How to Write a Successful Blog Post, the Right Way
Written by LaFleur
Stating the Obvious? Blogging More Isn’t Always Better.
We’ve all heard that we need to blog more, and there’s a lot of advice from respectable online marketing agencies that posting more often will boost your bottom line. But this is a half-truth, not a proven formula for success.
In fact, part of the problem is that everyone is blogging more. If you’re only looking at WordPress, which is one of the most popular platforms for creating new websites, 42.6 million new blog posts are published every month. That’s nearly 17 new blog posts being created per second, just on WordPress. Near the end of 2015, WordPress powered 25% of all sites on the internet, so you can likely quadruple that number (for a total of 68 new blog posts) to approximate how much new content is truly being created every second. If you’d like to be sobered by precisely how much information is added to and consumed by the internet every moment of every day, just watch it unfold in real time.
Another part of the problem is that a great deal of content on the internet is garbage. Approximately 75% of all the sites that exist online are inactive. Furthermore, people just don’t seem to care about anything except what Google serves up to them. Consider these statistics from Moz:
- 71.33% of organic clicks occur on page 1 of search results pages (SERPs)
- On page 1, the first 5 search results account for a full 67.60% of clicks
- Page 2 and 3 of SERPs account for a mere 5.59% of clicks
If you do a Google search for “How to write a blog post,” you’ll get “about 118,000,000” results. Of those millions upon millions of pages, about 77% of people are utilizing the first 30 results in Google. And Moz’s numbers may actually be low. A different study from Chitika in 2013 concluded that 95% of search traffic flows through the first page of Google.
This doesn’t necessarily mean those other 117,999,970 results consist of entirely worthless content, but it should give you pause as you consider the idea that blogging more is better.
The truth is that blogging better is better. Here’s how.
Step 1 for Writing a Blog Post: Start with a Great Idea.
Writing a great blog post the right way begins with a great idea. Developing a great idea is a multifaceted process, and the more effort you put into creating and developing an outstanding idea, the more likely it is that your eventual blog post will be a success. If you write about something just to write something, you’re almost certainly going to end up disappointed in your blog’s performance.
Here are a few tips for finding a good idea for your next blog post:
- Tip: Choose a topic that relates to the product or service you provide so your eventual blog article will support the main goal(s) of your site.
Example: This blog post supports our specific services of blog content development and content marketing, talks back to our core value of transparency, etc.
- Tip: Choose a topic you’re uniquely qualified to discuss so you can deliver unique insights.
Example: I’ve been teaching writing for over a decade, I’ve been writing personally and professionally for even longer, I have piles of data about our own (and our clients’) successful blog posts to review, etc.
- Tip: Discover what has already been said about your topic so you can find something new to contribute.
Example: There are plenty of pages and even websites dedicated to discussing how to write a blog post, but very few of them are written by writing experts who will be flagrantly honest with you about how difficult it is to create a successful blog post (and give you truly rock-solid and comprehensive advice for how to do it).
Those 3 tips will take you a long way toward writing a successful blog post without over-analyzing or missing the forest for the trees. Additional keyword, trend, audience, and competitor research can help clarify your topic and the direction your piece should ultimately take. A close analysis of your blog and site performance may also help as you craft a topic. What brings visitors to your site? What compels them to reach out? What topics do well and what topics are underperforming on your site?
Regardless of how much data and analysis you have at your disposal, the important thing to remember is that a successful blog post begins with a great idea.
Step 2 for Writing a Blog Post: Follow the Writing Process.
I’ve written before about how to manage content development with a team of writers; however, I’d like to share the same writing process I teach to my students and my own team here at LaFleur Legal Marketing. We follow every step of this process to craft successful blog content for ourselves and our clients.
Phase 1: Brainstorming and Pre-Drafting
Once you have an idea, it needs further development before you should dive into the actual writing. The most basic form of pre-drafting is to create a scratch outline to plan out the general trajectory of your piece. You may further develop your scratch outline by including facts, sources, and main ideas you want to make sure you include (or avoid).
If you’re having trouble putting together a coherent scratch outline, you likely need to step back a bit and do some more thorough brainstorming. Conducting some more research, freewriting for 5-10 minutes about your topic, and/or creating a freeform concept map may generate enough talking points to then develop a serviceable scratch outline that will serve as your guide as you draft.
Phase 2: Drafting
Most people have a good idea of what drafting is. It’s the process by which you take those scrap sheets of paper, files, reports, and online bookmarks you’ve been using to collect ideas and turn them into something that resembles a formal piece of writing.
For online writing in particular, you’ll want to consider utilizing headings, subheadings, bullets, lists, and visuals more so than you would for something in print. Keep in mind that people online have incredibly short attention spans and simply do not read online like they do on paper. Keep your points concise and poignant wherever possible.
Kyle McCarthy, another one of our expert writers, developed a brief series on writing for the web that can assist you as you create your draft:
- Writing for the Web: Crafting Headlines and Crapping Convention
- Writing for the Web: Using Bulletgraphs to Optimize Web Content
Drafting is best done in long, focused stretches of time. Silence your phone; close out email, chat, and other distracting programs and windows; and get all of the materials you need in one place. If you think you can multitask, you’re wrong. Any interruptions or distractions will negatively impact your writing; it’s that simple.
Phases 3 and 4: Revising and Editing
In a furious dash to get more content on their websites (and with a misinformed attitude about people’s willingness to tolerate writing errors online), content writers and publishers rarely give much thought to revising and editing. But consider the last thing you enjoyed reading online and that you read all the way through: how many mistakes did you find? Chances are good the answer to that question is “surprisingly few, if any.”
As I’m fond of telling my students and writers, errors in grammar, punctuation, and mechanics are like distractions at a theater — the movie you’re seeing may be great, but the experience of watching it is easily ruined by cell phones going off, a creaky seat, talkative moviegoers, and numerous other distractions. No matter how great your topic and ideas are, the experience of reading about them will be ruined by typos, repetitive syntax, nonstandard grammar, and uninspired word choice.
The best way to revise and edit is to step away from your piece for a period of time. Any amount of time will do — even 15 minutes in a crunch — but I recommend at least 1 day away from your writing before coming back to it. Read it once through specifically for revising concerns at the section and paragraph level. Are your ideas in the best order possible? Are they fully developed? Have you taken out anything that is not especially relevant to your primary discussion? Are you missing any concepts or details that would defuse objections and cement the internal logic of your piece?
Once you’re done revising, take some more time away from your piece so you can come back with fresh eyes for another read through. This time, focus more narrowly on editing concerns at the sentence and word level. Are you using the most poignant words possible? Can you make your explanations more concise? Have you eliminated redundancies? Did you vary your sentence structure and diction? Did you obliterate needless passive voice?
If you’re going to cut corners, proof while you edit. If you want to be able to sleep at night knowing you did the best possible job you could on your blog post, take some time away after editing and then come back to proof. Make sure everything is spelled correctly. Keep a keen eye out for misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors, confusing shifts in tense or perspective, and parallelism errors. Be sure you can justify each use of any type of punctuation.
At any point while you revise, edit, and proof, the input of others can be helpful. A second or third set of eyes on a piece will inevitably catch something you missed. Despite my editing prowess, I always have another team member at least proof any piece I write because it’s difficult to get enough distance from your own work to truly be an outstanding self-editor.
Phase 5: Publishing
The final phase of the writing process is to publish your work online. When you do, you’ll want to get fundamental search engine optimization (SEO) elements (title tag, meta description, and H1 tag) in place. At a minimum, you’ll want to find a relevant image to include in your post with alt-text. Your formatting online should have a clear hierarchy based on the headings, subheadings, and other structural features in your original document.
Ideally, you will also include a clear call to action. Encourage visitors to fill out a form, call your office, visit other pages, download a resource, or accomplish another action that will further the goal(s) of your website and/or business.
Once those crucial foundational elements are in place, you may then consider adding additional features and implementing complementary strategies to bolster the success of your copy. Featured quotes, graphics, charts, and other visuals or design-based elements can keep finicky online readers engaged. Creating high-quality video content related to the post can also increase engagement across platforms. Promoting your piece via email can give you the best chance of reaching the people who matter the most, and promoting your work on social media can help you reach new audiences.
Step 3 for Writing a Blog Post: Monitor Your Performance
There’s no easy way to say this: not every post you write, even if it is truly outstanding, is going to be a success. Online readers are fickle and highly unpredictable. If you polled our most experienced writers and editors to ask which pieces are the best on our site, their lists would likely share a few blog article titles, but no one’s list would align 100% with the actual performance of our blog pieces.
To provide a little insight here, I’d like to share what our top 5 blog pieces were this past month (from December 15, 2016 to January 15, 2017); I’ve also included when they were published:
- Don’t Be a Fool at Your Office Holiday Party (December 2016)
- Q&A with Chip LaFleur, President of LaFleur Legal Marketing (December 2016)
- Digital Marketing Ethics: Where to Draw the Line (February 2016)
- Now and Later: Forecasting Your Law Firm’s 2017 Marketing Budget (October 2016)
- Why Write? The Relevance of Good Writing in the Internet Age. (October 2015)
The two at the top of the list come as no surprise to any of us: they were promoted via email and social this past month. However, several other posts were promoted in the exact same way and had more time to acquire unique page views in this past month, but they got beat out by other posts, one of which is well over a year old.
Granted, unique page views are a bit of a vanity metric and don’t say a whole lot about the quality of the content, but it’s a starting point for analysis. If I were to do a deep dive into assessing how our blog content is performing, I’d probably consider unique page views, time on page, and conversion success to get started. After all, a page with 1 view that gets you 1 new client is almost always better than a page with 1,000 views that gets you 0 new clients.
Now let’s take a look at our top 5 posts of all time as far as unique views are concerned:
- Digital Marketing Ethics: Where to Draw the Line (February 2016)
- Optimizing Your YouTube Videos for Impact: Titles and Descriptions (June 2015)
- Twitter Marketing: Best Practices to Make It Work (January 2016)
- Why Write? The Relevance of Good Writing in the Internet Age. (October 2015)
- The Importance of Trust: An Etymological History of “Legal” and “Loyal” (July 2015)
Again, unique page views are just one way to look at the data, and there plenty of confounding factors here: these posts have been around longer to accumulate more views, they have been promoted more often, etc. However, the key takeaway here is that the most successful pages on our site are, in many ways, an ongoing source of surprise, and yours likely will be too.
What shouldn’t be a surprise is the ROI your successful blog posts bring. While the topics that have done well are delightfully surprising to us, every one of them has brought us success, from likes and shares to form fills and phone calls, and your truly outstanding content, if executed properly, will ultimately do the same. And it’s easy to see from the sampling of successful posts above that your best content will pay dividends for weeks, months, and even years after it is first published.
Blogging more isn’t going to bring you that success on its own. Instead, what succeeds and what fails on your blog needs to be a guide as you strategize and develop ideas for your next post or content marketing initiative. Should you riff off of a successful topic (perhaps with a new approach, another level of depth, or a discussion about a closely related issue) to increase your authority, or should you explore new areas to establish your knowledge and experience? Should you update a post that has failed (or gone stale) or remove it and move forward with something brand new? Should you consolidate several posts on a similar topic or break a large piece up into a series?
These are difficult questions to answer, especially when the only data you have available is your own (if you’re lucky enough to have the time and capability to collect and analyze that data intelligently). And that’s where LaFleur Legal Marketing comes in.
LaFleur Legal Marketing: Blog Writing Experts and Content Marketing Aficionados
At LaFleur Legal Marketing, we not only have a uniquely talented and qualified staff of exceptional writers, but also a wealth of experience specifically in the legal sector. We can use the data from past successes to inform our approach to your unique situation as we customize a blend of the specific tools and tactics that make the most sense for you.
Whether you’re looking to improve and expand your content marketing efforts or you’re exasperated with the mediocre work your current marketing agency keeps delivering (or failing to deliver), you should contact LaFleur Legal Marketing. Call us today at 888-222-1512 or fill out our convenient contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Petrescu, P. (2014, October 1). Google organic click-through rates in 2014. Moz. Retrieved from https://moz.com/blog/google-organic-click-through-rates-in-2014
The value of Google result positioning. (2013, June 7). Chitika. Retrieved from https://chitika.com/google-positioning-value
Total number of websites. (n.d.). Internet Live Stats. Retrieved from http://www.internetlivestats.com/total-number-of-websites/#ref-1