Written by Matt Charney
Blogging is a fact of life in the World of Work these days. Whether you’re guest-posting to create “expert status” in an industry, creating a showcase for your work as a jobseeker or you’ve just been tasked with managing or creating the corporate blog, chances are no matter your position, you might be asked to write a blog post one of these days. Fortunately, if you understand just what blogging is, or isn’t, you’ll be able to come up with a polished, easy to read piece that will ultimately serve your professional purpose.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a writer to blog, nor do you need to actually have anything new to say. After all, you’re creating digestible content that’s probably going to get skimmed – that is, if anyone actually reads your stuff (and chances are, they won’t, at first…particularly if it’s a corporate blog).
But if the fact that blogging does take time and often lots of effort doesn’t dissuade you, or if your solipsism is sated by any byline, here are 10 steps to creating a blog post:
Creating is the imperative word here, because the more writing you do, the more time you’re spending. And in that spirit, on to the list:
1. Choose A Keyword: Many assume that it’s imperative to choose a topic to blog about. This adds an unnecessary level of complexity, because topics imply expertise or personal investment, and almost always more than 500 words to fully flush out. Keywords, on the other hand, are single words or phrases that are effective simply through repetition – and search engines reward keyword density. This is a fancy way of saying that the only audience that really matters is, in fact, an algorithm.
The most effective way to find a keyword is to use Google Insights (because, c’mon, even Bill Gates doesn’t use Bing) and looking up the highest impact, lowest competition search terms. These are constantly in flux, so it’s nice to verify how well these keywords resonate by cross-referencing their frequency on Twitter.
You will quickly see that an article on Justin Bieber is going to have more impact than, say, if you were to post the cure for cancer, but remember: When it comes to blogging, it’s not about what you want – it’s about what the people want. And turns out, it’s generally the lowest common denominator. This means that if you’re tasked with the job of actually having to blog for business, you’ll need to figure out a really creative way to incorporate current events, celebrity gossip, or relevant industry happenings.
Which might explain why so many editorial calendars essentially overlap the Gregorian one.
2. Choose A Number: Now that you’ve got a topic figured out, you’ve pretty much added the noun to the Mad Lib that is the blogging genre. Now, it’s time to pick a number, preferably a multiple of 5, or the number corresponding to the current calendar year. The lower the number, the less you have to write. That’s right folks, lists are wildly appropriate here. Think of the cover of your favorite magazine, chances are there’s a list on the front cover.
3. Add The Phrase “How To”: Remember, blogs aren’t designed to get people to actually think, only give the illusion of intellectual edification, kind of like Sudoku or majoring in a liberal art. And they want advice, not opinions. This is why the phrase “How To” is a blog title’s best friend. Okay, to back up the snark a little bit, the truth is you need to show people how to do what you’re actually proposing. Taking your post from the vague and abstract into the actual functional steps helps you, and your readers.
4. Choose A Verb: Because every complete sentence needs a verb. This is a good place to work in some buzzwords, like engage, or innovate or lead. And while it’s not covered by Strunk & White, the correct tense when creating a blog title is always the present – mostly because action verbs make for more effective tweets. Passive voice is rarely an option, unless you’re already a thought leader.
5. Combine Steps 1-4: The formula is simple: How To + Verb + Number + Keyword = good blog title. For an example, see the really big, bold text at the top of this story. You know how they say math is a universal language? Well, in this case they’re right. Of course, not every title or headline needs to be this formulaic but when you’re stuck, it’s a huge help.
6. Write A Specious Lead: The eye is naturally drawn to white space, a phenomenon well understood by effective cinematographers, bloggers and segregationists. That’s why you shouldn’t think of your audience as readers, because most will avoid any text block and simply scan for bolded text. With more and more content on the web competing for space in the readers’ mind, it’s important to dice your content into easily digestable chunks. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your premise, it simply means you should highlight the areas that are especially important.
7. Create A List: Lists are the best way to work in a bunch of bolded text without anyone being aware that you’re essentially psychologically manipulating them. The exact number of your list should correspond to the number you’ve selected in step two, but don’t worry, you can always change your number if you have too much or not enough content.
If that number is less than 10, you’ll need to craft some copy to accompany the bolded text so that people know you actually put some time and thought into this post, even if they don’t have time to fully process it at the moment. Be thoughtful of your readers and give them a way to save your blog post for later, ideally with a share button or a service like Paper.li, Storify or Read Later. This is a great place to use the keyword you’ve identified in step #2 to help boost SEO.
If the number is greater than 10, people will assume you’ve put so much time into putting the list together that it’s OK if you don’t have any copy to accompany it, but you’ll likely need to lay off the bolded text in favor of white space. But that’s OK, because people are more likely to scroll down with their cursors than scroll across with their eyes.
8. Add Quotations and Links: “This not only helps free up space, but also gives the illusion of external expertise, even if there isn’t one present,” according to a completely arbitrary source that you’ve never heard of. But that’s why you add links, according to blogger Zahid Lilani, who we hadn’t heard of before Googling “Linkbacks in Blogs.” Lilani’s post, 5 Simple Ways To Get Linkbacks for Your Blog, is the top ranking result, and proof that he probably gets the concept – and the numbered list formula for blogging success.
Then, add some links to your own blog posts – but not too many or people won’t click on them, which is the entire point. And don’t worry, the internal links you use don’t actually need to have anything to do with your selected anchor text. While these tips might seem a bit tongue in cheek, it is good form to link to others in your field and attribute properly to give your original premise some weight, not only in the mind of your readers, but in the search engine. After all you want people to start associating your name and company with the subject in question. As an added bonus, the more you do this, the more you will learn, not only about your industry but about the comaprative players in it.
9. Insert A Picture:: Worth a thousand words (and one trackback, courtesy of blogforprofit.com.). A visual to accompany your post is invaluable, not just for the SEO boost (remember to properly title that sucker) but because many people think visually. It’s an easy step to forget in a busy world and navigating creative commons can be a little tricky, but it’s worth it.
10. Add A Quick Conclusion:: If you don’t have anything profound to add in your wrap-up, consider saying something snarky. After all, that’s what’s referred to as “having a voice.” Although as this list should demonstrate, that’s pretty overrated. Okay in all seriousness, writing one blog post is easy. Writing several, week after week? That can be difficult. Setting a humorous or at least approachable tone is recommended, particularly if your subject is difficult to understand or replete with buzzwords. I hope this post will help when you get stuck.