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7 Steps to Proofreading Like a Pro

This is a guest contribution by Charles Cuninghame, website copywriter and owner of Text-Centric.

I’m sure we can all agree that proofreading is the least fun part of blogging. But while it may be tedious, it’s well worth the effort.

Typos are not only embarrassing, they can also cost you money.

In a widely reported study in 2011, British entrepreneur Charles Duncombe found a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half! If you don’t have a product, then you could be missing out a blog subscriber or repeat visitor!

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

Here’s a tried and tested proofreading process that I’ve taught to many novice writers with great success. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to thoroughly proofread an average length blog post in 5-10 minutes.

What you’ll need:

  1. A printer
  2. A red pen
  3. A highlighter pen

Step 1: Set it aside

Time permitting, set your blog post aside for a while before you proofread it. An hour is good, a day is better. The more time you put between the writing and proofreading, the more refreshed you’ll be and better able to spot any typos.

Step 2: Print it out

Research has shown that proofreading on-screen is not as effective as proofreading a printout. So do yourself a favour and print your post out. But run it through the spell checker first, to fix any obvious spelling mistakes.

Step 3: Mark up your changes

Get ready by minimising distractions. Proofreading requires your undivided attention. So turn off your phone, close your email and switch off the music.

Read through your post marking up typos and rough spots with your red pen as you go. Force yourself to slow down and concentrate. Focus on each word and character as you read.

Make your mark-ups obvious so you don’t overlook them at the corrections stage. Punctuation marks (commas, apostrophes, full-stops/periods, etc.) are particularly easy to miss. So it’s a good idea to circle the mark-up for extra emphasis.

It’s also a good idea to put a cross in the margin next to a line that contains a correction.

Step 4: Read out loud

Once you’re been through your blog post once, read it aloud. Reading aloud helps in two ways. Firstly, your ears will often catch mistakes that your eyes miss. Reading aloud forces a higher level of concentration than silent reading.

And secondly, reading out loud helps you to write conversationally. If your post sounds clunky when you speak it, you need to revise it until it sounds confidently conversational.

Step 5: Double-check details

There are some details that are particularly embarrassing or troublesome to get wrong. So you should double-check the following:

  • The spelling of people’s names e.g. is it Janine or Jenean? Stuart or Stewart?
  • Ditto brand names e.g. is it Word press, WordPress or Word Press?
  • Telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Prices
  • Click links to make sure they go where you want them to.

Step 6: Make corrections

Make all your corrections in one go, not as you find them. Be very careful as you make changes. You don’t want to add in errors at this stage. Be especially careful with any sections you’ve rewritten. If you’ve rewritten a significant portion of your post it’s best to print it out and proof it again.

A common mistake is missing corrections you’ve marked up on your printout. So as you make each change mark it off your printout with your highlighter. When you’ve finished making changes, go over your printout to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Step 7: Final check

As a final check, run the spell checker over your corrected post. Read it on-screen to make sure it looks OK. Break up any paragraphs that are longer than 5 lines. Now you’re good to hit the publish button!

Charles Cuninghame is a website copywriter and the author of the Website Content Cheat-Sheet. For important documents he usually hires a proofreader.

How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?

I recently had the opportunity to sit with a small group of Pre-Bloggers – people about to start their first blogs.

One of the questions I was about how much content should be written before launching a new blog.

My answer came in two parts:

  1. The Ideal Scenario
  2. What I actually have done

The reality is that what I ‘preach’ isn’t always what I ‘do’ – so let me tell you about both!

Note: we give a lot of teaching and some great exercises on this topic in ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

The Ideal Scenario

OK – here’s what I’d do if I was creating a strategy to launch a new blog. Following this strategy would leave you with around a month of content and content ideas ready to go!

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

1. Have At Least 3-5 Posts Already Published

My ideal scenario for launching a new blog is to have at least a few posts already live on the blog.

The benefit of this approach is that when you launch the blog, people arrive and see more posts than just your ‘I started a blog’ post!

These early posts should cover a range of topics within your niche and give your first readers a taste of what is to come in terms of topics, a sense of who you are and an idea about the voice that you’re writing in.

2. Have 5-10 Posts Ready to Publish in Drafts

When launching a new blog, it’s also GREAT to have a few blog posts written and saved as drafts.

The reason for this is that often, when launching a blog, you can easily get distracted by other aspects of the launch. Design tweaks, getting a server set up right, promoting the blog, setting up social media accounts etc.

While you might have a lot of this done before launch, there’s a good chance something will go wrong (it’s Murphy’s Law). If you have at least a few blog posts already written and ready to go, you’ve got a great backup.

Having posts in reserve also takes a bit of pressure off and won’t leave you with that stressed ‘what am I going to write about today’ feeling!

3. Have 20 Blog Post Ideas Brainstormed

One of the hardest parts of creating regular blog posts – particularly in the early days – is coming up with ideas of topics to write about.

As a result I highly recommend doing some brainstorming before you launch, when the pressure is off. Put aside time to come up with as many blog post ideas as possible by what ever means suits you.

I personally like to use Mind Mapping to come up with blog post ideas (I’ve written about mind mapping here and here).

Keep your post ideas handy and add to them regularly, and you’ll find you are never stuck for something to write about!

What I’ve Actually Done

OK – so the ideal theory I’ve outlined above is all good and well – but the reality is that I don’t know a whole heap of bloggers who have always stuck to their launch strategy, including myself.

My own experience is that often, when starting a new blog, excitement and adrenaline kicks in. When you’re passionate about your new project, it’s easy to be more impulsive!

Here’s the brief launch story of my two main blogs:

ProBlogger – I launched ProBlogger in September 2004 after writing about blogging tips and making money blogging on my personal blog, in a category dedicated to the topic.

When I launched ProBlogger.net, I brought all of those posts that I’d previously written so when I launched there was already 60+ posts live.

I remember doing some brainstorming of post titles but I didn’t have any posts saved as drafts. Instead, I was so excited about starting ProBlogger that I published 40 posts in the first 10 or so days!

In hindsight – that was too many. I was naive, but I was so excited!

Digital Photography School – when I launched dPS back in April 2006, I set out with a year and a half of extra experience and so I decided to take things slower.

The dPS blog was something of an experiment and I didn’t know if it was going to be much more than a hobby. But I decided to create more content before launching and went through the brainstorming exercise, with mind maps that I linked to above.

I had 20 or so post ideas mapped out and even wrote a couple of posts that I’d published before launching – but didn’t have too many posts written as drafts on launch.

My plan at launch was to only post 3 posts per week while I got going but again I got a little excited and in the first week I published 6 posts and from then on it was pretty much daily!

Can you see a theme here? I tend to get very excited with new projects and holding back and being measured isn’t always easy for me!

How About You?

I’d love to hear about your blog launching strategies? Do you publish many posts before launching or have posts ready to go? Any other tips for new bloggers?

And if you are looking to launch a new blog – check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for more tips and exercises to help you get your blog launched with the right foundations!

Blog This! Sometimes Going Back to Basics Leads to the Best Posts

Today, I’m preparing some slides for a keynote I’m doing tomorrow. I included this diagram – something that Chris Garrett came up with years ago as a way to show new bloggers what they should blog about.

blog-this.png

The idea – obviously – is to find the connecting point between what YOU know (lessons you’ve learned, problems you’ve overcome, experiences that you’ve had etc) and what your readers (or potential readers) want (or need) to know.

The intersecting point is GOLD!

The problem with this diagram is when I show it to people they sometimes respond saying, ‘I don’t know anything‘!

I understand this feeling. However, I would encourage anyone thinking that to think again. In many cases, you simply overlook what you know because you think it is too basic to share!

As I was preparing for my keynote, I was reminded of a post that I wrote on dPS back in 2007 that illustrates this pretty well.

The post was How to Hold a Digital Camera.

This post came about when I was looking through submitted reader photos to select some to critique in our forum. Many of  the photos I was looking at were blurry and I realised that a common mistake was ‘camera shake’ (or the camera moving while the shot was being taken).

One of the most common and obvious reasons for camera shake is that the photographer is not holding their camera still.

There was an obvious need among some of our readers to learn how to hold their camera to keep it still while shooting.

I knew the theory of how to do this after being taught it in a school photography class but I remember thinking it was simply too basic to write a blog post about.

But I wrote the post anyway.

I hesitated for several days before publishing it, second guessing myself the whole time. I envisaged being laughed down.

The post was a hit. It got a lot of traffic early on, quite a few comments (in which many suggestions were made of other techniques) and it has been shared many hundreds of times around the web on social media.

Today, as I prepared for my keynote, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see how many times the post has been viewed since 2007.

The answer surprised me…

The post has had over 560,000 unique views!

Over half a million people have viewed that post over the last 6 years and still gets an average of 150 visitors per day to it (mainly search traffic).

Sometimes even the most basic advice – things you take for granted – is the advice your readers really need to hear.

Will Your Content Marketing Last The Distance?

This is a guest contribution by Ruchi Pardal of ResultFirst.

Some people believe that content marketing means multichannel, and seemingly mechanical, publishing of anything, anywhere. Their goal is to gain links and rank well (of course, momentarily) using thin content, spinned content, keyword-rich content or unnecessary press releases. That’s the kind of content marketing that brings very short lived benefits (if any). True content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s Content Marketing?

Content marketing creates valuable, sharable content published on multiple channels to attract readers and hopefully customers. Content marketing builds a community. Content marketing gains exposure. And, of course, content marketing markets your brand. But true content marketing taps into people’s desires and grabs their attention by wowing them. Bewitching them. Making them learn something they didn’t already know or were seeking. It hooks them in not just once, but time and time again.

Your Content Marketing Weapons

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Podcasts
  • Comics
  • Video content
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Open discussions
  • And counting…

Questions for Long Distance Content Marketing

Content marketing, if used smartly, can help you gain things you never even knew you could get your hands on. Kissmetrics skyrocketed its traffic and got 3500+ unique domain links using by creating 47 infographics. In fact, it’s one of the greatest examples of content marketing done right. Even Mashable believes that.

So, here are the questions you should (and must) ask yourself if you want your content marketing to work for you in the long term:

Is there any meaning to the content I’m creating? Content marketing with an ambiguous objective is the worst of them all. So, first off, think about what you want to achieve and how that impacts your different audiences. Then track back to how content marketing can bridge the gap. Choose the right content marketing weapons for your audience and your objectives and before jumping in feet first, work out how your content can stand out.

Is it relevant to what my audience wants? Anything that gives your audience, or their network, real value is relevant. Instead of wasting time thinking about how to convert them as a subscriber, think what they need to learn and what they’d love to learn.

Is it mostly about myself, my company, my team? That’s okay – but only sometimes and it’s important that content that’s just about you, with no value to your audience, is in the minority

Does it add any value to or challenge traditional wisdom? Nobody loves rehashed content but yes, if you can give an old topic a new angle or your take then it can feel like a brand new idea.

Does it sound robot-generated? Try to make your content interactive as hell. If it sounds robot-generated, it’s drab, irritating and repelling, your readers won’t read beyond the first paragraph.

Will my audience link to it and share it socially? One of the qualities of content marketing that lasts the distance is its ability to resonate with large audiences and that means making it sharable! Sharable content also helps you in your SEO efforts, too.

Am I just adding to the sea of crap content that’s already on the Web? Please don’t! It’s our Web and it’s up to us whether we make it all the more exciting or filled with full, lifeless, boring content

Have I chosen the right channel for publishing my content? The right channel leads to the right audience so it’s quite an important decision. If you’ve been doing content marketing just to get links, well, that won’t help you now. Google values not just hard-earned but relevant links from trusted sites. Moreover, this I-want-that-link behaviour is disturbing and somewhere undermines what we put into getting one. Time to get over this, right?

Last and the most important: Is my content marketing based on a content strategy? Solid content marketing needs a solid content strategy, one that must answer how you’ll take care of creating, marketing and governing content over time.

A footnote about SEO

“If your content is the best thing since sliced bread, you’re going to rank well. We are focused on what searchers are engaging and how we can deliver them better results.” Bing’s Duane Forrester

“Don’t think about link building, think about compelling content and marketing.” Google’s Matt Cutts

If you still think that SEO is all about rankings and traffic, don’t do content marketing for SEO, at all. However, if you understand that content marketing is about creating and sharing value that helps you build great communities, well the SEO benefits will come as a result.

In summary, I’d reiterate that you can’t win the marathon and gain loyal followers with short sprints of content. You need a content strategy and consistent effort.

So, how do you make sure that your content marketing lasts the distance? What is your favorite content marketing weapon and why? Shout out below.

Ruchi Pardal is Director of ResultFirst, a firm that works on pay-for-performance model, helping businesses get found across search engines and give an optimal experience to their audience. She’s been into digital marketing for well over 10 years. When she’s not busy with her work, Ruchi loves to spend every moment with her awesome family.

The Walking Dead Guide to Writing a Killer Blog Opening

This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, SEO copywriter behind The Copy Detective.

A sheriff’s car rolls up to an intersection, where several cars are burnt out and overturned. The occupant, a police officer, gets out, slowly walks to the back of the car and pulls out a gas can while cautiously looking around.

He walks. He walks past more cars, all clearly abandoned. We watch him peek in to one car to see a decomposing body. He looks sad but not surprised.

He hears a shuffling noise nearby and is instantly alert. It’s a girl. A young girl shuffling away from him (and us). He calls to her. Eventually she turns, revealing a decomposing face dripping with blood. She stares then begins to walk towards him, building speed as she goes.

The danger is clear and our policeman quickly shifts into position, his gun raised. He fires BANG! and we see the little girl fall back onto an impressive blood spatter.

The screen goes black and opening credits begin.

I’ve just described the first 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the TV series, ‘The Walking Dead’. Before the credits had finished, I was hooked. Three series in, I’m still hooked.

That’s the power of a good opening. It can make you stop whatever else you’re doing and sit, in a state of rapt attention. It can bring you back week after week.

How often are you doing two to three other things while reading a blog post? You might be watching TV, listening to the radio, on social media, cooking dinner, talking to your partner …multi-tasking with media is more common today and if you want to get someone’s attention you need to do it from the get-go.

It starts with a great blog title

When readers are looking for the next blog post to read they generally start by scanning a bunch of blog titles (or headlines). It might be titles in their blog reader of choice, or email subject lines from blogs they subscribe to.

As Darren once said, Titles change the destiny of your posts. Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wildfire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.”

It’s important to write a blog title that gets your blog opened. There are plenty of great Problogger posts about writing titles, starting with this one.

Assuming you make it past the first hurdle, your blog post is opened and the first few paragraphs are read… if you’re lucky. It might be just the first few sentences. All the while your reader is inching their cursor closer to the back button and the next blog.

Every sentence is ‘Last Chance Saloon’

Every word matters and each sentence that’s read brings you closer to a new subscriber.

There are lots of different ways to open a blog post but here are some ways to write a killer opening. The kind of blog introductions that let dinner burn while they’re read.

Zombie opener #1: Intrigue the reader

‘The Walking Dead’ set the scene. There were no rolling credits explaining that a virus has swept the earth and only a small percentage of the population remained un-zombified.

No. It did set a dramatic scene that made you question what you expected. The mystery unfolded until the big picture was revealed. In this case that big picture was a little zombie.

Tip: Don’t take too long about setting the scene. You don’t want your reader to get bored or impatient as they figure out when your blog’s going to get relevant.

Zombie opener #2: Make it personal

As our policeman cautiously tiptoes through a trail of devastation, it’s clear he is alone. We instinctively know that this will be his story. The way the series opens lets us share that story in an intimate way. We feel his caution, his shock and his sadness. We instantly wonder how we would react, which puts us in the story.

The opening of your blog post can draw in your readers in the same way.

You see, every blog reader wants understanding. They want to know that someone else feels the way they do. The best way to get a reader hooked is acknowledge a challenge they’re facing. The more secret the challenge, the better.

Tip: Repeat people’s thoughts back to them so your reader feels like you understand them. Weave your personal story into the shared challenge you are solving so you’re talking with your readers, not at them.

Zombie opener #3: Startle your reader

Reading blogs online can draw most readers into a bit of a stupor. The opening few scenes of ‘The Walking Dead’ are quiet. They’re suspenseful and a little bit weird. But then…. BANG! A little zombie girl gets shot down!

If the opening few lines of your blog can jolt your readers out of a stupor, well, you’ve got their attention.

Tip: Try using one-word openings. Or one-sentence paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and break a few old-school writing rules.

Remember that the first paragraph or two of your blog is competing with other blog posts, the TV, the radio, the children and dinner. The faster you can get your reader hooked, the more likely it is they will keep on reading. If the rest of your blog post is as good as the opening, they’ll read all the way to the bottom and hit Subscribe.

So, how far into a blog do you decide it’s worth reading?

Belinda is a professional copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting and make sure you’re the first to hear about her next copywriting master class.

Stop. Don’t post that post! 7 questions to ask before you hit publish

This is a guest contribution by Kate Toon, an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter.

You have a blog post.

Who cares whether you wrote it yourself or paid someone to create it? It’s the right length.

You’ve shoe-horned your chosen keyword phrase ‘Pink llama-wool pyjamas’ into it five times. You’ve downloaded a cool image and even managed to code it into WordPress.

It’s time to press upload, right? Wrong.

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself these seven critical questions.

Does your blog post target your audience?

Have you written a generic ‘appeals to everyone’ (read ‘no one’) vanilla article? Or are you targeting a particular niche? Try to get inside the mind of your audience, then read your blog post again. Does it address a particular need or concern? Or is it all blah yawn blah?

Is the blog post credible?

An especially important question to ask if the blog post has been written by a third party. Even more so if you used a $5-a-post copy shop. Very few writers will care about your business as much as you do, or write with true passion about your subject matter. True heart in writing shines through.

So be sure not only that the facts are checked but also that the blog rings true and doesn’t sound like marketing fluff.

Is the blog post unique?

This sounds impossible, right? With so many articles being posted in your niche, how can you write something unique? But even the most well-trodden ground can be given new life. Your tone of voice. Your viewpoint. Your inside knowledge can add a certain something to your blog.

It’s very important to write with a strong voice if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Is the blog post useful? (Or at least entertaining?)

A great place to start with useful content is by addressing the customer enquiries and questions you’ve received. Each one is potential post. But when these are all covered it’s important to keep your finger on your audience’s collective pulse. What are the market trends? What’s in the news? What are they talking about on Twitter?

If all else fails, at least try to be entertaining, interesting and funny. 

Is the blog post easy to understand?

Now I could direct you to some snazzy readability tool, but how about we just use common sense? Check your writing for:

  • Long rambling sentences.
  • Long complicated words.
  • Poorly phrased sentences.

Pay extra attention to those first 100 words. If a reader can’t get through those as easily as a knife through warm butter, your post is in trouble.

Would you share this blog post?

If the blog didn’t have your name on it, would you forward it to a friend? What would you say in the email that accompanied it?  ‘Check out this awesome history of llama wool production in Peru’?

If you wouldn’t share it, why would others?

Does the post address a your goals?

All the other points have been about your readers and rightly so. But this one is all about you. Why are you posting the article? Is it just to add some fresh content? To give you a boost for a certain keyword? To cover off a reader enquiry? To launch a new product or idea? To attract a new audience? To give your opinion on a news event? Or all of the above?

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging. Be clear what your blogging objectives are.

If you can’t answer each question with a confident ‘YES’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This might seem like tough love, but it can just take one crappy post to put a potential customer off your blog.

When it comes to blogging, ask yourself the tough questions and don’t settle for second best.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and CremeEgg-lover based in Sydney, Australia.

5 Keys to Writing Excellent Blog Posts

Today in a radio interview I was asked to give 4-5 quick tips on how to write great blog posts.

Quick isn’t my forte when giving tips (I have a lot to say) and I can think of many more than 5 tips for writing great blog posts – but here’s a brief overview of the things I mentioned:

1. Be Useful

When I start writing a blog post, I always identify how useful the post will be to my readers.

Will it solve a problem? Will it make people think? Will it start a conversation? Will it entertain? Will it make readers feel like they’re not alone? Will it teach them something?

Unless a blog post is useful on some level I don’t think it’s worth publishing.

More on Useful Blogging: Usefuless: Principles of Successful Blogging #3.

2. Write Conversationally

This one partly comes down to my own style, so it may not be for everyone, but I find my most effective blog posts are written as if I’m sharing the topic with a friend.

As a result, my posts are fairly informal and written with a lot of ‘I’ and ‘You’ language.

For me, this is partly because I find it a lot easier and more natural to write in this tone of voice – but I also find it connects with readers in a pretty powerful way.

Read more on conversational blog writing at 23 Top Tips to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

3. Write Great Headlines

I think about my headline before, during and after writing and it often will change numerous times before I settle on the final version.

Headlines, or blog titles, are often the deciding factor on whether someone reads a post or not – so they have a lot of impact.

Read more about writing headlines at – How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog (with 8 great tips) and Titles that Work on ProBlogger – And Why.

4. Build Anticipation and Momentum

Having somebody read one of my blog posts is something I value very highly – it is a real honour – however I have a higher goal.

I want them to read more posts – both immediately and in the future.

As a result, I’ve discovered that if you write blog posts that build momentum in some way you’re much more likely to keep readers hanging around.

One simple way to do build momentum is to link back to old posts you’ve already written, both during and at the end of a blog post. You can see an example of this a few paragraphs above when I gave you links to read more on writing great headlines.

Linking back to old blog posts drives readers into your archives which makes them more likely to engage and become loyal readers.

I’ve found that writing in a way that builds ‘anticipation’ in your readers is particularly powerful. If you can get your readers to look forward to posts you’re yet to write, you give them a reason to subscribe and connect with you in the future.

I wrote a series on building anticipation that I highly recommend you check out.

The key is to look beyond the blog post you’re writing and draw your readers (particularly new ones) into the story (both past and future) of your blog.

If you can get them to see that your blog is much more than the post they’re reading, you might just find you have a reader that engages with you for years to come.

One more bonus link: How to Keep Momentum Going By Building on Previous Posts.

5. Build Engagement

The last thing I mentioned in the interview was to try to build some level of engagement into the blog posts that you write.

This can start with writing in a conversational style (see above) but it goes a lot further. The benefit of getting your readers to engage with you and your content is that they’re much more likely to stick around and become a regular reader.

It also builds social proof, making your blog more useful and relevant to a wider audience.

I won’t go on a great deal about building community because it has only been a couple of weeks since I wrote this mega-series on the topic:

How Would You Answer the Question?

If you had to give 4-5 tips on writing great blog posts – what would you say?

Looking forward to your responses in comments below.

7 Simple Steps to Writing Great ‘How To’ Content on Your Blog

Yesterday I announced our ‘How To…’ group writing project and issued readers of ProBlogger with the challenge to go away and write a ‘How to‘ post for their blog.

On Twitter a number of people told me that they were having a little trouble with writing a ‘how to…’ post because it wasn’t their normal style of writing on their blog so I thought I’d jot down a few tips for writing ‘how to…’ content (something I’ve been creating for 10 years now on my blogs).

How to Write ‘How to’ Content on your Blog

What follows is how I personally tackle writing ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content. By no means is it the only way to do it – if you do it another way, please tell us about how you approach it in comments below – I’d love to learn from you!

1. Start with a Problem

Perhaps the best advice I can give on writing effective ‘how to’ posts on a blog is to put some time aside to identifying the problems that your readers have because the most effective how to posts are written about actual challenges that your readers might face.

As I’ve already written 11 tips on how to identify reader problems I won’t rehash them all here again – read this post!

2. Break it Down

With a problem or challenge that you want to solve for readers identified now is the time to break down the process for solving that issue.

With a problem in mind I generally take a little time before I start writing to come up with a list of steps to overcome the problem. I personally do this usually but jotting down some bullet points in a notepad (retro of me I know) or in a text document on my computer).

If the problem I’m writing about is more complex I also occasionally will break down the process for solving it using a MindMap (I use MindNode either on my iPad or computer).

I find by identifying what I want to write about before I start writing that I’m much more effective in writing the post because I know where I’m headed!

I also find having this helpful because as I’m actually writing I will often have other ideas for the post (or for followup posts) on the fly and I jot these down on the list so I don’t lose them.

3. Writing Tips

With bullet points jotted down and an idea of how the post is going to shape up I then begin writing. I usually start with a title and an intro (however they rarely end up as I write them at first as I usually go back to it at the end and make it fit what I’ve actually written).

With a basic intro in place I then take each bullet point and begin to expand them.

As I write I begin to get into the flow for the post and make a decision on what style of post it’ll be.

For example with this post I’m writing now I decided as I was writing my previous points that I would break the post up in to sections because I had enough to write on each point that I’d probably be writing several paragraphs for each one.

Alternately if as I started writing I found I only had a sentence to write on each post I probably would have written the post more as a short ‘list’ post with lots of short sharp points.

Or if what I had to write leant itself more to an ‘essay’ style post I’d have written in that form.

I know some people probably determine what style of post to write before they write – but for me I find that evolves after I’ve begun to write!

The writing takes time for me – I will usually have a go at writing the whole post in a sitting but will often then go back to it later and add more, edit some parts and rewrite others.

4. Give the Post a Critical Review

With the bulk of the post written I then give it a read through with a ‘critical eye’.

I don’t want to publish a post on my blogs that isn’t useful on some level to readers – posts just for the sake of posting don’t cut it with me so I read through what I’ve written with a critical question at the forefront of my mind – the question is ‘SO WHAT?’

I got this idea of Chris Garrett who shared at an early ProBlogger Event that he asked himself the question constantly as he wrote to ensure that his posts actually had a point and mattered.

Other questions to ask at this point might include:

  • What’s the Point of this post?
  • What impact will this post have my reader?
  • Will this actually solve my readers problem?
  • What questions will my readers still be asking at the end of this post?
  • Have I clearly communicated what I’m trying to say?

I find that in asking these kinds of questions of what I’ve written that I’m often driven to rework the post to make it more useful.

5. Add Depth

The post is hopefully shaping up at this point and is getting close to publishing but there’s an opportunity at this point to add more depth and really blow your readers away but making it KILLER CONTENT!

Here are a few ways to take a good post and make it great by adding depth to it!

  1. Give Examples – if you’ve got a practical example of what you’re teaching – give it! It’ll take your post out of ‘theory’ land and show readers that your post is practical!
  2. Add Illustrations/Charts/Screenshots/Videos – if there is some visual way to illustrate what you’re teaching you’ll significantly increase the effectiveness of the post by adding them. It’ll also give your post a visual point of interest that grabs their attention draws them into the content.
  3. Add Your Opinion – theory comes alive when you inject a little opinion into your post. It shows that you not only know ‘how’ to do what you’re talking about but that you ‘feel’ something about the subject matter too! Opinion is also great at drawing readers into commenting on your post.
  4. Suggest Further/Related Reading – adding links into your posts gives readers the option to read more. You can do this by adding links into the body of the post when you mention points you or someone else has written about or perhaps create a ‘further reading’ section at the bottom of the post.
  5. Add Quotes – if you can find someone else having said something on your topic – add it in – it’ll add another perspective to what you’re writing.
  6. Interview Someone – can’t find a quote that someone has said on your topic? Ask someone for a comment/quote to add! Send a few people a question or two on your topic and add in their responses. It takes a little effort but can add a lot to a post!
  7. Tell a Story – often ‘how to’ posts can be a little dull if they’re technical or theoretical – so adding in a short personal story or anecdote (a relevant one) can personalise the post.
  8. Add a FAQ Section – during your ‘critical review’ attempt to identify what questions your readers might be asking at the end of reading your post. Add a FAQ section to answer these questions (you might add to this if readers ask more questions in comments)!

Adding depth to a post takes time and effort – but it really can lift a good post to make it great!

6. Format Your Post

My style of writing is one where I tend to be thinking a little about formatting the post as I’m writing. I generally write posts adding in the html heading tags, bolding main points, adding lists as I write – however before publishing I will often give the post a bit of a review to make sure it looks right.

At this point I’ll often find an image or two to give visual interest, add or edit headings and think about how to make the post more easily scannable.

7. Tightening Up the Top and Tail

First and Last impressions count for so much!

Your title needs to grab attention and draw people to read your first line. Your first line is almost as important and needs to draw people to read your next line.

I think about my title and intro before I start writing, while I’m writing and then after I’ve written the post. It is crucial and worth giving time to.

A good introduction should give readers an understanding of what they’ll learn by reading on – however I also think it’s important to give readers a ‘reason’ for them to read on. Personalising the need and helping readers to see why overcoming it is going to give them much more of a reason to actually read what you’re writing.

Further Reading: check out these 8 tips for crafting great blog titles. and check out this post which gives you 11 techniques for writing your opening lines.

Also important is thinking about how you end your post.

With ‘how to’ content one effective way to end a post is to think about calling your readers to some kind of ‘action’.

If you’ve just taught them to do something your post will be SO much more effective if your reader actually implements the things that they’ve just learnt – so call them to DO it.

Giving readers homework or some kind of challenge or practical assignment is going to really do your readers a big favour – which in turn will make them more grateful for the post (and your blog). Encourage them to do something with what they’ve learnt!

Write Your ‘How To’ Post

OK – the time has come to write your ‘how to’ blog post. The only way to improve writing this type of content is to practice it again and again so get to it!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed – I suggest choosing a small problem to solve. ‘How to’ posts need not be 5000 word tutorials – they could be as simple as a list of 10 steps – each one a simple sentence!

Once you’ve written your ‘How to’ post please share a link to it in yesterdays Group Writing Project so we can see it!

Group Writing Project: Write a ‘How To…’ Post

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.

Years ago here on ProBlogger we used to run ‘group writing project’ where I’d nominate a style of posts and then all readers would go away and write a new post in that style to practice their blogging… and then would come back here and leave us a link to the post.

The Project had a few benefits:

  1. first and foremost it gave us all a chance to practice a certain style of writing
  2. secondly it was an opportunity for bloggers to show off what they could do
  3. bloggers reported seeing more traffic arrive on their blog
  4. bloggers reported making great new connections with other bloggers

So… it’s time for another group writing project!

This week we’re going to do one of the most popular ones from the past – the theme is ‘HOW TO…‘.

Yes – your challenge is to write and then come back and share a link to a ‘How to…’ post. Update: I’ve since published a 7 step guide to writing How to content on a blog.

Please note – for this project to be of any real benefit to you as a ‘writing’ project it is about writing a new post – not just sharing a link to an old ‘How to’ post that you’ve already written.

Feel free to write a ‘how to’ post on anything that is relevant to your niche.

Prize

To give you a little added incentive to participate I’m going to put up a little prize for one participant who submits a NEW post (sorry but you’re ineligible if it is an older post).

One person who writes a new post and who shares a link to it in comments below before Friday 22nd March at midnight (US Eastern time) will be randomly drawn to win the full library of 6 ProBlogger eBooks (worth $250 if you bought them all separately).

Here’s How To Participate

Here’s how to participate and put yourself in the running for the prize (please note – one entry per person – not per blog and please only submit NEW posts).

1. Write a ‘how to’ post

  • Be as creative as you’d like – take it in any direction you want – it can be on any topic (keep it clean and ‘family friendly please), it can be any length, it can be serious, funny, it can be a list post, a rant, an essay, a pictorial or video post… etc
  • Give your post a good title. Once all the posts are listed it’ll only be your title that sets it apart from others. It doesn’t have to have the words ‘how to’ in the title – but if can if you wish.
  • Feel free to write your post in your own first language – I’ve previously included a number of non-english posts and am excited by the prospect of making this a multi-lingual project.
  • Please consider putting a link back to this post on your post so that your readers know you’re participating. You don’t have to do this – but it’d be appreciated to help grow the project.

2. Let us Know about your post

  • Once you’ve posted your How To post let us know about it by leaving a comment below. Please make sure you include your name, your post title and the URL to your How to post.
  • Comments must be received by midnight on Friday 22nd March to be included in the prize draw.

3. Surf Surf Surf

  • This is where the project has potential to get pretty cool. Surf the submissions received in the comments. Leave comments, make connections with other ProBlogger readers and enjoy reading what others have to say. By surfing each others links you’ll hopefully find some cool new blogs but also make some new connections (which may well lead to people visiting your blog too!

4. Link, Tweet, Share

  • There is no formal ‘judging’ of the ‘how to posts’ received as this is not a competition. Instead – I encourage you to surf through the links left in the comments below and not only comment but share those with your own network that you like the most. Link to them on your blog (you might even like to write a ‘top 5′ post), Tweet out some links to the ones you like or share them on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc. Share a little love and you might find it comes back at you!
  • Probably the best part of the last group project was the amount of inter-linking I see happening between participating bloggers as a result of their posts. It’s obvious that people found new blogs through it and that the benefits of participating was way beyond getting a link here on ProBlogger me but flowed on to a lot of new connections and links between other bloggers.

5. Prizes

  • Over the weekend after this ends I’ll randomly draw a winner and announce them on the blog. Depending how many submissions we receive I may even try to compile them all into a list (although last time we had ALOT so that may be beyond me).

I can’t wait to see how this week’s project goes – your time to start writing starts…. now! Have fun!

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.