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!

How to Write an Ebook Fast (And Make It Awesome!)

I’ve worked with several clients on list-building ebooks (i.e., ebooks that are given away for free in exchange for an email address.) At times, I’ve worked on very tight deadlines. Once client, for example, wanted a 150+ page ebook done in under a month.

When you’re a freelance writer, the faster you can write, the more money you make. So, I’ve been dealing with crazy deadlines since I first started my content marketing career as a writer back in 2006. However, even when writing fast, you have to be able to keep quality up. If you don’t, no one will hire you for a second or third or fourth project…and it’s back to eating ramen for dinner again.

Today, I’m going to give you my formula to help you write an ebook fast, while keep the quality high. People are always in awe of how fast I write. This is how I do it.

Step One: Start with a Wordcount Goal.

How many words do you really need to write? That depends on two factors:

  1. The topic of the ebook
  2. The purpose of the ebook

If your topic is “The Ultimate Guide to Twitter,” you’re going to need more than 10,000 words to get the job done. On the other hand, if your topic is “How to Find the Right People to Follow on Twitter,” 10,000 words or even fewer will be plenty for your ebook. I recommend working on one longer, more complex ebook every few years and publishing smaller ebooks in between. Need help coming up with a good topic? This is a great guest post from Mandi Ehman on Amy Lynn Andrews’ blog on that very topic.

Typically, if the purpose of the ebook is to build your email list, you need fewer words than if the purpose would be to sell the ebook. The more information you ask from someone, the more content they’ll demand. If you’re just asking for a name and email, 5,000 – 20,000 words is fine. If you want my name, email, URL, social usernames, address, phone number, and first born child, I’m going to want a much longer ebook covering a more complex topic.

Regardless, set your wordcount goal before your start writing so you can stay on track to hit that number.

Step Two: Break the Ebook into Chunks of 1000 – 2000 words.

My blog posts are usually between 1000 and 2000 words, which is typically what I recommend for most bloggers (though occasionally longer and shorter posts are fine too, based on your target market and the post topic). Writing an ebook seems like an impossible task…but writing 10 blog posts doesn’t seem so bad. Heck, I did that last week!

So, if I want to write a 15,000-word ebook, I would break it down into about 10 chunks (sections, chapters, whatever you want to call them) to help me write an ebook fast instead of feeling like it is way too much to write. I give each chunk a topic that supports the main topic of the ebook. For example, let’s say I was writing an ebook called “How to Herd Cats the Right Way.” I might break it down into:

  • Introduction
  • Why You Should Want to Herd Cats
  • 10 Common Myths about Herding Cats
  • How Much does Herding Cats Cost?
  • The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Herding Cats
  • Case Study: How One Company is Herding Cats Every Day
  • etc.

I usually brainstorm a fairly large list and then cross off topics if they aren’t necessary for the ebook, overlap with topics discussed in other chunks, or are not robust enough for at least 1000 words. Once I have the list of topics I’m going to include, I organize them in a way that makes sense.

Step Three: Outline Each Chunk and Write Them!

Next, I approach each “chunk” I’ve chosen as if it were its own blog post or mini-ebook. Each should have a brief introduction, supporting points, and a conclusion. Unlike a blog post, however, your intros and conclusions don’t need to introduce the main topic every single time. Remember, this is going to flow as an ebook. So, taking the first topic above as an example (Why You Should Want to Herd Cats), I might outline like so:

  • Why Your Should Want to Herd Cats
    • Herding Cats is Fun
      • Your employees will like herding cats, so it’s easy to get them on board with the idea
      • You will enjoy pitching in to herd cats – it won’t be a task you dread.
      • Herding cats can be a stress relief.
    • It is not Hard to Start Herding Cats
      • There are training programs to help you learn how to start herding cats.
      • Some of your employees might already have cat herding experience.
      • You don’t need lots of supplies to get started herding cats.
    • Herding Cats Saves You Money
      • You’ll see a return in investment after just one month of herding cats.
      • Herding cats saves money on your electricity bill.
      • You get tax benefits for herding cats.
      • If you don’t like herding cats, it’s easy to sell your supplies online.
    • Herding Cats Saves You Time
      • Your employees will be more productive if they learn to herd cats.
      • Studies show that the learning curve for herding cats is low.
      • On average, you’ll save eleventy more dollars per hour by herding cats instead of herding other animals.

By outlining the details, you can easily sit down and write sections that flow cohesively into one another, even if you write them out of order. Remember, you can also copy and paste sections of your own blog posts if they are relevant for the ebook. You own the rights, so don’t be afraid to repurpose something you’ve already written to use in a blog post.

Section Four: Read the Ebook from Start to Finish.

After you’re done writing each section, start at the beginning and read your ebook from start to finish. Fill in any gaps and remove unnecessary sections. Are you near the wordcount you wanted? If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and brainstorm more chunks to add or cut the ebook into two smaller ebooks.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, though. Unless you’re writing the ebook for a client, it doesn’t really matter how many words your ebook ends up being.

Once you’re happy with the content of the ebook, I highly recommend working with an editor and designer to complete the finishing work. You can do it yourself, but it’s very hard to self-edit. Hire a professional – you’ll thank yourself later!

So, that’s my process for writing an ebook quickly, whether that ebook is for myself or for a client. Questions? Just let me know!