If you’re thinking you are interested in the world of the blogging, but are looking for an effective way to begin, read on.

We put together this step-by-step, comprehensive how-to for new bloggers, taken directly from our Blog Smart Project, which is  interactive content available in our writing tool TheRightMargin. It is a demonstration of the power of having a contextual interactive guide right alongside where you write. Currently, in TheRightMargin, there are “smart projects” for Blog, Novel, Short Story, Expository Essay, Letter to Congress, and more on the way.

Looking at a Milestone and Tasks

 


Milestone 1: Plan your blog post

Decide what topics I want to blog about

If you already know, write the one-sentence summary below.
Tip: If you haven’t decided yet, set the timer above for 10 minutes and list out some ideas below.
 
Write down your ideas for this blog post here
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Decide what kind of post this is

Examples:
 
Standard editorial (your opinion on an issue or subject matter)
 
Journalistic (e.g. objective reporting on a topic)
 
Interview (notes from a Q&A you had with someone)
 
Recap or Review (your summary or opinion of an experience)
 
Listicle (a list of items, subjects, products, resources etc. you have collected together to inform readers about a subject, e.g. ‘Top 10 tools for checking spelling and grammar online’)

Write down what kind of post this is here
_____________________________________

Decide what date I want to publish this post

Consider…
 
1. Are you planning to publish your post immediately, or do you have a specific future date in mind?
 
2. Does the date coincide with any other promotion or news you are referencing or directing users to as part of your post?
 
3. Add dates to all of the milestones in my timeline taking into consideration when you want to finish your blog post. Tip: Work backwards. Start with your finish date and add dates for milestones bottom to top.

Milestone 2: Write my post

Decide how long my post will be

It can be difficult to answer the always-pressing question “How long should my blog post be?”. The answer depends entirely on the subject matter, your audience, and how established a voice you are in the marketplace of ideas.
 
A few simple guidelines:
 
1. Aim to write at least 300 words to be sure your post will be findable for those people searching it online. Google, and other search engines, may not rank posts beneath this word count.
 
2. If you are new to blogging, and are not comfortable or familiar with formatting longer posts, try to stick to the 700-800 word length.
 
3. Long posts can perform well in search and resonate with readers. However, the longer your post is (over 1000 words) the better the writing and formatting need to be. If you are writing longer posts, be sure to learn the basics of
  • blog formatting
  • using headings and sub-headings
  • bolded terms
  • bulleted and numbered lists
  • images
  • and even, when warranted, a short table of contents at the beginning of the post.

Consider the elements of the post’s structure

1. The first paragraph -The first paragraph of your blog is often what appears in summary page snippets, and in summaries appearing in search engine page results. As such, be sure that you don’t spend too much time setting up your post’s purpose or thesis, only to deliver it several
paragraphs below.
 
2. Headlines (H1s)
 
3. Sub-headlines (H2s)
 
4. Bulleted / numbered lists & bolded terms
 
5. Links – Links help you connect your users to other resources that illustrate or contextualize an idea you are sharing via your post. Look for opportunities to link ideas you’ve summarized in depth in other posts, or to highlight an external resource or blog post you feel supports or expands upon your themes. There are a number of strategies and tactics for linking. At a minimum, you should use links to connect your own content and other content you feel is valuable to your users. A few tactics to avoid:
  • Zero anchor text : (e.g. ‘click here’)It carries no significant link value and thus it is highly recommended to avoid phrases like this. There’s a ton of great resources on how to link effectively including this blog article about backlink anchor text at Outreachmama.
  • ‘’Naked’’ URLs : These are the bare links where you are directing the user, rather than contextualized within a small snippet of copy (e.g. ‘https://myblog/posts/editing/january’ instead of connecting the link to ‘my posts from January’)
6. Social calloutsIf your post contains a key idea or quote you feel will resonate with readers, use a social callout service to allow your users to easily capture and share the copy on the social media channel of their choice. This also helps your users help you by amplifying a key message from your post out into their social communities.

Milestone 3: Rough draft done

 
Here’s a checklist so you can track your progress:
  1. 300 words done
  2. 600 words done
  3. 900 words done
  4. Rough Draft written. Congratulations! Take a break before you do a reread.
  5. Take a small break. Do something nice for yourself as a reward for writing an awesome blog post!
  6. Do a first pass revision. Tip: More than proofreading or spelling, are you getting your message across? Are you using those topic keywords a lot? Is it engaging?

Milestone 4: Set up my post in a blog platform

Export work into blog platform

Export your post or copy paste your text into your blog platform of choice to start formatting it.

Decide what my post’s title and URL will be

There are number of best practices for writing headlines that causes users to click on and read your blog post. These tactics depend on the subject matter, the user, and what you want people to do with the content and ideas you are sharing in your post.
 
At the very least, be sure your post title is clear and descriptive.
 
As a secondary measure, and depending on your comfort level with Search Engine Optimization principles, be sure that your post title contains the primary SEO keyword your post contains. This will help ensure your post is discoverable for users and readers searching for information online.

Decide how to present the author of the post

1. If you’re the author, do you have a bio page to link to on your blog or would you prefer to link to a bio elsewhere?
 
2. If you’re facilitating the post for a guest author, do you have the appropriate bio information and head shot/photo for the author?

Decide the best category for my blog

1. What category does your blog post fit into on your blog? Remember not to add too many categories to your list as you want to help users navigate your content by focusing pathways into it.
 
2. If you have not established any categories, think about the larger theme your blog post represents.
Have you written, or do you plan to write, future posts on the same topic?
 
If so, be sure to give the category a name that will help users find those other posts.
 
If not, consider performing a brief bit of category planning for your blog, considering the types of content you want to share, with who and for what reason. This may help you establish categories that will guide your writing and resonate with your readers.
 

Write your categories down here, then be sure to add them to your post.
_________________________________________________

Decide what my tags are

Tags are a more specific distillation of your post’s content. Similar to categories, take care not to add new tags to each post, but to use it as another focusing mechanism for helping users find sub themes or topics within your content.

 
A good rule of thumb? Avoid tags tied only to one article on your blog (unless, of course, you are blogging for the first time).

Write your tags down here, then be sure to add them to your post.
_______________________________________________

 

Milestone 5: Add Images

Find images to use for my post

Some resources:
 
 

Write down alt tags and captions

You might think those details within an image are pointless. No body reads an image, right? Wrong!
 
Image tags not only help people with disabilities (and electronic readers) understand whats’ on the page, but they are also crawled by search engines to help them understand what the page is about.
 
If you’re using keywords in your post (see plan my post) be sure your primary keyword is entered in your image’s alt-text field. Think through your image’s alt tags and meta description as you are sourcing images.
 
What about the image is going to be useful to the user or evocative of your point?
 
If shared in social, what about the image, combined with the headline, would entice a user to click through.

Write down your alt tags and captions here:
_________________________________________

Ensure I have the right image sizes for my post
Images that are too large can have a significant impact on download times, and thus your readers ability to load and enjoy you article.
 
If you find a large image, be sure to resize it down. First, look at the image size recommendations for the blog, blog theme or publication.
 
Need help resizing? Check out Pic Monkey!

Milestone 6: SEO check

Have I done a good job to optimize my post for search engines?

If you’ve performed the tasks in the planning, setup, writing and image milestones, you are well on your way to publishing a blog post with SEO promise!
 
Applying principles of SEO (or search engine optimization) helps ensure that people looking for content on the topics you’re writing about can find your post. The better your post – and your blog – reflects SEO best practices, the higher its potential ranking in search engines.
 
There’s a lot to cover, with a ton of great resources that deep dive further on each part we touched on in this post.
If at this point you’ve skipped over keyword research, linking, adding headlines and subheads with keywords, or adding and tagging images in your post, consider this encouragement to go back and revisit those items.
 
All set? check off this task and move to the next milestone!

Milestone 7: Proofread and edit my post

Spell check my post

Be sure to double-check your post for any spelling errors the editor has highlighted.

Share my post with a reader

Sometimes it’s a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your post. Have a friend or colleague who wouldn’t mind giving your post a quick read?
 
Send it on to them – and be sure to be clear about what you’re looking for. If it’s grammar and spelling, as opposed to structure, continuity and style, let them know in advance.

Read my post aloud

It might sound silly, but sometimes you can’t see the errors in your writing until you can hear them. Take a few minutes and read your post out loud. Go slowly, and be sure to mark not only those errors you find, but also problems with syntax, diction and word choice your reading reveals.

Consider a third-party proofing tool

Most spell checkers will catch basic spelling and grammatical errors.
If you’re concerned that you need just a bit more, check out a third party tool, like ProWriting Aid, which runs over a dozen reports on your writing (and is free up to 3,000 words for registered users).

Milestone 8: Publish and promote my post!

Publish my post!

Congratulations for sharing your idea with the world.
 
Now, let’s go tell some people about it.
 
Brainstorm a list of places you can post a link to your post (make sure to add each item in your finished list as a separate task to check off as you promote):

Promote my post

1. Consider using a URL shortener to make the link easier to share and also to help track your post’s success
2. Choose social channels for sharing.
3. Write copy to use in promoting your blog post on different channels.
4. Share directly with friends and colleagues who may be interested in the post.
5. Share via an email newsletter, or email blast (if you have subscribers to your blog).

Milestone 9: Measure my post’s performance

What statistics does your blog platform give you?

Generally, you should be able to check for page views, clicks on any links, shares and comments.
 
Make sure to note your engagement numbers so that the next time you do your post, you can gauge how well you’re improving your numbers!

Do a retrospective

 

What went well?
_____________________________________________

What went poorly?
_____________________________________________

And what could I do better?
_____________________________________________

 

Milestone 10: Finish this blog smart project

Celebrate and treat myself!

Finishing a writing project is a great accomplishment. Well done, fearless wordsmith! Keep calm and write on.

Sign up for free to try this Blog Smart Project for yourself!