If you were a carpenter, you probably wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint and a detailed plan.
Otherwise, you end up with an odd, pieced-together home like the “"Dr. Seuss House” in Willow, Alaska. Sure, it’s cool to look at, but it’s highly impractical and doesn’t follow any building codes.
So why, as marketers, do we often craft blog articles without a clear plan of action? Why do we grab topics with little thought and start writing without a clear process for getting the article across the finish line?
This is an issue I’ve seen with many companies: their overall blog strategy and individual blog creation lack structure. And therefore, these articles fail to resonate with their audience.
To help marketers and business owners avoid these common pitfalls, I’ve devised an 8-step process for writing blog articles that drive qualified traffic to your website, convert visitors into leads, and close leads into paying customers.
It includes everything from choosing topics that resonate with your audience to creating outlines to publishing a money-making article.
Let’s dive in.
1. Pick the Right Topics
The first step in creating a blog article that connects with your audience is to pick the right blog topics.
But how do you go about this?
It starts with having a clear understanding of your ideal customer's pain points, wants, and needs.
Interview Internal SMEs
Start by chatting with all of your customer-facing employees and ask them to compose a list of the top 10 questions they hear most frequently.
Interview your sales team, customer service team, product owners, in-house subject matter experts, and anyone else who frequently interacts with prospects or customers.
By having them all write down the most common questions and problems they hear from buyers, you’ll start to build a complete picture of what information these buyers are seeking.
Do Keyword Research
Keyword research should come after internal interviews. Keyword research should not be the foundation of your blogging strategy. Instead, it should be used to supplement it.
Review all the questions you received from your team; look for patterns and which questions came up the most frequently.
Then turn to keyword tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Ubersuggest to review the keywords.
Look at how frequently these topics are searched online, how difficult they are to rank for organically, and how much people are willing to pay per click for the traffic.
Organize Your Content Calendar
Now that you have a large list of potential blog topics to write about, you’ll need to prioritize your publishing schedule.
So how do you choose which articles to create sooner rather than later?
I run each topic through a checklist of questions that help me decide which is best to tackle.
- Is this a question buyers are asking?
- At what point in their buyer’s journey are they looking for this information?
- How often do buyers ask this question?
- How helpful would it be for our sales team to have these answers?
- How influential are these answers to the buyer’s decision-making process?
By running each topic through this list of questions, you’ll quickly identify which topics need to be written ASAP, and which can be backburnered for later.
If you’d like more insight into organizing your content calendar and choosing the best topics, check out my article “How to Prioritize Your Business Blog Topics & Fine-Tune Your Content Calendar.”
2. Schedule SME Interviews and Conduct Research
Unless you’re a subject matter expert yourself, you’ll need to schedule interviews with people who are.
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify who within your organization is an expert on your chosen topic.
Often, the people who helped you list out all of the questions buyers have are among those who answer those questions frequently.
Schedule interviews with members of your sales team and subject matter experts who answer these questions for clients daily.
Find out what questions people have about your given topic, what their common pain points are, what frustrations they have, what objections they have to solutions, and how your SMEs typically answer these questions.
For more info on how to do great interviews, check out this guide for conducting interviews by John Becker at IMPACT.
Research Your Topic
Your internal SMEs will be a gold mine of information, but it’s still important to use other sources.
Whether you need to back up claims, verify your information is accurate and up-to-date, or pepper interesting stats and anecdotes into your article, you’ll want to find external expert sources.
These could be outside subject matter experts and thought leaders, popular journals, educational blogs, or studies and white papers to review.
Having outside sources to cite lends more credibility to your content and creates backlinking opportunities allowing people to follow your research rabbit hole.
Further, Google loves it when you link to content outside of your own website. It shows you want to be part of a larger teaching community, and that you are willing to point your audience toward the best sources of information (even when it’s someone else's info).
3. Create an Outline
Before jumping right into writing your article, it’s important to consider how you’ll structure your argument.
One thing I like to do with my articles is to think of them like textbooks:
- What are the major chapters you’ll need to cover to explain the topic fully?
- What are the subchapters nested beneath each major chapter?
- What are the key points you’ll need to address in the article?
From here, you’ll want to order the chapters in a logical flow.
After you create your outline, it’s helpful to run it by your subject matter experts to verify the structure and flow of the article.
4. Write Your Draft
Once your outline has been approved, it’s time to put in the work and write your article.
Everybody has their own process for writing an article. Some like to start from the beginning and work their way logically toward the end.
Others like to start with the easiest sections to work out and tackle more difficult sections later.
I, personally, find it’s easiest to start with the body of the article, get all of my points fleshed out, and then circle back to write the intro and outro last.
If I try to write the intro first, I’ll often struggle because I don’t yet know the direction the article may end up taking. Once I write the body of the article, I often have to circle back and rewrite a more targeted introduction.
I also have a formula for my intros, dubbed "The PEP Method." PEP stands for Problem, Expertise, Preview.
In an intro, you want to first connect with the problem/pain point your readers are experiencing. Get them to nod their heads and say to themselves, “yes, this is exactly the problem I’m experiencing right now.”
Then, they’ll want to know why they should trust the source of information for a solution to their problem. Establishing a little expertise can put them at ease and let them know they’re in good hands.
Whether you flex your individual expertise or your company expertise is up to you, but give a subtle plug that you know what you’re talking about and why they can trust your guidance.
Finally, to get people to invest in your article, give them a little preview of how you’ll tackle the argument.
For outros, you simply need to recap what was learned, the value of what was learned, and give people clear next actions to take.
If your business offers solutions matching the topic, end with a strong call to action that gets people to continue their journey with your business.
5. Optimize Your Content for SEO & UX
Now that you have your first draft complete, it’s time to spruce it up for search engine optimization and user experience.
One of my best pieces of advice is that when writing a blog article, always write with the end user in mind. Make sure they’d be satisfied with the answers you’ve given them.
After you’re happy with the experience you’ve given your audience, you can comb through your article to enhance it for search engines.
Write for people, optimize for search engines.
Writing for User Experience
Use a lot of "you" language
Does it feel like you’re addressing the reader directly, that a conversation is taking place? Or would your audience feel as if you’re talking about them?
Did you address the problem at hand and help them solve that problem?
Did you open their eyes to other problems they have that you have relevant content they can review?
Did you give them clear next actions that will help them work towards solving their problem?
When writing for people, put them into the story and make them the hero.Doing so will help them connect with your content on a more meaningful level.
Call out your biases immediately
Let’s say you’re writing an article comparing a product you sell to another that you don’t. If you don’t let people know early on that you may be biased, and they discover on their own that you sell one of those products and not the other, your credibility will crumble.
They’ll believe that you were trying to persuade them towards the option that would benefit you the most and not the one that is best for them.
But if you address your bias early on, it’ll help disarm them and get them to listen more closely.
Follow the 80/20 Rule of Content
The 80/20 rule of content dictates that 80% of a blog article should be educational and only 20% promotional.
If an article feels like it’s attempting to persuade you one way over another, readers may feel the content is nothing more than a thinly veiled native advertisement.
On the flip side, if you’re all education with no promo, your readers might end up thinking, great, that really solved my problem. Now I have to go find a business to help me with the solution, and they leave your site for a competitor’s.
It’s a delicate balance, but the best way to use the 80/20 rule is to introduce yourself in the intro (to establish expertise and credibility), sprinkle some anecdotes throughout the article, and save your pitch for the outro.
Optimize for Accessibility
You’ll want to make sure your content is easy to read for your target audience. Run your articles through Grammarly and The Hemingway App. Doing so will help you check for grammar, spelling, and syntax errors. These tools will also tell you how difficult the copy is to read, which will help you simplify dense passages to make them more accessible to your readers.
Optimizing for Search Engines
Add links to relevant content
When optimizing for search engines, you’ll want to add links to relevant content (both internal and external). You’ll want to make sure that your link’s anchor text is descriptive, so that if it were isolated, it would still give people enough context to understand where that page goes.
Check your keyword usage
You’ll want to check through your article to see if you’ve used your primary, secondary, and LSI keywords.
Did you use your primary keyword in the first 100 words of the article?
Did you use your primary or secondary keywords in any subheadings (if relevant)?
Do you feel you’ve overused your keywords and should find some alternatives to avoid keyword stuffing?
Review the thoroughness of your copy
While there’s no perfect length to an article, long-form content tends to rank higher in search engines than short-form content.
Long-form content is often viewed as being more thorough than short content, leaving fewer stones unturned to give people more complete answers to their questions.
Long-form content also tends to generate more backlinks to it as others see it as an authority on the topic, which helps double down on the SEO value. And, long-form content keeps people on the page longer and is more likely to get them to click through to other relevant content.
You don’t need to focus on hitting a particular word count, but you should ensure your content is a comprehensive answer of the topic.
6. Have an Internal Review
Once you’re happy with the article, it’s time to publish it, right?
No. If you did, you’d be missing out on a very important step in the editorial process.
Even the most seasoned writers should have someone else review their content before sending it out to the masses.
Often, you may be too close to the content to see subtle mistakes you may have made.
From grammar to spelling to factual errors, it’s always a good practice to have at least one extra set of eyes review your content before publishing.
The most obvious people to have review your content are the subject matter experts who provided you with the information to write your article.
Run it past at least one SME to review it for factual accuracy. They may catch minor or even egregious errors. Few things are more frustrating as a content creator than putting out work only to have other industry experts nitpick any minute inaccuracy.
If you have another writer or are blessed with having an editor on staff, you can run your article by them to check grammar, spelling, syntax, voice, and tone.
Too many grammatical errors can leave your readers questioning your professionalism. If you couldn’t be bothered to have your content reviewed, how can they trust you?
7. Schedule and Publish
Hopefully you’re not always scrambling to finish a piece of writing so you can immediately get it live on your website the moment it’s greenlit. That can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and make you feel as if you’re barely keeping up with publishing.
Developing a consistent content calendar will keep you several steps ahead of your content and ensure you stay accountable.
Find the best days and time to publish your contentand stick as close to that schedule as possible.
It’s also best to try and work a few weeks ahead to build up a backlog of content. Doing so will make you feel better about taking vacation or sick days without disrupting publication.
Whether you’re using HubSpot, WordPress, or another CMS, it’s good to get your article loaded and optimized at least a few days before it’s due to publish.
It’s also a good idea to have someone else look it over one last time in its final form to review it.
Make sure your blog is optimized for the following:
- Image optimization
- Multimedia placement
- Link best practices
- Meta description
- Call to action
- Social post copy
- Email notification copy
Once all of these items have been reviewed and found to be in working order, go ahead and set the date and time to publish.
Breathe a quick sigh of relief, then prepare to rinse and repeat for the next article.
8. Monitor and Fine-Tune
An article is never finished. Too many content creators have a “set it and forget it” mentality. Once their article is published, it’s out of sight, out of mind for them as they begin to research and write their next piece.
However, if you want to ensure your article is making a positive impact, you’ll want to keep an eye on it.
For starters, you’ll want to check that your article is indexed. If Google crawls your website often (which it will if you publish frequently), you can wait for its bots to crawl, index, and start ranking your articles on its own.
However, if you’re new to publishing or don’t publish on a regular basis, you’ll want to jump into Google search console’s URL inspection tooland request to have your page crawled. This won’t happen immediately, but it at least gets the ball rolling faster.
It’s kind of like raising your hand in the classroom. The teacher will see you, they may not call on you immediately, but they’ll get to you a lot faster than if you kept to yourself.
Periodically you’ll want to review your articles to see if they need any updating or treatment.
A few things to keep an eye on are:
- Keyword rankings
- Are you starting to rank for relevant keywords?
- What positions do you find yourself at for those keywords?
- Is the article starting to bring in traffic?
- What sources of traffic are finding your content?
- Organic, referral, social?
- Behavioral metrics
- How long are people staying on the page?
- Do they bounce after reading or move on to other pages?
- What links are they clicking on your page?
- Are they watching videos on the page?
- Are they clicking on your CTAs?
- If they do click on your CTAs, are they becoming contacts?
- Have you set up revenue attribution, and if so, how much money has your content influenced?
- Regular maintenance
- As you publish new articles, you'll want to jump into older articles to update with new links.
- Update for factual accuracy. Is everything you said in an older article still true? Are the studies you cited still relevant?
- Check for broken links. Some of your internal and external links may end up broken. You don't want to send visitors to 404 error dead ends. Use site audit tools to scan your pages for broken links.
Need Help With Content Marketing?
Congratulations! You've made it to the end of the 8-step process for writing a winning blog article. By following these steps, you can craft blog posts that will engage your readers, drive traffic to your website, and position you as an expert in your field.
But don't stop here. Writing great content is just one part of a successful content marketing strategy. If you're ready to take your content marketing efforts to the next level, consider reaching out to Media Junction.
We specialize in inbound marketing services and website design, and we can help you create a custom strategy that meets your unique needs and goals.
Whether you're looking to create a steady stream of high-quality content, optimize your website for search engines, or refresh your brand identity, we're here to help.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your content marketing goals.