In this post, I’m going to give you my personal recipe for writing great blog posts in a matter of hours. In theory, you could use my technique every day, for example between dinner and bedtime – you’d be ready to launch your restaurant or local business’ blog in a week!
I know what you’re thinking – quantity over quality. But consider this: when I worked in an online newsroom, every single one of us journalists was knocking out five to ten articles a day. And while we weren’t shooting for perfection, I’d say we were hovering around four out of five stars. So really, one solid blog post in an evening – say, three hours? – is totally doable.
We’ll start by brainstorming ideas with a common UX research technique and then move on to the 5 Ws journalists use to guarantee a complete and coherent story. Next, we’ll write a rough draft, all in one go. We’ll wrap up with three rounds of edits, each with a different focus. Et voilà, your first great blog post is ready to be published!
1 Start with great sticky notes
Card sorting is a research method commonly used in UX. It involves asking study participants to organize website elements into categories that make sense to them.
We’re going to use this technique to organize our thoughts. Simply write down each and every thing you could blog about. One idea per card or Post-It – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem right now.
Let’s take a look at a concrete example. Assuming you run an Italian restaurant chain and you want to generate some buzz for your pizzas, your sticky notes might read:
- How to make dough from scratch.
- Traditional pizza toppings.
- The difference between a pizza and a calzone.
- Pairing wine and pizza.
- The dos and don’ts of reheating leftover pizza.
If you’re having trouble getting started, simply ask yourself: what’s been on my mind lately? What was the most memorable thing that happened to me this week? What are some questions that our customers frequently ask?
Once you’ve written down absolutely everything (pizza-related) you can think of, it’s time to group – or sort – your cards by topic. For example, the first and second ideas listed above could be subheadings of a great blog post entitled: “How to make real Italian pizza at home.”
2 Don’t leave them wanting more
Writing is not a performing art. So don’t bring down the curtain on your story until it’s actually finished. Make sure your article – or your collection of sticky notes, at this point – answers the 5 Ws of journalism: who, what, when, where, and why. I’ll return to the previous example here to give you an idea of what this looks like in practice.
Assuming we opted to start with “How to make real Italian pizza at home,” we now have to look at the sticky notes in that category and double-check whether all of the information is there.
- WHO? our customers
- WHAT? make real Italian pizza
- WHEN? for lunch/dinner/special occasions/etc.
- WHERE? at home
- WHY? cheaper/more intimate/more convenient/healthier/etc. than eating out
Once you’ve got answers to all of the 5 Ws, sort your cards again – but this time, just the ones in the category you selected. Think of your ideas as subheadings and try laying them out in different orders until you find the one that makes the most sense. In the case of the “How to make real Italian pizza at home” post, that order might be something like:
- Essential ingredients
- Making dough from scratch
- Perfect marinara sauce
- Traditional pizza toppings
- Turning any oven into a pizza oven
3 Pour your heart out
This is the fun part. Just write as if you were filling out a survey in which each of your subheadings was a question. Write as if you were explaining your business to your customers. You’ve obviously got the expertise. After all, you’re blogging about what people pay you to do every day.
Because you’re writing about something so close to your heart, you may well trail off and lose yourself in the many examples and anecdotes that start popping into your head. But that’s totally fine. Let the words flow. Anything superfluous will be stripped in the next step anyway.
4 Separate the wheat from the chaff
This is the first of three editing rounds. All you have to do is skim your article. Is there anything in there that doesn’t add value? For example, did you write five paragraphs about how Marco Polo returned to Italy from China, bringing the concept of pizza with him? Fascinating as that story may be, it’s a story for another time. You know why? Because it doesn’t answer any of the 5 Ws pertaining to making real Italian pizza at home. So save those paragraphs in a separate document – and boom! You’ve got tomorrow’s great blog post in the pipeline: “Why pizza is actually Chinese.”
5 Choose your words carefully
The second round of edits is when it’s time to be picky. Did you use the same word twice in one sentence? Did you start three sentences in a row the same way? Read your blog post out loud. If something doesn’t sound right, if something doesn’t sound like you, change it around until you’re happy.
For SEO purposes, make sure to sprinkle your keywords throughout your post. For instance, if you were that Italian restaurant chain, you would want to mention “real Italian pizza” a couple of times. But never to the point where it sounds unnatural. Again, reading out loud will help you determine whether you overshot your target.
6 Channel your inner English teacher
Remember back in high school when you would ask ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ and your English teacher would reply ‘You mean, may I go to the bathroom?’ Now is the time to channel that teacher. Scrutinize your blog post through her thick glasses and destroy evildoers such as the comma splice!
I’m kidding, of course. But definitely install Grammarly! Even if you only go with the free version, you’ll catch so many mistakes you didn’t even know you were making. You can also try this great trick I learned from a colleague: go get a coffee, come back, and reread your text in an unusual font like Pacifico. Sounds weird, I know. But it works because you have to concentrate on actually reading, you can’t just skim.
What do you think of my recipe for writing a great blog post in one evening? Do you do something similar? Or do you have another technique for knocking out high-speed, high-quality articles? Let me know in the comments.