The Six-step recipe for writing perfect blogposts
By Chris Gillespie, founder of Find A Way Media
Do you know why people love to break complex processes into recipe analogies?
It's because recipes are algorithms.
They're step-by-step instructions for repeatable results. So, consider this post a double study: It's partly the format, partly the substance.
Today, we're baking sourdough. For those unfamiliar, the sour taste comes from yeast that, in the case of San Francisco's iconic breadmaker Boudin, is 160 years old.
This cultivated fungus is known as starter. Bakers feed it and it grows. Every time they bake a new batch, they pinch off a piece and feed it more.
This is a good way to think about your blog writing. You need a starter idea that's powerful enough to give your writing a memorable kick, and which you're constantly feeding into. Make a habit of jotting notes down throughout your day -- headlines, subjects, potential interviewees, or maybe how that jerk who commented on your LinkedIn post made you feel. These fragments are food for your starter.
With that, let's bake.
How To Write An Exceptional Blogpost
1. Start with a 10x topic
Billions of articles are published every month. Consumers are bombarded with several thousand messages each day. Amidst this chaos, the odds that they find your blogpost and read it are low. So you need a strategy.
Just having a strategy can put you ahead of most marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 25 percent of them have no content marketing plan. Another 38 percent say they do, but don't have it written down, which is like workplace equivalent of saying your dog ate your homework.
Your plan can be as simple as resolving to bake what your customers are hungry for.
Most marketers create content out of sheer convenience. A topic pops into their head and they go for it. They spend time writing it, money promoting it, and more time analyzing why nothing happened.
This is exactly backwards. Good topics come from your current or potential customers. What do they frequently ask? What do they complain about? What are they hungry to read?
Asking these questions will lead you to content that performs 10-times better than regular, convenience-driven content. We call these 10x topics. These are the topics like The World's Most Valuable Resource is No Longer Oil, but Data that have the potential to go viral because they're goddamn interesting. They're things that make us stop and think, "Wow, why didn't somebody write this before?"
If your topic idea isn't that, keep searching and adding to your starter until it arrives.
2. Come up with an analogy
The point of your blogpost is to teach readers something, and analogies can help. These are shortcuts that help them connect the unfamiliar to the familiar. Alas, they're often overdone.
An analogy should always make things simpler. If it takes more than one or two sentences to explain, it has the opposite effect. Now you're just building a wall between yourself and your reader.
Most great analogies are just a few words:
3. Research and build an outline
Bullet points will do. As you find resources, add the link to your notes, then take notes under the link. When you get ideas that you know belong in the piece, add them to a bullet point outline.
4. Get it all down on paper
Now you can unleash the muse inside. Set aside enough time to get the entire thing down on paper in one sitting. tart writing whatever comes to mind and let it go on for as long as it has to. It’s not uncommon to write two or three times as long of a post in the rough draft stage. Like a great sourdough, the more you start with and the longer you let it ferment, the tastier it turns out when it’s pared down and consumed.
5. Take your last paragraph and move it to the beginning
The act of writing forces you to think things out and your story, topic, analogies, and content evolve as you write. By the time you’re done, you’ve usually figured out what it was that you were really writing about in the first place. You should take that final paragraph and like a pumpkin on a headless horseman, place it where the head used to be. Revise it to serve as a good intro, and then do one or two revisions to comb back through to make everything that follows make sense in light of your re-heading.
6. Let it sit overnight and then revise
Why do we let our sourdough bread dough sit? Because it settles and all of the flavors start to mix together in new and exciting ways. So it is with your blog writing that by letting it sit overnight, you’ll find that the flavor is different in a new day's light and you’ll be able to approach it from a more critical angle. Go back through and revise a few more times and make sure of the following:
Your thesis clearly ties back to the subject
Your paragraphs all tie back to the thesis
Omit needless words
7. Choose the title and image
With your blogpost done, there’s nothing left to do but butter it up. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick offer a great acronym to remember when writing blog headlines: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories (SUCCESS, without the last S). Here’s an example:
Abraham Lincoln and sales? I’m intrigued, go on. There's a lot packed in there but it hits most of the key points and presents a concrete offer: read this and you'll learn how to save your sales team.
For more reading, BuzzSumo has a great article on writing headlines.
For choosing the image, you want to align it with your analogy. The trifecta of blogpost success is having the image, the headline, and the subject all relate back to it.
When you've narrowed your image down to several options, choose the one that's the most eye catching, has the highest contrast, and has the most action or movement on it.
Now you have the recipe, go bake the bread!
You're not disappointed that the post is over are you? Don't fear writing blogposts, you'll find that they're easier than you think and like any skill, it simply takes practice. Once you gain some momentum you will find that you start dreaming up analogies and topics while engaged in other work. You'll build upon your starter until you find that it's rising out the pan and you don't have time to keep up with all of the ideas. Thats when it really takes off and you start driving the traffic and visors that you had hoped for!