You’ve clicked through from an irresistible headline. You’re excited! You want to know more. You feel that little flicker of excitement that something new is coming.
And then you run into it. That blog post that wanders around, never getting to the point. And not delivering what it promised.
And where does this leave us? The reader is disappointed. They’re not going to share it. They’re sure as h*ll (excuse the language) not going to sign up for a newsletter. Or click on an affiliate link.
I know you don’t want to be that author. So how do you avoid it? How do you write a great blog post? A blog post that leaves the reader raving, wanting to share, and wanting to know more.
You put a lot of effort into the right things. Which are listed in detail below.
This is a LONG post. Sorry about that, but I promised the “ultimate guide”…which means a lot of information.
You might also be interested in my Blog Post Checklist, which is a free printable checklist.
How to Start a Blog is another great resource…and is another long post dedicated to telling you everything you need to know about starting a blog.
~~~~~This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission which helps keep my blog up and running but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read my full disclosure policy.~~~~~
Bring on the Benefits
Before you start writing. Before you start keyword research.
- What benefit are you providing to your readers?
- Why should they read this post?
- What one major concept do you want them to take away from the post?
In one class I took, the magic question the teacher wanted us to answer for every blog post was this: Is it useful? Is it emotionally engaging? If we could answer to at least the first (and hopefully the second), then write the post. If we couldn’t answer ‘yes’…then we were wasting our (and the reader’s) time.
(In case you’re curious, the class is one of the only ones I recommend to readers…and there is a free workshop. Check out: Sticky Blogging for the free workshop).
Keyword Research: The Cornerstone
You know what major benefit you are providing the readers. Thus you have the “point” of the post. This is where we start keyword research.
It might seem odd to do keyword research before writing the post. Or before even crafting the headline. But there is logic.
- Keyword research often provides you with different ideas. Or a different way of looking at a problem. I’ve often had the major benefit to the readers/the topic of the post change after doing some keyword research.
- Before crafting the title, you need to know the major keyword that you need to work in. The last thing you want to do is spend 30 minutes crafting the perfect headline just to scrap it because it doesn’t have your keyword.
- Side note: If you’re using Yoast you can use an eye-catching headline at the top of the post. Then input a SEO friendly one in Yoast to show up on Google.
1. Mangools- the #1 keyword tool you need
My number one tool for SEO optimization/keyword search is Mangools Keyword Search. You can do five free searches a day (at least of now). I use the paid service because I find it worth it.
Not only does it it tell you the search volume and pay-per-click, but it also shows the difficulty of breaking into that keyword. The difficulty will be green, yellow, or red. Green means you can probably break in. Yellow maybe. And red means you have to have major clout to start getting traffic for that keyword.
In the screenshots below, I show two of the searches I ran while researching this blog post. In the first, I searched “how to write a good blog post.” This was the beginning of my keyword research and I wasn’t exactly sure how to word it. Not only is the difficulty high, but you can see the search volume is low.
In the second screenshot, I removed the word “good” and went with “how to write a blog post.” As you can see, the search volume is much better. I also saw the keyword “blog writing” which I worked naturally into the post.
In all honesty, I normally wouldn’t even try to rank for this keyword. The difficulty is too high for me. But I’m mentoring a class of beginner bloggers and needed to write this post for them.
2. Google Search- the free tool you should be using
A basic Google search is another way to find or refine your keywords. For this post, I typed in “how to write a blog post” (the long-tail keyword I narrowed down to using Mangools).
The first thing I noticed was that there was a couple of ways I could attack this post.
- I could do a list-type post, such as “9 Things I Learned About Writing a Blog Post”.
- I could do a how-to type post, with numbered items.
- I could do a longer, more intense “ultimate guide” type of post.
As you can see, I chose the last option. I knew I had a lot of information I wanted to get across. And I wanted it to be well-organized. Not just some random list of information.
For your search, browse the top search results. Write down any phrases that seem to match your search. Also be sure to check the bottom where Google puts the “Searches related to” section. Google might also populate a box that says “People also ask”. This is a great source of alternative keywords.
3. Pinterest- for more than pretty pictures
A final option for refining your keyword (and finding alternate keywords) is Pinterest. Since Pinterest is a major source of traffic for a lot of bloggers, don’t overlook it.
I have two screenshots below that I did for this post.
The first shows what auto-populates in the search bar when I type in my keyword phrase.
The second is what pops up along the top once I complete the search.
For this particular post, I didn’t gather any new information. But for my Blog Post Checklist post, Pinterest gave me the idea of doing a printable checklist to go with it!
Another tool I recently started using is BuzzSumo. Put in a general topic and it will pull amazing performing articles. Take a glance through their headlines and see if anything calls out to you.
Note: do NOT steal other people’s headlines. Neither the author nor Google will thank you for that. But you can use it for inspiration or to see if you’re going in the right direction. Here’s a screenshot of what “how to write a blog post” pulled up for me.
Headlines That Grab Them
Did a mere 5 to 10 words ever strike such fear in a new writer’s heart? None that I know of. You’re facing what seems very daunting. The engaging, attention-catching headline that causes the reader to click and read more.
Those who are astute may notice that we’re crafting the headline before we start writing the post. The reasons are similar to why we did keyword research first.
- Having a concise, on-point title helps you write the post. It keeps your focus on exactly what you’ve promised the reader so you don’t wander all over the place.
- Many bloggers make the mistake of writing a long-winded post that covers multiple points. Then trying to craft a headline to encompass everything in the post. Leaving the reader confused.
Now that we know to do the headline first, exactly what do we put in the headline? How do we write a powerful headline?
The goal of a headline is to get the reader to click through. It’s not to provide the answer and solution all in one.
Too specific: How to Maximize Efficiency by Using OneNote
Better: The Tool to Maximize Efficiency and Save 30 Minutes Every Day
-See how the second one makes them want to click through and see what this tool is? (It’s still not great, but we’re headed in the right direction)
On the converse, don’t overpromise.
Overpromise: How to Turn Your Entire Life Around With Just 10 Minutes of Effort
More believable: This 10-Minute Hack to Increase Happiness
Another thing that makes a headline clickable is conciseness. I was very specific when I said 5 to 10 words above. And 10 is pushing the limit.
Too long: How to Struggle Through and Reach Your Goals and Succeed Even When You Seem Overwhelmed
Much more concise: How to Be Persistent: The Secret to Success
2. Borrow from the best
In the words of a great copywriter (that’s my way of saying I don’t know which one), great copy isn’t written, it’s assembled. He meant that copywriters continually use the same formulas and words to write their copy. Because it sells.
One great resource to check out is this intensive article by BackLinko- Copywriting: The Definitive Guide. Note that I linked it to already take you to the headline section of the post. It’s a long post and I didn’t want you to get confused.
Also check out this article by Jeff Bullas. He has 101+ Blog Post Headline Ideas. You just fill in the blanks!
I have something similar from a class I took. I use them when inspiration is lacking. For example: I was so tired one day. But I needed a post for the “Inspiration” section of my website. And wasn’t feeling very inspired. I had the blank template: ____ Ways to Overcome _____. I plugged in a number (8) and Self-Doubt for the second blank, and viola! One of my best posts to date.
3. Thou Shalt Not Lie
Be honest. Don’t be clickbait. Don’t promise something in the headline that you don’t deliver.
Related to this: don’t go too over-the-top with headlines. Readers are becoming great at picking out clickbait titles. And are more and more not clicking through. Too many disappointments.
Don’t promise an article on “How to Attract Customers in 3 Simple Steps” and drop them on a sales page with no information for them to take away. Readers need to be slowly sold, not dropped on sales pages with no warning.
4. Overdo it
The very best advice I can give (and I got it from Kelly Holmes at Sticky Blogging) is to craft at least five headlines. When she first said this I thought she was crazy! It was hard enough coming up with one. But I’m amazed how many times when number four off the pen (well, the keyboard) is the magic one that clicks.
Once you’ve crafted some headlines, run them through Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer.
This is an amazing tool that rates how well your headline is doing. And it tells you why: too long or too short. Use of powerful words. Etc.
Introductions That Hook Them
Ah! Sweet success. Our effort is paying off. The reader has clicked through to read more.
Now we need to deliver. And in a certain way or they’ll run away. (No, I didn’t intent to make a mini-poem; it just happened).
Your introduction needs to grab their attention. It needs to leave them wanting to read more. It needs to speak to them.
This little paragraph has a lot of heavy-lifting to do. But the tips below will help you craft the perfect introduction that leaves your reader wanting more.
1. Engage senses and emotions
What is your reader smelling? What are they hearing? Taste, touch, sight. Use descriptive words to pull them in and make them feel like they’re there.
What emotion do you want them to be feeling? Excitement, anger, fear, loathing? Use words that summon up those emotions in the reader. An emotionally engaging article is one that readers will want to continue reading. And want to share.
Please note that you won’t include all of this. For example, my recipe posts often include smell and taste…but taste isn’t in any of the inspirational articles! And while emotional engagement is great as a general rule…it’s hard to make White Chicken Enchiladas emotionally engaging. So I don’t try. It would be fake.
2. Be raw and honest
Here is an example of the best introduction I’ve every written.
Once, when I bent over once in 7th grade, my great-uncle made a “rrrriiiippppp” noise behind me. As if my behind were so massive it was going to rip out my jean skirt. I blushed bright red. I couldn’t look my uncle or my grandfather (to whom he made the comment) in the face for the rest of the day.
Then in 8th grade, on a field trip when I grabbed a third slice of pizza, I overheard one guy say to another “no wonder she’s so fat”. Boom! Eating disorder started.
Almost any girl can relate to this. Maybe not the exact scenario, but that feeling that you’re taking up too much space in a world that wants you to be smaller. Thinner.
It was also the hardest introduction I’ve ever written. It was embarrassing. My face turned red while I was typing. I couldn’t believe I was telling the world this. But I knew other women felt the same. And I wanted to both overcome my own self-doubt as well as help others to do so.
I see a lot of introductions that include statistics. In fact, I’ve done it myself. But in retrospect, I should have saved the stats for later in the post and walked in the reader’s shoes for the introduction.
3. Use your keywords
This is more for SEO than for your readers. But repetition isn’t a bad thing. Good keyword research involves not just a single long-tail keyword, but also synonyms and other phrases related to it. Work those in naturally. Don’t keyword stuff. For an introduction, twice max for your keyword/related keywords.
Writing introductions takes a special technique. A few tips to note:
- Keep your first sentence short. Or open with a question. Don’t start off with a giant block of text.
- Keep the introduction in general short. One great write I know always uses just six sentences. And each sentence is his own paragraph. While I don’t copy his style, I try to find inspiration from it. I’m wordier than that. But it works for him.
- Read the post aloud. It should sound natural and draw the reader in.
- Don’t give away the major content in the introduction. If the reader finds the solution to the problem in the introduction, they’ll say “Oh, I get it” and click away.
Example from that copywriting guide I was talking about earlier. Here is his introduction:
This is the ultimate guide to writing AWESOME copy.
So if you want:
Then you’ll love the actionable copywriting tips in this guide.
Let’s dive right in.
Wow! Talk about concise, smooth, drawing you in. I have to read more.
If possible, use a callback. It’s when your conclusion “calls back” to something in the introduction and ties it neatly together. There will be more on this in the conclusion section. Just keep your callback in mind when writing your introduction.
Content That Delivers
Amazing! We’ve done our work behind the scenes (stated the benefit for the readers and done keyword research). We’ve crafted a headline the reader wants to click on. We have an emotionally engaging introduction that is smooth and pulls the reader in for more. Now it’s time to get to that “more.”
Your content is the meat of your post and it had better deliver or you’ll end up with unhappy readers. Who won’t share your content. Or sign up for your newsletter. Or do any of the other things we’re hoping readers do.
So, how do you write content that clicks? With that magic feeling of “Wow…this author really gets me.”.
1. Be original and inspiring
The first and most important step is to be you. Don’t be some other big blogger you admire. Don’t be your reader’s mom. Definitely don’t be a guest lecturer. Be you.
You’re writing for a reason. There is a fundamental, deep-lying reason you’re spending your valuable time writing content for other people to consume. Find that motivation and let it shine through into your writing.
So be original and inspiring!
2. Use sub-headings
Break your writing up by using sub-headings. Then draw them into each section with a short story, question, anecdote, or how-to.
Readers scan content. They rarely take the time to read it in full. So use sub-headings that both catch their attention and allow for breaks in the screen.
Some people contend that your sub-headings need to be as engaging as your headline. I’m not at that level of writing yet. I know they need to be better, but I’m still working on my technique.
3. Remember senses and emotions
We covered this more extensively in the “Introduction” section of this post, but don’t forget it. Throughout your content, continue to engage the reader’s senses and emotions as appropriate. Replace anywhere you’re “telling” the reader something with “showing” it to them.
Telling- The apple pie smells nice.
Showing- Cinnamon and apple pie spice wafted through the air, my taste buds already watering in anticipation.
4. Know What You're Talking About
Some tough love for you. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, people will notice it instantly.
You see this in hundreds of “reviews” of products. You can tell the author just wants you to click through so they can make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with making money. Hey, I need money! This website costs money. But my reviews are 100% from user experience. For example, I did a post on KitchenAid mixers. But I waited until I had owned two different models. And then spent over 20 hours researching KitchenAid. Yes, 20 hours just researching for a single post.
It’s even more important when talking about heart stuff. Whether it’s how to keep your cool when the kids are driving you nuts. Or how to survive a breakup. Make sure you’ve lived it before you start talking about it.
5. Outline aren't just for school papers
One thing that has surprised me is how much of my writing is “pre-writing.” As I do research and think about the post, I start to build an outline.
By the time I’m actually getting around to the actual writing, what I’m basically doing is filling in the blanks.
For example, here is a blog post I haven’t even STARTED yet…just thoughts that have come together over time.
Self-limiting beliefs and how to overcome them
- How to have belief?
- For some people, belief and confidence come easily. They seem to have that personality that anything seems possible. In most areas of my life, I’m one of them. I’ve never been handed a challenge and thought to myself “I can’t do this.” Instead, my mind automatically goes to “what do I need to learn to do this.” Maybe it’s because I was taught from a young age that I could do anything. Maybe it’s because I love learning. But either way, I consider it a blessing.
- Story about first copywriting job, learning coding.
- But in some areas, that all-encompassing belief is a little lacking. One thing that helps is getting out a piece of paper. Write down WHY you think you can’t. Chances are this paper is full of self-limiting beliefs.
- How to overcome self-limiting beliefs- use the step-by-step that I have on the printable, but write it out more with examples.
- Use blogging examples from when I started
- PRINTABLE: self-limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.
~~~As you can tell, a good portion of this post is already written!
Conclusions That Fulfill
A lot of posts skip a conclusion or seem to fall over it. In the interests of full-disclosure, I am still working on great conclusions. They’re not my forte.
But the only way to get better is to: 1) Learn more -and- 2) Practice.
1. Use a callback
If appropriate, use a callback. Earlier I did an example of a raw introduction about self-doubt and how my eating disorder started. The conclusion is as follows:
While I haven’t banished self-doubt completely, it’s no longer the dominant voice in my life. Honestly, it was really rude of my great-uncle to do that. And those two guys? As a teenager, I hated them. I don’t know them now, but I DO know I don’t care what they think of me now. Why in the world would I let those self-doubts that grew from that dictate my life NOW?
See how the conclusion ties back to the two stories I related in the introduction?
2. Engage the emotion of hope
The very first thing we did was figure out what benefit we were providing to the readers. So a natural conclusion is painting a hopeful picture. A picture of what their life will be like after they implement the advice we’ve given.
This is where to push them to take action. Reading a blog post isn’t action. Take the advice and applying it to their life is action.
Editing. (No, We're Not Done)
I bet you thought we were done. Nope. Sorry.
We still have a ways to go yet.
1. Give yourself a break
Literally. Take a break. You need to let your writing “settle” before you go back and edit.
Take at least a 30 minute break. A day or more is better. But 30 minutes is the absolute minimum.
2. Editing checklist
I started with the basic editing checklist by ThoughtCo. <<<click there to see it. But have made some small changes to make it work better for me as a blogger.
- Is each sentence clear and complete?
- Can any long sentences be improved by breaking them down into shorter units?
- Can any wordy sentences be made more concise? Slash all unnecessary words.
- Are there run on sentences?
- Does each verb agree with its subject?
- Are all verb forms correct and consistent?
- Do pronouns refer clearly to the appropriate nouns?
- Do all modifying words and phrases refer clearly to the words they are intended to modify?
- Spelling & punctuation correct?
- Does anything sound condescending or “professor to student” lecturer tone? If so, modify.
- Remove any repetitive or contradictory information.
- Bold, italic, block quotes used effectively?
- Convert series of items, ideas, or steps into a bulleted or numbered list
- Break up paragraphs between long and short. No paragraphs longer than 5 sentences.
- Replace passive voice with active (find passive voice by looking for: by, was, is, were)
- Cut words such as “actually, basically, in order to, just, kind of, literally, quite, really, sort of, that, type of, very”
- Cut adverbs (words that end with ‘ly’)
- Cut overly complicated words and replace with something simpler.
- Use Hemingway Editor
4. Read it aloud
One excellent tip is to read your content aloud. I know it sounds silly. Or at least it did to me when I first heard it. But you’ll catch errors you would have missed otherwise. You’ll also see where your content might be causing readers to stumble.
You Can Do It
If you’re a new writer, you might be feeling overwhelmed at this point. That’s okay. It’s completely natural.
I didn’t do all these things during my first post. Or even my 20th post. But now, years later, I’m going back and fixing those posts to reflect the writer I’ve become today.
You’re a step ahead. You’ve taken the time to understand what makes great writing. You clearly care about providing value to your readers.
So bookmark this post (or save in via the Facebook save function…buttton at top of post for that).
And set up your own checklist for writing (mine is OneNote and I run through it with every single blog post I write.).