I have a google doc that I keep for my blog ideas. When I’m out on the web, and I read something that hits me I add it to that list. If someone tweets or blogs something cool, that merits more than just a comment or a retweet, I post that to my list. The document is broken into three separate lists, one for each blog I write. It’s set up with a shortcut on my desktop, and I also can access it from my smart phone. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, if I think “I’m so blogging this...” I can preserve that thought for later.
Then, when the time comes for me to actually write the blog, I open up that document, and I’ve got a lot of things I can write about. I just pick one and go.
Sometimes I’ll go out actively looking for ideas. I’ll check Yahoo’s main page or Google Trends to see what search terms are hot, and see if any of them could be related to my topic. I’ll go to BBC.com or CNN.com and search for a few of my go-to keywords to see if there are any current news stories I can resource.
Sometimes getting an idea is its own research. By that, I mean that while I’m out doing my normal “keeping-up-on-things” reading, I find a great topic that makes me want to write. Other times, I get an idea from some other situation, and I’ll have to do a bit of research and reading to get some background. Sometimes, I’ll just have to do a little fact-checking. In any case, it’s good to base your writing on some facts. Or opinions...
Often, my first bit of writing is just actually jotting down some notes. When preparing this post, for example, I wrote out all of these bullet points. I just get a few thoughts down, maybe in a sentence, or maybe in a list. That’s enough to get me started.
- First Draft
Now, I’m ready to write. I’ll start filling in sentences and paragraphs around those ideas that I listed out in the previous step. Or, I’ll flesh out those skeletal bits that I jotted down, either from my research or from my first thoughts.
It’s important to me, while I’m in this first draft, to not block myself. So, I don’t usually pay too much attention to logic, sensibility, punctuation, rules. I just write.
Yes, my first drafts are a mess. You got a problem with that? I don’t.
- First Edit: Flow & Logic
The reason I don’t have a problem with messy first drafts is that I know that I’m going to clean them up long before the public sees them. My first edit is where I look the posting over and clean up the logic and the flow. Top to bottom, does it make sense? Some posts, I organize chronologically, like I often do when writing a recipe at Mark’s Black Pot. Other posts may be organized in a more “inverted pyramid” format. Sometimes, in a more personal blog post, it’s OK to ramble.
- Second Edit: Proofread
Now, it’s starting to make sense. It’s time to clean up by the rules. Check for punctuation errors, spelling errors, clumsy sentences, redundancies... There are a lot of grammar nazis out there, and I’d rather not give them the fodder.
- Third Edit: Keywords & SEO
The next edit is possibly the most important. I go through the article and tweak sentences to include more keywords. More of my main keywords, more long-tail keywords, and more keywords to draw people to my affiliate links. More, more, more!
Another thing to add at this stage is links. Establishing internal links to other relevant topics that you’ve blogged about before will draw clicks to those entries, as well as boost search engine value as well. Make sure that you’re including keywords in your link text, and not just saying “click here”. Links to external websites will also help to establish you as a credible, connected source of information. You can also contact the people you’ve linked to, and they’ll sometimes mention you as well, spreading the link love!
- Rest, and Re-read
This is a strategy that I’ve just recently discovered, but I haven’t done as much as I need to. Once a blog entry is written, it’s a good idea to let it rest before posting it. This does a few good things for you.
First, you’ll re-read it a few hours later with fresh eyes, and possibly catch writing errors and problems that you missed before. It might not be as clear as you’d originally thought, or there’s a spelling error you didn’t see.
Second, if it’s a very personal or emotional blog post, you can stop yourself from saying things that get too many people mad at you. While courting controversy is sometimes one way to gain traffic and readers, it can also undermine your credibility if you handle it wrong.
Now it’s time to go public! Copy and paste your article into your blog host and click the publish button, right?
Almost. There are a few more things I do here.
The first is to find some pictures to include. Even though I don’t always do this, especially in a conceptual blog like this one, it’s amazing how much a good graphic will dress up an article.
I’ll also, at the bottom, interlink it with my other blogs. Yes, I do that, even though they’re not always (or even often) relevant.
Also, I’ll find some relevant affiliate products (usually books at Amazon.com) and include those in my blog. And don’t forget to tag the post.
The final step is to go out and tell the world that it’s there. I post a spot up on facebook and twitter, with a clever, leading and enticing phrase to draw people there. I’ll also put it up on a pinging service, like pingoat.com, or ping-o-matic.com, to notify blogging aggregating sites as well as search engines that I have new content.
This is a pretty exhaustive list of steps, and some even might consider it exhausting. But to do them all each time will end with better written posts, that rank higher, are better connected, and eventually make you more money.
Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.
Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.