Having a blog on your company website increases the likelihood of your site receiving more traffic – fact. We all know this, and yet how many business owners are professional writers, publishers or journalists? When did selling and distributing specialist gardening equipment mean you had to be able to create a 500-word article from scratch each week that would be informative and inspiring, educational yet entertaining?
Being tasked with the weekly blog post can seem intimidating when you haven’t written at length for a while, yet blogging can be one of the most interesting aspects of your online business.
The hard truth is that inspiration often doesn’t happen on schedule (annoyingly, good ideas tend to arrive when you are dropping off to sleep!) so we have to apply a systematic approach to creating an article.
A Word about Style
Many people are put off writing because of traumatic memories of school essays, but blog-writing need not be academic. Luckily, you’re not writing for your English teacher any more. With many short attention spans out there, you need to think about making your blog post accessible.
If you are writing for a specialist audience, it may be appropriate to use industry-specific language. Generally, it is best to use everyday language people can relate to.
Creating a blog post
Moving on to tackling the blog piece, we have highlighted seven key steps which, when followed, will ensure you avoid the typical pitfalls of publishing online content.
1. Choose your formula
There are various structures you can opt for as the blueprint for your blog post, for example: the listicle, the interview, the how-to guide and reviews.
Decide which “formula” best suits your purpose and use this as the basis for arranging your content in a readable and easily-digestible format.
Choosing a post formula saves you hours of agonising to come up with a composition. In addition, it helps keeps your text on topic.
Now you have to investigate your topic. Choose your sources wisely, making sure the individuals or companies you reference are reputable. Opt for research sites, news publications and professional bodies’ sites where possible.
Check and double check quotations. Read the words the article actually says rather than what you would like it to say.
Credit your sources where you have quoted them or used their research. Do not attempt to pass other people’s words off as your own as this is plagiarism.
3. Draft the post
Now you have some idea of the direction of the article, you can begin to put the words together.
This stage should be enjoyable as you can allow the writing to flow before editing it later. Don’t worry about your turn of phrase at this stage; the important thing is to get the words, any words, onto the screen.
With your structure in mind, list the headings in your document and fill in the paragraph text underneath. This method allows you to compose the sections in any order you like. If you are working on one part and then get stuck, you can move onto writing another and know you are still making progress.
After you complete the first draft, close down your laptop, get a cup of tea and do something else before you move onto Stage 4.
4. Redraft and redraft
This is where the real work begins! Professional writers love writing the first draft, but often find the ensuing versions headache-inducing.
At this point you have to be brave and review your copy. Read it back to yourself and be honest. It probably won’t look as great as you remember. Don’t worry, this is normal.
- Take the article line by line. Cut down your long phrases into two shorter sentences if necessary.
- Are you repeating words? Replace overused words with synonyms.
- Have you got two words which mean the same thing such as “tired and fatigued”? If so, remove the surplus vocabulary.
- Do your sentences flow or does something jar, causing you to re-read any part? Consider rephrasing if this happens.
- Are there any more words you can cut out? Keep reducing your word count to make the article succinct.
You’ll know when the article is about right. A good question to ask yourself is “Am I enjoying reading this?” If you feel good, then the piece is definitely coming together.
One final check is to read it aloud. This uncovers many stumbling blocks you won’t have noticed otherwise.
You will kick yourself if you forget to, so use the spellcheck function to correct any obvious mistakes. Because spellcheck doesn’t always point out homophones (words with the same pronunciation, such as “there”, “their” and “they’re”), you can use the “Find” function in Word (Control + F (PC)/ Command +F (Mac)) to check for the right variation.
6. Get a second pair of eyes
Scary, but essential! Having someone else read over your work is daunting, even for those of us who write every day. Yet it is better to have your colleague point out a mistake than to have a customer notice it instead. Or worse still, no-one tells you about it but people read your blog and find it unprofessional.
7. Time to Publish!
Now the written piece is in hand, you can pay attention to sourcing images for the banner or for in the body.
Copy the text into your content management system (CMS), format the headings, add the links and finalise the images.
Don’t forget to choose a category and include some helpful tags so your article can be found in searches.