How to Write a Blog Post People Will Want to Read (and Share)
by Geoff Hineman
If you hang out with the SEO kids for even a few hours, you will certainly hear the term "content is king" dropped sooner rather than later. While changes to algorithms often remind us to do things like check on our backlinks profile or pay attention to page load times, the role of high-quality content always remains front and center.
One of the absolute best ways to generate high-quality content is through your blog. (You do have a blog, don't you?) While there are staple SEO techniques to keep in mind for rankability, the bigger concern is writing a blog post that actual people want to read and share.
In this post, I'm going to break down what you need to do—and in which order—to turn out post after post that your readers will enjoy.
- Brainstorming Your Blog Post
- Researching Your Blog Post
- Organizing Your Research
- Crafting Your Title
- Structuring Your Post
- Citing Your Work
- Including Optimized Images
- Integrating Multimedia
- Proofing Your Work
- Updating as Necessary
1. Brainstorming Your Blog Post
Most posts come to be when an author wants (or needs) to cover a topic of interest, such as ways to keep shoppers in your store or ways to work from home. Many topics, though, cover quite a bit of ground. If you sit down and just start writing, you are likely to forget some key pieces of information or meander from the start of the post to the end.
When you have the main topic idea down, start making a list of everything you know (or need to know) about the topic. Set aside a designated amount of time for this task. It's easy to come up with a handful of ideas in five minutes. If you force yourself to sit and think on the topic for 30 minutes, you'll find that you will come up with many more ideas. Some will be great and some will not; that's the nature of brainstorming. You many even find that, to sufficiently cover the topic, you'll need to author several related post and link them together in a content hub.
When you have a full list of ideas together, you can start organizing them in a way that makes sense and will create a logical flow for readers. This is also the time to scrap ideas that don't quite fit with the rest.
2. Researching Your Blog Post
When you have your list of ideas to cover, it's time to start researching them. It can be tempting to only conduct web searches, but that has its own potential pitfalls. I'm not sure if you have heard yet, but not everything published online is true. For that reason, you'll want to stick to reputable online sources and make sure you can fact check your research.
Don't forget about books. Yeah, yeah, it sounds old school, but books have the benefit of having to pass through editors, fact checkers, and the like to ensure both accuracy and readability. Plus, you can make notes in the margins of pages so you can revisit them during the writing process. Try that with your computer screen!
Another oft-overlooked research technique is the personal interview. When I was completing my Master's Degree in Writing, I spent a few semesters in 2000-2001 teaching Freshman Composition. I gave them the same advice for their research papers. Of the students who reached out to experts for their input, exactly 100% of them received responses. The greatest benefit to this approach is that you get firsthand information and quotes that are not published anywhere else. That, alone, gives readers something they will want to read and share (or even link to).
On the topic, Sam Oh from Ahrefs said, "In my opinion, getting views from others in the industry can help enhance the quality of your content or to add credibility to a post. So rather than doing a post like 894,348,393 SEO Tips (Recommended by Experts), I'd recommend using their input, quote where relevant, and create something truly remarkable with the help of people who've 'been there—done that.'"
For more great pointers on digital marketing, check out Sam on Ahref's YouTube channel.
3. Organizing Your Research
If you spend a good amount of time on your research, you'll likely find that you gathered more information that you'll need. Take some time to prune your research so that the research you keep is closely related and leads to a logical succession of ideas in your blog post.
Pro Tip: Go where the research leads you. If you find the research leads in a different direction than you originally intended, be open to changing your direction. Trying to shoehorn research into a pre-conceived idea can lead to holes in your post and undermine your credibility.
4. Crafting Your Title
With your research completed and organized, you should have a pretty good idea what the primary focus of the post will be. Take this time to craft your title. Keep in mind these two things:
- The title is the first thing readers will encounter. If it sounds boring, you are going to lose readers before they even start. You don't need to write a clickbait headline, but you do need to come up with a title that features an inherent benefit for readers. Otherwise, they can easily focus their attention elsewhere.
- When you have a title right from the start, it helps to keep your writing focused around that title. The result, when done well, is a clear, concise, interesting blog post that delivers on the promise that the headline is making.
There are several different strategies you can use to devise the right title. From how-to titles, to list titles, and more, there are a handful of tried and true ways to craft titles. Brain Clark at Copyblogger has written a solid post on headline templates that is certainly worth the read.
5. Structuring Your Post
This is where the wheels fall off for those considering writing a blog post. In fact, this is the easiest part. If you have ever taken a grade school English class, then you already know how to structure your post. Remember, a basic 5-paragraph essay looks like this:
- Introduction – State the topic you are covering and perhaps even why. The last sentence of this paragraph will be your thesis statement, which should bare a resemblance to your title.
- Developmental Paragraph #1 – This is where you go start going into details about the background of your topic.
- Development Paragraph #2 – This is where you can share what you discovered in your research.
- Development Paragraph #3 – This is the part where you tie together the implications of the research as they relate to your thesis.
- Conclusion – This paragraph is a basic summation of the information prevent. Think of it as the TL;DR part of the post.
In short, tell 'em what you are gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em.
Your post may be longer than five paragraphs. If you have taken the time to organize your research, though, the development paragraphs should fall nicely into place.
6. Citing Your Work
There can be a certain vanity that takes hold in some people when they are writing on a topic. They want to establish themselves as the authority, rather than an authority. As such, they don't cite their research. At worst, this is straight plagiarism. At best, it's deceptive.
When you cite your research, it accomplishes several things:
- It gives credit to the person(s) who did the work and shared the insight in the first place.
- It showers your readers that you have done your own homework on the subject.
- Can send signals of trust and authority to Google, which can use them as ranking signals.
You've done the research; cite it when applicable. There are a variety of different ways to cite your work.
- Provide a link to the source material.
- Name the source material in any quotes or paraphrasing of source material.
- List the actual source material in footnotes.
You can even combine any or all of these types of citations.
7. Including Optimized Images
For lengthier blog posts, especially, breaking up the copy with relevant images is a good way to create glow and add value for readers. There are a few ways to make sure your images are optimized. Some are for readers and some are for search engines.
For readers, an image that shows an example of what the content is trying to convey is a great way to reinforce the point. This blog post from JazzGuitarLessons.net, for example, features several images to illustrate how to play a harmonic minor scale several different ways.
Another way to combine copy and images for maximum impact is with infographics. In this post from Black Forest Décor regarding the location and behavior of black bears, the infographic at the top does a good job of summarizing the more detailed copy that follows below.
Depending upon your topic, you could also include charts and/or graphs. Common charts and graphs include:
- Bar graphs
- Line graphs
- Pie charts
- Venn Diagrams
Your subject matter should ultimately determine the most appropriate graph or chart for your blog post. You can even combine charts. For instance, creating a line graph overlay on a bar graph is a great way to condense more information into one easy-to-read graph.
From the perspective of getting some search engine love, be sure to fill out the alt text on your images. Additionally, if you have the capabilities, resize large images in your post before upload instead of relying on your CMS to resize the image. This will improve your image load times, as well as your page load times. Google likes both of those things.
8. Integrating Multimedia
If your organization has multimedia capabilities (e.g., videos and podcasts), integrating them into a blog post can really give your post a boost. In my experience, I've found this especially helpful for B2B outfits. One of the regular conundrums for businesses that deal in "boring" products is how they are going to create interesting content. Video is a great way to do that. Just check out this fantastic example from New Pig.
If you hosted or have partaken in a podcast that is relevant to the blog post at hand, embedding the audio from that podcast is another way to both give your reader options and add depth to your post. One common option is to record a podcast first, then transcribe it into a blog post to get double the content options from a single effort.
Play with your options here and see what works best for your audience. You might find that doing more multimedia work to be a valuable option for your organization.
9. Proofing Your Work
No matter how well-researched and informative your post is, spelling and grammar issues will completely undermine your effort. After all, if it looks like you can't even spell correctly, how can readers trust that have given enough attention to your research. It may not be fair, but it's true.
First, when you set down to work on your post, you should have proofing time built into your timeline. If you want to see what happens when the work is rushed to publication, just check out 10 articles on Yahoo! and you are sure to find at least one with glaring errors. Proofing prevents this.
Ideally, you'll have someone else in your organization who can proof your post for you. This ensures that fresh eyes, like the ones your readers will have, can pick up errors. If you don't have another person to proofread for you, then wait a few days after you have finished your writing, then go back to read it again. This time away from the post can ensure you are not still too close to the content to catch mistakes.
10. Updating as Necessary
Some topics you write about will be time sensitive. To avoid having stale information, you should consider updating your post as relevant new information becomes available. Even if your topic isn't time sensitive, consider updating posts when you are able to gather more or different information.
One strategy for determining whether to update your posts is to look at your blog post history. Do you have several posts that can logically be combined into one very in-depth piece? Do you have some posts that are floundering because of a lack of relevant information? On the flipside, do you have a post that is doing well and updating it can push it over the edge?
Ultimately, this will be up to your discretion. Remember, though, blog posts are not books. They can be updated on the fly to make them even better over time.
There are a million different ways to write a blog post people will want to read and share. For those who are new to the process or find themselves in a rut, this post is a good jumping on point to guide you through the process of writing a quality blog post from brainstorming to updating after publication.