How to Start a Blog #8: Write Excellent Blog Posts

How to Start a Blog #8: Write Excellent Blog Posts
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Great content isn’t just about writing anything that comes to your mind.

Words are a big part of it, but it’s also about many other things that make your readers come back to it, and assures Google rank it high in search results.

Some of those things are: picking the right title and keywords, finding and adding relevant images, adding semantic keywords and headings, making your post visually appealing, adding internal and external links, and other things that make it great.

If you’re a beginner in this blogging entrepreneur world, you can start writing right away. Immediately after choosing a niche.

You don’t need to set up much.

In fact, it’s a good idea to have a few blog posts ready before you create a blog, because it will give you some experience with the field you’re writing about, and it will push you to keep working on the project while you’re setting up all the technical stuff.

Launch your blog by planning ahead

To launch your blog step-by-step, check out the series I’m writing at this moment. Last week I went through setting up a theme, logo and general design with main steps for configuring OceanWP theme.

I really enjoy creating content, from writing to editing the images I use.

What I really like, is constructing a great and useful article that I know is the best version I could write at that time, and that it helps others in some way.

In this post I’ll show you how to write great blog posts, where to get images, how to format the post so it looks visually appealing, and other little things that will make your blog post stand out in your niche.

Please note that a few of the links below are affiliate links, and I may recieve a small compensation, at no cost to you. These are all the tools I personally use.

What Makes a Blog Post Great

A great blog post is:

  • Incredibly useful.
    It’s so useful you’re asking yourself “why is this free?” So useful, you’re thinking there may be a catch to this, it can’t be they’re sharing this stuff with me. That’s how useful a great post is.
  • Stunningly Specific.
    How specific? So much that it perfectly answers the questions which brought you to that post. Your needs are completely satisfied and your questions answered.
  • Original.
    An original and different blog post will always pop up in search results above others. It’s new and interesting, something worth checking out. It adds something new to the conversation. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Be original.
  • Visually Impressive.
    Every image is relevant, on point and nice to look at.Post is nicely formatted, error-free, and easily scannable. People like to scan the post. If your post is too long to scan, make sure to add table of contents.
  • Personal and emotional.
    We’re not all born writers, but we can always make a post very personal, and emotional. If you write personal and inspirational posts, and if you can make your posts emotional then you can make your blog posts awesome every single time.

If you can satisfy most of these points to the best of your abilities, then you are much more likely to have your content ranked high.

As opposed to just writing generic, boring and useless content.

You want your content engaging, useful and even fun. Get that, and you’re all set.

Tips for Writing Your First Blog Post

Tips for writing first blog post

Before you start writing, make sure you have a content plan, a list of articles you’re going to write about, and keywords you’re going to target.

This will help you keep going, you’ll know what to write about and won’t spend too much time thinking about your next article. It generates consistency.

If you’ve never written a post, start reading other blogs. Learn from other bloggers. ProBlogger has an excellent series of articles about writing, with all kinds of tips and tricks. Posts are bit dated, but most of the stuff still applies today.

Every day, until you’re comfortable with your own style of writing, read a few posts. Copy some of their style. Create some your own style. Read some more.

Depending on your niche, and your style of writing, some things may work for you, while others may not.

If you’ve never written a post, and you have a new blog, follow these rules:

Don’t Make Your First Post Too Long

Smaller posts will make it easier for you to get into the habit of writing.

If you try to write a little every day, it will create consistency in your work, it will create a habit, won’t tire you out, and will serve as a practice to get better one step at a time.

Second, if you start with long posts, you’ll have to wait long to have your first posts ranked high on Google, unless you have a promotional and guest posting strategy in place. Therefore, try to start with smaller posts, around 1300-1600 words.

If you’re going with this, don’t make it about “tips for doing this or that”. That is a longer post. Make it smaller. Something like, answering a specific question.

Concentrate On Writing

Don’t try to worry yourself about making money, monetization and affiliate links. Those will come.

Right now you need only to write. If it’s already overwhelming to you, then just write and disregard everything else – No images, no affiliate links, not even any internal links because you don’t have any posts – just a few external links. That’s it.

If you’re writing about Amazon products and using Amazon affiliate program, feel free to add a link to it, but don’t worry about adding affiliate links yet. That’s an entire different chapter, which I will cover in the last part of this series: Blog Monetization.

Just concentrate on writing. Create a helpful post – Publish. Move on to the next post.

Don’t worry about images.

Images will be added later. First thing is to get that content published.

The sooner you publish, the sooner you’ll start ranking on Google. If you, however, do want to know how to add and where to find images, check below in this article.

Make It Specific, But Not Too Much

Your smaller (response) posts should focus on answering the main question, solving the main problem that is in your post title precisely and fast. Answer should be specific, clear and answered at the first few paragraphs in your post.

I suggest doing some basic keyword research.

Just google your post title, check a few competing posts, and make sure there is “almost no competition” to your keyword(s) you’re writing about.

By “almost no competition” I mean either no good articles exist: less than 1000 words, no good images or no images at all, isn’t that much useful, doesn’t really answer the specific question, looks terrible and full of ads – anything like that, and you can beat it.

Don’t go too much into detail, just make sure the information is useful.

Do Basic Keyword Research

Search volume SEMrush

You don’t want to write about something no one is going to google about.

When you do some keyword research, try to write about keywords that have at least 500 searches per month for US.Perhaps you can go lower sometimes, but this is generally a good volume to start.

If you know a lot of stuff about something for which there is not much interest, you probably should not write about it unless you did some keyword research, and are sure people will want to google it.

If you’re unsure, and there is some search volume, just ask yourself: “Is this a reasonable question?”

Don’t Worry If it Looks Inferior

first blog post looks funny_1

You will learn to write over time, and you will learn fast.

Over time you will learn how to write shorter and more interesting paragraphs, where your images should go, what should be bolded, and where links should go. And you’ll do this naturally without even thinking about it.

Just do your best, and you will learn new things over time, and you’ll get better at it. After a while, you may look at your old posts and think how silly they are ? and you’ll want to change them. As long as you keep seeing this, it means you’re improving.

Don’t worry about it.

Don’t Spend Too Much Time On It

You want your first blog post to be good, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.

You want to continue on writing, continue on moving, rather then get yourself mentally tired from writing your first article. Plan a bit, start writing, add a few images and links, format a bit, and publish. Keep moving.

Don’t tire yourself immediately at the start.

And don’t worry about other judging you, or on the emotional side what will other say about your writing and your content. You’re doing your best, publish and keep moving.


10 Steps to Write a Perfect Blog Post

In order torank high on Google, there are two basic ways you can do it: you need to either target only lower competitive keywords and write smaller posts, or put out longer, great and useful quality content.

Most importantly, you need to keep doing this consistently.

To do that, you need to follow certain steps while writing your content, that will help you develop your own style of writing. These steps create an overview of the work you need to do to get the final blog post, and will help you focus easily on each task during creation. They will help you create your own “blog post template”.

Below are 10 blog post writing steps.

They will act as blog posting template to create your own style of writing, and once you find your own style of writing you should stick to it.

These 10 steps will save your time, speed you up, and simply make you more focused on the current task that you are doing.

10 Steps to Write a Perfect Blog Post_1

1.  Plan Your Keywords

First, make sure you already have a content plan, and that you know what your next 10 posts are going to be. You don’t need to know all the keywords you’re going to target, just your titles and main keywords in the title.

If you’re just writing a smaller post, such as an answer to something for which there is low competition, then all you need is to find a few semantic keywords using a tool such as SEMrush or LSIgraph, and focus on those.

For smaller (response) posts you can do this quckly.

If you’re planning a completely new big, staple post, then you may need to do a bit more research, such as finding other relevant keywords, competition level, search volume, google trends, popularity on the web and social media.

You can use free tools to get the general idea, or use paid tools such SEMrush or Ahrefs, to have some more confidence.

Ahrefs_keyword research

To get the best results, I suggest using the excellent SEMrush.

It’s both free for a limited number of searches, but also has a cheap trial, and a great multitude of incredibly useful tools if you decide to go premium.

Ahrefs is an alternative. It’s not free, but they also have a trial offer which costs $7, lasts for 7 days, but you need to cancel it on the 6th day or they will charge you and put you on their paid plans. You can supplement them with great variety of tools such as LSIgraph, Google Trends, AnswerThePublic.com and others, to find all the necessary data and new ideas.

2.  Create Headings and Structure

Use the keywords you found using SEO tools to create your title and headings.

If you don’t have a title, now is the time to create it.

Use your main keywords for the title of your blog post. Title shouldn’t be longer than 60 characters, and should be easily readable and clear. Your content should revolve around this main keyword (or keywords), and it should give all the relevant and useful information about it.

Keywords in your title are your major focus. Target them and build around them.

Use the other relevant keywords to create your H2 headings.

Your h2 headings should be all the important information (keywords) surrounding your main keywords, variations of your main keywords, and semantic meaning of your main keywords. Make sure they make sense, and are useful to the reader. You can use LSIgraph for semantic searches.

LSIgraph semantic searches

Example:

Your (response) blog post is titled ‘How Long to Sail Across the Atlantic’

Your h2 headings could be ‘Popular Routes to Sail Across the Atlantic, ‘Fastest time to Sail Accros the Atlantic, ‘How Much does it Cost’, ‘Best Sailboat to Cross’, etc.

3.  Write Your Blog Post

Once you have your main “blog post format” and structure, you can start writing. This is the fun part for me, especially if you already know what you’re going to write. If you need to research a lot however, it could take some time.

Regardless of that, just keep writing until you’re satisfied with the amount of content.

You can check “how many words” you have in the lower right of your Microsoft Word document, if you’re writing in Google Docs check Tools > Word Count, in WordPress editor check the information icon, or simply use this online word counter.

Blog Post Word Count

Make sure to take breaks at least every 1-2 hours.

Smaller, response posts, should go faster, 1-3h to finish. Larger, staple and pillar posts can take anywhere from 5 to 20 hours. If you’re writing pillar posts right now, I always suggest splitting it into 2-3 days for consistent work without burning out.

4.  Read Your Blog Post to Fix Errors

Having your blog post error-free increases your credibility and readability.

Often, it’s better to sleep on it, and read through the post the next day. This way, you get fresh insights into the post.

You don’t want to keep putting out content filled with errors, because it may decrease your credibility and hurt your SEO rankings. If you’re foreign, and don’t know English that well, you should probably proofread your post.

There are several options to proofread your blog post:

  • Find a professional to proofread your blog post.
    Some of the cheapest ones are on Upwork and Fiverr.
  • Use Grammarly to do this automatically for you
  • Try this online Hemingway Editor, which will also check readability.
  • Use Antidote app, or any other premium app

Most of the tools where you do your writing have automatic error-checking tools, so you can just fix these as you go.

5.  Make It Visually Appealing

At this point, once you’re finished with 99% of your writing, you can continue to write in your app of choice (MS Word, Google Docs, etc), or you can copy and paste the content into your WordPress Editor.

This way you will get the better idea of how it’s going to look before you publish, by using WordPress Preview option.

WordPress Preview

At this step, you’re going to increase the readability of your blog post, make it visually more appealing, clearer and easier to read.

Here are some of the things you can do to make your blog post more visually appealing:

  • Bold and italicize elements
  • Add more lists if needed and where needed
  • Add image elements.
    If you’re working in WordPress Editor then you can just click “add image” and add these, otherwise you can just write “picture here” between paragraphs if you’re still working outside WordPress Editor
  • Break down your paragraphs into 2 or more if they are too long
  • Fix all the headings to their corresponding levels – h2, h3, etc.

6.  Find Images for Your Post

Every awesome blog post has relevant images.

Google will rank a blog post with more images “higher” than the one with less images, or the one with less relevant images, and especially the one with no images.

Because of this, every blog post needs to have at least a few images to look nicer to your visitor, and appeal to the Google algorithm and rank higher in search results.

You will need to download your images from sites which offer images free of copyright, and screenshot parts of your screen if you’re doing any kind of tutorial or something.

These can be just general images, which serve no other purpose, other than to make your blog post more visually appealing, or they can be highly useful and next to making your blog post aesthetically pleasing, add to the quality of your blog content.

Check below where to find these images.

For screenshots I use ShareX, and I think it’s the best tool for screenshots out there. You can edit your image before you screenshot it, use different image formats, upload in different sites or directly download, and offers pretty much everything you would need.  Plus it’s completely free.

What About Usage Rights?

If you don’t want to bother yourself with all the usage rights and pictures, you can just use completely free pictures, from some of the popular sites for free stock and artistic images.

You can then edit them, or use them commercially for your blog, without the need of crediting anyone, worrying about copyright infringement or any of that stuff.

Where to Get Free Images

Where to Find Free Blog Images No Coypright

Free images means no copyright.

Best sites for free stock and artistic images:

The first 3 are where I get most of my images.

There are many others, but these are probably the best and most popular ones. If you’re going to use Flickr.com, keep in mind the usage rights.

There are different types of images based on usage rights. If you’re using images from any of the sources above (except Flickr) then you don’t have to know anything about this. Otherwise, you may want to familiarize yourself with “Creative Commons” licence types.

If you’re taking an image from a source where you’re not sure if you’re doing any copyright infringement, make sure the Licence is not “nonCommercial” because it means you can’t use it for monetization purposes on your blog.

Download all of your images one by one and put them inside folders.

7.  Prepare, Edit and Add Images

Google will rank higher those blog posts, which load faster.

This has become one of the more important factors for ranking in Google Search.

You want your blog post to be smaller in size as much as possible, without losing too much quality, for the “WordPress SEO” to do it’s trick and rank you higher.

And since images are the largest elements on your blog post, they need to be optimized.

By “preparing your images” I mean to edit the images one by one so they’re not too big in dimensions or too big in file size, and add them into your blog post.

For screenshots, if using PNG format, they usually offer the smallest possible image size and you don’t need to edit them into JPG, or smaller PNG, unless you took a screenshot of many different colors and large parts of your screen.

How Large Should Images Be?

We’re looking at the size (usually in KB) and dimensions (resolution)?

Your images should be optimized depending on their purpose. When it comes to dimensions, it depends on whether you’re going to share them on social networks, are they artistic images or simple screenshots, or something else.

Go for at least 712×400. If those are too small for you, try 1024×683.

There is no pre-determined “fit-all size”.

Every blog post should be less than 2 MB in size. Aim for less than 1MB.

To achieve this, you need to use a graphic tool such as Photoshop or GIMP (free), and simply crop, resize or scale your images, and export them using a few settings options, which “strip your images” of any unnecessary information which increases file size such as: Exif Data, XMP data, various quality options, etc.

Image size Exif Data, XMP data

To make sure your posts are smallest possible in size, minify your pages with CloudFlare, optimize your images with ShortPixel and use CDN (Content Delivery Network) such as CloudFront.

This is the step where you add your Featured image.

8.  Add Internal and External Links

Your readers need to have useful links to click through, which suplement and expand on your post. You need to provide this by adding relevant links in your blog post.

You need the links for Google Search to rank your posts higher.

Google will rank your posts higher if they point to each other through internal links.

Google will also rank them higher if there are lots of high authority, relevant external links. So make sure to have some relevant high DA links throughout your awesome blog post, the more relevant the better.

If you have a research paper to cite, add a link to Google Scholar. If you have an important definition to cite add Wikipedia link, and if you have a great useful post to link to then add a link to your favorite blogger.

Spread the love around, make your links relevant and you’ll have a useful blog post for your readers, and will also rank higher on Google.

If you have a blog already, and many articles, this is the time to add your affiliate links as well. Affiliate programs are an extremely popular way of “making money online”, so make sure you add a few quality, and relevant affiliate links in your blog post.

Important Note: Make sure all your links open in a new tab, especially your affiliate links. Use ThirtyAffiliates plugin to have your affiliate links automatically open in new tabs.

9. Add SEO title, Description and Keywords

Use your SEO plugin of choice to set your SEO details.

I use All in One SEO pack, and the pro version fulfills every SEO need. (Plugin page here)

SEO title should be either identical or similar to your actual title. Descriptions can be set to be generated automatically through All in One SEO plugin, or you can write it manually.

A blog post SEO title is what shows in search results. All in One SEO automatically shows you how it’s going to look. Your non-SEO title, is what readers see when they open your blog post to read.

Your SEO title should be less than 60 characters, so it can display fully in search results on any font and style.

Your description should be less than 160 characters and it should summarize what the post is about and draw attention.

Both of these are marked by yellow and red colors through All in One SEO plugin, so you don’t need to worry if you go over it.

SEO keywords give your posts a small SEO boost. Choose the most important keywords, make them long-tail keywords (3-5 words) and relevant to your post.

All in One SEO Title, Description, Keywords

10. Edit Permalink, Preview and Publish

Permalink is the URL structure of your post, which appears on top of the browser.

It should contain only the most relevant keywords of your blog post title, and you may consider avoiding the usage of a, an, the, and any special symbols.

Permalinks All in One SEO WordPress

Use Preview in WordPress Editor to check how your post will look. This is a great feature if you are editing a lot, and don’t want to publish half-baked post.

When it comes to tags, they are not very useful for SEO (if at all), but they can be useful for your readers if you want to structure your posts around them. However, you have categories for that, but still it’s your choice if you want to use them.

Finally, once you’re satisfied with your blog post hit “Publish” and your post is live.

Woohoo!

Writing awesome blog posts is the best way to drive traffic, and no SEO black or white hat trick can beat it. Content is still the king. And, with these steps that goal is slightly closer. I follow these steps as well.

I hope these steps will allow you to create your own “blog post format” or template, and will help you in writing that perfect post of yours.

Having steps which you can follow will make it easier for you to keep writing continuously, because you go “one brick at a time” and eventually you have a wall (or a road, whichever you prefer ?). It will also help you prevent writer’s burnout, which is so often in bloggers’ world.

How Long Should a Blog Post Be

Google tells us that the posts that rank highest are in the range of 2000 words.

There used to be a time where a 500-word blog post could rank #1 on Google.

Those days are long gone.

Today, anything less than 1300 words will have a hard time ranking in the first 10 results on Google Search. This is because the internet is evolving, articles are getting better and the competition is higher.

How long should a blog post be 2019?

Unless you’re in a new, freshly discovered niche, with low competition, you need to aim for 2000-3500 range eventually.

However, we don’t need to write 3500 word posts all the time – we can combine different sizes – response posts, staple and pillar posts, and that’s usually the best strategy.

SerpIQ did a research on their own posts to see which ones get the most shares:

SerpIQ Blog Post Word Count Research

Depending on the type of article, and the competition of similar articles in Google, your posts can be anywhere from 1300 to 4000+ words.

Anything less than 1300 will have a hard time ranking high. Most of my articles in this series are 3000-4500, but they are of special type. Because they are the great resource, guides on how to do something from start to finish, with high competition, therefore they must be long in structure to contain a lot of information.

My future articles will be a combination of three types of posts. Which ones?

By word count and competition levels, we can distinguish 3 types of blog posts:

  1. Response posts – have very low competition in Google.
    Response posts are usually 1200-1600 words. They are the smallest and tackle a specific point, or question.
  2. Staple posts – 1600 to 2600 words in length. These are medium length posts with low to medium competition. They are list posts (‘top 11 shoes…’, ‘best gear for hiking’, etc), ideas posts, inspiration posts, product reviews, etc. They are about something, which is slightly more popular in your niche.
  3. Pillar posts – 3500+ words in length. These are the ultimate resource posts, with high competition. You use your best guns here, write epic content, and do your best. They are long lists, guides, resources and something, which your readers will come back to later on, to re-visit and read again.

It’s tough to put a specific number count, so these numbers are approximate, but we can see in on many big websites how longer posts perform better.

Backlinko did their own research back in 2016 and this was their result:

Backlinko Blog Post Word Count Research

Since that is 3 year old data, we can assume the number has jumped slightly. Or can we?

How long should your posts be depend largely on the type of a post and the competition. If it’s a low competition you can beat it with a smaller post, if it’s higher then you need a longer post.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter how many words you write, these are just general ranges.

Focus on giving your visitors good time with a useful post, answering what they came to find. It’s best to answer quickly, but when it comes to pillar posts this is impossible, therefore always have table of contents. I use the plugin “easy table of contents”, and recommend it. It automatically adds it so you don’t have to worry about it.

How to Create Engaging Titles

Here’s a few rules how to write engaging blog post titles:

  • Grab the attention with powerful words
  • Meet a need of a reader which points to satisfying that need
  • Use your main keywords which you will target throughout your post
  • Make your titles descriptive and compelling
  • Keep them short and concise if possible
  • Keep it simple. Titles should be easy to read and simple to understand

How Often to Post on Your Blog

Honestly, nobody can tell you how often should you blog.

NeilPatel has a nice article where he says that it really depends on your marketing goals, your post types, word count, and other factors. Usually, the more you post, the more traffic you’ll get. But, the more you post, the lower the quality of your posts if you’re the only writer on your blog.

If you’re the only writer for your blog, and you intend to write longer posts, then posting 1-3 times per week of quality posts is usually recommended. Some bloggers post only once a week, others 4-7 times a week by hiring writers. This is regarding long posts.

If you can put out 3-7 quality posts a week then you will see better results, but if you’re the only one writing for your blog, then it might be difficult. Often impossible.

If you’re starting out, you may try smaller “response posts” 2-3 times a week, but don’t push it. Writer’s burnout is a real thing. Then later, you can see how it goes and arrange your schedule accordingly.

What is a Writer’s Burnout?

Writer's burnout - writer typing

Writer’s burnout is when you write too much, too hard and for long periods, without taking breaks. Burnout happens to everyone.

You burn out when you write 1-2 posts every day, instead of 2-3 of quality posts every week. If you post too often, the quality if your content will suffer as well.

You burn out if you don’t take breaks and you’re not used to high mental activity during the majority of your day.

Readers can also burn out. If they can’t keep up all the posts you’re putting out then they’re not going to stay around, because it’s too much for them.

Keep your content regular, relevant and of high quality. This will give you more time to work on it, your posts will rank higher, readers will enjoy them more and will start following you, and you will actually enjoy writing your content.

Conclusion

With these writing tips you’ve learned a few new things to get your writing skills to the next level, and to stay consistent in your writing.

To learn “how to write a blog” all you need is to keep writing. Experience is invaluable.

Here, I’ve given 10 steps to follow when writing a blog, to ensure everything is covered, that you didn’t forget anything, and to not overwork yourself.

And, I hope that everyone can take something from my series How to Start a Blog.

It has all the necessary tools and info to “create a blog” like an entrepreneur, achieve your goals and make money online. How far can you go? Depends solely on your own willingness to learn and to grow. Sky is the limit.

Remember that you don’t need to know all of this right away – you can always come back later to these resources and continue. It will always be here.

See you in part 9: Promoting Your Content.


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