Writing a blog post for the whole world to see can be intimidating, to say the least. By putting your words out there for the public to read (and judge) you are taking a risk, but the rewards that come from that risk, well, those rewards can be tremendous.
To tap into those rewards, though, you need first to get words on paper (or screen, I suppose). So how do we go about organizing our thoughts and information we collected from conducting research?
Start with an outline
Remember back in English class, when you had to write a paper about the Flying Spaghetti Monster (yep, my instructor was an odd one) or Odysseus or a Shakespearean play? The first thing the teacher always asked for was an outline. He or she would want to know what you were planning on writing about before you put pen to paper.
Creating an outline may have seemed tedious and boring back then, but there are some good reasons for it:
- Focus – Stay on topic and give the reader exactly what they want.
- Flow – Organize your content in a logical order so readers can follow your train of thought more easily.
- Balance – Make sure you are placing adequate emphasis on each point and providing substantial support.
- Completeness – Ensure you hit all points and sub-points that you want to cover, and fill in any gaps.
By starting your first draft with an outline, you’ll greatly increase your chances of creating a piece of content that people actually want to consume.
The first draft conundrum
Here is where most people run into trouble. Your word processor is open. Your trusty outline is by your side. Your fingers hover over the keyboard, just waiting for the knowledge come flying from them and manifest itself on the screen. But what do you say? How do you say it?
The answer to both of those questions: Just write.
Write everything you know on the topic (keeping within the scope of your outline, of course). Just let it all loose. Write until your brain is wrung dry of all the knowledge you possess regarding the points in your outline.
The more information you put on paper, the more you’ll have to work with when you start editing—we’ll cover this third phase in the next article in this series.
Speaking of editing, it’s worth mentioning that you should not be revising anything as you go. This even goes as far as not correctly spelling or grammar errors.
I realize this can be a difficult habit for some folks to break—hell, I did it myself for many years—but the benefits are astonishing.
This reason this can have such an impact is that it keeps the mental flow going so you don’t careen off the tracks. As a writer, there’s nothing worse than riding a stream of consciousness with a defined point in mind, only to lose it because you became distracted by something else.
It happens to all of us. Just work on catching yourself and not making those seemingly minor edits during the draft phase and you’ll notice a marked improvement in your ability to write and write well.
Some guidelines to keep Google happy
As with all content that gets published to the web, Google and other search engines will have the final say as to what shows up in their search results (SERPs). In order to appease the search Gods here are some guidelines to make sure you’re in compliance and your content shows up:
- Write at least 300 words. Search engines look to fulfill the needs of their users by providing them with the best content, so make it very clear what your post is about. There is no upper limit to the length, as long as the content caters to the needs of the user.
- Add links to reputable sites, but not too many. Linking to sites that have a high domain authority can help to boost the rankings of your content. However, too many links might cause search engines to view your links as spam and levy a manual action against your site.
- No-follow links for product reviews. Google has explicitly stated that bloggers need to follow certain rules when it comes to getting free stuff to review. No-follow any links to the products and add a short disclaimer.
- Submit a sitemap to Google. If you don’t update your blog on at least a weekly basis, you may want to submit an updated sitemap to the major search engines. This will ensure that the new post is indexed and available to search engine users as quickly as possible.
- Make the post scannable. Include keyword-rich subheadings, lists, bold or italic text where necessary, or a number of other text formatting options. Subheads help search engine bots figure out what the post is about, and good formatting makes the post easier for humans to read.
It’s really that simple, yet it’s the biggest roadblock for many of us that want to start using content to achieve our business goals.
Don’t let doubt or fear or inhibition stand in your way. Provide value with your content. There are people out there just waiting to consume it.
What has been your biggest challenge in creating content that advances your business goals?