Welcome to the third post in my Curating the Perfect Blog Post mini-series. Today’s post is the second part of The Actual Writing Bit – Researching and Writing the Perfect Content.
In the first part of The Actual Writing Bit – Perfect Post Ideas and Titles you…you guessed it…chose your post idea and created a working title for that post. Now it’s time to move onto the next steps – researching your chosen topic and writing the body of your post.
Researching Your Topic
Researching your blog topic is an essential part of writing quality content. Especially if you want to be a credible expert in your chosen niche. Doing research can be really time-consuming if you don’t know what you’re doing – the internet is a pretty big place and you can get lost on there for hours on end.
There are a few things you can do to make research easier and less time-consuming.
Seems fairly obvious but if you’re making notes in three different notebooks and then spending an hour trying to remember which notebook you wrote in, things are going to take a while.
Before you even start doing your research, know how you want to organise what you find.
Using online tools like Google Docs or Evernote are a great way of making sure everything is kept in the same place. Evernote is a wonderful free tool that lets you clip, take screenshots and keep them organised. The beauty of both Evernote and Google Docs is that you can log into them from anywhere meaning you have access to your notes wherever you are.
Ideally, you want an organised approach to conducting your research too but I’ll cover this below.
Where to Do Your Research
Good question my friend. Unfortunately, I don’t have a straight answer as it depends on your topic. Generally speaking, these are steps I follow when undertaking research for a blog post.
- Other Bloggers – A great place to start, regardless of your topic is on the blog or site of other experts in your field. Not only will they cover the topic but there’s quite often some useful links in their posts to other sites. Just remember not to steal work from other bloggers.
- Google my post title – Next up, I search the title of my blog post and read what comes up. This usually overlaps with #1 and #3 but it’s a really helpful step in the research process.
- Google Keywords – In the last post, I explained how to search for different keywords and phrases using Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Now’s the time to search for articles related to all of the relevant keywords and phrases you found.
After a little while of searching, you’ll get to a point where you’re reading the same advice over and over again. At that point, I decide I’ve done enough research and move on to writing my post outline. Just remember to give credit to work you use.
Ask the Right Questions
Don’t assume that your readers have the same base knowledge as you. Think about every question that they might have about this particular topic and make sure that your post answers them all (within reason).
You might realise that there are questions that you hadn’t thought of initially or that there are questions you don’t actually know the answer to.
By asking these questions whilst doing your research you can ensure that you have all the information necessary to answer them.
When to Do Your Research
This is a personal choice. But in my mind, there are two ways to do your research.
You can draft your entire post and then do research to fill in any gaps you might have. Or – and this is the way that I do it – you can do all of your research before you start writing.
I guess it really depends on how familiar you are with the topic and what type of topic it is. For example, if you’re doing a beauty post and all you need to research is the cost of the product on 5 different sites, that’s something you can do right at the end. If you want to be able to reference facts and figures such as how many of that product is sold in the UK every day and give a detailed history of the company, it’s probably a good idea to research before you start writing.
There’s no harm in researching as you write but this is likely to break your writing flow which isn’t great for creativity.
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Writing the Main Body of the Post
Set a Goal
Before you start writing the main part of your post, set yourself a goal.
What do you want this post to achieve? How will it benefit your readers?
Having a goal in mind at the outset will keep your post focused and hopefully stop you going off on too much of a tangent. Remember that your readers came here for an answer or solution based on the title of the post, make sure you deliver on that by setting a relevant goal.
The first few sentences of your post should act as a hook and convince people to keep reading. The best way to catch their attention is to explain the purpose of the post and let your readers know how you’re going to solve their problems and answer their questions.
Depending on your blog style and your chosen topic you could consider starting your post in some of these ways:
- Start with a story about yourself or a friend that relates to the topic
- Open with a question – preferably related to the blog topic
- Try a witty remark or a joke – take your readers by surprise, leaving them wanting to read on
- State an interesting fact – the more unusual and intriguing the better!
Remember, the idea of your opening sentence or paragraph is to hook your readers and make them want to read more. So, if nothing else, don’t make it dull!
Organise Your Content
If your post doesn’t flow well, your readers may well get lost.
Organising your content is also essential if you’re writing long posts. It’s easy for readers to become overwhelmed by vast amounts of information so organising it using sections, subheadings and bullet points can help immensely.
The best way to organise your content is to draw up an outline of your post before you start writing. This will help you identify what points you want to cover and the best way order to write about them in. You want to ensure that you are only including key information and, if at all possible, actionable information. There’s no point in writing a post full of “fluff”. Your readers are here looking for an answer to a question or problem, give them that answer in an easy to follow, information resource.
I’ve already mentioned above that subheadings and sections within you post help the reader to focus. But they also help to organise your content so make sure you use these tools when you’re creating your outline.
Now you have your topic, your catchy blog title and an outline of your post, it’s time to start writing.
Using your outline as a guide, fill out the details with the research you did earlier, along with your own thoughts, opinions and angles.
If you’re writing informational posts, you should be aiming for 1,500+ words. This is something I still struggle with as I’m keen not to simply fill my posts with “extras”. Having said that, almost every post I write is over 1,000 so I’m getting there!
On that note, don’t just fill your posts with “fluff” to make it longer.
Make your posts actionable. What do I mean by this? Don’t just tell your readers what to do, tell them exactly how to do it. How many times have you read posts telling you to do something and just sat there thinking, “Yeah, that’s all well and good but how the bloody hell do I actually do that?”
To keep me focused, I like to use the Pomorodo technique. This is a technique where you work for 25 minutes with no distractions at all and then take a 5-minute break. This is a really great way to stay focused on big tasks.
Call to Action
You should, where possible, end your posts with a call to action.
Think about what you want your readers to do once they’ve finished reading through the post. Do you want them to stay on your site and read more posts? Then flag up related posts to them. Simply want them to engage with you? Encourage them to leave comments and opinions at the end of your post.
Phew! That’s it, you should now have a complete post. But it’s not over just yet! You still need to edit and SEO-ify your post but for now, try out some of these tips and let me know your thoughts.
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