Businesses know they should be blogging, but don’t know where to begin. Here is a basic, step-by-step process that I use to write a blog post.
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
The most common protest I hear about adding a blog to a business website is: “I don’t know what to write about.” Actually, finding your blog post topic is easy, simply answer a common customer question (It’s what I’m doing with this post). For example, a local insurance agency might write a blog post titled: “What Does Comprehensive Insurance Cover?”
The next time a customer asks you a question that requires an explanation, jot that question down and start a list of potential blog posts. You will soon find that you have more topics than you have time to write. Then you can pick and choose the best ones.
Key Point: Stay focused. Don’t wander off topic and write about subjects not related to your business or your product/service offering.
Step 2: Research the Topic
See what other people are saying about it. Read other blog posts on the topic, check out some magazine articles, hang out in Barnes and Noble, thumb through some books and make notes. Yes, you know a lot about the subject, but reading other sources will stimulate your thinking. As you read, decide the main points you will make.
Key Point: Look for your subheadings. Divide your main topic into bite-size chunks to make it more readable.
Step 3: Create an Outline
The first question you want to answer in your outline is: What’s the most important thing I want people to know? Then, outline the structure of how you will let people know that one thing. Insert the subheadings from your research in step two. Fill in your notes under each subheading. Use outlines to prevent rambling posts that confuse, rather than help, the reader.
Key Point: Limit your material. Stick to one idea and don’t try to cover too much ground in each blog post. For example this post is not How to Write a Blog Post AND Optimize it for Search Engines.
Step 4: Choose a title
Do this before you write your post. Choosing a title before you write flavors the personality of your post and the information you include. Choose a title that both communicates subject matter, and entices people to read. Look to other blogs for inspiration. Jot down several possibilities, then just choose one and write.
Key Point: Don’t get too clever. A reader should be able to look at your title and know what they will get if they read.
Step 5: Write Your First Draft
Don’t struggle with your first draft, simply follow your outline and fill in the content with your free-flowing thoughts. Your objective is to include all the important information. Don’t get caught up in syntax or prose, just get everything written. After you write your first draft, walk away from it and let it set a few hours or overnight. You’ll see it with fresh eyes when you get ready to edit the post and put it final form.
Key Point: Store your draft on your computer and not online. You can use Microsoft Word, but another great tool is Microsoft Live Writer.
Step 6: Edit and Proof-Read
This is where you make your information engaging. Your goal is to not just give information, although that’s better than no information at all, but to present that information in an interesting way. This is where you have to choose your personal style. Will it be conversational, irreverent, humorous, scholarly? Let your personality show through.
But you need more than style. Spelling and sentence structure errors reflect badly on your intelligence. Spell checkers don’t catch things like using the wrong word or word omissions, and they can’t distinguish between to and too, or its and it’s. Enlist proof-readers to catch grammar errors. Read twice, publish once.
Key Point: Use other blogs for inspiration. Whenever I get stuck, I read other blogs, specifically Seth Godin’s. I like the way Seth just plunges right in to a subject. So I ask myself, “How would Seth start this post?” and then start writing.
Step 7: Publish and Correct
Don’t be scared, just push the button! You can spend too much time agonizing over writing the perfect post. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be published. Get it out there so potential customers can read all the great advice you have to give. But here’s a dirty little secret, (read this in a quiet tone) you can change your post after you publish it. Pretty cool, huh? So after you publish, read your post. If you missed something or would like to change the way you said something, just edit the post and republish!
Key Point: Just do it. It’s not a good idea nor is it great information unless you share it.
Congratulations! You just wrote a blog post.