The 9-Point Checklist for Writing a Winning Blog Post

Checklist for writing a winning blog postI get up early. I’ll write many blog posts today but this one is special – worth getting up early for. (I’m a night owl.)

The clocks have gone back and it’s light outside. I drag myself to the kettle, stare at it gormlessly while it boils and fix myself some coffee. I’ve been starting my day in more or less the same way since I was a teenager so my body knows the drill and my mind will surely catch up.

I switch on the computer and sit down to write my blog post. I try to remember the winning ideas I had yesterday that I failed to write down. And what was that completely perfect title that came to me as clear as day in the depths of last night?

Why oh why didn’t I write it down?

“Keep pen and notepad by bed” I write on the pen and notepad by my computer keyboard.

I underline it in a satisfied way that only avid list-makers can truly understand. Meanwhile, my computer has whirred into action. I stare at the background image staring back at me from behind all those icons (the documents, the folders within folders). The image is of a sunset I captured in India on a recent trip. Ah, India.

I drag my mind from the memory by dragging a few lone Word documents into their appropriate folders. I should clean this desktop up a bit – get it more organised.

“Organise desktop” I write on my pad.

But none of this is getting my blog post written. My phone alarm will go off soon signalling that it’s time to start other activities. But my ‘blog post before all other blog posts’ remains unorganised, undrafted and unwritten.

If only I had a checklist for writing a winning blog post that I could use every time. This checklist would be comprehensive. It would remind me of my own (sage?) advice. It would save time and procrastination. It would ensure quality.

Opening a brand new Word document then, I finally begin to write…

Writing a winning blog post – a comprehensive checklist:

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  • Gather information and ideas

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Whether you’re gathering information from around the web or from the inexhaustible network of your own mind, the first step to writing a winning blog post is to bring all your research into one place. This may be a case of ‘free-writing’ your ideas onto the page or it may be a case of throwing all your web research onto a blank document.

I sometimes copy and paste information into a Word document so that I’m not staring at a blank page for too long. However, I can only get away with this technique because I never, ever use so much as a word of anybody else’s work. If you feel at all tempted to copy down what you’ve researched, do not use this technique!

Either way, by the end of this stage you should have some information and/or ideas on a page.

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  • Decide on an angle

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Yep, information and ideas are not enough. Trust me, it’s unlikely you’ll come up within anything that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before.

So maybe you’re not saying anything new, but a unique angle? You can do that. Your angle – your slant, your approach – may come about as a result of the first research stage above, or it might be that you have to sit and brainstorm what your angle is going to be.

NB: Deciding on an angle usually needs to be checked off your ‘winning blog post checklist’ early on.

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  • Work on a winning title

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Hmm, to think of a title at the start or at the end of your blog post? (Or somewhere in between?)

It really is a matter of personal preference. Always do what works best for you, contrary to advice from blogging and freelance writing sites – including this one.

Me? I always come up with my title first as it tends to give me focus as I write, ensures I stay relevant and means I always keep my angle in mind. I often tweak my title during or after I finish my first (or even final) draft though.

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  • Think about keywords (perhaps)

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Sure, keywords are great, but they’re not the be-all-and-end-all of a great piece of content. Far from it actually – particularly these days.

If you want to help either your own blog or your clients’ blogs to get noticed by the search engines, do consider some keywords before you start writing – but I wouldn’t get too caught up on this.

If you want to know where to put those keywords, read How to Make Your Writing Search Engine Friendly.

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  • Draft and write

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OK, so now you can start writing! If you work best by structuring your piece first by using headings and subheadings and filling in the gaps, do that. Some people get along just fine by hammering the whole damn thing out in one go with absolutely no planning (but you won’t hear many of the freelance writing gurus advocating this!).

Again, do what works best for you. The main thing at this stage is to get your original work on the page.

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  • Ruthlessly delete

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Yes, I’m aware this point should probably be called ‘Edit’ but what I really want to say is:

Now, ‘value to the reader’ may well be that entertaining quote if it’s relevant, or something that simply adds to the flow, tone or character of the overall piece.

The lead-in to this very blog post may be perceived as superfluous to some, but I’ve deemed it necessary in that it adds to the tone of the piece and supports the advice and tips that follow. That means It adds value to the reader, so it stays. What doesn’t add value to the reader? The use of ‘That means’ in the last sentence. So it goes.

See how that works?

You’ve got to be ruthless with this step, but you’ve also got to know the rules so that you can bend them when needs be. Read more on writing blog posts people actually want to read here.

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  • Read as a reader (here’s a trick)

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As you went through and omitted all unnecessary fluff in the last section, chances are you tidied up your post in general. You dotted your ‘i’s and crossed your ‘t’s as they say.

Now you’ve got your post into some sort of orderly shape, you need to read it like a reader. You’re never going to spot all those mistakes by reading back your own work like a writer. You might spot some mistakes, but you certainly won’t spot them all. I mean, why would you? You wrote it!

So how do you ‘read like a reader’? Well, I use this strange tip: convert your Word document (or whatever you’re writing in) into a PDF document. Then read it back.

Trust me, it works. Find out more here: 2 Odd Writing Tips.

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  • Source images

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Look for relevant images that convey the ideas explored in your post. Bold colours work well and adding text (such as your blog post title) can also draw the eye in, as well as letting readers know what your post is all about (particularly on Pinterest and the like).

Always cite your sources and ensure you have the rights to a.) use the image and b.) alter it if you choose to do so. I use Flickr as there are some great images on there and it’s easy to filter them by Creative Commons licenses.

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  • Proof 4/5 times (I’m not kidding)

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The final stage is to proof like a pro. I proofread my work around 4 to 5 times.

Yes, that does take up a lot of time, but would you rather garner a reputation that allows you to be paid more for fewer pieces of quality work, or just bang out a high quantity of mediocre work for mediocre pay?

This is your reputation as a freelance writer online we’re talking about here – there are no quick fixes.

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So what have I missed off? Do you have your own blog-post-writing-routine? Feel free to share your tips with us in the comments section below.

For more tips, advice and inspiration on getting paid to write online, and to receive a FREE eBook about how to take that all-important first step, click here now.

Image courtesy of Denise Krebs via Flickr. Text added.

Kirsty

Fed up with overly pessimistic blogs about the state of online writing Kirsty Stuart founded Freelance Writers Online in 2013 to help other writers. Kirsty also writes for a children's charity and lives by the sea.

12 thoughts on “The 9-Point Checklist for Writing a Winning Blog Post

  1. I get my Mac to read it aloud to me. I also use the free version of grammar checkers, in addition to my Word’s grammar and spellchecker. Those grammar checkers aren’t to be trusted; they spot mistakes that aren’t, or they don’t acknowledge stylistic choices. They also don’t spot all of the mistakes. But they still offer a fresh pair of (robotic eyes). I always catch a few errors I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I try to do what Craig does as well. So add it all up; I do end up proofreading 4-5 times too 🙂

    1. All good shouts Pinar!

      Hope you’re getting on well with everything lately. Drop me an email with your progress if you get a moment.

  2. Hi Kirsty.

    That’s so true about converting the document to PDF. I’ve been frustrated so many times after proofreading a document, only to see errors as soon as I’ve converted it.

    And yes, never use the words of somebody else. Everything we produce should be unique.

    Great tips.

    Nathan.

  3. Hi Kirsty,

    Excellent post once again!

    I find that a lot of what you mentioned I currently do as well.

    For example, your first point about “gathering information and ideas”, I do the very thing that you are talking about. When I read other bloggers blogs I do tend to copy and paste some of there points or ideas to a Word document just so that I am not looking at the dreaded blank screen.

    However, I do not use any of there words. I simply do this step so that I am not overwhelmed or depressed about the dreaded blank screen. This step really does help. But like you say, I do not recommend it if a certain blogger is tempted to copy paste or plagiarize.

    I also keep a notebook or note pad and pen with me everywhere I go, this way I can jot down ideas that come to me off the fly so that I never lose them. I found that the majority of my “genius” (of course, I am being extremely humble here) ideas would come to me when I did not have a piece of paper or a pen or pencil to write it down.

    I got tired of losing those gold nuggets and so I make it part of my routine now to always have a notebook or note pad and pen handy.

    And your point about “Deciding on an angle”, also really hit home. There are a lot of online writers and bloggers that post content of similar ideas. I’ve heard it said once before, “There are no new ideas just new perspectives on old ones,” or something that nature.

    Again, when I read other bloggers content, as I am reading, I am usually thinking of a new way or new angle to present the same concept.

    I have found that each of these has really helped me out a lot.

    Thanks again for such a invaluable blog post.

  4. Great article! I haven’t been blogging nearly enough lately and this helped to light a fire. Thanks for the tip about images on flickr. I usually have a difficult time finding images that would work well with my post.

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