Writing Blog Posts

5 Basic Writing Tips to Help You Start Blogging Today

Blogging comes naturally to me. I kept a Lisa Frank diary when I was a little girl, and had a LiveJournal as a teen before moving to the world of professional blogging. I do recognize that blogging isn’t an easy task for everyone, though. And okay, I’ll admit it: sometimes I stare at the computer screen and wonder what to write.

Which isn’t quite as bad as those moments when I stare at a post I’ve already published and wonder why I thought it was worth publishing. Hey, it happens to the best writers!

Today, I wanted to go over a few basic writing tips that I’ve learned over the years. These tips can help you improve your blogging skills, but remember: the very best way to improve is to actually start writing. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll be better at anything!

5 Basic Writing Tips to Help You Start Blogging Today

Without further ado, here are my best basic writing tips.

1. Be ready to write whenever the mood strikes you.

As I’m writing this post, it is 1:30 AM, and I need to be up in *number of hours redacted because it is way too depressing* since I have family coming into town tomorrow for a long weekend visit. As much as I need sleep right now, however, I couldn’t stop tossing around this idea for a blog post. And so, I’m sitting at my computer, typing away, and jealously listening to my boyfriend snore.

Even if you don’t go as far as getting out of bed to blog (hey…I don’t have a problem…I can stop at any time…), at least keep a notepad or a phone with a notepad app or a Lisa Frank diary by your bed and with you when you travel. I saw a great quote once: The greatest lie we ever tell ourselves is that we’ll remember something for later. Jot down the basic outline so you can go back and write it later.

Similarly, when you aren’t feelin’ it, step away from the computer screen. If you force a post out of yourself, it won’t be your best work. It’s always better to publish fewer high-quality posts than more mediocre posts.

2. Outline your thoughts before you start writing.

Any writing task won’t seem quite so gargantuan if you break it down into smaller chunks. I like to use this template for an outline:

  • Opening paragraph with thesis
  • Story
  • Supporting point
  • Supporting point
  • Supporting point
  • Wrap up

So, let’s say that I was writing about the best way to treat hairballs in cats. I might outline it like this:

  • Why hairballs suck – and how to fix
  • Story about my cat’s problem with hairballs
  • DIY solution
  • Why DIY is better than medication
  • What to do if DIY solution doesn’t work
  • Call to action to buy my book about cats

Then, I would write a paragraph or two about each. If I asked you to write a 900-word post about cat hairballs, you would probably groan, even if you happen to love talking about cat health. But if you write just 150 words in each of the above sections, you’ll hit your 900 words easily. Eat every elephant one bite at a time.

3. Speak your posts.

My boyfriend is not a writer, and whenever he wants to send out a professional email, he asks to advice to make sure it sounds okay. I always say to him, “Well, tell me what you’re trying to say.”

He can’t write the email, but he can speak it to me.

If you find writing to be a total road blog for you, dictate your blog posts. You can invest in software that will transcribe your spoken posts, or you can send audio files to a VA for manual transcription. Either way, you’ll likely have to do some tweaking to the final project, but this can help you get away from the mental challenge of writing.

4. Write your title first.

I find that new bloggers tend to jump around a lot in their posts. Sometimes it works, but more often it does not. By writing your title first, you know the true goal of the article, and you can make sure every sentence you write relates back to this topic. For example, this post is about basic writing tips to help you start blogging, as I’ve mentioned in the title. I’ve already scrapped a few sections that were more about starting a blog (but not writing) and more about writing (but not about blogging). I’ve also deleted some sections that were a little too advanced to be called basic.

As you write, always keep you title in mind. Be brutal with the red pen to ensure that your posts have a clear topic and point of view. Remember, you don’t have to create comprehensive posts about broad topics. Focus on sharing a single thought with the reader, relating back to your title.

5. Keep your paragraphs short.

Long paragraphs – ugh. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers making.

Each paragraph you write should only cover one idea. If you are covering several ideas in a single paragraph, you need to split into two paragraphs, even if that means your paragraphs are very short. It’s better to have shorter paragraphs than longer paragraphs. Remember, writing for the web is not like writing for print sources. If you’re still abiding by the writing rules you learned in college, it’s time to update your style.

In addition to short paragraphs, make sure your blog posts are visually appealing by adding images, bullet points, headings, and other “breaks” in the text. This makes the post more easily scanned, and because it looks less intimidating, more people will stop to read it.

Okay, what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go start blogging!

One Easy Change You Can Make TODAY to Improve Your SEO

Whenever  I start talking about SEO, people’s eyes glaze over.

I get it: SEO isn’t sexy or fun, and more bloggers would rather hide their heads in the sand, chanting, “The best SEO tip is to write good content!” While I do believe that good content is extremely important when it comes to SEO, there are some other easy things you can do make sure your content gets found, by both by readers and search engines. You’d be a fool not to spend five extra minutes on your post if it means reaching more readers.

Today, I wanted to remind you of one of the best and easiest changes you can make to your blog posting procedures to improve your SEO: internal linking. I already touched on this tip in my massive linking earning resource and on my recent post about the only three things you really need to know about SEO, but it deserves a post of its own!

One Easy Change You Can Make TODAY to Improve Your SEO

What is Internal Linking?

There are two different types of website links that you can include in your blog posts: internal and external. Most bloggers who care about SEO concentrate on external links, or getting other websites to link back to you. However, you should also care about internal links, which is when you link to your own blog posts from other blog posts.

For example, this is an internal link leading to my post about negative headlines. On the other hand, this is an external link leading to my friend Ian Cleary’s extremely useful post about video marketing tools.

External links matter because that’s how Google knows whether or not other people find your content helpful – or, at least, it’s one of the ways. Internal linking, on the other hand, gives people and search engines a way to navigate your site to find more information.

Does Internal Linking Really Help SEO?

Yes! But you can’t think about it in the same way you think about external links.

You can post a link back to a specific post on your website from every other post on your blog, but Google doesn’t really count those links as “votes” that this post is good. Of course you like the content. You wrote it!

Instead, internal linking is about:

  • Telling Google what your content is about: When you link to related pages, Google is learning that there’s a similarity. Google looks at your anchor text and other context cues to help understand what other pages are about.
  • Helping Google find content: If a page on your website isn’t connected through links in any other way, linking to it can help Google find it so it starts ranking.
  • Encouraging people to read more pages and spend more time on your site: Google likes to see low bounce rates and high time-on-site numbers. Links give people a natural next step that isn’t clicking on the back button.

Internal Linking Made Easy

Internal linking is pretty easy, even if you have thousands of posts on your blog and, like me, often forget about what you’ve written. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Link to every post at least 3 times over the first month after it is published.

I keep a running spreadsheet of every post I write. When I link to a post once, I color it blue. When I link to it twice, I color it red. When I link to it a third time, I remove it from the list. That doesn’t mean I’ll never link to it again, but at least this way, I know that every post gets at least three links. It also helps me fill out my editorial calendar, so I always have great content ideas waiting to be written.

  • Keep a list of your top ten best posts.

I keep a second spreadsheet with posts that I’m extremely proud of. Of course, I do my best with EVERY post I write, but sometimes, I write an epic post that is 5000+ words and an amazing resource not found anywhere else online. I call these “hub” posts because I link to them often. It’s a hub for links, with the other posts linking to it being spokes.

  • Link to posts already performing well on Google.

Lastly, once or twice a month, I check Google Analytics specifically to look at the posts that are already bringing in the most search engine traffic. If they aren’t already on my “top ten” list, I make sure they get another internal link or two over the next week so I keep encouraging traffic to this post.

Even if you think you don’t have time to organize this kind of internal linking strategy, here’s what you do: simply ensure that you add at least two or three internal links every time you write a post. It’s that easy to get started. There’s really no excuse not to!

Content Marketing 101: Selling with Storytelling

When I was in high school, our neighbors decided to get out of their stinky pig-raising business. Over the course of the next year, they converted their pens of squealing hogs to rows of grapevines. It wasn’t easy, but today, they own one of the most successful, upscale businesses in our local area: a thriving vineyard and winery.

Not really want you’d expect from rural pig farmers, right?

They make a great product, which I believe is always key, but they also have a great Cinderella story that intrigues people. If you were told that the best bottle of wine you can buy in the entire state is produced by former pig farmers who clawed their way to success when no one thought they could do it, wouldn’t you want to stop by for a tour and wine tasting? Everyone loves a good underdog.

Actually, everyone loves a good story, underdog or not. If you have one to tell, you can use it to build deeper relationships with your fans and convert them to customers.

Finding Your Story

I’m a strong believer that everyone has a story to tell. The one thing your business has that none of your competitors have is you. You just need to find what makes you unique and how you can share your story with potential customers.

If you’re drawing a blank, here are a few prompts that can help you find your story:

  • What’s your origin story? In other words, how did you get started and why?
  • Do you have a unique charitable mission that pulls on people’s heartstrings?
  • Did you make a mistake along the way that your potential customers might also be making?
  • Do you live a lifestyle that most people want?
  • Did you face a common fear to get where you are today?
  • What happened along the way to make you successful?

When looking for your story, it is important to always be authentic. People can sniff out a liar pretty easily, and online, they aren’t afraid to call someone out for being phony. So, make sure that story you tell is the unembellished truth. For example, don’t try to tell a rags-to-riches story if you never experienced true rags. Selling with storytelling isn’t about lying to make sales.

Structuring Your Story

Your story will fall flat if not structured properly. Start with the basics, then build on the framework you’ve created to connect with your readers.

The basics, as the name implies, are simple: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Your story should start in the same way you would start a blog post: by hooking the reader in some way, so they want to read more. This is the most important part of your story. The rest doesn’t matter if no one reads past your first paragraph. Here are some of the best ways to hook your readers:

  • Share something surprising, like the fact that you used to be a pig farmer, but now run an upscale winery. Whatever you share should make your reader think, “Wow, I want to know how that happened.”
  • Make the reader feel some sort of connect to you. You want them to feel like they are in the same situation you were in at the start of your story, so you can lead them on a journey of realizing they can follow you to learn how to be successful.
  • Hold back a vital piece of information that makes a reader need to keep reading to learn more. Just make sure you can deliver; don’t mislead the reader, because it will only make them roll their eyes and click the back button.
  • Write to your readers. Do you know your target audience? If not, now’s the time to figure that out, so you can write a story that will connect with them. You’ll have a hard time selling with storytelling if you don’t know who the buyer is.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your story lead. Write a few different versions and have some trusted friends evaluate. If you’re feeling stuck, skip the first paragraph and start writing the middle section, the meat of the story. Sometimes, the lead will emerge only after you tell the rest of the story.

The middle of your story should focus on one thing: emotion.

Emotion is how you’ll actually make sales. If you can make a reader laugh or cry, they are your new biggest fan, because it is not easy to evoke such strong emotions from someone – especially someone you don’t know.

No matter what kind of lead you use, during the meat of your story, you need to make the reader feel some kind of connection to you. In our example, the reader might have no idea what it is like to turn a pig farm into a winery, but who among us, at some point in life, hasn’t felt the soul-dragging pain of hating their job? Who among us hasn’t dreamed of starting a business they feel passionate about? Who among us hasn’t been afraid to go for our goals?

Keep in mind, however, that your story might not be relevant to everyone. And that’s okay. You want to touch on the pain points of your target market, but if your story doesn’t resonate with every Joe Schmoe who lands on your website, that’s okay. When you make your message so bland that you try to reach everyone, you end up not being able to instill a sense of excitement in anyone. Again, selling with storytelling is about knowing your target market.

Keep the middle as short as possible, because you want to take readers by the hand and lead them to the end, where you have some kind of call to action (CTA). This is where we are asking someone to do something specific. Sign up for my mailing list. Buy my product. Download this free report. Tweet a message to your friends. Your CTA can change based on where you are using your story.

From One Story to Multiple Stories: Branching Out to Make Sales

Thus far, I’ve been writing about the concept of “your story” as you might use for your About page, but selling with storytelling goes so much farther. Once you’ve told your story (and I do recommend this becoming your About page), you can then go on to tell stories that all connect to the same points.

For example, on Boost Blog Traffic, Jon Morrow’s About page tells his story of being a successful professional blogger and living in paradise, despite having muscular dystrophy. But he also wrote about his mother learning about this disease in a post for Copyblogger about fighting for your ideas and he also wrote in a post for Problogger about using your blog to live the life you want and change the world. These are all expansions of his core story, told on his own blog.

Another great example is Paula Pant, who runs the financial blog Afford Anything. Her About page tells her story, but almost every post she writes builds on her themes of living financially independently with stories. One of her most popular posts tells the story of attending the wedding of some friends, who met because they both were traveling, rather than working conventional jobs and settling for an ordinary life.

Not every story you tell has to be an epic. Sometimes, adding in the story element simply means that you’re including some personal details into your content. If you’re teaching someone on your home improvement blog how to fix a broken toilet, tell the short but hilarious story about a pipe bursting in your home – and how you fixed it. When they go to your About page and read about your mission to learn how to do it yourself instead of hiring yet another unreliable handyman, the first story will serve to strengthen your brand.

Do you tell your story through content? What are your biggest struggles with storytelling? For more advanced information about digital storytelling, check out this post.