How to Write Phenomenal Blog Posts in a World Full of Average Ones

Follow these eight steps to write better than everyone else.

You may be wondering why I’m writing a blog post about how to write a blog post, when so many people have already written about this exact topic. I get it. The topic has been covered in-depth, from every angle.

The above blog posts are pretty damn good. I got something out of each one of them — multiple times.

HubSpot’s templates (Bullet 3) helped me a lot, when I was just starting out.

I also found the first two bullet points fascinating. I’ve read each numerous times because I’ve always wanted to publish more content quicker.

The thing is doing so just isn’t for me at this point in my life, when I have so many other obligations.

Which brings me to my blog post’s differentiator: This blog post is not about writing more efficiently. It’s not about writing loads of content. It’s about how to write the best content— content that gets read.

“Anyone can write. But there’s a process to creating something that actually gets read.” (Source)

While I’m not a psychic, I do have a very intuitive sense as to what will do well and what won’t do well before I ever hit publish.

I know because there’s just a different type of process involved when you write a really engaging, really popular blog post — a blog post that people go out of their way to thank you for writing.

To me, those are the only types of blog posts worth writing so I try really hard to write them as often as possible, but let me be frank, it’s effing hard to do so every day or even every week.

And keep in mind, I’m not talking about shallow posts that get tons of social shares and views.

(Fun Fact: Six in 10 of you will share this link without reading it.)

I’m talking about posts that people actually read and thank you for writing. I’m talking about posts with low bounce rates, good times-spent-on-page, and engaging comments.

That’s the type of post I’m going to teach you to write in this article.

So allow me to reintroduce my post: Here’s how to write an absolutely phenomenal blog post that people will love you for writing.


Step 1: Find a really, really good idea.

If the idea sucks, your post will suck. I promise you this is true.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post of mine, in order to get good ideas, you have to have a lot of ideas (a lot of which will suck).

So the question becomes: How can I collect more ideas?

How to collect more ideas: Read a lot.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King

I have an idea complex. Really, I have an idea for everything, and I find one when I can’t think of one.

My secret: I read A LOT. Like A LOT A LOT.

Not only does reading help me generate my ideas, but it also helps me write better.

I wholeheartedly believe my writing style/voice is a culmination of all the blog posts and books and commencement speeches and TED talk transcripts I’ve read.

If you read the best, you’ll write the best [occasionally].

When I want to write a really phenomenal blog post, this is what I typically do.

A) I set aside an hour or two, collecting articles I want to read.

  • Use Pocket’s explore feature to actually see how many times a blog post has been saved. This is a really clear indicator of whether or not a lot of people think a topic or headline is worth reading or not. While the above feature is awesome, I tend to live in Pocket’s “Recommended” tab, which aggregates the most saved articles from around the web. This is a quick and clear indicator of really good posts to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Visit niche, industry voting sites that curate the best daily articles from around the Internet. Usually, the best will rise to the top, saving you time. This is also a pretty clear indicator of the types of content and the topics that are currently popular with a particular audience.
  • Browse Medium’s Top Stories, or click on popular article tags to see what rises to the top.
  • I subscribe to weekly curated newsletters (Check out Newsletter Stash) that are relevant to my audience to see what links they thought were the best each week.

B) I look for a few key elements on every blog post.

Become aware of what’s not obvious, and pay attention to every part of the article.

Pay attention to the number of hearts, recommends, likes, comments and social shares — whatever metrics you can spot.

If you’re on Medium, pay attention to “top highlights.” This shows you the words people actually read and resonate with, as well as the ideas that they identify with.

C) I read.

To learn how to read efficiently, read this post.

D) I decide on the right idea.

Here’s some questions I subconsciously ask myself to narrow down my ideas.

  • Has this idea been covered in-depth already — to the extent where I feel like I can’t bring new [and a hefty amount of] value to the topic?
  • Is this timely?
  • Are people sick of reading about this already? Or are there lingering opinions to be had or little-known, unpublished solutions to be shared?
  • How difficult will this be for me to write?
  • What will readers learn from this post? Or what will they feel after having read it?
  • Does this topic have the potential to be meatily insightful? Or will you just be writing a bunch of fluff?
  • Is your idea unique and/or not covered by the mainstream outlets yet?

Again, the more you read, the more you’ll begin to just know whether your idea is a good idea.

[BONUS Tip] Validate your ideas until you get “the feeling” about good ideas.

I won’t lie, I never do this anymore, but I used to when I first ventured into content marketing.

Here’s how to validate your ideas to see if an idea is worth investing in.

  • Utilize Keyword Planner. If your blog is on the smaller side, look for long-tail keywords with low-to-medium SERP difficulty and decent amount of search volume.
  • Scroll through Twitter to jump on trending topics and do some serious newsjacking.
  • Check niche forums, communities and Slack groups. Also, check niche subreddits and Quora. Are people repeatedly asking different formations of the same question? Has anyone given them a phenomenal answer yet? Jump on that ish.
  • Visit Buzzsumo, Moz and/or socialcount.io to see how popular a link was or the most popular links on blogs in your industry or niche.
  • Review Section A above to re-read the easiest ways to validate ideas.

Step 2: Research your idea.

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT skip this step!

I don’t care how well-versed you are on the subject matter at hand. You still need to do your due diligence to find out what everyone else has published on this topic.

This helps you see the gaps in what’s out there already, allowing you to make your content better than everyone else’s.

It’s just makes logical sense to do some competitive research.

Unless you’re writing for search engines, which I don’t recommend, that’s the only way to know for sure, ahead of time, that your content will likely do well.

Content does well because you’ve prepped hard for it do well.

There’s no right way to conduct research, but I’m sharing my research process anyway for those of you who want specific guidance.

How to conduct research: Search a lot, and take notes.

A) I do an exhaustive search.

When it comes to research, Google and Pocket are my oysters.

Because I’ve been using Pocket for so long, and I use it so often, it’s likely that it will have at least a few links about whatever I’m writing about so I simply search for a few keyword phrases, and voila, a list of [mostly] relevant articles appear — that I’ve already filtered.

I also Google a few variations of relevant keyword phrases to make sure I know exactly what’s already out there on the topic. I’m obsessive — checking even the third and fourth pages of Google. I’ll scroll to the bottom of the front page, and click on relevant related search phrases so I cover all of my bases.

I won’t read the bad stuff — which I can get a sense of straight away — because it’s a waste of time. I’m not competing with bad content. I’m competing with really good content. And don’t be fooled — there will be bad content on the front page always.

B) I open up a blank document.

By now, I have a nice handful of tabs open and ready to read, but before I do so, I open up a Google Doc (or Ulysses, depending on my mood) so I can copy and paste key quotes and insights from the article into the document.

At this stage, I do not care whatsoever how it looks. It’s not about organization right now. It’s about brain dumping.

Your notes will look messy. That’s totally normal.

C) If I want or need to go the extra mile, I reach out to experts for interviews.

This isn’t a must so I’m not going to dive into how to do this now because that’s an entire post in itself.


Step 3: Organize your research.

By now, you should have a lot of knowledge about the subject at hand.

At this stage, I open another G-Doc, and I just dump all the potential sections I want to cover in this post here. Here’s what this post’s outline looked like.

And here’s another helpful post on outlining.


Step 4: Write.

YAY! Finally, it’s time for you to produce your ugly first draft. This can take hours sometimes.

It’s pertinent you find a quiet place to write where you won’t be disturbed. Why? Because writing requires you to get into a “flow state.”

While I can’t tell you how to write — everyone has their own rituals and routines — I will offer you a few tips about writing.

A) Get inspired before/while you write.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this post, I read a lot, which means I remember a lot of past posts I’ve read and loved.

Depending on the type of post I’m writing and the sentiment of my piece, I think about which posts, speeches and/or transcripts I’ve loved that would help me write my post.

I take some time, and I go back to re-read them. This is how I find my inspiration to write anyway. If you have another way you find inspiration before you write, then please share them in the comments below. I’d love to read them.

B) The lede is the most important part.

Your lede, or the beginning of your article, is the most important part of your article besides the headline. It’s what gets people to keep reading your posts.

Here’s a few links that get me through writing ledes sometimes.

C) Tie your conclusion back to your introduction.

“The primacy and recency effects suggest that people remember mostly the first and last thing they consume in a series. The beginning and end of your post or list is prime real estate for your best ideas.” (Source)

Step 5: Edit.

Again, I won’t tell you how to edit; I’ll only tell you how I edit my blog posts.

I typically need at least a day before I begin editing my article. After a day, I take my article, print it out and then re-read it — aloud — to myself with a red pen and highlighters.

Reading aloud really helps you hear your mistakes. I highly recommend not skipping this step.

What to look for when editing:

A) Does my post have a good structure?

This is probably the most difficult part — figuring out if your structure makes sense. Ask yourself if it flows in logical order.

B) Is it easily scannable?

Unfortunately, most people never read a blog post all the way through so you need to make sure your post is easily scannable for the skimmers.

How do you make a blog post easily scannable?

You make sure your headlines and subheads are brief sentences or takeaways of the sections. This way readers can jump around to the sections that interest them the most.

Another [vital] way to make sure a blog post is easily scannable is making sure you utilize formatting options, i.e. rich text.

Utilize H2s, H3s, bold text, bullet points (for lists), blockquotes for really good quotes, etc.

Last and certainly most importantly, do NOT write in huge blocks of text. Each paragraph should be two to three sentences max.


Which would you rather read?

This….

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

Or this…

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry.
Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.
It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged.
It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

C) Are my headlines descriptive and consistent?

As I just mentioned, readers should be able to scan your post and have an understanding of the article from doing only that.

When I say “consistent,” I mean they should all be formatted in the same manner. For example, are your headlines all brief sentences and formatted as such? Or are they brief takeaways, formatted in Title Case?

One isn’t necessarily better than the other; just pick one, and stick with it!

D) Review the details.

Now, that you’ve reviewed the big picture, it’s time to focus on the details. The details include:

  • Spelling and grammar. Use a tool, like Grammarly, to help you find your mistakes.
  • Wordiness. Could you have said something in fewer words? Each sentence should have ~35 words.
  • Hyperlinks. Are my hyperlinks helpful? Should I add more to helpful tutorials, little-known tools I’ve mentioned, etc? Or are my hyperlinks spammy — all referring back to me and my content?
  • Voice. Are you using passive or active voice? Always write in active voice, unless there’s a compelling reason not to. Active voice allows you to say things in fewer words and is easier to follow.

PRO TIP: Get others to read your post too, and give you feedback. Then add their names to the bottom of your published post, saying thank you for their time.


Step 6: Optimize your post.

We’re almost done. How exciting!

How to optimize your post

A) Pick good images for your post.

According to Buzzsumo, having a visual element every 75–100 words nets you double the number of social shares than posts with fewer images.

I typically just make sure to have an image at the beginning of each section (H2), and I like to find a theme around my images.

For example, if I’m using illustrations, then I won’t mix in actual photos. If I use a GIF, then I try to use GIFs for all my visuals. In short, I keep visuals consistent.

Here’s a few places to find images:

Keep in mind, you don’t want to use images everyone and their mom has already used. Try to keep it unique, which means it can sometimes take longer than you expect to find images for your posts.

B) Write 20–25 headlines before choosing the winning version.

This is what the big dogs, like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, do, and it’s why they get so many clicks on their content.

Here’s my favorite links to help me generate headlines:


Step 7: Create a launch plan.

Now, here’s the fun part — making sure people actually read what you spent so much time writing. You should create a unique launch plan for every post because it will likely change every time, and you don’t want to spam people with irrelevant content.

A) Share it on social media.

And I don’t just mean share it on social media once, and be done with it. Share it on social media multiple times.

When my post is complete, before I hit publish, I write social media copy for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then I schedule the additional social media posts in Buffer to share later.

Here’s what Kissmetrics suggests:

A piece of content should produce 20+ snippets that you can share on social media. A snippet can be any of the following:
- Variations of the title
- Short statements from the content
- Short quotes from the content
- Statistics from the content
- And much more
Go into your content and pull out at least 20 snippets. Then share the snippets on social media over the next several weeks or even months. If the content does well, continue using the snippets.
Additionally, there are a few WordPress plugins and tools that make it easy to tweet old content:
- Tweet Old Post
- Tweetily
- Evergreen Post Tweeter
Buffer also is a great tool for sharing posts, new and old, on social media. You can queue an unlimited number of posts and set up custom schedules for the times you want to share them.

B) Share it on niche forums, communities, and other social networks.

Is there any industry forum or community, where you could share your amazing piece of content?

Here’s a few places I tend to share my content on:

  • Digg: I always share it on Digg no matter what.
  • Flipboard: Create a magazine and submit your content to Flipboard.
  • Reddit: Reddit can be a scary place, so make sure you have a plan in place.
  • StumbleUpon: I always share it on StumbleUpon no matter what.
  • Quibb: Only if it’s relevant and good.
  • Hacker News: Only the absolute best content gets submitted here.
  • Designer News: Only if it’s relevant and good.
  • Sidebar: Only design-related content.
  • Webdesigner News: Only design-related content.
  • Inbound.org: Only marketing-related content.
  • Growth Hackers: Only marketing and growth related content.

C) Find relevant Quora questions to answer.

After I hit publish, I search Quora for relevant questions that my new, amazing post answers.

I look for Quora questions that:

  • Are relevant
  • Have a decent amount of views or followers
  • Have few to no good answers or no answers that will compete with my phenomenal answer

D) Syndicate it.

If you’re blogging on your own website, then syndicate it a week later on Medium, LinkedIn, WordPress.com or Tumblr. Or if it’s really, really good, reach out to big publications, and ask them if they’d like to syndicate your post.

E) Conduct outreach.

Check out Newsletter Stash, and look for relevant, curated newsletters that your post would fit in.

F) Share it in groups you’re a member of.

Share your post in relevant Slack, Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups.


Step 8: Measure your post’s performance.

Don’t get sucked in by vanity metrics. It’s easy to only focus on number of shares and pageviews, but it’s definitely far from the only metrics to review.

Here’s the metrics I review for each of my posts:

  • Views: This gives me an idea of how many people saw my content.
  • Referrals: This tells me which outlets drove the most traffic to my post so I can double-down on them next time.
  • Time on page and bounce rate: These tell me how engaged the reader was with my post. (Did you know that six in 10 people share links they never even read!)
  • Number of comments: This shows me how engaged people were with my post. I don’t take this one too seriously though because people usually only write comments when they’re really elated or really angry.
  • Number of leads: If I have a signup form on my post, then I count the number of people who actually decided to subscribe after reading it.
  • Number of saves to Pocket: This can be difficult to find, but if you visit Pocket’s “Explore” tab, you can search for keywords related to your post to see how many times it was saved to Pocket. This gives me a sense of how evergreen my content was, i.e. useful.

And that’s how you write a phenomenal blog post.

Writing a phenomenal blog post isn’t easy, and it’s never quick. But it is worth it. Follow these eight steps, and write a really great blog post every time.

And for those of you who don’t have the time to write the right way, hire an expert on Freelanship to do it for you.