I am a huge fan of blogging as it’s a great way to give to the community, or in my case, give back to my community. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to get started in writing your post. I would like to share my process on how I write a blog post, I welcome your feedback and input on how you think about blogging as well.
This is part 2 of my series. Check out part 1 here: Should you even blog?
What are you writing about?
Your “what” should align to your “why” as we discussed in my last post. Depending on your “why”, your “what” may vary greatly. Because my “why” is rather generic, my biggest challenge is finding my “what”: a topic to write about.
My “what” goes in waves: sometimes I’ll get a good topic here or there or a topic that can span into a series of posts. Finding a topic to write about has been the toughest part. If you don’t have a topic, then there’s nothing to write. Use your experiences in life, in and out of your area of focus, to help think up topics. I’ve started to collect ideas for posts and now have a backlog of ideas that i can draw from.
Generally, you’ll write a post about something you are already familiar with or recently learned. If I remember correctly, I have written posts on topics I was learning about just for the post, but I can’t remember which posts those were (I’m so old…). Writing benefits me a lot, and I think it will help you too. Writing helps me ensure I have my facts straight (almost every post has some level of googling to discover, refine, and confirm my content), I’ve thought through all the angles (my way isn’t always the only way), and am bringing a clear and concise topic to you, my reader.
Find your “what”. Your “what” doesn’t have to be entirely fleshed out, just enough for you to know, “Yes, this is what I want to write about.” My backlog of ideas is just that: ideas. They’re 1-liners I think might be interesting to share on my blog.
Now that you’ve got your”what”, who’s the “who”?
Who’s going to read it?
Knowing your audience will drive your writing, content, and detail of the topic.
Let’s take food recipes as an example. I love to cook and I’m searching for recipes all the time. I come across a post that has the recipe for the cajun shrimp and grits I’ve been looking for. That’s their topic: cajun shrimp and grits. There are fundamentally 2 different types of recipe writers out there: those who share the recipe, and those who share the story. Those two styles are targeting two different audiences. I am in the audience that just wants the recipe so I can save it in my app and get shopping and cooking. I never read the story. My wife loves the story, she’s in the audience of those who read through the heart of this recipe. Two different audiences, two different styles, two different pieces of content, one topic. And neither is wrong.
For most topics, thinking about the audience is critical, especially in the business and technology space.
One more example: creating a React Native (RN) app (which I’m currently doing, more posts coming soon). If I don’t think about the audience, I may just write about how to get started, working with styled-components, AWS Amplify, how components look and act differently in RN vs ReactJS, etc. If your eyes are glossing over, then this is too technical for you and you’re not in my audience. If you’re enjoying this and can’t wait for me to actually write it, then you’re in my audience. But what if I wanted my audience to be you, the glossy-eyed business leader? My post should take a different spin. Instead of getting into that level of detail, I should keep it higher level, maybe talk about when you should consider a mobile app versus a responsive website, why React Native over XCode, how to up-skill your teams, etc. Same topic, two very different audiences. Both are right. What’s great about blogging is we can do both! I like to start with the higher level view, and then provide the deep dive for the more technical folk.
Be mindful of who you want to read your posts. As with everything, this too, can change overtime. As you grow and mature, your writing might too, along with your audience. Be intentional and purposeful in who you want your audience to be. If you’re not sure yet, google your topic, see how others are writing about it, what audience are they targeting? Do you want to target the same or someone different?
Once you know who, let’s get to writing! In my last post I mentioned writing a few posts to test out the process and if you like doing it. Don’t be afraid to cannibalize those posts as you rethink your audience.
What’s the story of your post
What’s the story you’re going to share? I don’t mean an actual story, like a piece of fantasy or sci-fi, but what’s the story you’re telling your readers? What’s the flow, how will you start and complete your topic. You don’t want random thoughts on your page, in random order. That gets very hard to read. Instead, you want to drive the conversation in a specific direction and reach an outcome.
I accomplish this by thinking about the end, first. What do I want you to know after reading this post. Then I back out from there and think about what I have to say, and in what order, for me to reach the end. I work this in an outline format. Take this blog post you’re reading right now, I started with a rough outline like:
I start with the major bullets as the main points of the story. There should only be a handful of these. Don’t worry about phrasing yet, write what helps you remember what you want to say here.
Then go deeper, fill in next level of bullets, as seen in the above image. Again, write notes, not the actual blog post yet, don’t worry about wordsmithing perfection yet.
From here, you can do a couple of things:
- Review your story and flow at a high level. Does this make sense? Are you missing anything? Should you remove anything? I find keeping it high-level like this allows me to ensure my whole story is attainable and it quickly identifies gaps that I may have. This is usually when I decide a post might serve better as a series instead.
- In this format, it’s easier to share with others. You can easily copy/paste this outline into an email or Slack and get feedback pretty quickly on your direction of the content. I did this for this and my last post (and my next post) and it helped me direct my content a lot.
If you’re happy with it so far, keep filling it in. You can start at the top, middle, or bottom, up to you and however you mind thinks. Just write. Keeping the entire story in mind, you can jump around area to area and fill in what you know now, off the top of your head, and then get further details later on what you need to.
As you near completion, make sure to read it end-to-end in one sitting, as most of your readers will do. Make sure the story is there, its cohesive, and flows well. Keep iterating on it until you’re happy with it.
What about search engines (SEO)?
Who cares? Just kidding. Being found in search is a huge factor for blogging. Some companies blog just so they can be found in Google. Blogging is a great source of fresh content that Google will just eat up. SEO is a bigger topic than I can jam into this post, so in my next post, I’ll have my good friend and digital marketing genius Lewis share his thoughts on proper SEO for blog posts.
My big tip: just write like humans are reading it. Google knows better.
Special thanks to my good friend Lewis Forman, digital marketing strategist and guru, for the following guidance!
There are other things to consider as you’re writing your post and hoping to show up higher on Google’s search results. Does my title contain the topic term? Do I mention that term a few times in the post? These are the simplest things you can do as you write your post, as these are natural ways of writing that we’ve learned since being a kid.
Here are a few others:
- Title your posts with the subject keyword included. These are a main source of search engine algorithm juice and helps their bots index your page for their search results.
- Don’t go crazy on stuffing keywords into your post. It’ll make it clunky to read and ruin the narrative flow. Google knows when you’re doing things like this.
- Use secondary titles within your posts. I use questions, as you can see above, to separate each section. These secondary titles, which most blogging platforms will do, become secondary header tags which search engines love.
- Think how your audience may search for your topic. Gone are the days of using one/two word search phrases. Users are now using questions and/or multiple keywords to find a particular bit of information. What do you do when someone asks you a question? You provide an answer!
- Most importantly remember that blogging platforms have SEO built in and can do a lot of things in the backend to make your posts SEO friendly for the search engine bots. If you’re blogging for a large company, reach out to your marketing team as they may have someone who has a decent knowledge of SEO best practices for what you’re trying to accomplish for your company.
After you publish, share your post!
- Make sure the link to your post has keywords in it too. Doing something like “click here” works, but doesn’t tell Google much. Something like “click here to learn about blogging” is just as user friendly and has a keyword or two in it.
- Share your link on sites that relate to your content. In the software development space, that can include subreddits, StackOverflow, Twitter, etc. Don’t spam, no one likes it. Share when it makes sense and it can benefit others. Google will pick up your links on these other sites and the more people visiting your pages the more important Google thinks it is (I think, no one really knows Google’s magic).
All done? Not yet! Get it reviewed
If you’re fairly new to writing, or been around the block, I suggest getting someone to read your post. I don’t do this often enough, but anytime I do, I love it (thanks again, Lew). Have your mom read it, colleagues, your high-school student, anyone. Can they get through it, does it make sense, are there typos? Your goal is to get a second set of eyes on it just to make sure it’s coherent and there’s no obvious issues.
I also like to step away from the post for a few days and come back in fresh and reread it. Let it get out of your head, try to forget what you wrote, and then read it from top to bottom. I usually find a few small oddities in grammar almost every time I do this.
Finally, publish your post
Once your post is ready to go, go publish it out! Where? Great question. There are great options for hosting your blog. In my next and final post of this mini-series, we’ll talk through publishing your blog on a platform.
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