I quickly learned as a blog contributor that writing for a blog is different from other writing disciplines. Parts of the process are similar, yes. However, developing a blog writing process requires more than just research...or writing...or editing...or publishing.
Blogging calls for all these activities plus special attention to online optimization, promotion and measurement — important additional steps that make a blog not just a channel of communication, but a business tool that can attract, educate and delight.
One important thing I've learned is that having a system is key to the writing process. For new or seasoned blog writers looking to refine your own system or just wondering, "How do I start blogging?", the process below breaks down my blog creation process into sequential and manageable steps that may help you develop a process of your own.
15-Step Blog Writing Process
The blog writing process outlined below has been developed over the last nine months, since I began blogging. This writing process is a work in progress as I continue to define my blogging style and also learn more and more about how best to reach our audience with published content.
1) Choose a theme
At Modgility, we typically choose a monthly or bi-monthly blog theme that ties in timely events and/or areas of particular interest for our prospects or business goals.
For example, in September, our marketing team attended Hubspot's Inbound 2014 conference in Boston. We chose "Inbound 2014" as our theme. For the month leading up to the event, we wrote posts about scheduled keynote speakers, our personal and professional expectations and we even had some fun and developed an Inbound Survival Guide Infographic. Continuing our theme after the conference, we wrote about our experiences, our takeaways and how we plan to use what we learned to improve inbound marketing for our business.
Your blog's periodic theme can also be tied to a specific marketing campaign you're executing. Developing an editorial calendar for up to a year in advance is one way to plan and stay organized so you're not left scrambling for blog themes and topics.
2) Choose a Topic
Next, I choose a topic that relates to the theme. By choosing a broad, but relevant theme, we give ourselves more options for writing multiple posts related to that theme. The topic of each post should be focused and singular. For our October theme of "growth hacking," two of my posts were as follows: "Can Quick Growth Hacking Success be Sustainable?" and "Eight Business Growth Quotes to Inspire Action." These posts covered exactly what their titles promised — no more, no less.
3) Perform Keyword Research
At this point, before I begin writing, I choose the targeted keyword I'll use for my post. When choosing a keyword or phrase for the post, my goal is to put myself in the shoes of a web searcher: What are the words or phrases I would type in a search bar if I were looking for information on my topic?
As a Hubspot user, I use Hubspot's keyword research tool to see how difficult it will be to rank on specific keywords as well as find out the monthly search volume of each word or phrase. These factors go into my decision about which form of my keyword to use.
Other helpful keyword tools I use include Keyword Tool to find different variations on my keyword and Buzzsumo to find the most-shared, keyword-related content on social media. The example below shows Keyword Tool's results for the keyword "business growth." This screen alone shows many variations on the term, which I could then add to Hubspot's keyword research tool to narrow down the most effective term for a post on this topic.
4) Choose a Title
My next step is to write my title for the post. Some experts will tell you that you should spend up to 50% of your content creation time on choosing your title. Regardless of the time spent, the title should clearly and honestly let the reader know right away what topic you're covering or which question you'll be answering with your post. Including your exact keyword in your title is recommended for on-page SEO brownie points.
5) Format the Post
At this point, I'm ready to format my post inside my blog platform. Depending on which platform you are using, you will follow the specific format or guidelines of that platform. I use the WordPress blogging platform, which provides a clean layout with easy navigation, task bar and simple editing functions. I can easily add a post and begin outlining or writing. This platform makes it simple to add my title, change from text to various heading levels and add text formatting and other effects, like block quotes or bulleted lists.
6) Outline the Article
It's time to get my outline on paper or on the computer. For me, my clearest, most complete thoughts come when I put pen to actual paper. Sometimes, my blog outlines are quite short and sweet, amounting basically to a title and three or four headings. At times, that's all I need to get started. Other outlines are more extensive, with notes about topics I'll need to research, people to talk to or specific points I want to make in the article.
However you choose to organize your thoughts, an outline gives you a foundation for your article.
7) Choose a Relevant featured Image
At this point, I try to choose my main image to go along with my article. It gives me a break from outlining and starts me thinking about other visual elements I might use.
Images in your blog post not only contribute to smart SEO practices, but they make a post more attractive and interesting. Every blog post should include at least one image that in some way relates to the topic, entertains the audience or adds to the reader's understanding of your content.
Using unique, original photos or artwork is recommended, but there are also opportunities to find free or inexpensive images that can be more natural than stock photos. You can find free, open-licensed work through the Creative Commons resource and images for $1 on Canva. Wherever your images come from, always give proper attribution to the creator.
8) Research and Write the article
Following my outline, and revising it where necessary, I start to develop my content ideas into the piece I envision. I typically write free-form at first, with the understanding that my thoughts will be developed and edited later on. This step includes web research and adding supporting images, videos and links (or at least notes as to what I will add later).
9) Review / Self-Edit
I prefer to take some time between steps eight and nine. I find that a post is always improved when I take some time away from it, come back at a later time, re-read it and see what needs to be added, deleted or expanded upon. This practice of returning to my work with fresh eyes tends to give me a perspective as if I'm the intended reader. Any questions I have during this step, I can be sure a reader will have too. This is the stage where I try to fill in the gaps.
10) Optimize for SEO
Once I feel that my post is getting close to completion, I start to check SEO elements on the page. Attention to SEO practices will give you an advantage with search engines looking to index and rank your blog pages.
WordPress SEO by Yoast gives a helpful checklist with on-page SEO tips that make the post more complete and effective as a tool for business efforts. Some important SEO elements include the use of images, internal links, CTAs and strategic use of your keyword in a meta description, URL, image alt text, title and subtitles.
The on-page SEO checklist above gives a color-coded guide of page elements that are "SEO-positives" and some that could be improved. For example, a green "light" shows that all images in this particular post contain "alt tags" that make them easy for search engines to identify and connect with this content. On the other hand, the tool shows that keyword density is "a bit low," meaning it may help to naturally weave our keyword into the content a few more times for better search engine optimization.
11) Request Peer Review
Having an editor or colleague read your post is advisable in order to receive professional commentary on your work and to adhere to journalistic standards. If there are specific areas where you are looking for input or advice, be sure the reviewer is aware of those areas. More in-depth articles may need to be reviewed by multiple subject matter experts.
12) Re-read, final edit & clean-up
After a peer review of the post, consider and make any revisions, based on the feedback received. Once the final edit is complete, add any additional helpful links or graphics and make sure all your links work.
13) Schedule Post
All blogging platforms give the option to publish a post immediately or to schedule the post for a later time. The more organized you can be with your editorial calendar, the easier it will be to schedule blog posts for a certain seasonal campaign or blog theme.
This step, while self-explanatory, is the goal of all your work leading up to this point. Publishing articles to your blog on a regular basis is a great way to gain a readership that can ultimately contribute to your marketing goals. Publishing often and consistently shows you are reliable, helpful and that you're an expert in your field.
Some questions you should decide about your publishing schedule will be:
- How many posts per week will we publish?
- On which days will we publish?
- What time of day will we publish?
15) Promote the Post
Once the blog post is published, it's time to share it with the world — specifically with our target audience. You should know which social media channels your ideal prospects use the most and share your post there. Be sure others in your organization share it within their networks as well. We have several people on our team who regularly share our published blog posts on personal networks as well as our company pages.
By engaging readers and offering them real, consistent value through your blog, they will, in turn, spread your content through shares, tweets and other links back to your site.
Seeing Your blog as a business asset
Following a writing process should be seen as part of your blogging strategy within in your overall marketing plan. Understand that publishing a regular and active blog produces a business asset for your organization. Each post you write and publish is a product you've created — it adds value to your website and increases your online presence, site traffic and exposure.
Every writer should develop a blog writing process that works for him/her. The process outlined above contains several standard practices for blog writers that may or may not be a part of yours. I'm always interested in learning how other writers manage their writing processes. So, tell me how your system is the same as or different from this one in the "Comments" section below.
In addition to your excellent blog, learn about some other website elements that will improve your site in our resource below, "25 Website Must-Haves."
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