Blogging is like getting a puppy. You’re so excited the day you “bring it home.” You ask friends to come over and see it, then you snap pictures to share with the extended family. The next morning, reality hits, as you realize its needs to be walked at 6AM and find some accidents that it left you on the living room carpet.
In blogging, one of the most exciting moments is clicking “Publish” on your very first post. Soon, though, you come to realize that maintaining your blog (i.e. consistently churning out compelling blog posts) is like the family dog: it requires walks, love, nurturing, baths, brushing and visits to the vet.
To keep my blogging efforts going, I’ve developed a ten-step routine that I use to create each and every post. Here goes.
1) Find a topic.
This is the biggest blogging challenge for me. The more posts you publish, the bigger the challenge to find new things to write about. I’m quite discriminating with topics. The decisions you make with topics are closely linked to the overall quality of your blog. Lately, some of my topics have been driven by things I observe (and perhaps how they could be done differently or better).
2) Decide on a title.
I like to decide on the post’s title up front, because that guides the rest of the process. In the past, I paid a lot of attention to SEO-friendly titles (i.e. deciding on keywords I wanted to place in the title and where to place those keywords within it). These days, it seems Google is more interested in quality content. So I think in terms of key thoughts over keywords.
3) Assemble your thoughts: pen on paper.
Pictured: here’s how I sketched out the outline for this post.
I find it extremely useful to close the laptop and assemble my thoughts on an old-fashioned notepad. Being “offline” helps me hone in on the key things I want to convey. The main objective is to map out the main themes of the post, rather than getting too deep in the weeds on any particular theme.
4) Take a break. Let it marinate.
Once the foundation is in place, go for a run, take a shower (or both). As I go off and do other things, the post will re-enter my mind and I’ll consider new ideas or new angles. This works quite well when I exercise. Then, go back to your trusty notepad and add the new ideas to your list. For my best posts, I’ve usually iterated via the notepad over a couple of days.
5) Find or identify the post’s main image.
The New York Times can get away with picture-less articles. Your blog can’t. Images are critical because they provide a nice balance (against all that text) and because they engage and sustain the attention of your readers. I like to use the clip art available in Microsoft Office and also search the Creative Commons area of flickr.
6) Ready to write? Use a word processor.
I used to write my blog postings directly in WordPress. Now, I write them in Microsoft Word and it makes a big difference. Similar to “going offline” by using a paper notepad, writing in Word takes some pressure off me. For some reason, composing directly in WordPress made me more anxious. Writing in Word relaxes me. And, it helps me stay focused, since other browser tabs aren’t beckoning.
7) Look for additional images.
I like to avoid long blocks of text. It’s better (and more engaging for readers) to intersperse images throughout your post. So now it’s time to look for additional images that complement some of the main sections of your post.
8) On to your blogging platform.
OK, now that your post is done in your word processor, it’s as easy as copy/pasting it into your blogging platform. I like to embed hyperlinks in the word processor, so that all I have to do is format the headings (e.g. <h2>, <h3> and the like) and upload the images.
9-Tag and categorize.
Select the “category” for your post, then add a number of tags. Your blogging platform generates pages related to your categories and tags. Making relevant tag and category selections helps build valuable content pages that search engines love. As an example, here’s my category page for social media and here’s my tag page for Twitter.
10-Schedule, then promote (when it goes live).
I write my posts on the weekends, but like to wait until Monday morning to publish. So I schedule the post and have WordPress set up to tweet the link when it goes live. I’m also a member of a few Triberr tribes, which allows tribe members to tweet my post to their followers. After all the work you’ve put in to write a great post, it’s important to let others know. Sometimes, they’re too busy to see that you’ve just published a new posting.
There you have it: a blog post your readers will love. I followed this precise series of steps to write this one, in fact (hope you love it). If there’s one thing you remember from reading this, make it the important step of “going offline” when developing the post. Close the computer, use pen and paper, then do your writing in a word processor. Happy blogging!