The more I’ve thought about blog posts for my audience, the more I’ve tended to overthink the writing. (Or the lack thereof.) It’s a rabbit hole we’ve all spiraled down a time or two. But, with a little separation, it quickly becomes apparent that the best approach to both is the most straightforward one.
What follows is the step-by-step guide I’ve been using to keep myself on track. A lot of it is stuff that you’re probably already doing, just not necessarily in this order. The order, though, is critical, so no skipping ahead. Take your time with each step, and don’t ignore that swelling sense of accomplishment as you knock them off. Both, you’ll come to realize, means you weren’t distracted by thoughts of search engine rankings and competing posts.
Make Sure Your Blog Posts Corner your audience
Maybe the only feeling worse than staring at a blinking cursor and an otherwise blank screen is getting halfway through a bog post and realizing you have no idea who you’re writing it for. Trying to figure it out at that point is like herding cats.
So, first off, define your target audience. What are they interested in? What do you want them to do with this blog, learn to trust you as an industry authority, become more familiar with your brand, buy something, or, D., all of the above? Know your audience, establish your goal, and then begin to shape your content accordingly. In doing so, make sure that you’re bringing something to the table. Generic advice runs rampant on the internet. Distinguish yourself by narrowing your focus or sharing a next-level tip.
Tag it with a working title
Adding a title used to be my last step, and it still is, but a working title’s become the first words I type on the page. If my topic wasn’t already clear to me, it is with the working title. And having it there, and referring back to it as I write, keeps me focused. It doesn’t need to be all that creative. In fact, the simpler, the better. It’s for your own use anyway. When you’re done, scrap it and install a more eye-catching one.
Organize your notes
Before I write anything, aside from the working title, I create an outline. It’s more necessary for some posts than for others, depending on the amount of research and attribution that’s involved, but it’s always essential. It organizes my notes and thoughts so that I don’t have to figure it out on the fly. That way, writing a post is more like just filling in the blanks and fleshing out the talking points.
Wow them with the first sentence
My writing education came at the cigarette-stained hands of newspaper editors who felt that you had one sentence—15 words, specifically—to make a lasting impression. That number’s likely even smaller today. But the idea remains the same. Obviously, you want to write a post that pulls the reader’s attention straight through the last period. But that reader is a rare creature. Instead, throw your weight into the introduction. State your case and be creative about it. If they read on, you’ve already won.
Edit for substance and style
You want someone else proofreading your post, ideally, but that’s not always an opportunity that many of us in the remote and/or freelance communities have. In which case, separate yourself from your post, anywhere from an hour to a day. Like brining, the longer you can let it sit, the better.
Once you’ve gone through it for grammar, tone, and clarity, make a second pass for appearance. It’s a tough pill for a writer to swallow, but your post is more likely to be read the more visually appealing it is. That means subheads to break up big blocks of text and bullets to emphasize key points. We eat with our eyes first.
See it through
Having a post read all the way through is no small achievement. So don’t be so quick to leave it there. Your reader’s invested now and probably interested in diving a bit deeper. At least give him that option, whether it’s an invitation to subscribe to your blog, a link to a related article, or one to a consultation request. Think of that post like a first date. A happy ending is loaded with hope. But if no one makes the next move, it ends there.
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