How to write a blog post: A beginner's guide to writing articles for the web
I’ve been writing articles since 2006 so the process is second nature to me now but I still remember struggling to write that first one.
This article outlines my process for writing blog posts so that hopefully you don’t have to struggle as much I did early in my career!
Blog post idea generation
Having a strategy will help you find ideas for your blog posts. If you know who your audience is, you can brainstorm topics they’re interested in. (For more on strategy, see Does your website need a blog?)
The book They Ask, You Answer has several chapters on brainstorming content for your website and blog that are well worth reading in detail, but a few topics he suggests you can delve into include:
- Every question any client or prospective client has ever asked
- Clients’ fears, issues, concerns, and worries
- Best in class
We have a list of more than 100 topics to cover on the Vireo blog. We started with a brainstorm session, using our strategy and the prompts above to come up with a starting list of ideas, and then we added to it over time as we thought of more.
Keep a written list of ideas because sometimes you forget it even though you think you’ll remember. Ideas are slippery things sometimes.
Researching blog posts
Researching before you start writing will give your blog post better depth and authority. Sure, you can dive in without researching, but as with a strategy, your post will be better with some research.
I always start my research by reading up on the topic. It’s helpful to know what other people are saying. Did they make any good points that I don’t want to miss? Is there a popular viewpoint that I disagree with?
Next, I brainstorm search engine keywords. One of the goals for Vireo’s blog is to improve our search engine optimization, so I want the search engines to be able to find this post. I’ve worked in some of those keywords throughout this article to make it easier for search engines to find.
Throughout the research phase, I’m taking notes. These notes will become the backbone of the article and make writing it much easier.
Writing blog posts
By the time I start writing, I usually have at least a page of notes and a pretty clear idea of what I want to say. But I don’t start at the top of the page and work my way down, creating the finished post you’re reading now.
In the first draft, you should focus on fleshing out your ideas. At this point, don’t worry too much about structure or grammar; feel free to do some stream of consciousness writing, or to get specific ideas out that may not be connected at first.
Once you have your core ideas written, you can start to turn them into an actual article.
Blog writing tips
- The headline should clearly state the topic and entice the reader to click.
- The first sentence should grab people’s attention so that they want to keep reading.
- There should be a bridge between different ideas so that they flow together naturally — avoid abrupt changes between topics.
- Break up the text with subheads and bullet lists to make it easier to scan.
- Include at least one call to action, if not more. What action do you want your reader to take?
- Read the article out loud to yourself to help you find errors and inconsistencies.
You can also hire Vireo to write your blog posts for you. My process for writing a blog post follows the same steps listed here, but it starts with a content creation meeting with the client where we discuss your strategy and start brainstorming ideas.
Editing blog posts
After finishing a blog post, it’s tempting to publish and start promoting, but editing is a crucial step. Many readers may not be able to point out the exact grammar and spelling mistakes you made, but they will have a sense that the article is not well-written.
You can hire Vireo to edit the blog post for you; depending on the topic and length of the article, that could cost about $105-$210.
Editing techniques we apply include:
- revising, reordering, cutting, or expanding material
- writing original material if needed
- eliminating jargon, clichés, and euphemisms
- adjusting the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs
- establishing or maintaining tone, mood, style, and authorial voice or level of formality
- editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
- checking for consistency and continuity of mechanics and facts
- correcting or querying general information that should be checked for accuracy
- checking links to ensure they point to the right places
- checking that link text accurately reflects where the link goes
- following web-writing best practices
- implementing changes using a content management system
Of course, you can edit your own articles, too!
How to edit your own blog post
- Read the blog out loud to yourself. Yes, I know I already mentioned this in the writing step, but I’m saying it again because it’s worth repeating. You might feel silly doing this but it’s hands down the best way to find errors in your own writing. Reading your writing out loud brings the words to life in a way that reading in your head cannot. I guarantee you will find some errors if you read it out loud.
- Use a spellchecker and/or grammar program. Spelling and grammar are hard and it’s easy to make mistakes, even for professional writers. Most word processors should have a spelling and grammar check, so make sure it’s turned on. I also use Grammarly, though a word of caution: Not all of its suggestions are correct.
- Ask someone else to read it before it’s published. My business partners always read my articles before we publish them, and they almost always find mistakes, ask for clarification on certain points, and/or point out important ideas I’ve missed. If you’re a solopreneur, ask a friend or a family member to read your posts, or trade the task with another blogger or solopreneur.
- Read it again once it’s packaged. Sometimes putting the words onto the website with the headings and photos in place can change the way it reads. It’s worth reviewing it one more time before you promote it.
Common writing mistakes
- Spelling errors
- Grammatical errors
- Organization — is the most important information at the top of the article?
- Unnecessary or off-topic information — don’t be afraid to delete
- Repeating the same idea worded differently
- Poor flow — ensure ideas connect to one another
Packaging a blog post
You can post your blog with no formatting at all; really, the most important thing about the post is the idea you’re trying to get across. But good packaging will make your post more attractive and make it easier for your audience to read.
Most people actually scan articles rather than read them word-for-word. Subheads, lists and images help people scan articles more efficiently, especially in long articles like this one.
Subheads are like mini headlines; they should state what the section is about while enticing people to read more. Online, they also play another role: The header tags help with search engine optimization, telling the algorithms that these words are important. So subheads are a good place to put search terms.
Lists are a great way to summarize information while breaking up the text. If you find yourself listing more than three items in a paragraph, consider breaking it up into a list instead.
Images are especially useful when they illustrate the topic at hand, but they can also simply be an attractive addition to any article.
It takes some extra time to ensure your blog posts are well-packaged once they get to your website, but it’s worth it!
Promoting a blog post
You’ve put all this time into creating an engaging, attractive blog post and now it’s time to share it with the world!
How you share the blog post will depend on your marketing strategy but a few common places you can promote it include:
- Email newsletter
At Vireo, we also share the blog posts on a one-to-one basis with clients who we think might be interested in them.
The process for posting varies with each of these platforms.
On Facebook, you should write a short blurb and post the link with a photo. Sometimes Facebook will automatically grab the feature photo you’ve chosen, but sometimes you may need to upload a photo. Whatever the case, just make sure there’s a photo. I don’t recommend using hashtags on Facebook; they haven’t become a huge part of the Facebook ecosystem.
Twitter is much like Facebook, with the exception that you should use hashtags — unlike Facebook, hashtags have become a part of the language of Twitter, and people still search hashtags. Before you start throwing hashtags around, though, be sure to look them up to make sure the content suits your business. You’ll likely need to do some hashtag research, too.
Instagram is all about the picture. In fact, you can’t link to anything in an Instagram post, which is why you’ll often see people write something like, “Follow the link in our bio.” You still can post the feature picture, though, with a rundown of your blog and encourage people to visit your website. Or you might consider putting together a mini-blog specifically for Instagram.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is all about the picture, but in this case, you actually can link to your blog post. Many bloggers will create Pinterest-specific images that feature the title of the article because when you’re scrolling through Pinterest, people won’t be able to see your description until they click on it.
On LinkedIn, you have a few different options for sharing your posts: you can share the article as a post through your personal page, you can share it through your business’s page, or you can write an article on LinkedIn. I like to share my blog posts as articles on LinkedIn because I have more followers than Vireo’s page, and because it then gets highlighted on my profile.
Email newsletters are a fantastic place to share your blog posts because you can get the content directly to your audience. If you don’t already have an email list, you should start building one. We recommend Mailchimp as an easy-to-use starting place that’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. (Psst, you can sign up for our email list here: http://eepurl.com/gQVLub)
You don’t have to use all of these! Which ones you use will depend on your marketing strategy and what works for your business.
TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)
There are six steps to writing a blog post:
- Idea generation. Brainstorm topics your audience would be interested in and keep a list so you don’t forget.
- Research. Read other articles on the same topic and take notes. Research search engine keywords and phrases.
- Writing. In the first draft, get your ideas out without worrying too much about structure. Refine the article in later drafts.
- Editing. Read the article out loud to yourself. Use a spelling and grammar program. Get someone else to read it before you publish it.
- Packaging. Use subheads, lists, and images to make your post attractive and easier for your readers to scan.
- Promotion. Share your list on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, or through an email newsletter.