Writing your first blog post can be scary:
- What should you write about?
- How do you research a blog post?
- How do you format a blog post?
- How do you write the title?
Your question may be even more basic.
You may be asking yourself: "do I even have anything worth saying?"
If you're asking yourself any of these questions, keep reading!
Because, I've been where you are and I'm going to help you get your first article published.
1. First Things First
Before you even start writing, there are some questions we need to look at...
1.1 What’s Your Audience?
A lot of the advice on this topic urges people writing their first blog post to identify who their audience is.
But here’s the thing.
If this is your first blog post, you don’t have an audience.
The brutal truth is that no one is going to be reading your first blog post, except your mom or your girlfriend (or boyfriend).
So the next question is: “who do you want your audience to be?”
There’s a lot of advice out there on this topic. People tell you to create a ‘persona’, create a profile of your ‘ideal reader’ (gender, age, hobbies, income, marital status, etc.)
When I see this kind of advice, I wonder to myself: “is this person saying this because they did it and it worked for them, or are they just parroting what they’ve read somewhere else?”
If you’re starting out in this blogging business (and I assume you are if you’re writing your first blog post) here’s something you need to know.
About 80% of what you read in blog posts is just stuff people have recycled from somewhere else. It’s not based on personal experience.
Now, getting back to your audience, I wouldn’t waste any time creating personas and then writing articles for your ‘ideal customer’.
In my two years of blogging this is how I’ve built my audience (and I suspect it’s how it works in 99% of cases):
I built my audience by being myself. Just be yourself and your audience will find you. People who like your ‘voice’, the way you approach topics, the way you explain things, will come back for more.
And that’s how you build your audience – by being yourself.
1.2 What’s Your Niche?
The biggest mistake I see beginning bloggers make is going too broad. It’s a natural tendency we all have to think that that the broader the topic, the more traffic we’ll get.
It doesn’t work like that.
Someone once sent me an email saying she was launching a website on ‘starting an online business for people over 50’. Her daughter was horrified. She told her mother the focus was way too narrow.
I wrote back and said to that lady her idea was spot on.
There are two main reasons why narrow niches work best for blogs:
1. When you write for everyone, you write for no one.
What do I mean by that? Let’s say your blog is about parenting tips.
A parent landing on your website will feel some connection with your topic but not much because the focus is very broad.
But let’s say the focus of your blog is ‘parenting tips for single dads’. A single father landing on your website feels an instant bond with your website and your content.
Because your content exactly addresses his needs.
Key takeaway: the narrower the focus of your blog, the faster you’ll build a readership or following.
2. The narrower your focus, the easier it will be to rank on Google
With the introduction of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, Google began to map out the way that words cluster together for particular topics. What this means is that Google can now measure the topical authority of an article and a website. And the more topical authority your website has, the higher your articles will rank on Google.
If your website is about ‘parenting’, it’s going to take you years to establish topical authority for that topic. The topic is so huge that you’ll have to write hundreds of articles before you even begin to establish topical authority in that niche.
But if your topic is ‘parenting tips for single dads’, you could establish topical authority in a fraction of the time. It’s a much narrower topic and that means you can establish topical authority with much less content.
1.3 Find Your Voice
A writer’s voice is hard to define.
It’s more than writing style or technique. And it’s more than personality.
It’s said that editors in major publishing houses can identify a piece of writing purely from the voice.
Unfortunately, voice is not something you can just develop overnight. It comes from deep within you and it emerges through the process of writing.
In a sense, your voice is simply ‘You’ expressed through your writing. And to that extent, it’s already there. But what takes time is discovering it. It’s only through writing that you discover your voice.
How long will it take?
It’s hard to say. It could take 15 blog posts, or it could take 50.
But one thing’s for sure: the more you write, the faster you’ll find your voice.
1.4 Mental Attitude
This is a big factor when writing your first blog post. If you don’t come from a writing background, writing publicly can be a scary experience.
But it’s good to remember that everyone, even blogging celebrities, once had to write their first blog post.
Accept that your first blog post is not going to be perfect. It may even be something that makes you wince in years to come.
But that doesn’t matter. The ‘child is father to the man’ as they say. The first faltering steps you take as an online writer will one day produce the polished, confident, and seasoned blogger that you will one day be.
2. How To Write Your First Blog Post
2.1 Introduce Yourself
You don’t have to introduce yourself in your first blog post – your ‘About’ page can take care of that.
But if you want to introduce yourself, here are some of the points you might want to mention in your first blog post:
- Who you are
- Why you started the blog
- Who you will be writing for
- What sort of articles you’ll be writing
But you also need a topic for your first blog post – it shouldn't be about you.
2.2 What To Write About
If you’re just starting out as a blogger, you may feel that you’re not qualified to write about anything to do with blogging.
But remember this: you only have to be one step ahead of someone to be helpful.
In fact, the closer you are to the beginning of the blogging journey, the more valuable your advice.
Why is that?
Because you can still relate to the problems faced by a complete newbie. Someone who’s been blogging for 5 years has forgotten what it’s like to be starting out and to know nothing.
Believe it or not, you’re in a better position to help someone who’s a few steps behind you than the internet guru who has 50,0000 subscribers and ranks on Page #1 of Google for every keyword they target.
Ask yourself what’s the first thing someone new to your niche needs to know?
Let’s say your blog is about having a dog as a pet, a good first post topic might be ‘How to choose a breed of dog’.
If your blog is about blogging, a good first topic would be ‘How to choose a domain name' or ‘How to set up a WordPress blog'.
2.3 What Type of Blog Post to Write
Choose what type of blog post you're going to write. Here are some of the main types:
2.3.1 List Posts
These blog posts have titles like ‘7 Things To Check Before You Hit ‘Publish’. They're easy to write and easy to read.
2.3.2 Tutorials and Guides
These are in-depth blog posts that cover an entire topic in depth. The article you're reading is a 'complete guide'.
2.3.3 How-To Posts
These are posts that show you how to a do a specific thing, such as create YouTube Header Art.
They usually contain step-by-step instructions and lots of screenshots.
2.3.4 Interview Posts
Interviews with experts in your niche are a popular type of blog post.
They’re quite easy to write, as the content comes from the expert responding to your questions.
2.3.5 Roundup Posts
These are a variation on Interview Posts. Ask a range of experts in a particular niche to give a one- or two-paragraph response to a simple question.
Then compile their responses into a blog post.
2.3.6 Review Posts
These posts compare two or more products and tell the reader which is best and why. These are great posts to write if you are marketing affiliate products.
2.3.7 Top 50 Posts
These are posts where you identify the top 20, 30, or 50 (etc) experts in a particular field.
Provide a brief description of what each expert specializes in or writes about. And that’s your article.
These posts are very effective in earning backlinks. The experts you mention in your posts will often include a link to your post on their ‘About Me’ page.
2.4 Do Keyword Research for Your Blog Post
Every blog post should start with keyword research.
I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier – I spent my first year as a blogger writing about whatever inspired me.
There’s no point writing a blog post that no one is ever going to see. And that’s what happens when you don’t do keyword research.
Reliable keyword research means spending some money. I’m afraid there’s no way around this.
There are plenty of free tools out there. And I’ve used them. But it wasn’t until I began using paid keyword research tools that I started getting my posts on Page #1 of Google.
The keyword research tool I use is KWFinder.
Here’s how to use KWFinder to find keywords that you can rank for on Google:
First, compile a list of ‘seed’ words.
Seed words are one- or two-word keywords such as:
- email marketing
Your aim in keyword research is to find long tail keywords. These are keywords that contain three or more words.
They usually have low monthly search volume (50 to 1000 searches per month). But they also have very low competition.
If you have a brand-new domain, long tail keywords are the only words that you’ll be able to rank for on Google.
The ‘head’ keywords, like ‘insurance’, ‘cooking’, ‘camping’ have insane levels of competition. So, you need to stay well away from those.
But to find long tail keywords, you need to start with a ‘main’ keyword, also known as a ‘seed’ word.
Remember that exercise you did back in Step 1? The one where you collected 10 blog titles from 10 different blog sites. Those blog titles will all contain seed words.
Go back to that list and extract all the seed words from those 100 blog titles.
KWFinder consists of five tools:
- KW Finder
In this quick tutorial, we’re only concerned with KWFinder.
When you open KWFinder you see a window with two panels:
The left panel is the Keyword Finder itself.
This is where you enter your seed word and where you see the results of your search.
The right panel shows the SERP Results: the top 10 websites that rank for that keyword in Google.
Let's say I live in Australia and I’m starting a blog about dogs.
And I want to write my first blog post on the topic ‘choosing a dog’.
Type your seed word into the search box and click the green search button:
The keyword difficulty (KD) score for this keyword is way too high for a brand-new domain.
We need to go for keywords that have a score of 0 to 29 (the ones marked in green):
To find these easy-to-rank keywords we're going to use the ‘Autocomplete’ function.
This is a bit like Google's ‘AutoSuggest' - it gives you related keywords that people are searching for:
Now click on the Results Filter:
Now set the Keyword Difficulty filter to a maximum of 29. Then toggle the filter button to the ‘On’ position, and click ‘Set filter’:
KWFinder shows you the keyword ‘choosing a dog australia’.
It has a KD score of 23, which means you have a good chance of getting on Page #1 for this keyword.
On the right-side panel, you can see there's a website that ranks for this keyword. And it has a domain authority (DA) of just 21:
That’s very encouraging!
In this example, you would go ahead and write your blog post on ‘Choosing a Dog in Australia’.
All you need to do is write a blog post with high topical authority and you have a good chance of getting on Page #1 of Google.
Of course, you'll need to optimize your web page for the search engines (described in Step 9).
Watch This Video: 'How to Write a Blog Post From Start to Finish' (05 mins 50 secs)
2.5 Research Your First Blog Post
Even if you know a lot about your chosen blog post topic, you should still do some research.
Because you’re trying to get your article ranked on Page #1 of Google. And that means your article will have to have at least as much topical authority as the other blog posts on Page #1.
With the Hummingbird algorithm, Google is now able to measure the breadth and depth of any topic. Blog posts that cover a topic better than other blog posts will rise to the top of the search results.
So, go to Google search and type in your main keyword.
Scan through the first 5 blog posts that appear in the search results.
Make a note of the headings. These are the sub-topics that the article is covering. I use a mind map for this, but you can also just note them down on a sheet of paper.
When you’ve finished, you’ll have a list of all the topics covered by the top 5 articles listed on Page #1 for your keyword.
You should now aim to write an article that covers all topics.
By doing that, your article will have more topical authority than any of the top 5 articles on Page #1 of Google. And that’s going to give a huge SEO boost to your blog post.
Now take the process to the next level:
Take your list of sub-topics and type each sub-topic keyword into Google. Look at the top 5 results for each of these sub-topic keywords and note down the sub-topics they cover.
These sub-topics and sub- sub-topics become the headings and sub-headings of your article.
It may seem like a lot of work.
But here’s the thing:
It’s better to spend a week writing one outstanding article than to spend half a day writing an average article.
The average article will never get on to Page #1 of Google. But the outstanding article will. And it will likely be there for months if not years.
So, remember, research is the key to getting your article ranked on Google.
2.6 Write Your Blog Post
It’s one thing to have a great topic for your blog post. But writing an article that people actually want to read is another thing altogether.
There are 5 key elements in a blog post that people read from beginning to end.
Here they are:
- Transitional phrases
2.6.1 The Hook
The hook is the opening line of your article.
And it’s the most important part of your article.
Because you have only 3 seconds while your reader decides whether to stay or move on. The hook is what makes the reader stay and keep reading.
The hook is often a question.
Why do questions pull people in?
Because a question demands a response.
As soon as you ask a question it creates a response in your reader: they try to answer it.
And bam! They’re hooked.
Here’s an example from Brian Dean of backlinko.com, who’s an expert at using hooks:
Another effective way to hook the reader is to assume something about them. You keep reading because the writer is saying they understand you.
Here’s an example, from Noah Kagan:
These are the key characteristics of hooks that reel the reader in right from the first sentence.
Good hooks are:
- Short and punchy
- Often presumptuous (the writer seems to be getting inside your head)
- Sometimes shocking
- Usually empathetic (the writer seems to know exactly what I’m feeling)
2.6.2 The Introduction
There are many ways to write a blog post Introduction, but there’s one formula that works every time:
- Present the Problem
- Point to a Solution
- Make a Promise
Here it is in action. It’s from the same article by Brian Dean:
Most successful bloggers use this formula in their Introductions.
It works because:
- People who find your article in the search engines have a problem and they're looking for a solution.
- People want to know within a few seconds if your article is going to help them
For more information on writing effective Introductions, see my article on Successful Blogging:
2.6.3 The Body
This is where you set out the sub-topics of your article.
Use headings and sub-headings to break up the text.
The body of your article should consist of short paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain no more than 3 or 4 sentences. And your sentences should be short. Very short.
If you come from an academic background, you may have some re-learning to do (as I did).
Transitions are little connecting phrases that link one paragraph with the next.
They’re the lubricant that keeps your reader sliding down the page.
Here are some examples:
- You may be wondering at this point…
- But we’ll come to that later…
- Now, here’s the interesting part…
- So, what’s my point?
- You won’t believe what we discovered…
- But there’s just one problem…
- So, what’s the solution?
- But that’s not all…
- Case in point…
- Let me elaborate…
- Here’s what I mean…
- You’re about to find out…
- Stay with me now…
- Keep reading because I’m about to…
- But what exactly is…?
- Sounds good, doesn’t it?
For more information about transitional phrases see my article on SmartBlogger:
2.6.5 The Conclusion
In the Conclusion, sum up what you have said in the article.
If the article is long, the reader will find it useful if you summarize the main points.
You can present the headings as bullet points, like this:
Your blog post should always contain a Call To Action (CTA) – what is it you want the reader to do after reading the post. It might be:
- Share the article on social media
- Comment on the article
- Bookmark the article
- Review the article
- Download a content upgrade
In the above example, I encourage the reader to download my checklist.
2.7 Format Your Blog Post
The more time people spend on your page, the higher you will rank in the search results.
And the best way to keep people on your page is to make your content easy to read.
Here are some ways to format your post to make it easier to read:
- Beak up your text by using short sentences and short paragraphs
- Use plenty of headings and sub-headings
- Use bullet points
- Use lots of images, as they also break up the text.
- Use transitional phrases to keep people reading from one paragraph to the next.
WordPress now comes with an editor called Gutenberg.
It works on the principle of blocks that you insert by clicking a little floating ‘plus’ sign.
Once you have Gutenberg installed, it becomes the default editor – you don't have to choose it.
The initial interface you see in Gutenberg couldn’t be simpler:
Drop the text of your first paragraph into the ‘start writing’ space and you’re off!
This is the screen you see once you’ve entered some text:
To add an image, click on the Plus sign at the top right of the screen and choose 'image':
You then have the option to upload an image or choose an image from your image library:
To create a two-column layout with side-by-side text and image, click on the Plus sign and then choose ‘Columns’:
Here's what the two-column layout looks like:
If you want three columns, place your cursor within that block and click again on the Column button.
To add a heading, click on the Plus sign and then Heading:
A heading block will appear.
At the top of the heading block are various styling options including the heading tags.
Use H2 for your top-level heading, H3 for your 2nd-level heading and so on. H1 is for your article title - your page should contain only one H1 tag:
There’s much more you can do with Gutenberg, but this will get you started.
2.8 Edit Your Blog Post
Always try to leave a gap of time between writing and editing, as they are two different processes. Editing requires a different mindset to writing.
First, use the spell-checker in Microsoft Word. But be aware that it won’t pick up all your errors. Your text may contain words that are correctly spelled but shouldn’t be there, such as ‘bog’ instead of ‘blog’ or ‘their’ instead of ‘there’.
Next copy and paste your text into the Hemingway Editor. This is a great tool for cutting out ‘flab’, words that are not needed.
Hemingway picks up 5 types of errors:
- Unnecessary adverbs
- Passive voice
- Complicated phrases
- Sentences that are hard to read
- Sentences that are very hard to read
Hemingway will detect errors that slipped through Word’s spell-checker:
When Hemingway marks a sentence in yellow, you can usually cut it into two shorter sentences. If you have a tendency to write long sentences (as I do) this is really helpful!
The Hemingway Editor also detects adverbs you don’t need:
Using this tool, you’ll end up with shorter sentences and much tighter language.
And that’s going to make your article easier to read.
After passing your text through Hemingway, put it through the free version of Grammarly.
This is another great tool. It will pick some of those typos that the spell-checker missed:
2.9 Write the Title
You may not believe it – but it’s true:
The title of your blog post is more important than your blog post itself.
Because if your title is not compelling, very few people are ever going to read your blog post.
Titles are so important, that some bloggers produce 25 titles for every blog post. In amongst those 25 titles, there'll be one that’s good enough.
Here are seven tried and tested formulas for writing eye-catching blog post titles:
Formula #1: Get The Result Without The Pain
[Number] Secrets To [Desirable Result] Without [Painful Process]:
- 12 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy Without a Raise
- 7 Secrets to Saying No (And Not Feeling Guilty About It)
- 18 Secrets to Make Your Food Healthier Without Even Trying
- 4 Secrets to Lose Weight Without Dieting
Formula #2: Little Known Ways In Record Time
[Number] Little Known Ways to [Desirable Result] In [Number] Days/Weeks/Months
- 8 Little-Known Ways to Find New Prospects on LinkedIn
- 12 Powerful Yet Little-known Ways to Prepare Your Child for Prep Success
Formula #3: You Should Know About This!
[Number] Things Everybody Ought to Know About [Keyword]
- 10 Things Everybody Ought to Know About Driving in the Rain
- 3 Things Everybody Ought to Know About a Last Will and Testament
- 5 Things Everybody Ought to Know Before Visiting the USA
Formula #4: Lessons I Learned
[Number] Lessons I Learned From [Keyword]
- 7 Important Life Lessons I Learned In 5 Years of Blogging
- 29 Lessons I Learned In Seven Years Of Living Abroad
- 7 Lessons I Learned From A Year Of Ethical Shopping
Formula #5: How To Survive Your First Anything
How to Survive Your First [Keyword]
- How to Survive Your First 3 Months of Blogging
- How to Survive Your First Year As a Teacher
- 8 Tips To Survive Your First Fire-fighter Shift
- How To Survive Your First Year As A Personal Trainer
Formula #6: Ten Of These About That
[Number] of [Something] About [Something]:
- 10 Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts
- 23 Secret iPhone Tips and Hacks That You Didn't Know About
- 7 Beach Hacks for Parents Who Hate to Struggle
Formula #7: What This Can Teach You About That
What [Something] Can Teach You About [Something]
- What Table Top Gaming Can Teach You About Course Design
- What Jackie Chan Can Teach You About Succeeding In Business
- 7 Things Your Day Job Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship
- What Learning Piano Can Teach You About Success In Business And Life
For more tips on writing blog post titles that people click on, see my article:
Here’s a free tool I use for every new blog post title:
It’s easy to use – just keep hammering out new titles until the indicator turns green:
3. Before You Hit 'Publish'
Here are the final steps you need to take before hitting the 'publish' button.
3.1 Add a Call To Action (CTA)
Blog posts are like guided missiles. Or rather, they should be.
Every blog post should have a purpose: to get new subscribers, to increase reader engagement, to get shares on social media, or to get new clients for your service.
And that means your blog post needs a Call To Action (CTA).
In most cases that’s going to be an opt-in form. But it could be a request to share your post on social media or a request to leave a comment.
Whatever you do, make sure your blog post asks the reader to do something. Otherwise, your blog post is not helping to grow your blog.
3.2 Optimize Your Blog Post for the Search Engines
Here are the key tips for optimizing your article for the search engines.
3.2.1 Install Yoast SEO
Install the free Yoast SEO plugin.
Then follow the prompts until the Yoast indicator turns green:
Don’t worry too much about the Yoast ‘Readability’ score. Even with a perfectly written article, Yoast will mark you down if you have too many bullet points.
Here are some more SEO tips for optimizing your blog post:
3.2.2 Embed a Video
The amount of time people spend on your page is one of the ranking factors that Google measures.
The more time a visitor spends on your page, the more likely it is that your page answered their query
One easy way to get people to spend more time on your page is to embed a YouTube video on your page.
Here’s how to do it:
Go to YouTube and type in the keyword phrase of your article. Look for a video that has over 1000 views and also has a high ratio of ‘thumbs up' to ‘thumbs down':
Click on the ‘SHARE’ button underneath the video:
Then click on the ‘Embed’ button:
On the next screen, copy the ‘iframe’ code:
Then look for the ‘Custom HTML’ widget in Gutenberg:
Then drop that code into the Custom HTML widget:
You now have an embedded video within your blog post:
3.2.3 Customize Your SEO Title
When you’re optimizing your article for SEO, you need to keep in mind the ‘Google Snippet’ that appears in the search results.
This is what it looks like:
The Google Snippet consists of:
- The page or post title
- The URL of the page or post
- The meta description
- Site Links (sometimes)
The title that appears in the search results doesn’t have to be identical to the actual title of your article.
You can customize your SEO title in the Yoast SEO Snippet tool:
When the Yoast SEO Title indicator turns green, you have the right number of words in your title.
Make sure to include your keyword as close to the beginning of the SEO title as you can.
3.2.4 Write an Engaging Meta Description
The meta description is critical for your Google ranking.
In 160 characters you have to persuade a Google user that your link is worth clicking on:
Include your keyword phrase right at the beginning of your meta description.
That’s the first thing the searcher wants to know – is your content relevant to the search query they typed in?
In crafting a compelling meta description, the normal copywriting rules apply:
- Use action words
- Focus on benefits
- Offer a solution to a problem
Also, try to include numbers in your SEO Title and special characters:
- 21 Cool Gift Ideas for Xmas 2018 (#6 Is Awesome)
- 37 Ways To Save Money in 2019 (That You Never Thought Of)
- 7 Keys To Losing Weight in Less Than 30 Days (Recipes Included)
3.2.5 Make Sure Your Keyword is in the WordPress 'slug'
The slug is the part of your web page URL that comes after the domain name. Make sure it contains your keyword:
The slug should be as short as possible because Google gives preference to shorter URLs. Ideally, the slug should contain only your keyword.
4. Publish Your First Blog Post
Making your blog post ‘go live’ is as simple as clicking the ‘Publish’ button in the top tight corner of the screen:
Until you’re ready to publish, use the ‘Save Draft’ button to save your work as you go.
5. Promote Your Blog Post
As you may have gathered from this article, I rely mainly on SEO to promote my blog posts.
I lean much more toward SEO than social media as a way of promoting content.
Because when you post something to social media it has a very short lifespan. And then you have to do it again, and again.
But with SEO, once your article gets on Page #1 of Google, it can stay there for months, even years.
The other thing I like about SEO is it brings you targeted traffic. When someone finds your blog post in Google search it means they had a problem. And your article addressed that problem.
That’s not the case with social media. People don’t see your content because they were searching for it but because it came up in their feed.
That said I make it a habit to share my new articles on Twitter and Facebook.
I also use Twitter to let people know that I mentioned them in my article. They usually share my article in return. And that helps the SEO of the article, as social media shares are most likely part of Google algorithm.
In this article I’ve covered the steps it takes to research, write, publish, and promote your first blog post.
Here they are again:
- Define your Niche
- Find Your Voice
- Have the Right Mental Attitude
- Choose a Topic
- Choose a Blog Post Type
- Do Keyword Research
- Research, Write, Format, & Edit Your Article
- Write the Title
- Add a CTA
- Proof Read
- Do SEO
Go through these steps and complete each one, and you’ll lay the foundations for a successful blogging career.
Wishing you every success!
This post was most recently updated on July 21st, 2019