How to plan, write and format your blog content
I've written before about how to decide whether your business needs a blog or not, so I thought this time I would move on to the details of how to write great content for your blog (once you've decided to set one up!).
I don't do this at the same time as writing a post. This is reliant on a random creative burst that happens spontaneously and all at once, often while I'm in the middle of something else. If a good idea comes to me, I try to capture it in my Trello board as soon as possible before I forget!
If I've run out of ideas (and the illusive creative burst hasn't happened in a while), I will visit some of my favourite websites for inspiration:
Once I have my topic ideas ready to go in Trello, I'll schedule when I want to write and publish them, and write a brief outline (usually in bullet point format) in the card description to make it super easy for me to get started when I come to sit down and write.
I've written about using Trello as an editorial calendar before, and I just love this process because I can do it using the app on my phone (even if I don't have internet, I use my Notes app to write an outline, or even a full post if I'm very bored... public transport anyone?), and it gets the first hurdle of writing over and done with so I can get straight on with writing.
Unless I'm writing for my Cornish blog, which is just about my life and whatever is in my head most of the time, I always need to do some kind of research. I also write for a couple of technical companies, and a couple of other very niche animal-related ones, so they require more research than this blog here for example.
I'm a totally paperless gal, except when it comes to research. I have to make notes by hand or else it won't absorb into my brain!
For me this is the most tedious part of blog planning/writing; usually I'm all about visuals but finding and creating good, relevant, and unique blog imagery is actually very hard. If it's a very niche or technical topic, it can be near impossible to find relevant photos, in which case it takes time to create a custom graphic.
Many of the posts I write are 'how to' or 'guides' too (especially on this blog!) where I need to screenshot my actions step by step. It's worth it in the end but the process is incredibly dull... like being in school where you have to show all your workings and steps for an exam or essay.
heading & subheading crafting
The title of a blog post is super important - I don't just slap any old thing up there! It needs to be attention-grabbing without being misleading, and informative without being boring. I usually write out a selection of 3 or 4 title ideas before I settle on one.
If you're using WordPress you can actually use a plugin to A/B test your blog post titles and see which get more clicks, helping you to craft great ones in the future!
Once I have written a title and have structured my subheadings I will actually get down to writing the blog post! You would have thought this would be the key step in the process, but actually with all the preparation beforehand, it doesn't take long at all.
At this point I will insert all the images I have sourced and generally make the post feel good to read by splitting up paragraphs, adding bullet points, and bold/italicising phrases to stand out.
Optimising for search engines
I always make sure I have a keyword or phrase in mind before writing a post, and will usually have thought through this at the preparation/outlining stage. I will write a subheading so that it is formatted as a Heading 2 tag (<h2>) and make sure it includes my keyword/phrase in it.
As well as this, I make sure my post is structured using Heading 3 tags (<h3>) for further subheadings, and will add descriptive Alt Tags (aka Filenames for Squarespace users) to all images.
Call to action
I have to admit I find call to actions quite hard to come up with for this blog, unless I'm evidently promoting a service. I'll usually settle for asking readers a question!
preview & spell-check
Once I've written and formatted the post with images and everything, I will give it a read through and check for any glaringly obvious spelling/grammar mistakes.
Sometimes I will include a 'Click to Tweet' quote in my blog posts if I think people will really connect with a quote and want to share it; this involves creating a graphic and setting up a Click to Tweet link.
I'll also scan through my post to find opportunities where I can link back to previous articles I have written. This is really important for my bounce rate and making sure visitors stay on my site, and it's also great for SEO!
If I'm feeling really fancy, I'll put in the extra work and create an 'opt-in' freebie, such as a template, worksheet, or PDF guide. It takes time to create and set up for my email subscribers, but it can be really useful for my readers and a great way to increase sign ups!