How to Write a Blog – A Beginners Guide
Getting started with blogging requires a lot of technical skills to learn, in addition to setting up a WordPress website on a shared host you’ll also need to learn how to write a blog post for the internet effectively.
Writing blog posts is part technical skill, part artistic use of words, images, video and audio to persuade someone to take some sort of action. That action as it relates to websites typically revolves around three key drivers:
- Share your content in order to grow your traffic
- Turn web traffic into email subscribers
- Make product sales (affiliate or otherwise) or earn from display advertising
A common mistake beginner bloggers make is to “wing it” and write about whatever they want and hope for the best. Instead, you need to find topics people are looking for and create best in class content for that search term. You also need to be on the lookout for under-served topics.
Good blogging tells a story and connects with the reader
Did you know that Land Rover in an effort to connect the “off-roading” lifestyle with its target audience gave away an edible survival guide? The pages were made out of edible paper and ink, the binder can be used as a skewer for food and the book was reflective (so you can signal planes and helicopters when you’re in distress.
Copywriting, it’s in the slogans you hear on the radio, it’s in the sales pages you find online, its the words and one liners you get from TV:
- You’re in good hands with Allstate – Allstate
- I’m lovin it -McDonalds
- What’s in your wallet? – Capitol One
Copywriting is in the offers you see around you:
- Buy one get one free
- Kids eat free on Tuesday
- NO ATM fees
- Delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free
Copywriting is part art and part skill which makes copywriters some of the highest paid writers in the world apart from professional, well known, best selling authors.
There are plenty of paid options that exist to help you become a competent copywriter too. If you’re serious about learning how to blog effectively for your own website, email newsletter and paid ads you should invest in yourself as to become truly proficient.
Web design should enhance content
Good web design for your blog, actually enhances the effectiveness of your sales copy. As a blogger and content creator at the helm of a website, you’re on your own with copywriting for the web. You don’t have a marketing and design department working together to build your website and it’s content.
That burden falls upon you and anyone with whom you decide to work with. This makes it absolutely necessary for you to understand copywriting (mixed with a sufficient knowledge of web design).
Your web design needs to capture the essence of what your website is about, meaning if it’s a dating blog for women you should have some idea as to what kind of design and colors will appeal to your ideal user (i.e. single women).
Design with one purpose per page in mind
Each page should be crafted with a call to action. These actions, depending on what kind of site you have, will entail your visitor either sharing your content, buying your products, clicking ads or subscribing to your website.
Building content driven websites, content is always the focus as without content, design is simply decoration. A one page one purpose mentality helps to focus ones attention on the essentials of the design. To enhance the message of the website, and to enhance it’s content and products…not the other way around.
What you can specifically do
Take a look at successful competitors in the space you’re wanting to enter. What similarities do you notice in regards to colors and navigation? What similarities are there with the logo design? What do you think the ideal user expects from a website in xyz market?
You want to differentiate yourself in regards to your selling point, so the dating advice site for women market as an example, use a design and color scheme one would expect from such a website… NOT what you in particular like. Then drive home your content by making your tag-line and published content meet your unique selling point again and again.
Why would they NOT want to use your website?
Write your content in a text editor with no distractions so you can focus on the message of the website. Who is your target audience? Who are you seeking to appeal to with your words? Why would they object to the website and how can your design help minimize this?
You don’t want to take a website you like from another market, say personal development or some lifestyle design website and apply that design to your dating blog or finance website. This is a mistake new webmasters make because you’re simply wire-framing someone else’s design and simply giving it a new coat of paint. “I want a design similar to ____.com” >>The winning design now becomes an inappropriate mess.
Instead of saying that you want your personal finance website or dating blog to look like another website in an unrelated market; take a look at the websites in your market, meet your users expectations, differentiate yourself based on your selling point and use your answers to the question of who is your target audience, what is the message and selling point of the site and why would any visitor object to the website as a foundation to design your website.
Functions over features
In addition to the one page one goal concept, also incorporate the functions over features concept too. Web design that is effective is one that focuses on the essentials in the beginning to help you achieve your online goals.
You can get more complicated later after you have web traffic, an email list, products, and a lot of published content. At the very beginning though, you have none of this so only have features that serve some purpose, not because they look cool or that people may use them. But because they look good and have a purpose.
So no, don’t add a forum, or a tool bar, or AdSense until you build your website out in regards to the amount of content as well as the traffic.
People see a website
I paid $1,000 for a professional design for a website I had bought because I was certain it would pay off in the long run. It didn’t… BECAUSE the content was not up to par. Lesson learned is this: Design is critical in supporting the message of a website, but poor content can’t be saved by a pretty design.
This is because people see a website. They don’t see the design and the published content as two separate things. Both of these two elements combined make for the end user experience for your website. One that is either engaging or one that is a turn off.
So both elements are important, you can not neglect one or the other. But content comes first.
Don’t be cute with your copy, be specific and targeted:
Is it obvious as to what is going on in the picture? Do you see how the design helps the copy? How the design helps enhance the written words. Let’s notice a few other things.
Look at the word choices: “Start accepting credit cards today”.
How does this phrase make you as a reader feel? Does this offering seem technical or complicated? No. It’s specific, but more important, it’s about you. Particularly if you’re a vendor selling products. Why? BECAUSE:
“Clearer and more specific subject lines convert better.” – Bob Kemper
Instead of telling people what you do, just get to how it benefits them and what your credentials are. So for your website it’s not effective to say we do this or we’re about that. Instead just get to the features and benefits that your website provides for your right people.
People also don’t read – make your content scannable
Most of your website traffic will skim your web page. They won’t actually read it word for word. This is because they’re not vested in your online work and want to be cautious before spending time on something that is of low quality or irrelevant.
This has other implication too. Since most people don’t read (79%), you need to make your web page scannable. You do this by having large fonts, pictures, and breaking up what you write into paragraphs with clear titles. Otherwise, people won’t read and will leave if you present them with a massive wall of text.
Now what about the other 21%?
They read everything.
So a few things. If they are hitting a sales page or a landing page give them as much specific information they need in order for them to make a decision, and be mindful of every word you use (keeping to features and benefits).
Of course, this only applies if your traffic is targeted. That is, you are getting visitors who are interested in what it is your website is about. Getting shared on social media while helpful for long term growth and for diversifying traffic streams, is not the best in terms of targeted traffic.
Visitors by way of a search engine or an ad campaign you’re running is a different story as they are finding a website with content they are looking for.
Copywriting for your homepage
Your homepage depends on what your website is about. You should have a homepage, even if you’re starting a blog. Key features should include a call to action for your email list, an introduction to what the website is about (not by telling people what the website is about but by giving the benefits of using your website).
This introduction should be a short specific 1-2 sentence. Then make the homepage into a visual menu for the website. Showing off different blog post categories and any related products or services as required. You could even design your homepage to focus on converting people to your email list only.
Writing for the web is different
There are plenty of formulas to follow as well as best practices too. But blogging, as with most things is a skill that needs time to develop. To become a better blogger you simply need to write a lot, read a lot, and track your web pages effectiveness as well as invest in courses and books to teach you the things you don’t know.
The best copy does not trick or manipulate people. It does not use physiological techniques to induce impulse buys. The best blog posts sell the features and benefits of your offer using the words you target audience uses.
It provides full information and full transparency, making it clear to anyone reading if it’s right for them. Your design enhances all this. Supporting your message and connecting visually with your right people.
Remember that old Taco Bell commercial?
The one with the dog who would say that cute, clever little catch phrase “yo quiero Taco Bell?”
This was some awesome creative advertising. Perfect for raising brand awareness. It was catchy, unique, and totally different from what other fast food commercials were doing at that time. The problem?
It did not drive sales of tacos at Taco Bell.
(It actually hurt sales because nothing says quality food like a talking dog!) You get all this attention for yourself but what is the point? What is the value of creating brand awareness and not making any sales? What is the value of learning how to to market your product but then not being able to close the deal?
In blogging terms, what’s the point of driving traffic to your website through content marketing if that traffic does not convert in any meaningful way?
The wrong target audience
Taco Bells’ marketing, while catchy and clever, was off base because nothing is less appealing than a dog trying to sell food. NOW, if the target audience was for people wanting to buy say, dog food then it might have had better results in terms of sales.
Their current approach with the idea of a late night “fourth meal” is much better because it’s focused on benefits and value for you the consumer… instead of just stealing your attention with a dog.
AXE Body Spray
Why do teenage boys spray this stuff on themselves to no end? Because teenage girls love the way it smells. Also, the advertising is marketed perfectly at young men. Instead of taking the angle that it helps you sweat less and smell better, Axe goes after a direct benefit of using their product…to get cute girls who want to have sex with you. Nothing more appealing to an 19 year old guy than that.
The fresh maker. Silly, I know. But those old commercials of eating a Mentos and magically coming up with a clever idea to solve some difficult problem you found yourself in while some antagonist looks on is extremely memorable.
You don’t remember any of the actors, they don’t rely on celebrities to push their product. Instead, they make the candy seem fun (and the commercials are memorable). So next time you’re going to do an impulse buy for mints, Mentos will pop up in your head as the front runner. Even that jingle… something you can not forget.
Content marketing and your blog
There are some clear lessons we can take away for our own websites and products despite not having a million dollar marketing budget. They’re well known, but they do need repeating and repeating when writing content for your website or writing copy for an online product:
WHO is your avatar, your right person, the ideal person who would buy your product. E.g. who does Taco Bells 4th meal appeal too? A 35 year old woman with kids…no.
WHAT is it specifically that your product does to solve the pains and difficulties of your right person. E.g. What pain is AXE body spray solving for boys? It’s not being sweaty or smelly.
WHERE do they hang out online and how can you reach them? How does Mentos jingle reach their consumer? Hint, it’s while standing at the cash register (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-do-whaaa)
WHEN is it time to change your methodology, your approach to what it is you’re doing if you’re not producing results? “Yo quiero Taco Bell” did not work, should it have been ended sooner?
WHY do people need your product? Why are they better off using your service than not. E.g. why do you buy these products?
Bloggers need to focus on having a call to action and an offer
Websites are not the end all and be all towards selling your products online. If you build it they will not come. You know this.
You need promotional methods when you’re learning how to market your product, but ANY tactic or strategy will be in vain if you do not intrinsically understand why a person should select you in a crowded market with other options.
For bloggers this is often a lack of NOT having an offer at all (something to sell for example), for websites with products it’s not tying the benefits properly to your “right” person and focusing too much on features and not the benefits the product provides.
- Fullness from cheap tasty food – Taco Bell
- Getting girls – Axe
- Being fun and clever – Mentos.
Webmasters make this mistake that web traffic will just “get” what their website is about and just naturally”understand” the level of value the webmaster is able to provide.
But value is communicated through words, action and your products. If you have no product to sell, no action you wish your traffic to take you’re not communicating value.
Keyword research – the most important skill a blogger needs
Last it your ability to find content people want and need. With a blog you’ll want to find under served topics as they can often bring in traffic within a month of having a topical blog post published but you also want to plant that seed for highly competitive keywords.
With keyword research, it does take practice to know which keyword you find would make for an individual blog post and what keyword is better aimed as being a part of a larger more comprehensive keyword. In general, the types of content you’ll want to produce are:
- Find under served topics, usually in the form of questions.
- Review style content in the form of a list.
- Comparisons of different products
- Tutorials and how-to guides
- Essential content that makes your website complete for it’s topic
- Long term, competitive keywords
Using Google itself to find topics
There are many keyword tools you can leverage to find topics to write about. A great first place is to use Google itself and allow the autocomplete to list out relevant topics. For example, the backpacks for students with laptops is a good keyword because it is long, specific and fits well with any type of blog about college or college prep.
At the bottom of the results page you’ll also see suggestions and in the SERPS page you’ll see “people also ask” which can give you more specific ideas. Once you’ve found a topic, take a look at what is ranking. Are there any posts specifically about that topic already? If yes, it may be competitive. If no, you got your next piece of content to write.
Create excellent blog post titles
Your blog post titles are very important and need to have the right mix of copywriting and the keyword you’re going after. If you were to go after “best backpacks for college students with laptops” you would want to use that keyword but add a bit more to it like “The 7 best backpacks for college students with laptops – A complete guide.”
You have to add something extra on to it to make it more click worthy. Something like “best cheap headphones for introverts” is a much more specific. Remember though, keep it related it your topic. If headphones and introverts makes no sense for your blog topic don’t publish irrelevant content.
Font size readability
Use a larger font size as well for your blog posts. As you want to make your content scannable, also make it enjoyable to read. When people are on a laptop or desktop your font size should be around 14-18px size depending on your font choice.
If most of your traffic is reading your website on a phone, then a smaller font choice like 12-14px is then appropriate.
Internal and external links
Internal links are very important for a blog. Not only do they help with your on page SEO, they are also useful for anyone visiting your website to find related content.
External links are necessary too. Your blog should link to other websites and resources. It adds to the credibility of your own website and makes your blog look more trustworthy to both users and search engines.
Keep in mind however, you should only link to relevant, related sources. A dating blog linking to a personal finance blog makes no sense.
Breakup your paragraphs and use title tags
Paragraphs for blog posts should be small and easy to read with a lot of white space. You do not want to produce walls of text as people won’t read. If people are not reading, they won’t convert into whatever call to action you have setup.
In addition, use title tags to make your content scannable and easy to navigate to points of interest on your blog post.
How to write blog posts conclusion
So that’s it for our broad overview of the skill and art form that go into learning how to write a blog. It’s part technical in understanding on page SEO, the user journey and keyword. But it’s also part artistic with your choice of of web design, images and layout.
If you want a deeper dive, checkout our Skillshare course on how to blog, the professional creators guide to content marketing.
The Professional Creators Guide to Content Marketing
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