The next phase after building your blog is creating the content to go in it. In this guide, you’ll learn tips and techniques on how to create content for your blog.
Remember: your content is what will keep your readers coming back to your blog, engaging with you and each other, and sharing your blog. So it’s not just about creating content, it’s about creating great content.
Does thinking about it make your mind run off in wildly different directions? Let me try to break it down to five basic questions you should ask yourself:
Note: I’m going to assume that you know who you’re writing for at this point. If not, I discussed it here in great detail.
Before we delve into the different elements of a blog post, let me first highlight the basis you should have for your first post and every post you write hereafter.
Create content for your readers.
Seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised.
One can only read so many articles about optimizing content for search engines before one believes that it’s the be-all and end-all of creating content. Don’t get me wrong, SEO is very important, but that doesn’t mean the human aspect should be secondary.
Create content that people actually want to read. When people find something they liked reading, they talk about it. They share it. More people read your post. More people share it. That’s how you grow your audience and that’s how you get search engines to notice your blog.
Remember: first write for humans, then optimize for machines.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) driven that fundamental concept home, here are more things to remember.
You’ve explored this when you were thinking about your niche. Now you need to focus your efforts. What do your readers want? What problems do they have that you have the solution to?
Remember: If your content isn’t useful, your readers won’t be back.
Research, research, research. It can be a struggle to know which sources are credible, but if you’re knowledgeable in your niche (which I sure hope you are because you chose to write in it), you’ll know where to look.
Start with companies or sites you trust. If you decide to look up information elsewhere, you can compare it to what you found first. Check the author’s credentials as well. Find them on social media if you can.
Examine your sources’ sources. Are they known experts in the field? Are they reputable sites?
Remember: If your content isn’t factual, it’s internet garbage.
It boils down to whether your niche is a time-sensitive one (latest news, gadgets, fashion) or an evergreen one (personal development, photography, writing) or somewhere in between. Staying on top of the trends in your niche is a must if your niche is even slightly time-sensitive. Joining the conversation as soon as it happens ensures that you get to meaningfully contribute to it.
The quickest way to discover conversations as they happen is to tune in to social media. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and BuzzFeed have all made it easy for everyone to check what’s trending now. If you’re interested in how something has trended over time, Google Trends provides you with detailed information about how a search term/keyword is faring now and how it did in the past.
If your niche is more evergreen, you can stay relevant for longer, but you still need to make sure that the information that you’re providing is applicable and not outdated. For example, if you’re a photography blogger giving tips for using a camera that’s no longer in production, that’s a waste of both your time and your readers’ time.
Remember: If your content isn’t current information or applicable, no one’s going to care.
Notice that I used “unique” and not “original.” In this day and age, nothing is truly original anymore. There’s just so much information and so many writers that chances are whatever you think of writing, someone’s already written about it.
What you want is a fresh approach to your subject. Can you present it in a different way? Or maybe you can present it as it’s always been presented but with new information. Whatever you do, make sure you put your own spin on it, and not just rehash something that’s already been written.
Finally, NEVER copy content word-for-word from another source. It’s illegal in most parts of the world, and it makes ranking in the search engines borderline impossible.
Remember: If your content does not offer anything new, it’s background noise.
So now that you have a topic in mind that’s useful, well-researched, relevant, and unique, how do you actually write it? Here are some pointers.
The title, or headline, of your blog post is what people see in their search results and social media newsfeeds. This handful of words could very well be the most important words in your entire post.
In that precious split second that your potential reader sees this headline on their search results or in their social media feed, along with hundreds of other headlines, they will be making a decision to read your post based on those few words.
We think nothing of this when we do it ourselves, but as a blogger, it’s actually a crucial moment. You need to capture your potential readers’ attention in that split second.
It helps if you already have a keyword phrase in mind that you know your readers will search for when they try to find information about your topic. Having that phrase in your headline will help optimize your post for search engines as well.
But, as I’ve said, write for your readers first. Optimizing your post for search engines should only be a bonus for you aside from grabbing your readers’ attention. Being first on the search results page means nothing if no one clicks on that headline.
If the headline is catchy, they’ll read more. If not, you’ve just lost a reader.
You’ve hooked your readers in with your headline. Now you need to reel them in with your introduction. This is where you affirm that you’re going to solve their problem/give them information/whatever your post is supposed to give them.
There are so many different techniques to writing an introduction, but the one thing to summarize them all is: make it about them. Connect with them. Tell them how your post can help them.
By the way, don’t forget that keyword phrase you put in your headline. Saying it again here subtly confirms to them that your post is exactly what they need.
If you don’t compel your readers with your introduction, no one will read your post.
So you wrote a great headline and a killer introduction.
Where do you go from here?
Now you need to strengthen that fragile connection you’ve made with your reader.
Be someone they can have conversations with. Be someone they’ll want to have coffee with. Be someone they can relate to.
There are few things more off-putting than reading a post that feels like it’s been written by some computer. Avoid that mindset. Write as if you’re talking to an old friend. Use words you normally use in casual conversation.
Use your own experiences and tell a story related to your topic. This way, your readers become comfortable that you are a real person, with your own struggles and your own victories. You then become someone relatable, and that’ll make them want to read more from you.
Be careful not to share too much, though. Unless you’re writing a blog solely for yourself, don’t make it all about you. This might seem strange, given the popularity of “reality TV” and people’s morbid obsession with celebrities, but remember this: people don’t care that much about your life. Readers want to know about your life only as far as they can apply it to their own, but THAT’S IT. Weave little stories and facts about you into your blog post, but don’t turn your blog into your diary.
People come because you have something they need, but they come back for you.
Don’t make your readers work too hard for what you promised them you’ll give. Otherwise, they’ll simply click away. Here are some points to remember:
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
So hopefully you’ve found your writer’s voice. Your writing style is the essence of your blog, of course. The thing is, people don’t read blog posts the same way they read books. Hmm. How do people read online?
In short, people read quickly and not-so-thoroughly. Sounds annoying, doesn’t it? Imagine writing hundreds or even thousands of words only for them to be left unread. What to do, then?
You make that work for you. Learn to write scannable content. That is, adapt your writing style to how your readers consume your content. Here are some techniques to create scannable content:
Get your point across in the first few sentences of your post instead of leaving it in the middle or worse, the end.
Line breaks are your new best friend. Blocks of text tend to overwhelm even the most avid readers. Try to limit your paragraphs to 4 sentences at the most.
Aside from helping with your post structure, this helps you break your content into bite-sized pieces that your readers can digest more easily. That said, don’t use headings “just because”. Make sure that your headings and subheadings reflect the actual content.
One way you can check it is to scan them yourself. Does your post still make sense even if you read just the headings and subheadings? If yes, then your headings and subheadings are working for you.
Breaking up text into bulleted lists or numbered lists make them much easier to remember. There’s something about being able to go through content in a logical, sequential way that’s attractive to readers. This is the same reason why listicles are popular nowadays.
Using the right images in your posts satisfies your readers’ need for visual stimulation. Long chunks of text can eventually be tiring, no matter how short your paragraphs are or how many lists you use. Images grab your readers’ attention as they scroll down your content. They can help emphasize your points and make them easier to recall later.
Be careful, though; you want to use images that add to your content, not take away from it. If your readers find your use of images distracting instead of useful, they’ll skip away to the next item on their agenda.
If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend on images, here are some royalty-free stock sites you can check out for high-quality, high-resolution images:
These sites have images that are free to use and adapt for personal and commercial purposes, so placing them in your blog should be okay. If you want to venture out, though, there are many other stock photo sites, but always, ALWAYS check the license to make sure you can use the images freely.
One of the nifty ways to direct your readers’ eyes to the important points of your post is to highlight your text. Bold, italicized, underlined, or ALL CAPS text stand out, making them more noticeable.
Use this sparingly, though. Emphasize just your key points. Highlighting all the text is as good as highlighting none of it.
Adding links to reliable external sources adds to your credibility, especially when you’re quoting research, statistics, and data in general. It’s not practical to include all the data in your post when you can simply summarize it, link to it in case your readers want to look at it, and just get on with your point.
Linking to related posts on your site can help as well. It’s a way of directing your readers to other content on your site and showing what else you have to offer. Bonus points for you because interlinking your posts increases the odds that search engines will find your page.
When you’re starting out, you’ll understandably have few posts to link to. As you build up your blog and increase the volume of your content, it will happen more naturally.
Word of warning: Don’t add links to unrelated content. Readers (and search engines!) will see right through your manipulation tactics and get turned off. Only link to posts that add context or information to the post they’re already reading.
Tip: Set your hyperlinks to open in a new tab instead of on the same one they’re reading your post on. That way, they can easily go back to your post.
Just like your writing suffers when you clutter it with too much fluff and excess words, your readability suffers when you clutter your screen with too much visuals. Create whitespace. Or at least resist the urge to fill that space with “something.”
The last thing you want your readers to think after consuming your content is “Well, that was interesting, but what do I do now?”
Your readers are not stupid. They’re just distracted.
So direct them with great calls to action.
A call to action, or a CTA, tells your visitor or reader exactly what you want them to do next. It could be something as trivial as following you on social media or as critical as buying your product. If you do this right, you can convert readers into subscribers or even buyers.
Here are some ideas you can use for your CTAs:
An effective CTA should feel like a logical extension of your blog posts. It shouldn’t feel abrupt or stick out like a sore thumb in your otherwise brilliant content. Here are some tips to create effective CTAs.
You want your visitors to do something. Kick off your CTA with an action word. Some examples are:
Focus on what your readers stand to gain from doing what the CTA tells them to. For instance, when you invite your readers to subscribe to your newsletter, don’t just ask them to subscribe. Tell them why they should subscribe. What’s in it for them? Are they getting tips and techniques? Coupon codes? Exclusive content?
Even when people understand the benefits of what you’re offering, they’re held back by this (usually irrational) fear of making a costly mistake. Reduce that perceived risk by offering something at no risk to them but at a risk to you.
For example, you offer them something for nothing. No one can resist that. With products or services, this is typically done through free trials with no strings attached and an option to cancel anytime. By telling the customer that there is no long-term obligation, you reduce hesitation and give them a nudge to eventually purchase what you’re offering.
If it’s already free, like an email subscription, make it painless to unsubscribe any time. No one wants spam emails, and the more readers feel that they’re in control of their email inbox, the more likely they are to trust you with their email address.
It’s in our nature to place more value on something that’s of limited supply (“Only X units left!”), of limited time (“Offer expires in 3 hours!”), or offered to only a few select customers (“Offer good only for the first X customers!”). You want to make your readers feel that urgency to compel them to take action now. Not later, not tomorrow, NOW.
Try to use words like:
Don’t make people hunt for your CTA. Put it in a location where you know they’re going to look. Make your call to action stand out from its surroundings. Use a larger, bolder font, and a different, contrasting color. That said, don’t use gray; it makes the CTA look “inactive” or “unclickable”.
Ask your reader briefly to do that thing you wanted them to do. “Subscribe Now,” “Click to Sign Up,” and “Join Today” are good examples. Don’t make it longer than five words.
“Please sign up at your earliest convenience.” “Whenever you’re ready.” “To start receiving emails, please click here.” Yes, they’re polite, but they don’t compel anyone to take action. Straightforward statements that tell us to take direct action work best.
On the other extreme, these are the calls to action that place high pressure. You don’t want your readers to resent you. Remember, it’s all about providing value to them.
An example would be lightboxes (the popup windows of the 2000s) that won’t quit until an email address is entered. I’m sure you’ve encountered one of these at least once. Why would your readers give you their email address when you haven’t even helped them yet?
When I go to a page that has one of these, I just close that tab and move on to something else. Don’t let it happen to your blog.
Don’t make your readers choose between two (or even three) primary CTAs. If you really need a secondary CTA, make it a text link so it doesn’t compete with your primary CTA. Don’t create too many choices because chances are your readers end up making none.
You’re on the home stretch now. I know, I know, your hand is itching to click Publish. But you still have some final things to check before you make your post public.
Asking a question at the end of your post encourages readers to comment. It helps people feel that their input about your post is welcome. The more welcome they feel, the more engaged they are, the more likely they’ll go back to your blog.
Make sure to reply to these comments and answer any questions they may ask you back. Getting a reply from someone you took the time to write to is rewarding, and that warm, fuzzy feeling may just turn a casual reader to a subscriber and fan.
Proofread your work after you’re done. I mean. Obviously.
But sometimes the temptation to put your content out there, like, now, can override that little voice inside your head telling you to check your post for mistakes.
Listen to that voice. Take the extra time to check your writing for typos and for spelling and grammar errors.
Some of your readers will forgive you, especially if your content is stellar, but others will be distracted by your mistakes. Worst case, your credibility diminishes because you just can’t be bothered. Don’t let that happen.
Discussing how to optimize your post for search engines will take a whole other post, but the basic things would be to make sure your keyword is in your headline and in the first paragraph. We’ve also covered how to link to your other posts.
If you’re using WordPress, I highly suggest getting the Yoast SEO plugin to help you with this. It’s very beginner-friendly and you won’t forget to do it because it’s positioned right below your post editor. It makes suggestions on what you need to tweak in your post just to make it that much easier to be found by search engines.
The key element to creating great content for your blog is that they take time. Don’t just sit down and type the first thing that comes to mind and send it to the void.
Remember that the value of an article is in what readers take away: information, advice, entertainment. Take the time to create valuable content and present your content in a way that your readers can actually understand.
Offer something that can make a positive impact on your readers.
Have you written your first blog post? Or are you a veteran blogger and want to add something? Let me know in the comments!
This is the third of a five-part series about how to start making money blogging. I highly recommend reading them in order, but for your reference, here are links to the five articles in the series:
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.