the size of the window you’re viewing it in (some people print their work but I prefer to reduce my environmental impact by editing on screen)
- reading it out loud
If possible, give it to someone else to read when you’ve done your best. Fresh eyes and a fresh perspective can work wonders. If you have the budget, you’ll get the best exults if you hire a professional editor. If you can’t yet afford a professional, see if you can find another blogger who would be willing to read your work in exchange for you reading theirs.
Step 8. Write your SEO particulars
Some might argue that this isn’t strictly part of your blog post. But given you need to do this before you can upload your post, I think it counts.
What particulars am I talking about? I’m glad you asked. I’m referring to the SEO title, URL and meta description. If your blog platform allows you to provide a separate preview, you should sort that out at this stage. Here’s a brief description of each of these particulars:
- SEO title. When someone searches for your chosen keyword and your post pops up in the search results, they can either see your post’s title or a specially crafted alternative. Search results are a specific width and this equates to a title of about 70 characters (there’s a small amount of variation because the width of English letters varies). Your SEO title should include your keywords and should be as enticing as possible. Often professional, SEO-trained bloggers will use a more descriptive headline that doesn’t fit these constraints so the SEO title is an opportunity to please the Google Gods.
- URL. Long and unwieldy URLs can cause all sorts of problems. Typically, much shorter URLs can be created using the keywords and little more (or nothing else at all). Creating a short and meaningful URL rather than using the default is a great step towards optimising your blog post for search engines.
- Meta description. Crafting a meta description is vital if you want to optimise your blog post so it’s more likely to rank well in search engines. As with the SEO title, the length of the meta description is limited by the width of the displayed search results. In this case, you have around 155 characters to play with. Your meta description needs to contain your keywords and an enticing description of the crux of your blog post.
- Preview text. Not all blog platforms allow you to create separate preview text. Here’s the situation on two major blog platforms:
- WordPress has a special divider that enables you to ‘split’ blog posts. Everything before the divider shows up in the main blog page as a preview and everything after that shows up once a reader clicks the ‘continue reading’ link. I recommend putting the divider after the introduction but you might find a different spot that works better for your content and your audience.
- Shopify provides an extra field labelled ‘Excerpt’ where you can provide additional text that will be used in a preview of your blog post on the blog home page. You could put the first paragraph of your blog post there or you could put the meta description there. Or you could even craft a whole new paragraph specifically for that preview. There’s no real need to do the latter but it’s an option if you so choose.
Now you know the 8 steps to learning how to write a great blog post you can start practising and improving your blogging skills. Once you’ve had some practice, I recommend you learn more about SEO. As I mentioned earlier in this post, SEO is a big field and you’ll be able to take your blogging up a notch if you study the topic in greater detail.
If you’d like more detailed guidance on how to write awesome blog posts — and ones that are SEO-friendly — subscribe to the K. M. Wade mailing list for a free ebook and detailed blog post writing template. You’ll also get a few emails a year with tips for how to grow your business sustainably.
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If this all looks too hard or you don’t have enough time to devote to practising and improving your blogging skills, I recommend you seek the services of an experienced content writer who offers SEO-friendly blogging services. If you’re considering going down that path, here’re a couple of articles about how to choose and work with a freelance content writer that you might find useful.
When you’ve had a chance to try out these 8 steps to writing great blog posts, I’d love to know what you think of them. Have they helped you write better blog posts? Do you have any tips I missed? Let me know in the comments.