Blogs may have started as online diaries in the 1990s, but they’ve undergone a massive transformation since then. Now, they’re a crucial content marketing tool for creators and brands of all sizes — and one of the best ways to get noticed online.
Solo entrepreneurs use blog content to hook leads and establish themselves as thought leaders. Course creators use blogs to prove their expertise and create demand for their online courses. Large brands use blogs to make sure they’re top-of-mind for key industry search terms. If you’re reading this, you probably already have an idea of what personal or business goals blogging could help you reach.
In this article, we’ll break down how to write great blog posts that boost your website’s traffic and drive new customers to your online courses. These tips are great for beginners, but they’re also perfect for professional bloggers who want a refresher. In fact, we even discuss how we used the guide while writing this very article. (Woah, meta.)
So let’s dive in and take your blogging skills to the next level. Here are some shortcuts, if you’re eager to jump ahead:
1. Carefully pick your topic
The hardest part about blogging is picking what to write about. There’s no worse feeling than staring at a blank Google Doc and thinking: “Ugh, where do I even start?” On the flipside, knowing exactly what to write about is a great feeling.
So before putting fingers to keyboard, ask yourself these four questions:
- What subject am I an expert in—and what themes interest me?
- What has already been written about this subject?
- What new angle(s) could I bring to the discourse?
- What stories would my audience care about that I haven’t already blogged about?
Usually, the core topics you’ll want to blog about will be tied to your business. (Or in some cases, your passions.) Lawyers write about law, marketers write about marketing, and life coaches write about life coaching. We all write about what we know best.
Once you’ve got an established beat for your blog, you’ll want to stick to topic ideas that relate to your core subject area. This keeps your articles focused and relevant to your audience. Sticking to a niche and exploring it in depth across many articles will also help search engines like Google recognize you as an authority on the subject — so they’ll be more likely to surface your content to more people.
2. Start with research
Once you’ve chosen a topic, do some basic research to see what others have written about the subject. Don’t worry — you won’t need hyper-complicated search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. A cursory Google search is all it takes.
Suppose you’re writing an article about the best cat treats for bad-tempered cats. You’d want to literally search Google for “the best cat treats for bad-tempered cats,” and read the first three or four articles that come up.
While you’re reading, ask yourself the following four questions:
- How is each article structured?
- How long is each article?
- What tone are they using?
- What (if any) sources do they link?
This won’t take long, but it’ll give you a sense for what’s ranking highly on Google and how authors of successful content address their target audiences — which very likely overlaps with yours. You’ll also come across some extra sources you can reference while writing your own blog post. Now, you’re ready to tame those angry cats. (And congrats — you’re also doing basic SEO keyword research!)
3. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes
When you’re planning a blog post, put yourself in your readers’ shoes by asking yourself these three questions:
- Who am I trying to reach?
- What do they already know about the subject I’m covering?
- What interests them (and what doesn’t)?
It might not be obvious why these questions are so valuable, but they’re really important for tailoring your blog posts.
For example, imagine you’re creating a blog post about TikTok marketing to promote a course you’ve created, and wanted to include a section talking about how TikTok was different in 2019. Audiences of marketing pros might want the extra historical context, but if you’re writing for beginners, you’d do better to focus on what works today. There isn’t a clear right answer until you know who you’re writing for.
4. Find the hidden story
An underlying story is the difference between a sharp, insightful blog post and an aimless puddle of words. Many new writers struggle with effective storytelling, but there’s a proven strategy you can use to ensure you’re telling a full story: focus on cause and effect.
Once you’ve got your article title and some basic research to guide you, ask yourself these three questions:
- Where’s the basic starting point for this subject?
- What happens as a result?
- What might happen as a result?
This will help you take a basic article topic and stretch it as far as it can possibly go. When we wrote this article, our basic starting point was explaining why blog posts are useful. This is the cause — and the effect is that our readers (hey, that’s you!) will become interested in writing their own blog.
Then, we explained how to get started and pick the right topic for your blog post. The effect: you’ll probably want to learn tips for writing fast, efficiently, and clearly. Which brings us right to the next section.
5. Use simple language while writing
We’ll come right out and say it: big words don’t make you look smart. The occasional ten-dollar word is fine, but using too many will suffocate the story you’re trying to tell. When you’re writing your blog posts, focus on being clear and concise. Concision is tricky to explain, so let’s look at a good example and a bad example.
Imagine you’re blogging about cryptocurrency. To describe the blockchain, you might write that blockchains are “spreadsheets maintained across decentralized ‘peer-to-peer’ networks, [like] those used for torrenting pirated files,” as journalist Sohale Mortazavi does here. This definition is technical, sure, but it’s also simple and accessible. (Well, as simple and accessible as something like blockchain can be, anyway.)
On the flipside, you might describe Bitcoin as “a swarm of cyber hornets serving the goddess of wisdom, feeding on the fire of truth, exponentially growing ever smarter, faster, and stronger behind a wall of encrypted energy.” Yes, that is a real quote from Bitcoin believer Michael Saylor. And yes, it is very… complex writing.
The point is: keep it simple. Avoid confusing metaphors, and write like you want your grandparents to understand you. It’ll help you write faster and more effectively. (And if you honestly think they could, then you’re doing great.)
6. Read your blog post out loud
Nobody’s first draft is perfect. In fact, it’s completely normal for your first draft of a blog post to have spelling errors, a few sentence fragments, and the odd section that just… doesn’t quite work. That doesn’t make you a bad writer — it makes you human.
Before hitting publish, take proper time to edit your article. If you’re new to editing, the best way to catch any edits is reading your post out loud. When you’re skimming through a Google Doc, typos and chunks of awkward wording can slip past you. But when you’re reading out loud, every little mistake will make you cringe. (We did it with this article, too.)
7. Credit your sources
Whether you’re working in direct quotes from external sources or paraphrasing an article you’re using for research, make absolutely sure you’ve properly cited your sources. (Like we just did here!) Plagiarism, even the accidental kind, is a major faux pas among writers. And not only is it sloppy, it can actually impact your SEO ranking. You don’t want to be that person.
8. Use a spell-checker
If you’re using a text editor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you already have a basic spell-checker. But these tend to only catch surface-level spelling errors, like when you mean to write “through“ instead of “thorough.”
Spell-checkers are especially valuable if you’re not writing in your native language. The nuances and tiny idiosyncrasies of a new language take a lifetime to master, and there’s no shame in making the odd mistake.
Most spell-checkers are free tools or have free tiers, and there’s a number that you can install as extensions for your text editor or internet browser. Here’s a list that’ll get you started, if you’re eager to start crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.
9. Use alt-text
Alt-text (short for “alternative text”) is a short description of images that appear in your blog posts. Your alt-text simply describes what the image shows. Alt-text for an image of a cat chasing a dog might literally read “close-up of a cat chasing a dog.” It’s that simple.
But alt-text is vitally important for accessibility and SEO reasons. Screen readers used by the visually impaired use the alt-text in place of the image itself, so if you don’t use alt-text, a portion of your readers won’t know what visuals you’ve included. Alt-text also helps clarify the semantic meaning of the image, and it’s an extra signal to search engines that your blog post should rank more highly.
Good alt-text is short and descriptive. Include any visible text that’s on your image (like words on a sign), and don’t stuff your alt-text full of keywords. Alt-text is an accessibility tool, so that just makes you look tacky.
10. Link to examples and rich media
When you’re writing your blog post, make sure to add links to examples that are relevant to your article. External links show both your audience and Google that you’ve done your research, and they’re a key way to build strong SEO in your articles.
The rule-of-thumb is that every time you reference something that’s not common knowledge, you should add a link. You can talk about high school being hard without requiring a link, but if you want to reference how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand kick-started WWI, you should probably include a link. (Like we did here.)
You should also add links to rich media — pieces of content like Instagram posts and tweets — that further illustrate the points you’re making in your blog posts. This post you’re reading right now is about writing and the power of one’s voice, so we’ll use this space to link to a motivational quote from writer Angie Thomas. (Take note: this is us giving an example. We practice what we preach.)
Taking the time to create a blog post outline makes the process of actually writing your post a lot easier. With a strong outline, all you have to do is flesh out ideas and fill in the gaps.
Here’s how to get started. Once you’ve picked a topic, done research, and sketched out the story you want to tell, write down all of your headlines and subheadings. (Those’re the bolded titles of each section, like the one just above here.)
Then, start taking bullet notes under each relevant headline of what you want to talk about — bringing in the research you’ve already done. Grouping your research before you start writing will make it easy to structure your ideas, and save you major time searching for that one quote you need to make your point.
What’s more, those subheadings provide natural transition points between different sections of the article. There’s no way you’ll accidentally write an endless wall of text because you already have a structure. And later on, the subheadings will make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for, too.
(Using skimmable subheadings is also a smart SEO strategy, but that’s a whole other can of worms. We dive deep into it in our guide to SEO for course creators. So if you’re curious, this is where you should go next.)
Your introduction should be the very last part of your blog post that you write. This might seem counterintuitive, but seasoned writers know it’s a key way to save time while writing — and prevent a serious stress headache. So let’s explore why.
The introduction and title set up everything that comes after them. And when you’ve got an empty Google Doc, you don’t actually know exactly which directions your article will go in. If you write an intro and title first, you might end up writing a totally different article. (Which just creates more work for you.)
Instead, do your research, write your outline, and jump right into the meat of your blog post. Once you’ve got a good first draft, come back to the introduction, and pick a title that fits with the actual article sitting in your Google Doc.
(Note: this isn’t a beginner tip even slightly. As I’m writing this very sentence, the introduction section of this article is completely empty. I’ll figure it out later, like I said.)
Pick your title once you’ve finished writing (unless the right title is clear from the start). Your title should sum up what you’re going to talk about in the article, but still have some intrigue. It should be short and descriptive, instead of long and fluffy.
If you’ve ever been on PubMed, you’ll know that there’s a million research articles with long titles like “Eating regulation styles, appearance schemas, and body satisfaction predict changes in body fat for emerging adults.” It’s crammed with keywords and information — and for academic research, that’s fine.
But for a blog post, you probably want something a bit catchier. For the example above, you could title it, “The New Trends Determining Body Satisfaction.” This still hints at what’s in the article, but doesn’t show all the cards at once. That’s enough of a hook to pull readers in. Short and simple is the way to go.
So, what’s next?
Now that you know how to write a killer blog post, you might be looking for ways to turn subjects you’re an expert on into profitable online courses. (Especially if you’re an entrepreneur or educator.)
That’s where Thinkific comes in. We make it easy to scale your business by offering self-guided online courses and membership sites. Our easy-to-use course design platform helps coaches, educators, and digital content creators build engaging, custom eLearning experiences and grow sustainable online businesses.
Try Thinkific for free and get the course creation, marketing, and selling tools you need to take your business up a notch. (No tech skills required!)