Now that you have your outline or template, you’re ready to fill in the blanks. Use your outline as a guide and expand on all points as needed. Write about what you already know, and if necessary, conduct additional research to gather more information, examples, and data to back up your points, while providing proper attribution when incorporating external sources. When you do, always try to find accurate and compelling data to use in your post.
Prepare for quality writing time
You probably need to get away from distractions or interruptions in order to write a good blog post. (Turn off electronic notifications, at least during your work blocks.) You probably have equipment you prefer. You might have a little ritual that gets your writing brain going.
For blog content, I like to start with some subheads. They form an inherent structure (kind of like the framework you’d grow a tomato plant on) that you can quickly eyeball to see if the final version will be relevant and useful.
You probably won’t be ready to complete the draft yet. (If you are, just move to the next step.) But capture any words or phrases that occur to you. Expand any points, make a few notes of stories or examples, and track down the links you’ll want to refer to.
Write an Introduction That Grabs and Seduces
Introduction Rule #1. Slip into Their Shoes
Don’t get me wrong — as a lawyer, I value solid research. But in the blogging context, this approach bores readers. If you want to captivate instead of bore, you must make readers feel like you’re reading their minds.
Do you feel that?
That little tugging sensation on your heart?
You’re not sure what, but something is pulling you to change. Not in a confess-your-sins-oh-ye-sinners way, but to shift directions, to embrace your calling, to finally do what you were put here to do:
You feel the ideas inside you. You sense them straining to escape. You know your job is to set them free, firing them like a cannon into a world in desperate need of them.
But you’re afraid.
You’re afraid of quitting your job and living without a safety net. You’re afraid of the concerned, disapproving looks your friends will give you when you tell them you’re giving it all up to write for a living. You’re afraid of not having enough money for food, of the power being cut off, of watching your family shivering and hungry, all because of your “selfishness”.
And most of all?
You’re afraid you’re wrong about yourself.
As writers, we all share the deep longing to embrace our calling and express our ideas, but we also share the fears that so often sabotage those longings — the fear that we don’t have what it takes, that we’ll crash and burn, and that our dreams are just that — dreams.
Note: You don’t need to open like this in every post. There are certainly other approaches, like telling a powerful story. But if you’re working on mastering your craft and getting the most impact for time invested, an empathetic opening is an approach you’ll want to use frequently.
Introduction Rule #2. Get into Character
So play with your emotions. Map out the emotional journey you’re taking readers on, and infuse those feelings into your writing. Feel what you want your audience to feel and your words will exude those emotions.
I told my three-year old daughter as we stood outside the car in her school parking lot, the rain pouring down on us as she sobbed breathlessly in my arms.
She didn’t want to go in the car. She just wanted me to stand there, holding her. And I didn’t want to rush her, or tell her to stop crying.
“I’ll hold you for as long as it takes.”
Introduction Rule #3. Lure Readers Down the Page
#1. Open With a Short Sentence or Question
#2. Take a Knife to Your Words
#3. Set the Rhythm
You’re not stupid.
You know what writing is truly about.
It’s a never-ending battle for your readers’ attention.
Every sentence is a link in a taut chain that connects your headline to your conclusion.
And you are just one weak sentence away from losing your reader forever.
Introduction Rule #4. Make Them Beg
By doing so, not only will readers feel a camaraderie with you (because you understand their fears, so clearly you’ve tip-toed through the dark side yourself), but they’ll feel more eager than ever for the solution you present.
In his introduction, Glen Long brilliantly taps into the fear of failure all writers experience by addressing the dream of making a living as a writer and then quickly smothering that dream with the doubts that creep up at the mere thought of it:
Introduction Rule #5. Hint at the Promised Land
How to Write an Introduction: Bonus Tip
If they click a headline that reads “7 Easy Tips For Losing Weight Fast”, and the post begins with an amusing Nicolas Cage anecdote, there’s a good chance they will leave — never getting to read the rest of the post, which is filled with weight loss wisdom.
“At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Search intent is a big part of SEO (search engine optimization). When we do keyword research here at Smart Blogger, figuring out the keyword phrase’s intent is one of the first things we do. It shapes our headline, meta description, introduction, word count, and more.
Taking the time to analyze the results in Google so you have a solid handle on why people enter the particular query your blog post will be targeting is time well spent. Figure out the intent, and then make sure your intro matches it.
Writing Your First Blog Post
You’ve got the technical and practical tidbits down — now it’s time to write your very first blog post. And nope, this isn’t the space to introduce yourself and your new blog (i.e. “Welcome to my blog! This is the topic I’ll be covering. Here are my social media handles. Will you please follow?”).
But that’s not true. If you choose a general and highly searched topic that’s been covered by major competitors or more established brands, it’s unlikely that your post will rank on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). Give your newly born blog a chance by choosing a topic that few bloggers have written about.
1. Choose a topic you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.
Before you write anything, pick a topic for your blog post. The topic can be pretty general to start. For example, if you’re a company that sells a CRM for small-to-enterprise businesses, your post might be about the importance of using a single software to keep your marketing, sales, and service teams aligned.
For instance, if you’re a plumber writing your first post, you won’t yet write a post titled “How to Replace the Piping System in your Bathroom.” First, you’d write about modern faucet setups, or tell a particular success story you had rescuing a faucet before it flooded a customer’s house.
If you’re having trouble coming up with topic ideas, a good topic brainstorming session should help. In the post I’ve linked, my colleague walks you through a helpful process for turning one idea into many. Similar to the “leaky faucet” examples above, you would “iterate off old topics to come up with unique and compelling new topics.”
First Blog Post Ideas
The Difference Between [Niche Topic] and [Niche Topic], Explained by a [Niche Expert]
The 10 Best and Worst [Niche Tools] for [Niche Activity]
8 [Niche Activity] Common Mistakes (+ Ways to Fix Them)
9 Proven Tips for [Niche Activity]
Why We/I Switched from [Niche Tool] to [Niche Tool] (Comparison)
[Niche Tool] vs [Niche Tool]: Which [Tool] is Best for You?
The Ultimate Roundup of [Niche Activity] Tips and Tricks
2. Target a low-volume keyword to optimize around.
Finding a keyword with low searches in Google (we recommend sticking to about 10 to 150 monthly searches). These topics offer less competition and should therefore allow your new blog post to rank more easily.
When you run this term through the tool, a list of related keywords will appear. Scan the list and choose one with a lower search volume. For this example, we’ll use “under sink plumbing” (1.4K monthly searches).
3. Google the term to understand your audience’s search intent.
If someone is looking for “plumbing problems under a kitchen sink,” they might be looking for a tutorial, a diagram, an article, or a product that can fix the issue. If they’re looking for the first three, you’re good — that can be covered in a blog post. A product, however, is different, and your blog post won’t rank.
Google the term and look at the results. If other articles and blog posts rank for that term, you’re good to go. If you only find product pages or listicles from major publications, then find a new topic to cover in your first post.
Upon Googling the term, we found product carousels, product pages from Home Depot and Lowes, and guides written by major publications. (You’ll also want to avoid topics that have been covered by major publications, at least for now.)
TLDR; Before writing your first blog post about a low-volume topic, double-check the user intent by Googling the keyword. Also, don’t forget to take a look at who’s written about that topic so far. If you see a major brand, consider writing about another topic.
4. Find questions and terms related to that topic.
5. Come up with a working title.
Appropriate, right? The topic, in this case, was probably “blogging.” Then the working title may have been something like, “The Process for Selecting a Blog Post Topic.” And the final title ended up being “How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post.”
See that evolution from topic, to working title, to final title? Even though the working title may not end up being the final title (more on that in a moment), it still provides enough information so you can focus your blog post on something more specific than a generic, overwhelming topic.
6. Create an outline.
Sometimes, blog posts can have an overwhelming amount of information — for the reader and the writer. The trick is to organize the info in a way so readers aren’t intimidated by length or amount of content. This organization can take multiple forms — sections, lists, tips — whatever’s most appropriate. But it must be organized!
Featured Resource: 6 Free Blog Post Templates
What makes a good blog post?
It’s not enough just to answer someone’s questions — you also have to provide actionable steps while being engaging. For instance, your introduction should hook the reader and make them want to continue reading your post. Then, use examples to keep your readers interested in what you have to say.
1. Include H2s to arrange ideas.
2. Center your images.
3. Add alt text.
Image alt text allows search engines, like Google, to crawl and rank your blog post better than pages lacking the element. It also leads readers to your blog post if the keywords included are what they searched for in the first place.
Besides SERP features, image alt text is beneficial to readers by providing more accessibility. Image alt text allows people to better visualize images when they can’t see them, and with assistive technology, can be auditorially read aloud for people to enjoy.
4. Keep your sentences short and concise.
5. Use media with a purpose.
How to Write a Blog Post, Step 5: The Editing Part
Actually writing a blog post is hard. Editing a blog post is harder. Many people mistakenly assume that editing is simply striking through sentences that don’t work or fixing grammatical errors. Although sentence structure and grammar are both very important, editing is about seeing the piece as a whole and, sometimes, being willing to sacrifice words (and the hours it took to write them) for the sake of cohesion.
I won’t explicitly tell you to check your spelling and grammar – you should be doing that anyway. I will, however, offer some self-editing tips and suggestions on how to tighten up your writing so that it packs a punch and keeps your readers scrolling.
Few things are more jarring to read than repetition of certain words or phrases. Once you’re done with the first draft of your blog post, read through it and check for words that can be replaced to avoid repeating yourself.
BONUS: Every writer has a “crutch” word or phrase. This is a word that, no matter how carefully they might try, the writer simply cannot help themselves from including in their work. Identify what your crutch word is, be vigilant, and make sure it doesn’t appear more often than it needs to.
Read Your Post Aloud to Check Flow
This is a trick that many writers learn in workshops. If a piece reads awkwardly out loud, it will probably read awkwardly in your reader’s mind. It might seem a bit weird, but force yourself to read your post aloud to check for wordy bottlenecks or contrived sentences. Find yourself struggling with the flow of a sentence? Rework it until it rolls off your tongue.
Have Someone Else Read Your Work
This is crucial for inexperienced or casual bloggers. Asking a friend or colleague to check your work isn’t an admission of weakness or a sign of failure – it’s a commitment to making your work as strong as it possibly can be.
Ideally, ask someone with editing experience to proof your work. Also, be sure that they understand you’re not looking for help spotting typos or grammatical errors (but if they do, great), but that you want to hear their thoughts on the flow of the piece and whether it makes sense structurally. Do your points come across well? Is your position on a contentious topic clear? Does the piece prompt the reader to think or challenge an existing belief? Is the advice you’re offering worth following? These are all questions that having another set of eyes read your work can help answer.
Keep Sentences Short and Paragraphs Shorter
Sentences should be as short as possible. They’re easier to read, making your audience’s job easier. Shorter sentences also reduce the likelihood of going off on tangents. For example, I recently came across a sentence in an opinion piece in Wired that had no fewer than seven subordinate clauses, an editorial sin of almost unimaginable magnitude.
Paragraphs should also be short and sweet. The shorter the paragraph, the more likely your readers are to keep going. The “rules” of paragraph structure have been bent a little since web-based publishing became the norm, but try to keep individual ideas isolated to their own neat, short little paragraph.
Accept That Your Blog Post Will Never Be Perfect
I’m not advocating for publishing sloppy work, nor am I saying you shouldn’t be obsessive about the details. I am saying, however, that even the best blog posts could always be better, but time is always against us. Again, unless you’re Seth Godin, you probably need to publish more than one post a month, so agonizing over every post will sap you of the desire to write and waste precious time – not to mention likely to incur the wrath of your editor or content manager.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Cuts or Adapt on the Fly
You may have forgotten, but I originally included a section in the example outline for this post that dealt with optimizing blog posts for SEO. I fully intended to write this section, but when I looked at how my first draft was shaping up, I realized this was too substantial a topic to tackle in an already lengthy post. As a result, I made the decision to cut this section from the post altogether. I purposefully left the outline intact to demonstrate that you shouldn’t be afraid to make editorial decisions like this.
That’s All She Wrote…
If there’s an aspect of writing a blog post that I didn’t cover, or you have specific questions about my process or anything generally blog-related, let me know in the comments – I’ll answer them as best I can.
Meet The Author
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.