Writing a blog post or article that really resonates with your readers – and hopefully goes viral – is the goal of every website and blog owner. However, this is not always so easy to achieve, especially for people for whom writing is not their strongest suit.
Even if you’re not Ernest Hemingway (and let’s face it, who is these days?), you can still craft a rock solid piece that does its job – identifies with readers, informs and engages them, and calls them to action – by following these 6 simple but powerful steps.
An undervalued aspect of writing a successful blog post or article is knowing what material or subject is going to intrigue readers. Great writing demands cultural, social, and industrial knowledge and awareness—you need to be aware of current trends and debates in your field, predictions of the future of your industry, and of new industrial and professional developments. Being a successful blogger or writer requires that you read and ponder, that you seek out information as much as you create it.
Only by being informed and by carefully considering your field can you develop your particular voice and opinions, and how those differentiate you. It is one of the keys to writing an article that will turn heads and provoke discussions.
The next step to creating a winning article or blog post is to outline your writing points. In the same way speech writers outline their talking points, you’ll want to structure each topic and sub-topic that you plan on discussing in the article before you actually sit down to write the meat of the piece.
Once you have your outline, you’ll be able to see the general flow of the article and decide if you want to add or eliminate any topic. At this point, when you take the time to flesh out each point in the outline, you’ll be laser focused on what you want to say. You’ll skip over the musing and rambling, both of which can potentially cause readers to lose interest, and get straight to the point.
Your introduction is the first thing readers will see when they click on your article or blog post. It’s critical that your introduction not only entices your audience to keep reading, but also gives them an overall sense of what the piece will be about. Spend some time thinking about your introduction and how you will “hook” readers in so they’ll want to know more about your topic and what you have to say.
This is also the place where you have a call to action (CTA). If you want people to click on another article, call your firm, purchase a product, or complete any other action, the conclusion is where you’ll prompt them to do so. You want to make sure your article flows well into the conclusion and that the CTA is enticing enough that readers are actually prompted into action.
The most common mistake people make is not setting aside enough time for their writing. They assume they can whip out a few blog posts in an hour or two, and are shocked when two hours later, they’re halfway through one. Such is the case with stellar content – it takes time to produce. Assuming you’re in the business of writing quality content and not just churning out skin-and-bones copy, you’re going to want to set aside plenty of time in which to get “in the zone” and find your writing sweet spot.
Another mistake that bloggers and writers tend to make is they believe they can write with distractions. It’s important that you not only set aside time to write, but that you also set aside space, both mental and physical, to write. Whether you’re in a home office, a coffee shop, or the library, a key to writing effectively is ensuring that you are in a physical space that promotes creativity and focus. Writing on your couch with your laptop in your lap while watching television (or your kids) isn’t the best way to get yourself into the right headspace. Making writing a routine by setting aside an hour or two each day, and reinforcing that routine both personally and with others, can also make the creative process much smoother.
Taking the time to produce high quality content will benefit you and your site in the long run by inspiring more attention and respect.
Quite possibly the most important step of all is to thoroughly proofread your work and make edits accordingly. We all like to think we can edit as we write, but the truth is there are going to be mistakes you miss. It’s a fact of life and the sooner you accept it the sooner you can get down to business and improve. Making mistakes in your writing doesn’t make you a poor blogger or writer, but not taking the time to look for your mistakes and fix them certainly causes your credibility to suffer.
A good but tedious way to catch mistakes is to print your piece and read it aloud to yourself to hear how it sounds. Silly as this may seem, you’ll find that you catch quite a few errors this way. Also, try not to edit immediately after you’ve finished the piece. Come back to it a couple of hours, or even a couple of days, later and start the editing process then. You’ll find that returning to it after the content has left your mind gives you a pair of “fresh eyes” in which to scrutinize the spelling, grammar, and flow of your piece.
As writers, we never really can get our own work polished to that perfect shine independently. It must be some awkward universal law that we’re going to miss a few of our own mistakes, even when they’re simple grammar or spelling errors that are glaring right at us.
A good rule of thumb is to proofread and edit a second time. Never submit your work without editing it first, and don’t be foolish enough to think one round of editing is going to cut it. If you’re striving to create a really solid piece that stands out from your competition, you’ll want to give the editing process more than one try. Sometimes a piece might require three or four editing passes before its allure becomes apparent. That’s okay. It’s a part of the process.
One great way to edit your piece is to have someone else do it. No, you’re not shirking your work off onto some poor, unsuspecting soul. Writers tend to miss their own mistakes, so a second set of eyes is highly valuable to you. Email or print your article or blog post for someone else to read and ask for some feedback. Don’t just ask them to look at grammar and spelling – find out if there are any points that are unclear or if there are problems with the flow of one section to another or within a paragraph.
Don’t stress if some of these steps take longer than others, or if these steps don’t always flow the same way each time you write. Each article or blog post will be different, and the creative process will be different for each piece. But it is a process—writing is as much work as it is fun. It takes time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and doubt to craft a successful article and blog post. If you’re willing to put in that energy and that devotion into your blog or website, every finished piece will bring you a satisfaction that can’t be matched.
Your audience will take note. They’ll come to see you as someone with unique ideas and engaging content. They’ll come to see you as an authority.
Writing can be brutal, but it’s equally beautiful. Take the steps to share that beauty with the world.