Blogging has rapidly become the single most effective way to quickly share information with others. You can write a blog post and publish it in a matter of minutes. If what you write gets picked up on social media hundreds or even thousands of people can read your words in a matter of days. If you develop a following then it may be tens or even hundreds of thousand of people who read what you have shared. How cool is that!
The problem is that for most people writing blogs very few people bother to read what they have written because the quality of the content just isn’t there. So is there a formula for writing blogs? Any activity can be broken down to the steps required to achieve results. Your skills in communicating your message are going to come into play as well in determining what sort of result that is. Even if you have a “paint by numbers” canvas the results are still going to be determined by how you apply the paint.
So here are the chunks of activity when writing a blog. You can continue to develop your skills with ongoing practice that includes reviewing your results and making adjustments based on the real world feedback you’re getting i.e the number of people who read and share your posts.
1 Decide what to write about
You start by deciding what you want to write about. The key is to write about things that interest you so start by making a list of everything that you’re passionate about or that you feel that you can write with authority about. Add to the list questions that you are often asked. What are the common problems and issues that your customers come to you about? What information do you look for yourself? What are the problems that you products or services solve?
If you work with a team start keeping a collaborative list of potential topics to write about. You could use Google Docs or another web based collaboration tool to suggest blog topic ideas for yourself and your team.
2 Create an Outline
The next step is to outline your post by creating a structure to hang your words off. There a a couple of ways you can do this.
Traditional – the traditional approach they taught you at school was to break out the main points you want to get across and create a list of what you want to include in the order you want to address it. This process helps you to work out the flow of your post and organises your thoughts in a logical manner. If you like mind mapping then create a mind map of your topic and outline using a software tool that lets you move the content chunks around till you’re happy with the flow. I use FreeMind.
Verbal – another way to outline your post is verbally. You can work with a friend or a voice recorder and talk out your post and main points instead of trying to write them. Talk through the topic like you’re explaining it to a customer. If you find it hard to outline your post in the traditional way this method might be much more effective for you. Once you’ve recorded yourself you can take the recording and use it to build your outline.
4 mat – if you’re still struggling or have to write about a topic that you are not as familiar with then give 4 Mat a go. 4 Mat is a four step approach to shaping content that is used in creating presentations and training. The four steps in formatting content with this method are:
- Why? Why would your reader want to know this? Describe the problem that the knowledge you’re sharing overcomes or what it is that it will allow them to do. If your blog is going to be of be shared it has to help people with something. This might be an example of someone who had the problem or the cost and consequence of it. Unless you describe why they should read your blog with enough clarity to satisfy the question “Why should I read this?” in the first paragraph you readers will probably decide that they shouldn’t bother.
- What? What do they need to know? Describe what they need to know to solve that problem or achieve that better result. This content chunk is where you talk about what your take on the topic is. You want to give the readers a good understanding of what they need to know about.
- How? How do they apply that knowledge? Be generous with what you share especially if you sell a product or service that showing people how to use it will only enhance their satisfaction with it.
- What if? Some people think laterally and will immediately go off into another direction with questions about application in other environments or situations. You might like to address a couple of these if you have time or link through to other posts that addresses some of these. But really that is what the comments area in a blog if for. It allows the “What if’s” to get asked and answered. Pay attention to the questions that people ask as they might be something you should add to your potential blog posts list.
3. Fill in the Blanks
Now that you have created your outline and dot points about your content it’s time to fill in the blanks and turn it into readable content. If you can add supporting evidence, show research, reference sources and give examples. Telling stories about real people is a very powerful way to help people reading your blog to understand what you are trying to communicate. Allow your words to flow and don’t be too critical at this stage. Writing and Editing are two very different skill sets so trying to do both at the same time will really inhibit your creative flow. At this stage just focus on getting your ideas out and saying what you want to say about the topic.
4. Now Edit it
Unfortunately many blog posts hit the internet after step three but if you want to build a following then you need to have the discipline to go through the editing process. Now that you draft is written read your post back out loud. This will help you to identify any convoluted language that will make your post hard to read and also help spot typos and any other problems.
5. Give it a name
Now that you’ve finished writing your post it is time to give it a name. Getting a name that will not only describe your post but will encourage your readers to engage with the post is hard. The title has to also be descriptive for the search engines to help you with organic links to your blog. There are some great blogs on blogging that you can follow to help you hone your own skills as a blogger. One that I follow is Copyblogger.
6. Add Images
Compelling and appropriate images can help tell your story and attract attention to your blog and will affect how readers perceive your post. Concentrate on quality images that will set the tone for your post and draw people in. Images of people or that use warm colors often work best. There are numerous Stock Image websites and if you don’t already have a preferred site for purchasing images Small Business Trends blog has a post on 50 places to find images should be a great help.
7. Share your post and ask for comments
Now that you’ve done the work, make sure to share your post via all of your social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever else you participate. While you don’t want to overload or spam people, sharing your post multiple times can help account for different time zones or preferred reading times.
Above is my process for writing blog posts that people want to read. What do you find works best for you? How have you handled the content writing process?