This post is based on Episode 186 of the ProBlogger podcast.
I’m often asked how I write a blog post. What does the process look like from start to finish?
ProBlogger readers and podcast listeners have asked about where in the process I do specific things, such as writing the headline and the introduction.
In this post I’ll take you through exactly what I do so you can use my process (or your own unique twist on it) to make creating content much easier.
And this doesn’t apply to just blog posts. You could use the same process for creating YouTube videos or podcast episodes.
Step #1: Pick a Topic
The first step is pretty logical: pick a topic.
With my blogs – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School – that normally means identifying one of these:
- A question one of my readers has
- A problem one of my readers is trying to overcome
- A task someone is trying to complete
- A goal someone is trying to achieve
You may have already thought about some of these if you read my alternative take on New Year’s Resolutions for your blog.
My blogs teach people how to do things. Ninety-five percent of my posts are “how to” content, so I always start with one of these. They generally define the topic of my post.
If you have a different style of blog (e.g. it’s about entertaining people rather than teaching them), you may have a different process for coming up with topics.
Step #2: Think of the Reader
While my topics tend to come out of readers’ problems or questions anyway, at this step I take a moment to imagine my reader’s situation.
As a blogger, you’re so much more effective if you write with your reader in mind.
I’ve covered how to create a reader avatar before, so if it’s something you haven’t done you may want to take a look at these:
- How to Create a Reader Avatar for Your Blog (a blog post with lots of examples and downloadable template)
- Two Questions to Ask to Help You Find Readers For Your Blog (a podcast episode that covers creating reader avatars)
During this step, I write down a sentence or two about who my reader is and how they view the topic I’ll be talking about.
For instance, if I’m writing about a problem I might think about:
- Why does my typical reader have that problem?
- How do they feel about it?
- What have they already tried to overcome it?
- What’s stopped them from solving it in the past?
When you put yourself in your reader’s shoes, you can write your article with real empathy and make your post truly relevant to them.
At this point, I’m also thinking about what I want my reader to do after reading my blog post.
It’s really important to think about your call to action before you start writing. It will shape your headline, your introduction, how you write the main part of your post, and how you conclude it.
Step #3: Create a Working Headline
Some bloggers like to write the post first and then come up with the headline (the title) for it. And I totally understand that perspective because it’s what I used to do.
But what I like to do now is come up with a working headline once I have the topic and the reader perspective.
Creating a working headline sometimes helps me come up with a unique angle for the post.
For instance, I might have an idea for Digital Photography School on how to light a portrait. I’ve done the work understanding my reader: they’re a beginner and they don’t have much lighting gear.
So when I brainstorm headlines I might come up with “How to light a portrait using lights you find around your home”, or “How to light a portrait when you only have one flash”. You can see that just by selecting one of these headlines, I already have a much clearer idea of what the post will be about.
But it’s important to understand this is just a working headline (or a working title if you prefer). Once I’ve written the post I’ll normally go back and tweak it a bit. And sometimes while I’m writing I’ll realise that I need to change that headline a bit.
Step #4: Brainstorm and Outline the Post
At this point I list the main points I want to teach someone in my article. (You might come at this from a different perspective if your blog doesn’t focus on “how to” content.)
I don’t write a lot here. Normally it’s just a list of bullet points in a document on my computer, in a notebook, or as a mindmap.
As I do this, I brainstorm answers to the questions or solutions to the problem I identified, outlining the steps the reader needs to follow to learn a new skill or master a process.
It’s like coming up with the bones of the post. I’m not looking to add any muscle at this point.
The bullet points I create often become subheadings in my finished post. By coming up with the main sections and then sub-points for each section, the post begins to come together.
At this point, I often have more points than I’ll use in the finished post. So I cull the weaker or less relevant points and focus just on the most valuable things I want to say.
Once I’ve got those points, I take some time to arrange them in the best order. I don’t think many bloggers do this. But taking a moment to think “Is this a logical order? Are my points building upon one another?” can make a real difference to your finished post.
Step #5: Take a Critical Look at the Outline
With the outline finished, I ask myself some hard questions such as:
- Will this post really be useful to my readers?
- Will someone have a ‘fist pump’ moment when they read it, or just say it’s okay?
- Is it meaningful? Will it change someone’s life in some way?
- Will people still have questions after reading the article? Do I need to do some more research to address them?)
It’s important to ask these questions now, rather than after you’ve finished writing the entire post. That way if you realise you do need to do more research (or that it was actually a weak idea for a post), you’ll be prepared for it.
You might want to invest some time in research. Or you might get help from an expert by either interviewing them or having them write a section of your post.
Step #6: Write the Introduction
Some bloggers prefer to write the rest of the post first and then craft the introduction. But writing the introduction upfront works best for me. It helps me get into the flow of my post.
As with the headline, the introduction often shapes the direction of the post itself. My introduction is usually one to three paragraphs long. But again like the headline, I go back to rework the introduction after finishing the post.
As you write the introduction, think about the reader and their situation, question or problem. Show them you really understand how they feel.
If you can show some empathy in the first few lines of your post, you’ll make a deeper connection with your reader. And they’ll want to read the rest of your article.
This is also a good point to paint a picture of how the reader will benefit from reading your post. What will they be able to achieve (or what will be different) after reading it?
Step #7: Expand on the Main Points
With your outline in place, expanding on each point to create the main part of your content is quite straightforward. You just need to put meat on the bones you’ve already come up with.
As before, keep your reader in mind while you write. What worries do they have? What might they be confused by or wondering about at different points in your post?
If you need help with specifics on writing the main part of your post, you might want to check out some of these posts and podcast episodes:
- How to Use Lists Effectively in Your Blog Posts
- 10 Writing Tips to Help You Sound More Human (a podcast episode)
- 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational
It’s probably clear by now that I write my articles in the order they’ll be read: the headline, the introduction, then the main part of the article. For me, this is really important.
Step #8: Write the Conclusion and Call to Action
Good blog posts have some kind of conclusion. I create this after writing the main part of my post, and generally try to sum up what I’ve taught the reader.
I’ll return to the problem or question I set out in the introduction, and remind people what I’ve tried to teach them. I’ll also summarise the main points.
After that, it’s really important to give readers something specific to take action on. Go back to whatever you identified in Step 2, and clearly state what you want them to do next.
It might be encouraging them to try out the technique they’ve just learned, or to leave a comment or interact in some way.
Don’t give them several different things to do here. And make sure your call to action flows from the goals of your blog and this particular post.
Step #9: Add More Depth and Appeal to the Post
At this stage of the process, I look for things I could add to make a post even better.
For instance, I might look for:
- A story or anecdote I could include
- An image that would complement the post
- A relevant YouTube video to embed
- A chart or graphic that illustrates a key point in the post
- A quote from someone else
- Ways to make the post look more attractive to read
You could even consider interviewing someone else to add their perspective into your post, even (or especially) if they provide an alternative viewpoint.
This step is about making the post better and deeper, and making sure it looks good with plenty of visual interest.
Step #10: Edit and Proofread the Post
In this final step, it’s important to go over your post one final time to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes or typos.
For me, putting a bit of space between when I write and when I edit is really important. I think we use different parts of our brains for critical thinking about editing.
I talked about editing in detail in Episode 168 of the ProBlogger podcast. So you may want to check it out for a detailed look at the seven steps for editing your work.
The last thing you want is to undo all your good work with a post that’s riddled with glaring mistakes. Quality control really matters, so make sure you build in enough time to edit and proofread.
You could also get someone else in to help you at this stage of the process. It could be a fellow blogger who you swap posts with, or a professional editor or proofreader.
A Quick Summary of My Process
Here’s a quick recap of my blog post writing process from start to finish:
- Pick a topic
- Think of the reader
- Create a working headline
- Brainstorm and outline the post
- Take a critical look at the outline
- Write the introduction
- Expand on the main points
- Write the conclusion and call to action
- Add more depth and appeal to the post
- Edit and proofread the post
That’s my workflow. But I’d love to hear about yours. Maybe you have an extra step, or do things in a different order. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
Regardless of your workflow, it’s important to pause along the way and be reflective. Keep coming back to who’s reading that content: the reader with the questions, problems and feelings. If you can show you understand them, you’ll create a real sense of connection.
So don’t just think about creating content. Think about crafting it, and taking care and time to make it the best it can be.
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