In today’s post, we’re going back to basics. It’s time to take a look at the most effective, efficient way to write a blog post. And make sure that post is as readable and engaging for your audience as possible. After all—that’s what will keep them coming back, and that’s what you want, right?
Some of these steps may sound weird or long-winded to you. But stay with me! I’ll explain why each step is important as we go.
This is the process which has helped me write over 500 blog posts for myself, clients, and readers. It’s helped to attract 35,000 readers a month to The Writer’s Cookbook, and regularly gets me positive comments from readers.
Some of the techniques here, you’ve probably heard before. Others may be new to you. My method for writing blog posts is what I’ve devised over the last six years of running The Writer’s Cookbook, and all the years I spent before that writing for clients and running an online women’s magazine.
What works for me may not work for you, but it’s well worth trying these steps for yourself. You never know what techniques will work for you until you try them.
So, let’s get started:
Topic and keyword research
Before you sit down to write, you need to research if people want to know about the topic you want to write about.
My favourite keyword research tool is Keywords Everywhere. There’s also Moz, AHrefs, Answer the Public, Google’s Keyword Planner, and many more.
(Let me know your favourite in the comments!)
Ideally, you want a keyword with good search volume but low competition. Sometimes just changing a word or two in the phrase can completely change the search volume and competition.
You don’t always have to target the keyword with the biggest search volume. If big sites like Forbes are ranking for that keyword, you’re better off targeting an alternative—you’ll stand out far more.
And you’ll probably still rank for that higher traffic keyword because search engines are smart; they’ll know the two phrases are related. When you rank for a smaller keyword, it’ll push you up the rankings for the related keyword faster.
One of my oldest blog posts ranks for the word ‘poetry’, but the keyword isn’t ‘poetry’—it’s how to write poetry. Google figured out what people searching for ‘poetry’ were looking for, and suggested my blog post to them.
Before I knew SEO was a thing, I published some posts on The Writer’s Cookbook about writing. When I went to optimise them, Moz told me there was no traffic for those search terms. Those posts were the site’s most popular for about three years—with most of the traffic coming from Google.
So, while keyword research tools are helpful, consider them as guides, not gospel.
Understanding your audience’s wants, needs, and expectations, does a lot of the keyword research for you, as you’re already in their head. This makes it easier to phrase titles in a way that appeals to them, and helps you generate ideas based on customer feedback.
Bullet point your plan
For the last several years, every single one of my blog posts has started out as a bullet pointed list.
Doing it in this way allows me to get all the ideas out of my head quickly. I can then look for gaps without having to read the whole piece, and check the ideas flow in a logical order before I get started.
Don’t overthink this step—just throw it all onto the page! You’ll never begrudge having too many points to include in a blog post, but you’ll struggle if you have too little and nothing else to say. It’s far easier to edit out fluff than to add depth.
Stage one – subheadings
This is where I make a list of the key points I need to include in my blog post. What I initially write down won’t always be the final title for each section, but it gets the idea out of my head and onto the page, which is what matters.
Stage two – look for gaps
Are there any gaps in your subheadings? Other things you should cover that you didn’t think about when you were throwing things onto the page?
Do some research
Research and references show your audience you know what you’re talking about. They increase your authority with readers and search engines.
They increase your audience’s trust in you, and also help with your SEO efforts as it shows search engines you’ve done your research and aren’t making things up out of nowhere.
Fill in your subheadings
People have a weird obsession with writing chronologically. But then they don’t know what to write for their introduction, or maybe their first few subheadings. So why start there?
Start wherever you want to!
Start wherever you’re most interested.
I started this blog post in the ProWritingAid section, for example. Then I moved on to feedback, then jumped up to here.
The more I wrote on sections where I already knew what to write, the easier I found it to come up with the right words for the other sections.
Sometimes you just need to change your starting position to warm up your writing muscles.
Also when you’re filling in your subheadings, focus on readability, not keyword optimisation.
You ideally want your keyword in the first 100 words, but doing so won’t 100% make or break your content’s performance. Metrics like how long someone spends reading your content—and how long they spend on your site—are far more important.
How do you keep them around?
Write how you (or your audience) speaks.
Make it sound natural, not like a school essay.
If you’re not sure how to do this, dictate what you want to say and format it into a blog post after. You’ll be surprised at how different it sounds.
Write your intro and conclusion
Did you ever get taught the essay-writing technique where you write the introduction last? That’s what we’re doing here.
It’s hard to sum something up if you don’t know what’s in it, so writing your intro and conclusion once your first draft is done—maybe even a couple of days after it’s written—means you can better sum up what readers can expect from your post.
Edit, edit, edit
Before you do this next step, you need to put your post to the side for a bit. At least a couple of days. Ideally a week or longer.
The more time you leave between writing your first drafts and editing that draft, the more objectively you’ll be able to read it. This makes you a better editor as you’re reading it more like your target audience would.
Random sentences that sounded great initially now may not make sense to you, or you may spot a gap in your research that you hadn’t picked up on before.
Questions to consider when editing:
- Where can you add more depth? Have you answered everything in as much depth as possible, or could you expand on some of your points?
- Can you explain something more clearly?
- Are you using too much jargon?
- Have you used enough subheadings to break up the text?
- Are your sentences and paragraphs short and clear?
- Does your voice come through? How can you make it stronger?
These edits aren’t about checking for typos—although you do need to do that, too—this is about checking that your idea comes across as clearly and readably as possible.
While you may be tempted to keyword stuff or focus on how to please search engines, readability is more important.
Search engines are messengers, readers are royalty. Readers are the ones who’ll make or break you. You want them to click, share, engage, and love. If they don’t, you’re just Narcissus staring into the pond.
Run through ProWritingAid
This is where your typo checks come in, although to save time, some of the process is automated using ProWritingAid.
It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are, there are always things you can do to improve. Both in general, and when it comes to this piece.
ProWritingAid will pick up on little ticks and habits you’ve fallen into that you may not have even realised you were doing. Tools like ProWritingAid keep your writing—and your mind—sharp.
I prefer ProWritingAid over other tools as it’s designed by professional writers to help with everything from business writing to fiction. It therefore has a more expansive set of tools than any other writing or grammar checker.
These tools aren’t perfect—you’ll still need to check for typos yourself—but they can speed up the process and pick up on things you might have missed.
Get another perspective if you can
External feedback on your writing can really help you improve. Natalie Mills used her network to expand her blog post on The Writer’s Cookbook about shortening long sentences. It’s one of our best posts on the blog.
But the feedback you get must be from the right people.
Before asking someone for feedback, make sure they:
- Know your audience
- Understand the topic
- Are clear on what you want feedback on
- Can balance positive and negative critique
- Give feedback in a polite way
Critiquing is hard, and most people suck at editing (even though they think they are).
You want someone who writes their critique in the right way, and doesn’t just pick up on typos. Typos don’t matter if the structure of your post is all over the place.
You also want someone who’s polite. I’m not saying they need to sugar coat it, but too many people default to writing feedback in a mean or sarcastic tone, and it isn’t helpful for anyone. Feedback is a collaborative process and everyone should come away from it feeling happy and helpful (or helped).
Filter their feedback
Filtering feedback is super helpful. Not because you want to drown out the people who disagree with you, but because some feedback won’t be relevant.
Some people may try to turn your blog post into what they would write. Unless it’s their name on the byline, or it won’t get published without their feedback being taken onboard, it’s up to you what feedback you listen to.
Is their feedback logic or fact-based, or is it opinion-based?
Logic or fact-based feedback might ask you to expand on something because you haven’t gone into enough detail (remember: there’s no such thing as too much detail), or finding more sources to reference.
Opinion-based feedback is usually things like, ‘I don’t like this, rephrase it’. It’s even worse if they don’t say why they dislike it. A general ‘feeling’ that something is wrong isn’t helpful or constructive. You can’t fix something based on that. Ask them why they dislike it if you get feedback like this—it could be that it’s just not how they’d phrase it, so it sounds off to them.
If someone says a sentence is long and unreadable and needs rephrasing, that’s very different. If that’s the case, try reading it aloud and see how it sounds. That will help you to work out if it really does need changing or not.
Make some more changes
Now is the time to make your changes based on the feedback you received in the previous step.
You may want to take a couple of days between reading the feedback and making the changes—if you have it—so that you have time to digest it.
Receiving feedback isn’t always easy, so extra time to digest can help you to see it more objectively instead of taking it personally.
You don’t have to take all of it on board, but it’s worth considering as much as possible. Your aim here is to write the best piece you can, after all.
Put into WordPress or whatever platform you use
If you’re writing for someone else, you may not even need to do these last few steps.
If you’re writing for yourself, you need these steps.
Once the text of your post is finalised, it’s time to add it to WordPress. There used to be issues copying and pasting from Word to WordPress, so if you’re on an older version it’s worth bearing that in mind, but as far as I know, that’s now been fixed.
Formatting is when you make sure your post looks great on your website.
You could shorten some more sentences or paragraphs to really emphasise points or ensure they look better on mobile, add all your H2s and H3s, and add ALT tags to images.
Remember to include a couple of images to break things up, too. This makes it easier on your reader’s eyes.
Social media sites will grab the first image on your page if you haven’t specified a social media image, so be sure to at least have a featured image for your post.
Aaaand you’re done! It’s time to hit publish 😀
Doesn’t that feel great? Knowing your writing is out there in the world, waiting for others to read?
BONUS: Submit to Google
You don’t have to do this step, but it can speed up how quickly you rank in search engines. The smaller your site, the more important it is that you do this.
Head to Google Search Console and paste your new blog post’s URL into the top bar. When it says it isn’t indexed yet, click ‘Request indexing’. Wait a couple of minutes for it to add it to the queue, then you’re done!
Writing a great blog post is about so much more than what you want to write about. It’s not just throwing ideas on to the page (although you should definitely do that during planning), it’s about communicating your ideas in a way that your audience understand.
An effective blog post helps your audience solve a problem in a way that holds their attention. The best way to do this is to make it readable, lean in to your voice, and cite your sources.
The more posts like this you have, the more you’ll attract repeat readers who also share what you’ve published with their network. That sharing is key—that’s what grows your authority and your readership. And brings you more business.