Depending on how you choose to define the term, I’ve been blogging for the better part of two decades. During that time, I’ve written a lot for my own sites, as well as for the blogs of my many freelance writing clients on a broad range of subjects for a broad range of audiences. I’ve talked about restaurants, movies, asbestos poisoning, green living, rural Internet access, affiliate marketing, stress management, team project management and so much more.
For a time, I was publishing a new blog post on my own site each and every day. At my peak, I was writing ten or more tech blog posts for one of my clients every day too. I’ve lost count of exactly how much total blog posts I’ve written since I’ve started, but it’s easily into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. And through that experience, I’ve continued to refine my blog writing process so that it can be both more effective and more efficient.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve already been at it for a few years yourself, one of the greatest challenges you are going to face as a blogger is when you sit down in front of the computer and stare at the blank screen. Your mind runs blank and you don’t know where to begin. It helps when you have a specific routine in place, just like how you’d prefer to approach the tee in golf or shoot a free throw in basketball. It grounds you and the rest is almost automatic.
1. Maintain a List of Ideas
Inspiration is a fickle mistress. Or rather, she’s terribly unreliable. You can’t just expect your muse to appear on demand with the greatest idea for a blog post ever. You just don’t know when she might whisper in your ear. That’s why you should always maintain a list of potential blog post ideas, preferably in a cloud-based service like Evernote or Google Keep. That way, when you sit down to write something, you will have already finished the “brainstorming” part of the process.
2. Decide on a Format
Different types of posts should be written and formatted in a different kind of way. If I know that I’m only to going to write a short news post, something like 300 words, then I don’t need to worry about coming up with appropriate sub-sections. It’ll likely only be two or three paragraphs long. If I’m doing a product review, on the other hand, I’ll need to think about the post in an entirely different kind of way. This is also where you might decide on a rough word count.
3. Conduct Your Research
This will also depend on the kind of post that you want to write. If you’re doing a roundup post, highlighting great tools or services that your readers might want to use for a particular purpose, then you’ll want to spend the time to research these tools and services. If you’re doing a news post and want to offer an opinion, you should be reading up on some of the other stories that have already been written on the subject so that you can provide a well-informed opinion and not one based purely on your gut instinct. Take notes if needed (and keep those reference URLs handy).
4. Start with a Title
I realize that this step flies in the face of what many other writers and authors may recommend. They’ll tell you that you should finish writing whatever it is you are writing before you come up with a title. That way, you already know the content and can come up with something clever or appropriate. What I’m saying is that you should start with a title as a guiding principle, helping you to form what the blog post will contain. You can always change the title before you publish if you come up with something better.
5. Rough Out the Sections
If your blog post is going to have sections, which is generally a very good idea from an SEO standpoint, then it’s a good idea to use these headers (typically H2 and H3 and rarely any level below that) roughed out before you actually start writing. You can think of these headers as the rough outline for the post. In the context of doing a product review, you might have a section on specs, another on build quality, one on setup, one with performance, and so on. This helps to make sure you don’t miss anything and that the post will read logically.
6. Capture Your Pictures
Again, this will depend on the kind of post you are writing. If it is a physical product, I tend to take a series of pictures before even thinking about writing the first word, because I want to make sure the product is free of fingerprints and smudges. I’ll then take more as the need arises. If it’s post like this one, then I’ll turn to my usual sources for stock images to find something appropriate. Images do a great job of breaking up huge blocks of text and make for more visually-appealing content.
7. Write All the Way Through
Ah yes, the actual writing. When at all possible, I try to write the blog post from beginning clear through to the end in a single session. This ensures that the thoughts flow naturally from one to the other, almost like free association, but guided by the section headers I would have outlined earlier. When you write across multiple sessions, especially if you’re writing the sections out of order, the thought process can sound disjointed and jarring.
8. Proofread, Edit, Revise
Spell check can only do so much. While it’s great that just about all web browsers and word processors have a built-in tool to check your spelling, you should always read through your post at least once to make sure you don’t have any glaring errors or typos. We’re all human; even professional writers make mistakes.
9. Insert Images and Adjust Formatting
You’ll notice that while I gathered up the images earlier, I didn’t insert them while I was writing. This is because I don’t want to interrupt the creative process. Once the first draft is completed and reasonably edited, then I’ll insert the relevant images in the right places. It’s also at this point that I may adjust formatting as necessary.
10. Read It One More Time
Give the post one more look-over to make sure there isn’t something weird going on with formatting. You can also use one of the many plugins to check for SEO estimates, look for spelling mistakes that you may have missed, and so on.
And that’s it! Go ahead and publish (or time stamp) your blog post to set it free on the Internet. Well, that’s not completely it, because now it’s time to promote your post. Share it on social media, send it to your email subscribers, and start thinking about how you can follow it up with something even better.