Bleh-ging. I mean, blogging. You know you need to do it for those SEO juices and thought-leadership and whatnot, but unless you’re one of the lucky few who love writing, it’s a pain in the ass. And sometimes, despite knowing enough about a topic, you simply might not have confidence in your own writing ability. Or worse, you try to get it out of the way and end up writing for the sake of writing - even if it's on a topic your audience may not find value in.
To avoid wasting your time either staring at a blank paper or writing content no one cares about, approach writing a blog as a step-by-step strategic process. Break it up into three main steps – research, conceptualize, and of course, the writing itself.
Do Your Research – Even if you’re an industry expert
Some may tell you that the best thing to do is to just start writing, and the words will just flow naturally. But that’s usually how you run into roadblocks or worse, end up writing a piece completely irrelevant to your audience and industry. To avoid that, take a step back and look into the following areas before jumping right into it:
SEO: First of all, does anyone even care about the topic you’re writing about? Are there sufficient monthly searches for the keywords that surround the topic you’re targeting? You may think that a particular topic is something people would care about, but if the SEO research doesn’t agree, it’s time to pivot.
Industry and topic-specific: Go wide, and then deep. Before writing on a particular topic, make sure you understand how said topic fits into the context of the industry as a whole. For instance, if you’re writing on how to outsource production to China, it might be helpful to understand the current trade landscape and economy of China. Once you gain an understanding there, you can dive deeper into topic-specific Google searches.
Competitors: Look at direct competitors and industry leaders. What are their takes on the topic? Have they thought about topics and angles that you may not have? Scrolling through their content might spark new ideas as well.
Target persona(s): Think about who you ultimately want to sway. For example, is it a project manager who makes decisions based on budgets, or is it an engineer looking for the latest and greatest industry solutions?
Your company: You’ll also want to conduct a content audit of your own library of blogs. What areas have you already covered, and in what areas might you be lacking? What topics are doing well? What aren’t? What stances do you take as an organization when it comes to your topic?
Conceptualize – You've done your research, now what?
It’s time to pull all the research together with the goal of potentially identifying whitespace, or finding ways to make already talked about topics better. Think of it as brainstorming based on facts you've collected. Lay out the facts in a structured manner so you can actually make heads or tails of them:
Break them up: Let's say you're writing a blog about the college admissions process. Organize your research such that you're looking at each step of the process, or each admissions criteria individually.
Identify the white space: Looking into those subcategories individually, determine if there are any that lack content, or that lacks quality content.
No white space? Make better content: So you've found that your competitors have already covered everything under the sun. Instead of getting buried underneath their sea of content, leverage your research to differentiate yourself. Perhaps come up with an FAQ edition of college admissions where you tackle areas students often struggle to comprehend by providing in-depth, yet consumable information on said areas. Don't use the proliferation of content out there as an excuse not to write.
And Now, the Writing Itself
Now that you have armed yourself with all the information you could possibly need, the writing simply becomes a process of transcribing (as opposed to trying to hit that word count).
Outline and draft: Just like we did in school, map out your introduction, main points, and closing, making sure to include key research findings. Once happy with the structure of your outline, you’re finally ready to build out the content into a full-fledged blog. A few things to keep in mind when writing:
- Avoid walls of text and never-ending sentences: If you wouldn’t stop to read a giant wall of text, neither will your readers. Break up long paragraphs and sentences by incorporating white spaces where possible.
- Keep it simple: Bounce rates are at an all-time high. Readers visit a page, scan for what they came for, and if they can’t find it almost instantly, they move on to another page. For that reason, don’t use convoluted language, don’t make readers work to find what they came for. Lay it all out clearly – use sub-headers, incorporate bullet points, use graphics if it helps get the point across more quickly.
- Incorporate links: Link to credible sources where relevant. This will not only optimize for SEO purposes, but also increase the user experience by pointing them to useful information. Don’t think about it as diverting your reader away, think about it as helping them find what they’re looking for.
- Include images: Don’t go crazy, but depending on the length of the blog post, drop in 1-3 relevant images to break up all those words.
- Grammar check: Bad grammar and spelling can undermine great content. They are also the most easily avoidable mistakes. Grammarly is a writer’s best friend.
Review: Look back to your research. Does the final piece incorporate your key findings? And if possible, have an objective person review your work. Ideally, it’d be a person who understands the topic, but if not, provide sufficient context so he/she knows what to look out for.
Publish and promote: After making final tweaks, you’re all set to publish your blog. Don’t forget to promote it through social media, email, or other means.
These steps might seem to be over-complicating the blogging process but remember, without doing your due diligence, you might be writing content that either very few people or no one cares about. Also, if you go at it systematically, it becomes less of a pain in the ass, and more of a simple step-by-step process with guaranteed SEO benefits. I leave you with this - don't blog just for the sake of blogging.