If your secret dream is to create blog posts that nobody remembers or feels compelled to share, then you’ve landed on the wrong post for today. Also, the wrong blog. Also, the wrong brand/profession for yourself. But moving on.
As a part of the Grow Your Blog Traffic with Social Media experience (an eBook + workbook + community), a few of us are writing posts on some of our blog processes (I’ve linked to the others at the bottom of this post). I wanted to tackle one of the questions I hear most often:
How do you create posts that people want to share?”
Well my friends, I follow the blog post template below–and yes, it’s totally an image you can pin + save, but I also expand on it below the graphic. The template applies to almost any blogger who blogs on almost any topic; the tips and processes below this template apply best to information givers (coaches, DIY bloggers, and those trying to teach or help others understand something better).
Okay, now let’s break down the process of writing informative blog posts that grow our blog traffic into seven steps: (1) Plan it. (2) Create it. (3) Edit it. (4) Prettify it. (5) Publish it. (6) Promote it. (7) Permanent it. P.S. Permanent is a verb now. You didn’t know?
Step 1: Plan it.
For a truly epic post, you’ll spend a large chunk (if not the largest chunk) of your time in this step.
My planning involves five things:
- Figuring out the question I’m answering with my post.
- Brainstorming all the baby questions that go into answering the bigger question.
- Deciding the format I want to answer the question in–which is based on what’s best for others and what I’m comfortable with doing.
- Determining if there are any resources or additional pieces of content that need to be created for, modified for, or linked to this post.
- Creating an epic outline that organizes information into an order people will want to consume it in.
Figure Out the Real Question
Just for a moment let’s look at the art of writing effective, share-worthy, and epic blog posts in the same way we look at doing some serious problem solving for your teenage daughter. I don’t have a teenage daughter so this is pure speculation, but just roll with me.
Life is over Dad. I’m so mortified. OMG. I need to transfer schools. How do you transfer to a different school?” says the teenage girl.
As the father in this situation, you probably have enough sense to know that there’s a 100% chance life is not over. And there’s a 99.7% chance your daughter does not need to transfer to a different school. But, how would you go about solving her problem, how would you go about getting the real story out of her and helping her with the actual issue?
Well pops, let me tell you–you’re going to do it the same way us bloggers can go about building the most epic blog posts ever–by figuring out the real question people need answered. If we could turn on adult subtitles to the dramatic movies that kids sometimes are (sorry kids, but you do speak a different language at times), then what the girl actually might have said is:
Dad, I’m so discouraged. I’ve tried to get along with that mean girl Regina at school, but nothing seems to work. Should I continue to try or is it that time in life where I need to learn that everyone is not going to like me and sometimes they’ll have no good reason?”
Just to clarify, I was not a mean girl in school. Regina, please, we’re waiting on the tie-in.
Fine, I thought my story was amazing, but I’ll move on. In order to write an epic blog post or solve a dramatic problem, you must answer the real question, and you must answer it as a series of baby questions (broken down as clear steps // or perhaps information that builds on the previous pieces of information) that lead people to a conclusion or breakthrough. So:
When you hear your audience ask “What’s the best platform for a blog?” . . . or, “Which one is better: WordPress or Squarespace?”
Translate it into what they might actually need to know, “What’s the best platform for a [insert type of blog] that I’m using to [insert goal of blog]?”
If you don’t have audience questions (from friends, family, or readers) for a particular topic, but you still want to write about it:
Ask yourself, “How would I approach this from scratch now that I know more about it? How would I have wanted this broken down for me when I didn’t know jack about the topic?”
Brainstorm the Baby Questions
Now that you have your real question, break that question down into mini-questions (what’s the first step? why does this matter? what do I do next?) to organize your thoughts and begin to get content for your outline. Think of the questions someone might ask you in real life if you were teaching this topic to them, and think of the questions you’d need to ask them in order to help them. So in our “What’s the best platform for a blog . . . ” example, we might want to know:
- What level of coding experience do you have?
- Will you need to set up a shopping cart on your site?
- Will you be maintaining the site or will someone else do that?
- And so on . . .
You’ll notice that oftentimes these questions become the sections/headings of your blog post in some form or another. Ex:
- Step One: Figure Out How Much Coding You’re Comfortable With
- Step Two: Figure Out What Features You’ll Need on Your Site
I’m srrrrrious. Baby questions or sections will help save you so much time as you fill in the post. They will help you create things that delight your audience.
This is how serious I am about brainstorming and outlining (see images below from my Instagram account). I don’t think the other people at the café got the memo that it was “Bring Your Own Poster Board to the Coffee Shop Day” . . . weird.
As you can see, I use note cards that I can move around a bunch when I’m deep into my brainstorming. What do you use? An app? A white board? One of those cool glass boards that the FBI agents always have in the movies?
Decide the Best Format to Answer the Question In
I tried to write a post the other day that was going to end up as 5,011 screenshots, then I got the brilliant idea to just record a video. Duh. What format makes the most sense for your audience, for you, and for the topic? Should it be a mix of media sources and types of content?
Determine Whether or Not There Are Additional Resources to Develop or Content to Create
- Would worksheets, guides, or graphics (like the blog post template in this post) give your audience more value and excitement?
- Are there some products you can develop that would complement your post?
- Are you brainstorming the post and realizing that some of your baby points are actually posts of their own? There was one time I wrote a post on 33 Ways to Get Serious About Blogging, and seven of those ways needed their own post–so I wrote and published those (ex: Blog Business Plan >> Ideal Reader Survey >> 10 Ways to Make Money from Your Blog) before I published the original post I wrote.
- Have you checked the 12 main types of blog/brand content (in The Guide to Creating a Stellar Content Plan: here’s a free section, here’s the whole thing for sale) to make sure you won’t need to develop anything else for this post: An email to your list? Some new social media templates? A new icon/image for your sidebar? Etc.
Create an Epic Outline
I either use note cards, a poster board, or Google Docs during this stage to create my outline. I’d recommend writing down points, anecdotes, or examples you don’t want to forget to use in each section. Also record any affiliate links, other blog posts to link to, or monetization opportunities that you don’t want to forget.
Step 2: Create it.
Now it’s time to fill in your post. Answer each of the baby questions you formed and fill out your blog post with simplicity and fullness (the same way you would want your own questions answered).
So, to expand on the blog post template at the beginning of this post, your:
- TITLE should explain a benefit of reading, intrigue your reader, and make it clear what your post is about >>> all without over-promising (I don’t believe you’ll make me a multi-millionaire in a month), sensationalizing too ridiculously (no, everybody at the company you hate is probably not a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins), or boring us to tears (“How to Sharpen a Pencil” is not as cool as “How to Sharpen a Pencil with Your Mind” . . . wait . . . did I once say something about not over-promising stuff? I can’t remember.)
- INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH should contain some keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes and a sense of direction OR your personality and a story. Make us like you. Make us want to continue reading. No pressure, right? Just be your natural self, while also trying to think like your ideal reader–it gets simpler over time. You likely won’t feel the same about blogging as you do now when you’re 20 posts out in the future.
- BLOG POST HEADINGS are important for SEO and for your readers. Headings (like the “Step 2: Create it.” above) help people break up your text, stay on track, know what step they’re on, and feel like their questions are being answered. Also, headings look nice.
- USE OF BULLETED LISTS makes you look organized and helps your audience digest all the epic information you’re passing out. Also, bulleted points in a blog post just look nice.
- ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO TAKE AN ACTION helps your post be more memorable. It helps people get more value and causes more people to want to share your post because they feel their friends and followers will get value too.
- ADDITIONAL GRAPHICS will cause people to retain more information from your post and they will give people more images to pin and share on social media platforms they love.
- LINKS will give you the opportunity to direct people to other related content on your blog and on the blogs of others. Internal links (to your site) typically increase the amount of time readers spend on your site. If you have a single post up on your site that isn’t linked to another one (provided the link actually makes sense), then you’re likely missing out on the opportunity to draw readers deeper in your web of awesomeness.
- DOWNLOADS OR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES are your opportunity to really stand out in your reader’s mind. You mean, you did all of this for me, for free? << Great reaction. You mean, this is like every other post on the web about this same topic? << Craptacular and undesirable reaction.
- TAKEAWAYS, QUESTIONS, AND CALLS FOR COMMENTS can be your place to genuinely leave a lasting impression or take your epic helpfulness further.
Step 3: Edit it.
- IN YOUR HEAD. I imagine that’s how most of your audience will read it. Does it flow?
- OUT LOUD. See how it sounds.
- BACKWARDS. Sentence by sentence. It’s painful but much easier to spot errors.
- AFTER A BREAK. Edit it after you’ve been away from it for a while.
- WITH HELP. If you’re not super fly at editing your own stuff, or if you really need to spend your time doing other things, consider hiring a skilled friend, virtual assistant, or freelance editor to edit your content.
Step 4: Prettify it.
Time to add a/an:
- ATTRACTIVE MAIN GRAPHIC: I’m not gonna lie, I usually make these first because the graphic (like the one with the pineapple at the very beginning of this post) helps motivate me. It’s a picture of the finished product in my mind, so it keeps me going. With your main graphic, whether it’s a photo, or a drawing, or an image you make from scratch in Photoshop, I recommend including your post title, your domain name, and at least one of your post’s benefits to your reader. These will help your post get read, shared, and loved.
- SET OF CONSISTENT DIVIDERS, ARROWS, OR OTHER GRAPHICS: You can add other small elements that break up the post and make it look simpler to digest or just better in general.
- CONSISTENT FORMATTING STRATEGY: Do all your numbered points appear as a certain size text? Do you use bolding and italics consistently? Do all your big quotes or takeaways have the same visual style?
Step 5: Publish it.
Don’t skip this step thinking “Oh yeah, everyone knows how to publish a post.”
Before you hit the “Publish” button, consider:
- the time of day, day of week, season, etc., and make sure it’s the best time for your audience
- whether or not you have time to respond to comments that day
- whether or not you have images and promotional materials (Step 6 below) ready for that post
- whether or not there is another post that makes more sense to be published before the one you’re on
Step 6: Promote it.
When we’re first starting out, we probably don’t have 5.7 million people tuning in for our every tweet, or selfie, or breath, so what’s a blogger to do?
Honestly, ask your personal connections for help, use #hashtags, join online communities and events, and make nice on social media. You can also consider paying to boost your Facebook posts or promote your page as well as looking into paid options on Pinterest and Twitter.
In addition to the options above, your efforts might consist of:
- scheduling the promotion of your posts on your multiple social media channels
- designing images optimized for each platform (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)
- choosing your words carefully and differently for each platform
- using non-social media methods to promote your posts (an email list, guest posts on other sites, commenting on other blogs, collaborations, blog directories, and social media communities or other online events)
Step 7: Permanent it.
If you want this to be a truly flagship, epic, foundational, super-shared post on your site, then you need to “permanent” it >> this is a verb I invented yesterday to mean “make a lasting impression out of” or “help stand the test of time” . . . and you can do this with your posts by:
- scheduling out regular future posts on social media (I use Buffer and Hootsuite); you’ll likely forget to tweet about that one post in two months, but will that one post still be relevant to your readers?
- creating a baby image or link to the post in your sidebar
- adding the post to your “Start Here” page or on other static pages of your site
- going back to previously published posts and adding a link to your current post where logical, applicable, and helpful
Don’t fight yourself. My two-part experience with this is: (1) fighting myself on length–I wanted to keep my posts short like so many bloggers that I loved, but it just wasn’t me–I want to give you the full picture in the way I’d like it given to me, and I literally don’t think I’m capable of short posts; and (2) I often sit down to write a post titled “How to Do [ABC] Without Breaking the Bank” and what keeps coming out in each paragraph is “Why [XYZ] Will Change the Blogging Game Forever and How to Take Advantage of That” . . . they’re just two different posts. Write the post that wants to be written.
If I could say only three short things to a new blogger, I’d say >> Love your readers fiercely. >> Write the post that wants to be written. >> Break any rules that don’t benefit your readers.
Now. Here are posts from some of the other lovely people in the Grow Your Blog Traffic Community:
- Stephanie (one of my favorite people) talks about How to save time managing your blog–tips and tools.
- Colleen (of LemonThistle.com) shares amazing tips on how to get your images blog ready.
- Kelita talks How to Use YouTube for Your blog and business (how to drive traffic).
- I’ll be adding the other links soon.
Love y’all. Now hop to the comments (pretty please) and tell me about a rule you break regularly or one you’re going to start breaking so that your readers can benefit more.
Photo: Eduard Bonnin