Well, you’ve done it! You’ve made your own blog, custom-fit with a domain and personalized layout. And now that your site is ready to go, it’s time to start populating it with content. Whether you want to share ideas, make money, promote a brand, or boost SEO, blogging is a proven way to do it, by increasing site traffic and improving conversion rates.
But, what do you want to write about? Don’t just stare at that blinking cursor, wondering how to get started. Follow this blogging guide and learn the 10 essential steps for putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — to write and publish your first blog post, whether you’ve got 20 minutes or two hours.
How to Write and Publish Your First Blog Post
1. Generate Ideas
Coming up with winning ideas is often the most difficult part of blogging, so it’s crucial to carve out time for creative thinking.
To get started, consider your goals, niche, your target audience, and what you want to offer readers and customers. Begin by jotting down the types of stories your readers might be interested in. Who are they? What are their concerns? Where do they live? What topics might offer them value?
For example, the Bluehost Blog team targets small business owners who want to learn more about building and using a WordPress website to promote their product or service. That mission shapes our content and gives us direction. And we keep it in mind every time we generate post ideas.
If you need help brainstorming, use a worksheet, online tools, or Google Docs to keep track of possible ideas and topics. Do word association or mind map exercises. Talk to friends and colleagues (or folks on the interwebs) for ideas, or browse blogs in your niche to get a sense for what’s already been done. Use prompts. Dump all of your ideas into a single place and always carry around a notebook (or keep a virtual one, like a SwipeFile).
2. Create an Outline
Now that you’ve got a million great ideas to write about, it’s time to choose one and create an outline.
For your first post, we recommend choosing a topic that you’re passionate about, one that provides you with enough material — and is interesting enough to you — to write conclusively and authoritatively about. You don’t want to lose steam 200 words in.
Flesh out your story idea by detailing subpoints of your topic and listing important supplemental information. Determine where each subpoint fits in the overall structure of your post. There are apps for easy outlining, or you can follow this simple pattern:
- Section #1
- Main point
- Additional information
- Section #2
- Main point
- Additional information
Segmenting your information — so you can better visualize it — will make the writing step a lot easier.
3. Write Your Post
Once you’ve developed your ideas, start writing. Write freely, ignoring the impulse to self-edit as you go along. Polishing your draft takes place later, so for now, just get the words out.
Use your own unique voice, all while keeping your audience in mind. If you seem to have trouble getting the words out, set aside a specific period of time each day — say 30 minutes — to write without distractions (you can try a handy online tool like ZenPen or Coffitivity if you need ambient noise). Keep the keys clacking and don’t stop until time is up.
4. Edit Grammar and Content
Remember: nothing spells ‘amateur’ to a blog reader faster than careless typos and flagrant errors.
The ease of blogging allows for content to be quickly and easily shared, but you’ll lose credibility — and pageviews — if you ignore the (re)writing step. Because digital consumers are usually “snacking” on online content, they need a hook or a compelling reason to stay with your post. Good writing should be that reason.
So take the time to edit your work. Concern yourself with both grammar and content. Eliminate needless information and wordiness. Is your punctuation and capitalization correct? Are there spelling errors? Have you linked and attributed information properly? Are you using reliable sources? Consider having an editing checklist handy so you don’t miss any little details.
When you’ve given your writing more than just a cursory glance, step away from your computer and take a break. Then revisit your work for one last look. You’ll have new eyes to see any additional mistakes. You — and your readers — will be glad you did.
5. Craft Your Headline
If you haven’t already, now it’s time to start thinking seriously about your headline.
The title of your blog post is more than just a catchy turn-of-the-phrase to grab readers’ attention; it’s a critical part of getting your content seen by search engines. Plus, your headline is essentially a virtual guidemap, setting readers’ expectations for what they’ll get within your post. Simply put, don’t underestimate your title’s importance.
Avoid the tendency to use clickbait tactics to draw readers in; instead, focus on staying accurate and using keywords to optimize your title for search engines and social media. Consider using benefit-driven phrasing, powerful verbs, and numbers that speak impact.
It’s okay if your headline isn’t set in stone as the first thing you write; use a working title and adjust as your post becomes more finalized.
6. Add Graphics
A blog post without a photo is like milk without cookies: the nutritional stuff without any of the fun, virtual value. Images are often what attract readers to your post in the first place, and they give them an idea of what you’re going to offer in your post.
If you can’t provide your own photos, consider buying stock images from a site like iStock or Shutterstock, or visit websites that offer royalty-free images. If you’re using online photos, make sure you understand any attached copyright laws, including proper attribution and credits.
Take this step seriously; good visuals can make or break your post.
7. Optimize for SEO
Truth be told, there isn’t really much point to writing a killer blog post if no one is ever going to find it. That’s where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in.
An important step in creating content is optimizing it for discovery in search engines, which involves strategic use of keywords, URLs, titles, and templates, and meeting readability standards. Educate yourself about SEO best practices and utilize available plugins to ensure that your content appears at the top of search engine results. Hello, pageviews!
8. Hit Publish
Before you hit that publish button, remember: whether you’re going to post once a day or once a week, it’s crucial to commit to a regular, consistent publishing schedule.
Make goals to stay organized and disciplined, as readers need to know what to expect from your site. Set deadlines for the creation of your content so that you stay on track. Your editorial calendar can be as simple as a Google Calendar document or as fancy as online tools like Asana.
Once you’ve established your schedule, hit that button. Exhale.
With your polished prose and attractive graphics, it’s time to share your work and invite consumers to engage. There are so many ways to optimize your content for social media. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Share your post on social media, tailoring the content to each individual platform.
- Tag influencers and use hashtags to get your content in front of possible readers.
- Encourage user-generated content from your followers.
- Capitalize on timeliness.
- Utilize analytics to track your success.
- Read up on simple techniques that improve your social media presence.
- Once you’ve built a list of email followers through your site, you can connect them to your content through email marketing.
Creating content consistently will attract more readers to your site and establish your authority within your field, so in keeping with your schedule, build a routine and repeat these steps. Then sit back and watch your readership grow.