I'm going to be really honest with you for a second:
Writing a blog post isn't hard.
Anyone can sit at their computer, hammer out 1,000 words and stick it on the internet. In fact, I'd wager hundreds of people have done that in the seconds it's take you to read this.
But you know what is hard?
Writing a good blog post.
Y'know, a post that your audience actually wants to read, share and talk about. One that's going to convert into something valuable for you.
Because there actually are hundreds of people writing blog posts, right this second, and they're your competition. They stand between you and what you want. They're looking to take your traffic.
So, what are you going to do?
Churn out another run of the mill blog post?
Or are you going to create something of quality. One that stands up against any or all competition, and makes your mark on your niche.
If you're going to choose yourself, and focus on quality, you're in the right place. Because you're about to learn how to create epic blog posts that your audience - whether you have one or not - are going to fall in love with, instantly.
What You'll Learn
This is a huge article - I'm writing this bit in the edit, and it's already at 5020 words - but there's no fluff, no 'nice to know' and no extra padding.
You're going to learn everything it takes to write a solid blog post, time after time (after time).
Here's what you'll learn:
- The 5 phases of writing a blog post
- How to edit like a pro
- Why research is killing your posts
- A simple outlining process to shave hours off your writing time
- How to never run out of ideas ever again
If you're ready, hit the 'bookmark' button and then read on, because you're about to change how you blog forever.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)
The 5 Phases Of Writing A Blog Post
There are five stages in the life of a blog post:
- The Idea Phase
- The Research Phase
- The Outline Phase
- The Writing Phase
- The Editing Phase
Each of these stages is crucial to creating an epic blog post, because if you remove even just one of those the quality (and the success) of your post will suffer.
In this article you’re going to learn about each of these phases and what it takes to do them right.
Phase #1: Ideas
This is the foundation of your whole blog post. Because without an idea, you don’t have anything to work with.
But there are a few things that are truth about ideas:
- They’re hard to come by
- They take a lot of effort to think of
- Original ideas tend to suck
Which makes the whole idea phase a tiring, stressful and annoying phase to be in.
But it doesn’t have to be:
In this section I’m going to show you how professional bloggers automate this process – and some ideas generation tools that have served the Nichehacks team well over the last year.
Originality = Death
There’s an old saying in writing:
“All your ideas have been done before and Shakespeare did them all”
And while you might not be writing a play, or novel or sitcom – this saying is true in blogging, too.
All of the best ideas have been done before, and there is probably someone out there doing them all right now.
Here’s the thing about blogging:
All of your blog posts are original; but your ideas should never be.
Your tone, writing style, the angle you choose, your insights and opinions – they are all what make your blog posts unique and original. But, the ideas you work all of this around shouldn’t be.
For example, there are thousands of posts out there on how to write a blog post. In fact, a quick Google search shows 579 million results for ‘How to write a blog post’:
But, you’re still here reading this post aren’t you? Because nobody else has written this post about how to write a blog post – and I (hopefully) have insights that nobody else has.
When you’re fleshing out ideas then, look for topics that have already performed well and put your slant on them. And, look at how the blog posts you like are written – and then put your own branding on that too.
Here are two techniques for you to create great content ideas that will definitely work for your audience:
Create A Swipe File
And they’ve worked wonders for us at Nichehacks, too.
You’re going to compile all the articles you like – either in general, or around a specific topic – and put them in one easy to find place. Then, when it’s time to brainstorm your next blog post, you have lots of articles to choose from.
Trello is the best tool I’ve found for this:
You’re also able to make a note of what works well in the article too, so not only do you have great content to choose from, you can look at different elements you can use as well:
- Paragraph Length
- Power or Key Words
Which mean you can analyse at a deeper level, and not only create proven content, but you can improve your quality and style in the process.
The Skyscraper Technique
Okay, I know:
I write about this technique a lot.
But that’s for one simple reason – it works.
I write a minimum of a six articles a week using this method. Because if I tried to have original ideas for all my clients, every day of the week, I’d need to take a vacation at least one a fortnight.
And you could do well to base a lot of your content on this technique too. And not just because it came from the brilliant mind of Brian Dean.
But because it’s a sure-fire way to have a brilliant idea, based around content that works.
But, I’m going to show you a simpler way of setting this method up. All you need to do is sign up, with your twitter account, for free access to the website, Swayy.
When you sign in, it will start to analyse all of your Twitter followers, and the content they’re sharing. Then, it will show you a screen like this:
Now, this is intended for content that you can share on Social Media to your followers – and you can still do that – but it’s also a great window into:
- What your audience is talking about
- The topics and content they care about
As well as giving you hundreds of blog posts for you to rework and rebuild, from reputable websites.
And you know how you know it will work?
Because it’s content your audience is already sharing. So, it’s almost bulletproof to work.
Note: If you have zero Twitter followers, you can follow the original method here)
Where Do You Go Now?
With these new techniques you’re going to have more ideas than you know what to do with. But now it’s time to make sure you create the best possible content from these ideas.
Here’s a quick guide to choosing the right idea to create your blog post from:
- Create a list: List three ideas that you think will work well for the next post you write.
- Take a break: Walk away from the ideas for a couple of hours, or a day.
- Be honest: Come back to your ideas and think which one you could write the most confidently. Or, the one that gives you the most ideas.
For my next post on Nichehacks, I might create three ideas that look like this:
Then I’ll go away and write something unrelated. If you don’t have this luxury, at least go for a walk or watch or movie or something.
Then when I come back I’ll choose the article I could write most confidently, which would be this one:
Because that not only suits the audience, it also leaps out off the page to me as a blog post I could write – and I’ve already got an introduction running in my head. (And it actually turned into a post, right here).
You might find a different or better way that works for you, but this is a great place to start. Now you have a concrete idea that you trust in, you can move confidently onto the next phase…
Phase #2: Research
Once you’ve got your article idea in place, it’s a good idea to start pooling together lots of information, from credible sources, that will back up all of the points you make.
"It’s key to spend as much time as possible to come up with the research, science, and data to share." - Kevan Lee, Buffer
If you’re blogging in a niche that needs scientific research – health, fitness, psychology, marketing and sales (among others) – then you’re going to need the most credible sources you can find for your points.
Google Scholar is about to become your new best friend:
You can search specific topics and get access to at least the summary of millions of university studies, independent reviews and journals in the blink of an eye.
And even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you might come across and interesting article that leads onto something else too. Like this recent search I did for a guest post at Buffer:
Which lead me to find an interesting result that colour not only impacts marketing, but can have an impact on emotion's like appetite too:
Interesting fact to put into my article ( a fact which may have eventually been scrapped by the editors, but, y’know, that’s the life of a writer!) and can back up a point you’ve made.
Specific Site Searches
There are sites you’re going to love in your niche, and they’ll have valuable information – and articles – that you can site in your post.
But how do you find them quickly?
Simple. By doing this quick Google search like this:
Which will bring up only results from the site you’ve chose to search:
But if you have a specific topic in mind, you can get more specific by adding a keyword after:
Site: www.nichehacks.com “traffic”
Which brings up all the specific results for that keyword on that site:
The more specific you can be with your research, the better. But not every point you want to make comes perfectly formed, so you can always look general and filter down to the more specific too.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)
Steal From Other Posts
This is the simplest and easiest way of finding the right research for your post. Instead of searching all over for unique or interesting studies that back up your points – find blog posts that already use them, and find the original link.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a post in the fitness Niche about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training.
You would simply find a post from a credible source, like Bodybuilding.com:
Then find a point you want to make, that has a citation next to it:
And go right to the references section at the bottom and find the study that matches what you’re saying:
Hey presto, you have a solid piece of research to back up your argument!
Now, some articles wont have a references section, and they’ll be hyperlinked in the text, like you’ll see throughout this post:
Just follow that link's trail until you end up at the source of the information, or find the most credible source for that information. Things like:
- The site of the company that did the research
- A news article
- Research paper
- Scientific journal
- SaaS Site (like KissMetrics)
But remember - all of this will depend on your niche and what counts as credible to your audience.
Where Do You Put It All?
You might already have a defacto brain – somewhere you automatically put things for later – and you might not. For a lot of people, Evernote is the best place to copy and paste to link to your research.
For me, I like to use Google Docs.
Because this is where I outline – more on that in a second – all of my articles, so I put all the links to my research in there too.
For example, if you create an article outline like this:
All of the research articles go at the bottom, so you have them at the ready:
Where you put it doesn’t matter that much, as long as you remember where it is, and can access it wherever you are.
After that, it’s time to move on to creating your outline…
Phase #3: The Outline
This phase is crucial to the success of your post.
There is nothing worse than a blog post that has been written stream of consciousness – from the brain, to the paper – without any prior planning.
It also takes you a lot longer to write without a plan.
So by outlining your blog post you’re going to:
- Save time
- Make better points
- Sound more intelligent
- Do less editing
In this section you’re going to go through a quick process of how to outline an article, using the example of a fictional article, so you have a step-by-step method you can use.
Where Do You Outline?
This is totally up to you. I lean towards two outlines:
- On paper
- On the computer
But if you work better on either one, choose the one that suits you. For this, I’m going to just go through a Google Doc.
Finding An Angle
Your angle is where you’re going to come at this article from:
- Are you going to aim at beginners or intermediates?
- Where will the articles focus be?
- What are the key points you’re going to address?
- What’s the main drive behind the article?
This little check sheet helps keep you focused on who you’re writing for, and what points you need to make to create a solid article.
The Main Body
Get down all your ideas on the page here, even if they’re not that good. Because once you start writing, your blog post will grow organically, so it helps to have a lot to pick and choose from.
Try and break it down into article sections, like this, with a bit of an explanation:
Make Your Subheads Attractive
Once you’ve got all your ideas down into sections, turn the sections into titles. So what was boring, mundane questions, can now start to look like mini headlines to draw the reader in:
That’s All You Need…
Outlining isn’t a long process, but it’s a necessary one. As long as everything is in a sensical order, and you know what you’re writing about, you’re good to go.
Phase #4: Writing
At the risk of this sounding really obvious (it is obvious), being able to write is important to your blog post.
But I’m not going to teach you how to write. Because, that’s not what you’re here for, is it?
Instead I’m going to show you things to look for in the writing phase. How to choose the right style, length, calls to action and headings to your post to make sure your post has the highest chance for success.
Your writing style is what’s going to set your blog posts apart from the others. Because as much as people are looking for content they want to read, they’re also looking for a style they can read it in.
But here’s the thing about that:
There is no right style to choose.
The only style you can write in is your style.
For example, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger breaks lots of style rules and writes in long, flowing sentences with a couple of $10 words. And Jon Morrow from Boost Blog Traffic writes in short, punchy sentences even the most illiterate person could understand.
The important thing is that it sounds they’re talking.
And that’s what you need to aim for too. It should sound like you talking, but on paper.
Luckily there’s a quick way to make sure that happens:
- Write a paragraph
- Walk away for a few minutes
- Come back to it
- Read it back out loud
If it fits the rhythm of your voice – and sounds like words you’d say – then you’re on the right track. If not, edit it so it sounds more like your voice.
The more you write, the easier it becomes. Like, I can write this entire 5000-word post and then read it back to myself, instead of doing it paragraph by paragraph.
Okay, I’m going to do two things here:
- Show you the research of how long a post should be
- Tell you why the research doesn’t matter
QuickSprout did a lot of research and came up with some really interesting data. They found that longer blog posts got shared more, with 1,500+ words as the most shared length of article:
And the longer your content the more backlinks it has, too:
Which means that – in theory – you should be aiming at a 1,500-word minimum for your blog posts. And that’s not bad advice, because I’ve always found longer content to be more effective.
But, that brings me to my next point...
"It’s worth writing however much you really need. Don’t feel constrained by presumed short attention spans. If you put in the effort, so will your audience." - Medium
Why The Research Doesn’t Matter
The simple answer is that none of this research has been done on your audience. Nobody knows the exact length that your audience is going to respond to.
And, there is a good chance that it doesn’t even exist.
Let’s take our own work here at Nichehacks as a little case study to show you what I mean.
In October of last year – when I first came on board at Nichehacks – there was no real guideline for how long your post should be. And I posted anything from a quick 1,000-word article, through to 5,500-word epics.
Then Stuart changed the guidelines to 1,500 to 1,700 word posts. And he posted them more frequently. To which he didn’t really see any results.
So in January he went in completely the opposite direction and asked us to write a minimum of 3,500 words, but go as long as we could while keeping value.
And that’s where the change really came.
Articles were shared more, comments were up, traffic was up and all the important metrics were improving across the board.
We found the lengths the appeal to you, our lovely audience, and although there are the occasional people who don’t like the long posts, it’s obviously doing something right.
Don’t worry about ideal lengths. Some posts will work better shorter, others will work longer and the rest comes down to testing with your audience.
Heading And Subheadings
Because, no matter what length you decide upon, there will always be people who don’t have time to sit and read everything.
There’s also the problem that a lot of people create ‘block text’ blog posts like this:
Which instantly puts your reader off. Not only does it look like you’re about to be forced back to read a school text, it’s also scary to read something that looks so…thick.
This is where Heading and Subheadings come into their own. Not only do they appeal to the serial skimmers who are looking for the content that interests them; they also make people stay on your page longer.
A simple way to do this is a trick I learned from the guys over at Buffer called Grouping. I’m even using it in this article right now.
At the start of your article, outline all the points you’re going to make:
They then become your headlines for each specific part of your post, like this:
And then you can create sub-headings for each section that breaks down into, too:
The more of these you have, the more people you will appeal too. For example, if someone only wants to learn more about:
- The Skyscraper Technique
- Article length
- Editing skills
They can flick through and drop in and out wherever they need to, without having to read every single world of this post.
If you want to know how to write epic headlines for your articles, check out this post right here.
Call To Action
Calls to Action are really important for your blog post.
Whether that’s simply asking someone to share or comment, or giving them a specific task to do that they can engage with.
And, as a study from Blog Pro’s saw, posts with calls to action massively outperform posts without it.
A Little About Word Choice…
You know your audience far better than I do. But there is one thing that rings true in all forms of writing:
You never want your reader to have to stop.
That is, you don’t want them to have to pause in the middle of a sentence because they don’t understand what you’ve just said. And, if they have to stop and Google it, that’s even worse.
So there are two tips I’m going to give you to make sure that happens as little as possible.
If you have to use a word that your audience doesn’t understand – like an industry specific term – then go ahead and explain it right after.
So instead of saying:
“Using adverbs in your text makes it sounds flabby”
You could say:
“Using adverbs – words that end in ‘-ly’ – in your text makes it sound flabby”
Don’t assume prior knowledge of what you’re writing. Assume your reader doesn’t know a thing about it, and spoon-feed it to them. Because at some point, there is going to be a reader who knows jack squat.
Use English Words
You might be an artsy writer. You might also speak a couple of different languages. And, you may have gone to Harvard and speak with a silver spoon in your mouth.
And, that’s great and all:
But keep the words in your blog post to easy to understand English words. Words that people use every day that they will understand.
“When you’re having a tete-a-tete with your employee’s, stay positive”
Makes absolutely no sense if you don’t know tete-a-tete means private conversation. But if you said:
“Stay positive in your private conversations with your employee’s”
You instantly have an idea of what I’m talking about, whether you speak French or not.
The same can be said for ‘business speak’ too. You know, the words you’d hear in a corporate meeting. Like:
- Fortify (Strengthen)
- Synergy (Team work)
- Implement (Carry out)
- Identify (Spot)
If there is a simpler, easier to understand word, use it. Unless complex and hard to understand is what you’re going for, that is.
Phase #5: Editing And Optimizing
Thinking isn’t a writer’s job; thinking is an editor’s job.
What I mean is:
When you’re writing, your job is to get everything you need down on the page, even if that means sounding like a deranged psychopath. Then it’s the job of the editor (which may or may not be you) to make some sense of it all.
Now, as a blogger, it’s good practice to learn how to edit your own posts, because you’re probably flying solo right now. And even if you do have an editor to submit to, it’s worth knowing how to tidy up your post so people can make sense of it all.
For this phase we’re going to say you’re like me and have to edit your own posts. And you can pick or choose what you take from it if you do have an editor. Sound good? Good.
Take Time Away From Your Post
The best advice I ever got about editing was that you should never finish your post and then start editing straight away.
You need to take time away from it for your brain to clear.
If you’re short on time, you’ll need at least one hour away from it. But, if you’re a little more flexible try to take at least a day away from it.
Stephen King would write entire novels and then put them in a drawer for three months before he actually read them again. But, you don’t have that much time – or need to be that extreme.
So, minimum of an hour away if you’re pressed. Minimum of a day if you’re a little ahead of schedule.
From Flab To Fab…
The first draft of anything you write is usually pure garbage. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.
It probably doesn’t:
- Sound like you
- Flow well
- Have correct grammar
- Make total sense
That’s because everything has fallen out of your head and onto the page, with little thought to the who, what, when, were and why’s.
Thankfully, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Now you need to refine everything you’ve written. For that I’d recommend you do four edits to make sure everything is perfect. These aren’t four long, time-consuming edits mind you.
Instead you’re going to break one big edit down into four chunks.
- Read through: Read everything you’ve written, and highlight any mistakes and change any obvious grammar errors.
- The So-What? Test: Ask yourself, ‘so what?’ after every line. If it starts to feel flabby or pointless or like your reader doesn’t care, cut it.
- Read it backwards: Yep, from the last word to the first. This stops your brain from forming sentences and skipping over words. 100% the best method for catching Typo’s.
- Read it out loud: Make sure it fits your voice.
By the end of this process – if you’ve been honest with yourself – you’re going to have a blog post that’s gone from a flabby, over-written piece into a streamlined blog post.
"What popular bloggers know that many people don’t know (or don’t want to believe) is that a post isn’t finished simply because they’ve said everything they want to say" - Shane Arthur
2 Cool (And Free) Blogging Hacks
Once you’ve cleared out all the stuff that you don’t need, you can start to add in some stuff that you do need.
There are some little Blogging hacks that you can use that will:
- Keep people reading longer
- Get more shares
- Help you make more points
- Make you more money
They’re absolute no brainers and should be used wherever possible. So, let’s take a look at what they are and how you can use them.
I first learned about Bucket Brigades from Brian Dean over at Backlinko. And they have honestly changed how I write blog posts.
A Bucket Brigade is basically:
Finishing a sentence with a colon, and moving onto the next line (like I did just then).
And I’ve done it at various other points in the post too. Like here:
The idea is that where you feel like someone might stop reading, add a Bucket Brigade. Then their natural curiosity will take them onto the next sentence.
So let’s say you have a section that looks like this:
You could chop one of the sentences in half and make another stronger paragraph:
That way you can make an epic point on it’s own – after all, words are more powerful surrounded by white space – which you could turn into a click to tweet (more on that later). And will keep people on your page for even longer.
Images are incredibly powerful for your blog post. In fact, blog posts with images get 94% more clickthrough’s and have longer on page times than posts that don’t.
And now there is actually research that tells you how many images per blog post you need now, too.
Canva teamed with BuzzSumo to look at the image count of over 1,000,000 blog posts. And they found that the optimal amount of images was one image every 75-100 words:
So when you’re editing, aim to add 10 images for every 1000 words to being with, and then test from there for your audience.
Image types I’d recommend are:
- Quote images
- Tutorial images
Because all of these images are relevant, and each add value and depth to the point you’ve just made.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)
Making It SEO Ready
How much time you spend on this comes down to how you’ve set up your blog.
If you’re attached to a niche site you might be pickier than if you’re trying to build a blogging platform.
I spend no more than 10 minutes on the SEO for my posts, and that seems to be pretty common among bloggers too, so let’s run with that.
I recommend two tools:
This is part of the Google Adwords family. Keyword Planner lets you search keywords (for free) and you can see how much traffic they get – and what they’d cost if you turn them into an Ad.
Ideally you’re looking for anything with a good amount of searches (over 1,000+) and with low to medium competition.
Then, you can use the next tool to apply that result to your blog…
Yoast is a WordPress plugin that checks the SEO of your post. It basically points out the vital places you need to SEO, and lets you apply your changes simple and effectively.
When you’ve downloaded it, you will find it at the bottom of your post’s page:
Start Making Epic Shit...
There's a lot in this post that needs to be recapped. And you're probably going to have to read this a few more times - or build a blog post alongside it - until you totally get it.
But let's look at the major points you need to remember:
- Don't focus on originality, focus on results
- Steal your ideas (it'll be our little secret)
- Do as much research as possible
- Outline your post before you write it (or risk a clunky sounding post)
- Use proper English words and explain yourself
- Write in the style of your own voice
- Edit, edit and edit again (or hire an editor)
So, what's your first post going to be?