Latest posts by Ahmad Imran (see all)
- How to Choose a Chromebook? 7 Key Factors to Help You Decide - February 13, 2017
- Huawei Honor 8 – Strengths and Weaknesses Reviewed After 45 Days of Use - February 3, 2017
- Your Blog Needs an Ideal Visitor Persona (Sharing 3 Examples I Use) - January 22, 2017
Crafting a “quality blog post” is every blogger’s need and desire.
I am sure that if you have been blogging for a certain period of time, you must have tried to improve the quality of your blog post articles in this period – to generate more impact and increase your reader’s engagement.
Let me tell you that it is a skill that takes time.
Never think that you will master this art in a matter of weeks or even months.
It is a constant learning, practice and most importantly, the refinement which should be implemented with patience and persistence. The good news is that anyone can do it as long as they have a firm belief and vision for it.
It doesn’t happen haphazardly though, you need to be planned and disciplined over a long period of time. You need to have a strategy in place and then a commitment (resolve) to master it.
I am sure that if you are reading these lines, you are keen to develop this skill and want to be a better blogger.
Well, you have landed on the right article. When you finish reading it, I would have given you enough food for thought to go away, think and take an action.
If you genuinely want to write good quality blog posts, the rest of this article will help to achieve this objective.
Table of Contents for Quick Navigation
Why These 7 Steps Specifically?
Since the start of my blogging journey in mid 2014, my only qualification in the world of writing is a repository of about 200 articles which I have written on this platform. And a very few others which I have written for other blogs.
I am not saying that I am perfect, in fact far from it.
But I strive and aim for the best.
During all this time, my attempt has been to observe what works and what doesn’t. I want to learn good practices, apply them and analyse the results. I have watched and closely analysed the big players (reputable bloggers) in this time and have learnt from the content they produce.
Jon Morrow, Sonia Simone, Neil Patel, Darren Rowse, Demian Farnworth, Jeff Goins, Kevan Lee and Jeff Clear to name a few. Of course, there are many others who I respect and learn/inspire from on a regular basis but will never be able to include the full list here.
I am going to share this learning with you today.
“A 7-step process from idea creation all the way to publishing an article and then updating it for future revisions. Something that I practice myself on a daily basis and aim to become good at.”
I didn’t start this quest to master the art of writing engaging blog posts with these 7 steps in my mind.
In fact, I started with a blank slate.
Over the period of two and a half years, I have tweaked and adjusted many aspects of writing blog articles. I started with writing below-average blog posts but gradually worked my way up to improve the quality. I am still learning but have come a long way already.
The interesting fact is that no matter what I did to create a blog article, all my tasks and activities always fell into these 7 broad headings – hence the 7 steps. They became so ingrained in my blogging process that I decided to formally put them in writing and share them with you.
I am not saying that you have to follow this process “word for word”.
The objective is to give you a framework to think about and apply in your own circumstances if you agree. Obviously you can tweak this system to make it work in your situation and circumstances.
I will aim to keep this article up to date as I go along my blogging journey and acquire new knowledge and skills. So bookmark this article, use it and share it with others who you think can benefit from it.
Don’t forget to share your views and thoughts at the end of this article in comments.
Let us dive straight into the first key step in producing an effective blog post – the why and what.
Step 1 – The Why and What
Jim Rohn, a world-renowned business philosopher and personal development expert said, “When the why is clear, the how is easy”.
Simon Sinek’s famous golden circle starts with the “why” as well.
Starting with a “why” helps you to decide “what” and eventually “how”.
Step 1 is all about selecting a topic to write about. This foundation step should be based on a solid “why”. You should be absolutely clear about why you have selected a particular topic to blog about.
As a blogger, the topic you are choosing and going to write about should come as a result of a need and a purpose. Not only should it fit in your bigger picture “blogging” but it should also satisfy the need of the moment to express your views about a specific blog topic.
It should serve its audience and help them. In other words, you feel that your words are needed to fill a gap. What you have to offer is required and there is nothing else that can match it.
Your circumstances might be different to mine but in my case, the topics (categories) I blog about are clearly defined on my blog. Then, within those topics, I have a set (ish) schedule to write about the sub-topics. I normally have a list of ideas already cooking in the background (through my journal). Out of this list, I pick up at the final moment the “idea-to-write-about” and start writing.
I suggest you to set up your own mechanism to keep this “topic creation” factory in running. It is important that as a blogger, you don’t run dry of topics to write about.
Here are the 3 key ingredients you need to factor in as overarching requirements:
1) Belief and passion in your ideas and hence the topic in hand.
No matter what is the nature of the blog post, you should have a faith that your point of view has a standing and has an ability to make your reader think and feel touched. You should feel excited when you think about writing your next blog post.
2) Fitting and appropriate for your blog and your target audience.
In our busy lifestyles, no one wants to consume and engage with information which is not-focused, on-the-tangent and sidetracked. Make sure that what you write about is well-wrapped in a laser-focused title (catchy headline) and the structure of your blog post.
3) You have plenty and useful to say about the topic.
I am not saying that you should write like Wikipedia but I must stress the importance of writing with authority and detail if possible. I agree that these come with practice and time but make sure that you are not heading for a thin and superficial blog post article. Internet is full of those and people have a general tendency to ignore them.
In essence, get your “why” and “what” aligned and clear before you even sit down to write your first word for the intended blog post.
Yes, there are circumstances where you can just write freely and without any heading in the mind. After all, you are a creative writer and can write about anything, anytime. But for most of us bloggers, it is best to be generally focused, know your intent, define your purpose and then write with your ideal reader in mind.
Congratulations, you are ready to dive deeper now.
At the end of Step 1, you clearly know what to write about and more importantly, why you are writing about “a specific topic”.
The net result is that you write an initial (working) “headline” for your blog post. This initial headline may change or get tweaked later on but at this stage, it is a written confirmation of your intention to write about a particular topic.
Step 2 – The Skeleton Fix
Don’t meander and hence don’t waste your own and your reader’s time.
Defining the structure and organisation of your write-up will help you to write better and with more influence and punch. If you are not clear in your mind about the logic and flow of your article, never expect from your reader that he will guess and make it work.
In fact, he will press the “back” button and leave if he is not kept engaged and flowing with the interesting information.
I am not saying to write in a fix and standard format, something like an intro, body and then conclusion. Only you are the best judge of how you want to structure your article. It could be anything as long as it makes sense and you have a reason to do it that way.
Have a look at a couple of examples (variations) below about structuring your article:
- The verdict first with clear intention and purpose. Give a list of reasons or facts in the middle to backup your verdict. Finish off with a call to action or something for your reader to think about.
- Open it up with a story or research data. Tell your reader why you think it is (or it is not) correct and finally, ask for their opinion and views.
There is always more than a single way to share your views and cover your topic. Be innovative, experiment and spice up your blog post’s structure and navigation.
Get a piece of paper and pen and write down a few subheadings.
Don’t bundle up a lots of information under one heading. Try to break up the things and give your reader more sub-heads to scan and filter through your blog post.
“It is a harsh reality but a reader today is busy. He normally scans or skims through your article searching for a specific set of information which he thinks is most relevant to his needs.”
By giving your blog post a skeleton and framework, you are effectively giving your reader a better chance to find their relevant information. Don’t underestimate the power of your reader’s “engagement” and “user experience”. Your aim should be give him all relevant sub-topics he might be interested in knowing.
Writing sub-heads is an important element of creating an engaging blog post. Gary Korisko in this article on Smartblogger has given us a wealth of information to write irresistible sub-headings.
You have just completed the second step.
You have now got a topic to write about and a list of subheadings (and sub-subheadings if relevant). You know exactly what you are going to write about.
Your mind is focused on key areas which all form a perfect sense if read as a continuous article.
The next stop is “writing”.
Step 3 – The First Draft
Forget “blogging” for a minute.
You are a writer now. You need to think, act and believe like a writer.
This is your chance to spill the beans.
You have already defined your boundaries in steps 1 and 2. There is a minimal chance now that you will write something which is off-topic and not-relevant.
It doesn’t matter if you take a day, two days, a week or even more to write in this step. All it matters is that you don’t leave any stone un-turned.
It is best if you leave nothing in your mind and heart about the topic in hand. Put it all down.
Don’t worry about the word count.
Don’t worry to write something which won’t fit in the final picture. We will cover this in the next step where you will take care of the non-important information and how to get rid of it.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes.
Don’t worry if you are not sure about any particular point or issue.
Just keep writing and put your points down. Remember, no matter how technical the writing is, at the end of the day, writing as a whole is a creative art. And to help the creativity to guide and assist you, one needs to let it loose. Let your creative juices flow and you will be surprised how much information you can write if you let the inside of your writer to take control.
I am going to share with you my top 3 tips to write fearlessly to produce impressive first drafts.
- Start calling (and believing) yourself a writer/blogger. It first happens in your mind before it takes the physical reality in the outside world. Never underestimate the importance of affirming to yourself that you can do it and you are in a process of mastering the art of writing.
- Read more to write more. You can only produce words if you consume words and increase your level of awareness and understanding about your topic. Reading (quality information) is critical if you want to be a great blogger/writer.
- Set up a routine to write. Remember writing and blogging are like muscles, you develop them with practice and putting them to test regularly. Set a target for yourself, write 500, 750, 1000 or even more words every day if you can. If you can’t write every day, it is not a problem, try every other day or at least twice a week.
See below the 10 rules by Demian Farnworth for Copyblogger to create first drafts for your blog posts. Rule no. 4 is my personal favourite.
Jeff Goins in this article has explained his thought process about writing “first drafts”. Have a read if you want to dive deeper and understand the anatomy and function of writing first drafts and why they are so important.
Step 4 – The Chop and Change
Your work is not finished yet.
Writing is not just putting your words down and thinking you are done.
You have to put your “editor’s hat” on now – a critical step which makes or breaks your finished article.
It is a luxury if someone can edit and proof-read for you but if you are a blogger like me in your early career, you are the editor as well. Be critical and go through your full write-up and carry out the following 4 main tasks.
- Get rid of the sentences and paragraphs (and even sub-heads) which sound not-fitting, duplicating or repeating the same intent. You can merge the things in one place and avoid repeating them in different parts of the article. In essence, be brutal to your first-draft and remove anything which you feel sidetracks your reader.
- Remove fillers and fluffy parts. Be straight, bold and direct to your reader. A clear writing is more effective, engaging and proves that you have authority and command over the topic. Don’t leave your reader in a grey area. Try to make the things black and white for him if you can.
- Restructure your blocks (paragraphs, topics, sentences) if you need to. Sometimes a certain piece of information is better fitting in a different place but still within the article. Don’t be afraid to refine the flow of your blog article by cutting and pasting the different blocks within the article.
- Add more text and information where you feel you have left gaps in the overall reading structure.
As a result of this exercise, I don’t know if your article increases or decreases in word count. In my case, it always increases (which is strange). Even after removing some information, I still find gaps which I need to fill in with extra information and hence an overall increase in word-count.
But don’t be surprised or worried if your initial 3000 words article is now trimmed down to 1800 words. This is what you call it as editing like a “pro”. It is an important step in the writing process. The overall effectiveness of your blog post depends heavily on it.
Shane Arthur for Smartblogger has written this super-useful article on how to edit your blog post like a pro with simple tips and tricks to give you an action plan.
So you have just finished the step no. 4.
Your blog post article now reads better, flows better and most importantly, it does not waste the time of your reader. It keeps him on the track and feeds him with the enough and right amount of information in a logical sequence.
Deep inside, your reader is thankful to you for providing him the desired information through your blog post.
Step 5 – The Final Fit
Editing does not stop at step no. 4.
There is a second part of editing as well.
I call it the “final fit”, which is like polishing and shaping up your article for final presentation. Lots of bloggers underestimate the importance of this step. I discourage you to do that.
When you are new or even a few years into your blogging and writing journey, your blog visitors will judge you on your appearance, presentation and formatting/design. Make sure that you tick this box big times so that you don’t give them any excuse not to trust and read you.
I am a WordPress user and this is the step in which I bring my article to the WordPress environment. There are a few technical details you need to look after in this step. Let me give you a list of expected activities and you will get a flavour.
- Make sure that the overall structure, layout and formatting of your article is in line with your blog’s overall design (and style guide if you have one).
- Make sure that all internal and external links are properly set up, displayed and fully functional.
- Make sure that the basic (and advanced) SEO parameters are ticked. It is beyond the scope of this article to dive deeper into good SEO practices but it is worth considering and including at this stage.
- If you are using images, graphics, videos or any other form of media in your blog post, make sure that it is formatted, well placed and free or errors and inconsistencies.
- Look out for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sentence structuring. Again I will not dive down into details of how you do it but there is a plenty of information available for you to consider.
At the end of the day, your blog post should feel like an article which is well-crafted and polished before putting it in front of the world.
Treat your every article with respect and pride. Present it to the audience in its best shape and you can only do that if you care for details and presentation.
You never know who is reading your words on the other side. Always put your best foot forward and give it the full respect and time that it deserves for final edits.
Don’t rush it just because you want to get it published. Resist the urge.
Go into “preview mode” several times and see how it is going to look like in the published state.
You article is nearly ready to publish.
Just one final step to follow before you hit publish.
Step 6 – The X-Factor
You have been through 2 rounds of editing already and you might be thinking that your article is ready to be published.
And I am dragging it unnecessarily.
But I am not.
This final step (X-factor) is something which I feel close to my heart. I believe that internet today is so full of mediocre content that if you are not careful, there is every chance that your article will suffer the lack of readership and engagement from the audience.
You need to avoid this situation.
You need to make it stand out.
You need to make sure that the blog post you have written and edited has that special quality (X-factor) built into it which can pull your reader. It can touch the heart and mind of your ideal customer (reader) and then influences him to take an action.
Whether that action is to sign up to your email list, leave a comment, share your article with others or just plain bookmarking your blog for future visit, the nature of “call to action” does not matter. What matters is that your article and writing has forced the reader to think differently.
And this different and out-of-the-box thinking and approach is what I call as the X-factor.
Make sure that you go through your article again at this stage and ask yourself the following questions:
- How is my blog post different and unique from millions of others and why should my reader go and read my blog post as against several other options?
- At the end of reading this article, will it leave my reader touched and influenced?
- What can I add/remove or change at this stage to make my blog post truly different and stand out from the crowd?
If in answer to any of the above questions, you come up with an idea or two to include in your article, do it.
This is your chance to make a difference.
“Experiment, innovate, try and excel. Opportunities belong to those who look for them and act at the right time to try and grab them.”
If you want to rise and shine as a top writer and blogger, you need to think more and more about the X-factor in every single blog post that you write and publish.
I am not telling you what that X-factor is precisely. Yours could be different to mine. And only you can determine what you have to polish and bring out in your article as an X-factor.
Once you have done this check, hit publish.
Don’t let the article sit in your drafts or procrastinate.
It is the time to show the world your creation and offering.
Step 7 – The Update
Don’t be a victim of “publishing and forgetting”.
I have seen excellent blog posts and write-ups suffering the problem of “outdated and inaccurate” due to passing of time.
Think 6 months, 1 year, 2 years or even more down the line.
For a brand new visitor who has come to read your old article, he still expects you to give him a fresh, up to date and most accurate information that you can.
You need to have a plan of action in place to constantly review, update and maintain your old blog articles as a strategic activity. Things do change and an article which you have written with great detail and love, in a few months time, will need your love and attention again.
It will need you to review it, go through it again and see if there is anything that you can amend in it to bring it up to date and accurate in current date.
I treat this content update strategy as an integral part to writing and blogging.
I am approaching the 200 mark with my blog post articles and I have a comprehensive database (spreadsheet) of all my articles which I have written to date. I regularly review this list, assign revision priorities to different articles and then do regular updates to my already-published articles.
I encourage you to do that as well.
Blogging by nature is harsh. What you wrote a few months back has a general tendency to go out of shape, old and outdated if you are not careful. If you write about super-evergreen niche, then you might not need as many updates but for everything else, you will see that things change and your words will need changing too.
The point I am making is that don’t let your efforts and smart work dilute with your lack of maintenance and overall vigilance. Think bigger picture. Use your every single blog post as an opportunity to build the trust and readership. Give your readers the best you can.
Treat updates with equal care and attention as you do with your fresh blog posts.
How Do You Aim to Write a Quality Blog Post?
So you have read the details of the 7 steps that I follow to bring you blog posts like this one.
I want to know what do you think.
Can you relate to my logic and sequence and where do you do things differently?
Remember, there is no absolute right and wrong in writing and blogging. We only strive for small improvements and tweaks one at a time to improve our overall blogging experience. It is these little improvements which make us a better writer and blogger in the long run.
So think, analyse and come up with your own action plan to be a blogger who writes remarkable articles which are unforgettable.
What would you like to add?
Is there anything that you do differently which is worth sharing with other readers here?