If you are new to online content writing or you’ve been writing for a long time but want to get back to basics, this 5-stage blog writing tutorial can help you out. From planning to sub-editing, we’ve got you covered.
Blog writing tutorial, stage 1: Plan to win
As the saying goes, success is all in the planning. If you have a content writing brief that covers everything it should then you can probably skip this section, but if it’s somewhat lacking (most copywriters know this is something that happens to the best of us!) then you might need to consider the following before you put digital pen to paper.
Know your target audience
The first thing you need to know is who you are writing for and who is (hopefully) going to read your blog post. Some marketing agencies like to break this down into detailed audience data profiles with percentages, graphs and a whole lot more. But, if you’re going it alone and don’t have that data to hand then having a general idea of who you are writing for is better than nothing.
For example, the target audience for this blog post is freelance writers, copywriting students or anyone that is about to start writing a blog post.
Research your publication
It’s also important to have a look at other blog posts on the site that you’re blogging for in order to get an idea of the tone of voice, style of writing and also to make sure that you’re not re-writing a topic that has already been covered.
Know how you want users to convert
Before you start to write, it also makes sense to know how, in an ideal world, you would like your readers to convert reading your blog post. What is the desired outcome? Maybe this will already be laid out in your brief but, if not, a couple of the most common call-to-actions are newsletter signups, contact forms, click-throughs to another page or social media follows.
Define your keywords
SEO is one of the main reasons most companies now have blogs. Choosing the right keywords is therefore very important if you want your blog post to be seen, read and generally do what it’s supposed to do. Unless you’re an SEO executive and copywriter in one or a small business owner going it alone, usually, keywords will already be provided if they are expected to be included. For that reason, we’re not going to say too much more about them here.
If you need to pick keywords then Google Keyword Planner is the industry-standard tool.
And, if you’ve got this far in this blog post but realised that you have no idea what SEO content writing actually is, then read this post: What is SEO content writing?
Blog writing tutorial, stage 2: The bare necessities
Now that you know what you’re writing and who you’re writing it for it’s time to get going. This is when you can start to make a framework for your article. It’s really easy to go off on a tangent when writing a blog post and get to your deadline only to find that you’re not even halfway through (and have spent the last hour or so waffling on about something irrelevant). Making an outline for your article can help you avoid this.
Choose a catchy headline
The headline and header image are the two things that a potential reader will look at before deciding on whether or not to click on your blog post, so it makes sense to put some thought into them. For SEO purposes you ideally want to get your keyword in there, too. The type of headline you choose should be suitable for the publication you are writing for and in line with their tone of voice. Five tried and tested formats are:
- The listicle: 5 ways to write an awesome blog post
- Question/solution headline: How do I write a blog post?
- The how-to: How to write a blog post that people actually read
- The attention-grabbing headline: Your blog post sucks and this is why!
- The celebrity/influencer headline: This is how (insert name) gets 1,000 Insta followers with every blog post
Here is an article with more helpful headline formulas.
Make a blog post outline
Think of this as the skeleton of your article. You need to lay down the bones before you flesh it out. Apologies for the grim analogy but we couldn’t think of any other way to put it. You will need:
Conclusion and call-to-action
Do your research
The amount of time you spend researching your topic will depend on how familiar you already are with it. If you don’t have time to spare then a quick Google is still mandatory and make sure that if you only look at a couple of sources, they are reliable and come from industry leaders.
Blog writing tutorial, stage 3: Fill in the gaps (the writing part)
Now it’s time to put pen to digital paper.
There isn’t really any way to teach someone how to write, you just have to turn your computer on, sit down, start typing and hope for the best. Sometimes it can help to take the pressure off and try not to worry too much about what you’re typing. Remember: you can always go back and change it and delete bits at the end. So just take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and let it flow…
Link to other sites
Unless you are writing an opinion piece then you need to back up your copy with sources. External linking is also important for SEO, this is why. So, after you’ve finished filling in the gaps, if you haven’t already done so along the way, remember to add hyperlinks!
Add internal links
Adding internal links is also best practice for writing online copy. Try to add links to other relevant blog posts or landing pages that are already live on the site that you are writing for. You can read more about that here.
Keep your paragraphs and sentences short
Most people just scan and skim-read articles. That’s why it is hugely important to break up your text into easy-to-digest chunks. The optimum paragraph length for online copy is around three or four sentences. In addition to your subheadings, bullet points and numbered lists also help to break up the text.
Blog writing tutorial, stage 4: Optimise for SEO
Write a meta description
If you don’t know what a meta description is then read this.
Meta description lengths can vary depending on a number of factors, Google also likes to keep people guessing by changing the length every so often. It currently stands at around 156 characters.
You can use handy free tools like this one to preview how your title tag and meta description will look on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Check keyword usage
Once you’ve written your blog post, it is a good idea to check keyword usage. Ideally, your keyword should make up about 2-3 per cent of your copy. There are lots of great tools online for checking keyword usage such as the Yoast plugin.
Add H2 tags
Depending on your preference you can either work from a template that already has header tags or you can add them at the end. Some writers prefer to add them at the end to keep the Word doc as clean and uncluttered as possible when writing. If you’re new to SEO then the idea of HTML tags can be quite daunting. However, for simple things like header tags it really is very easy!
If you’re not uploading the copy yourself then generally speaking, as a copywriter, you will only need header tags.
Other simple HTML tags that are good to know are header 3, bold, italics, bullet points and the HTML to insert a hyperlink.
Blog writing tutorial, stage 5: The finishing touches
Images aren’t really a finishing touch so to speak. For online copy, images are as, if not more, important than the actual words themselves. But generally, it is easier to add them at the end.
If you have the budget for professional images, then sites such as iStock and Shutterstock are amazing. However, if you are writing an article without a budget, there are some great free stock image sites, too. A couple of our favourites here at Copify are Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels.
Craft a call-to-action
Your call to action is where you try to convince your reader to make a conversion. Try to make it short, snappy and direct and avoid overly cheesy, sales language unless that is what the publication you are writing for usually uses.
Sub-edit your blog post
Nobody wants to read an article full of typos and spelling mistakes. Sub-editing your copy doesn’t need to be as laborious as you might think. There are now loads of great apps like Grammarly which will basically do it for you if you pay for the premium version. The basic version is pretty good too for spotting obvious errors.
Have someone take a second look
You should always get someone else to look over your blog post before it goes live. Even highly published professional writers do this. No-one is perfect and it is unbelievably easy to be blind to your own mistakes when you have been staring at the same text on a Word document for an extended period of time.
When it comes to writing a blog post, practice makes perfect. If you want to have your blog posts written by professional bloggers, why not sign up to Copify? You’ll have access to a jobs board where you can choose from a range of different writing tasks with clear briefs and full support.