If you're new to blog writing or if you just feel like you're not quite hitting your stride, this post is for you. Some things are so much easier when we have a checklist to use and we do a little planning before we write! In this post, I lay out eight things that I cover in each and every post and I recommend you give this approach a try.
The List Post
Readers love to read list posts — for example, “5 Ways To Win a Negotiation”. The advantage for you is that they're easy to outline, to research, and to write. In the example below, we'll follow a wedding photographer as she thinks through a blog post that she can write for her business blog.
I recommend that you get out a pen and paper or open your favorite word processing document. Read the post once all the way through. Then come back and fill in your own ideas step-by-step until you've outlined your post.
The Blog Writing Checklist:
1 – A Topic that Covers Your Customers' Need For Information
I sometimes call this an information gap. Are you addressing key gaps in knowledge that your customers have? Just so you know, you don't have to write about your own business. You can write about other interests that your target customers have.
For example, if you're a wedding photographer, you can write about how to get the perfect wedding shots. Or, you can write about the top wedding sites in your town. This second one has the advantage of drawing your target audience (brides), using more local keywords (for SEO) and of getting you known by the wedding venues (referrals)!
Will your blog post address your customer's needs or what they really want to learn about?
2 – Choose Your List Type
Once you know the general topic that you're writing about, you need to choose what type of list post you'll write. For example, here are some possibilities (the number is just a placeholder):
- Myths: 5 Myths About …
- How To: 5 Ways To…
- Tools: 5 Tools to Help You…
- Ultimate List: 54 Ways To…
- Mistakes: 5 Mistakes Couples Make…
- Best: The 5 Top Honeymoon…
Look around at other blogs and you'll see other types of lists that you can use. Do you have an interesting angle for the post?
3 – A Unique or Compelling Post Title
Come up with a headline or angle for your blog post that is compelling and interesting. To continue the photographer example, here's one option for her article: “Review of 5 Wedding Venues in San Mateo County”. Pretty boring.
How about this? “The 5 Most Romantic San Mateo Wedding Locations” or “5 Secret Bay Area Locations To Make Your Wedding Unique”. You can probably come up with others, but I hope you get the point!
4 – An Opening That Draws Your Audience In
The opening paragraph (or sentence or two) is like the doorway into your post. If it's interesting, they'll enter. If it's not, you're out of luck.
You can use the opening to hook them in a few ways. You can tell a story or quote statistics on why the topic you're about to cover is important. Or you can personalize it to their experience (“You're planning your wedding and are feeling frustrated by the traditional venue options…”) or use your own experience as an example (“A lot of my clients struggle with…”).
Here's an example of how you can start by telling a story for a post by our intrepid wedding photographer:
“This was the most challenging assignment I've ever had. I was asked by my best friend to help her find a bay area wedding venue that would make her wedding unique. Different. Unusual.
Oh. And after I find it, then I would have to find a way to shoot the wedding in a way no one had ever shot a wedding before.
I had my work cut out for me…”
5 – Gather Your List
You want to make this a great post, so don't just put the first few things that come to mind. Do some brainstorming, ask some friends or business associates and do some research to make sure you cover your bases. If you want to go the extra mile, go visit the venues yourself. If you're a photographer (as in our example), why not take some original shots of each venue? You don't have to do this but that's a great way to stand out from the crowd!
Narrow the list to the top points and make sure you start out strong but maintain a pretty even level of quality across your items. Consider adding bullets or numbers and other formatting to make the points stand out in the post.
6 – Write Your Closing
A big problem is that people “limp” into the closing. They get tired of writing and they finish with a weak ending. One or two lines that basically conveys “I hope you enjoyed this — thanks”. No, no, no. You want to end on a strong note.
Wrap up by referring back to how you started the post (“Mission accomplished. It was a challenge but I found the ideal location for my best friend's wedding. I hope this list gives you some starting points to create your own dream wedding…”). Also, inspire them into action.
7 – Choose Your Post Picture
I often choose a post picture after I've written the post, just in case the direction of the post has changed slightly or if there's a certain point I want to emphasize with a visual. Of course you can have more than one picture but it's important to include at least one. It helps break up the monotony of the text and can help convey an emotion or specific point.
Also, when blog posts are shared in social media, often the picture is shown (on Facebook, in LinkedIn, and of course on Pinterest) as a thumbnail. This thumbnail, in addition to a good headline, will help get readers to click through to your blog post or to share it with their contacts, expanding the reach of your content.
8 – Your Call To Action
After the closing (or as part of it), you can include a call to action. This is where you might invite them to contact you for a free consultation, to subscribe to receive your newsletter, or to register get your free “Guide To The Dream Wedding” report. Try to focus on one main call to action versus several. Don't be obnoxious but you can't forget that you have a business to run!
Okay, now go through the blog writing checklist again step-by-step and outline your post. How'd that go?
You should now have an easy method to create compelling list posts for you blog that your clients will love. Let me know in the comments the headline of the post you came up with!