- You Need to Plan Well
- Think About Your Areas of Expertise
- Make Sure the Post Idea Matches the Theme of the Website
- Search for Other Blog Posts on the Topic Before You Write
- Try to Plan Lots of Evergreen Content
- But Don't Underestimate Time-Sensitive Content, Either
- Make Sure That Your Post Adds Value
- Pick a Good Post Title
- Check That You Aren't Duplicating Post Titles
- Do Your Research
- Make Sure That the Content Is Your Own
- Understand SEO for Blog Writing
- Read Through Your Own Work
- Be Happy With Your Work
So, as I’ve said a few times now, users of the ShanniiWrites Forums are welcome to write blog posts! In fact, I listed it as one of the (30+) ways that you can help the Forums in my doc on the subject. It is a great way to help us with ad revenue and traffic. Plus, we all have info to share with the world!
But blog writing isn’t easy. There are lots of things that you need to think about and consider. A lot of the blog posts that are supposed to help you aren’t really that helpful at all. Some of them give bad advice. Others are way too hard to understand. So, how are you supposed to know where to start?
Well, I’m here to help you! I have lots of help and advice I can give you, which has come from over 2 years of work, research and playing around with SEO. Really, though, I’m here to help you help me! After all, this is a deep dive into blog writing with this site and the Forums in mind. But you can still use all of the advice on here for your own blogs! Just make sure you tailor it to the needs of the work you’re doing.
So, without further ado, here is a very, very long guide on how you can write blog posts well on ShanniiWrites. It might be a long one, but it’s worth the read! So, stick around and read the whole thing! Or, use the contents page to go one part at a time. Or, pick out the parts you need the most. Whatever suits you!
You Need to Plan Well #
A lot of work goes into writing a good blog post. It starts even before you type that first word! You need to make sure that you plan well and have a real think about what you are going to write first. I recommend creating a proper plan. Like in school!
That way, you can refer back to it when you need it. You come up with all of those great ideas when you’re the most motivated. Then, you can come back to them at a later point. That’s great for writer’s block! It will also keep you on track, as you can ask yourself whether each point you make really links to the post topic or not.
There are lots of things that you should think about in your plan. For one, you should make sure that you have enough to say before you start! Who wants to get partway through their work, just to realise that the post isn’t going to be nearly as long as they’d hoped? I’ve been there and I can tell you that it’s not fun. So, I tend to get a piece of paper and just write down all of my ideas before I start.
Or, if I’m keen to get going straight away, I’ll just list all of my headings before I start writing the post. Then, I sort them out into groups, keeping similar content together. That way, I know straight away if I’m just saying the same thing in two different ways. It helps you to visualise how the post will look at the end and encourage you to use headings (more on that later).
There are lots of things to think about during the planning phrase. Here is a list of the most important ones!
Think About Your Areas of Expertise #
There’s no point in writing a blog post if you have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s as simple as that. Blog posts are there to help other people! If you just want to go on a rant about a subject you like, that’s what the Forums are for! We love to join in when people fangirl there!
On the blog, though, the aim is to help people. I started the blog with that purpose in mind! Plus, giving people the help they’re looking for is a great way to get them to stick around and trust us. After all, many of them find us straight through Google. They want an answer to a question, and we can provide it! If we don’t, they’ll just get frustrated and leave. Then, the next time they want advice, they won’t even consider us.
On the other hand, if you give them what they want, they might have a look at our other posts. If it’s really good, they might even remember the name of the site! They could stumble across the Forums and join. It’s happened more than you think!
So, pick a topic you know a lot about. Or, pick a topic that makes you excited and makes you want to do as much research as you need. Either way, keep looking it up. Find out new tips, tricks and facts. Find links to sites, books an all sorts! And when you’re ready and you feel like a pro, then you can start the writing process. When you think you know all you need to know, read a bit more. Just in case.
It takes time, but it’s worth it in the long run! You’ll feel great when it’s done!
Make Sure the Post Idea Matches the Theme of the Website #
The ShanniiWrites website has a very clear theme. The point of the site is to help writers! So, I write blog posts about tropes, plot, diversity and all kinds of topics.
It is important that you can link your post idea back to writing in some way. This is for SEO. It’s important that the site seems like it has a clear theme and isn’t just a mish-mash of things we want to talk about. So, search engines know when to recommend us! Also, blog readers will know they can find more help with us!
Writing is a very versatile topic, though! People can write a story on any topic, so any bit of information can be useful to a writer! Well, as long as you talk about it with writers in mind, of course.
If you like to write reviews of independent creators’ work, you’re helping writers by promoting their work and giving them useful feedback! On the other hand, if you like to review famous books or Hollywood blockbusters, you can always use the work as a case study to help writers to improve. Basically, if you want to write about famous works, your angle shouldn’t be to convince people to watch it. Instead, it should be about shedding light on how these famous creators make their stories and what writers can learn from that.
Most things can be tied back to writing. If you are great at martial arts, we could always use a blog post on how to write fight scenes well. If you’re a therapist, you could always be inspired by the Cinema Therapy YouTube channel! Just tie it back to writing and storytelling and you’re fine.
Search for Other Blog Posts on the Topic Before You Write #
You need to make sure that you know what you’re up against before you start writing your blog post. Why? Well, you don’t want to just repeat what has already been said out there! A good blog post has its own spin and doesn’t just copy everything else. After all, why would a reader want to read a knock-off version of a post, when they can find the original one just as easily?
I have been blogging here since 2018, and I can tell you that it’s a horrible thing to experience from the person with the original post, too! I watched people copy my blog posts for their own sites and just change the wording, not even adding value to my content (more on that later). All they’re doing then is using my hard work to take traffic away from my blog! It’s a horrible thing to do!
The world of blogging isn’t as easy as it used to be. Ads don’t make you nearly as much money as before. So, we’ve got to be all in this together. We have to support our fellow bloggers, not rip off their work! Then, they might even send a link or two our way!
But also, there’s another reason why you’d want to check for other blogs on the subject before you write. It’s all about being as helpful to your readers as you can! If you think that another blog explains part of the topic well, why not link to it in your own post? It saves you time to focus on the things that are new and unique. The ideas that you add to the topic. And it will show the reader that they can trust you to point them to great info, whether you wrote it or not.
Try to Plan Lots of Evergreen Content #
It is always a good idea to plan and write lots of evergreen blog posts. What does that mean? Well, it’s all about how long your content will be relevant for.
Evergreen content will always have the power to attract new readers to it. It doesn’t really age much – or takes a long time to become irrelevant. If you think that your post will still have readers next year, it’s probably evergreen! And evergreen posts are gifts that keep on giving.
The good thing about this site is that most of the content is evergreen. That’s true for any blog about writing, really! There isn’t really a time frame for people searching for posts on plot, characters or Mary-Sues. There will always be people wanting to know how to write well, and so they can always find your blog post and use the help.
I try to fill my blog with as much evergreen content as I can. It helps because it means I have a good log of posts that I can link to one another. Plus, I know that, even if I can’t write a post for a while, there will always be people who need the help I have already given.
If you want to plan and write some evergreen content, it’s simple! All you need to do is think about what kind of blog post you’re writing. Is it on a rumour or drama? That’s not evergreen. A post on a new, popular TV show, book or film is probably not going to be evergreen, either. Unless you’re very lucky, of course! On the other hand, a post on a classic piece of art will always have appeal. The same is true for a writing trope or writing advice in general.
But Don’t Underestimate Time-Sensitive Content, Either #
But don’t avoid the time-sensitive content! Just because we try to fill the blog with evergreen content, it doesn’t mean that time-sensitive stuff has no value. I like to think of it like a body. Evergreen content is like the bones and muscles that keep the blog standing. That stuff with an expiry date? It’s like the skin. It can regrow and repair much easier, and it is there to protect the insides and keep us looking pretty!
The best blogs have a good relationship between evergreen and time-sensitive content. You have a good backbone of evergreen stuff that you can link to here and there. Then, you use the time-sensitive stuff to draw people in!
After all, rumours, gossip and hype from a new show or film can bring in a HUGE amount of traffic. When you write about drama, you get an explosion of reads while everyone is talking about it. Then, as soon as they get bored with the drama, they move on and your reads for that post drop to one or two a month. But if you can use the drama to encourage people to keep reading, they’ll find your evergreen content and stick around.
A good way to do this on this site is to talk about something new and exciting in the writing world. Try to do a case study on a new Netflix show that everyone is raving about! Then, have lots of links in the post to other blog posts that won’t age and get old. You’re using your time-sensitive stuff to advertise the rest of your blog. This will keep us relevant! Super useful!
If I had my way, ask writers to focus on either one or the other. It’s the best of both worlds.
Make Sure That Your Post Adds Value #
Let’s face it: the internet is huge. There are so many blog posts, videos, podcasts, webinars and courses on every subject that you can think of! It’s hard to stand out and put your name to a completely new idea.
No one expects you to, though! While you may think of one or two blog post topics that no one has ever talked about before (like my Cinematography for Episode Writers post), they’re very hard to find. Like, super hard! So, if you wait around for them to pop up, you won’t write a hell of a lot.
Instead, you just need to add value to the topics that already exist. When those other bloggers copied my posts when I started, I wasn’t angry that they’d chosen the same topic as me. No! That would be silly! I was angry that the advice they gave was all the same. They might have changed the order and the words here and there, but they didn’t add any of their own suggestions. They didn’t add value.
What you need to do to write a post people want to read (and not tick off other blog writers while you do it) is to add your own spin to the topic. Think of a bit of advice that no one has given before! Use experiences from your own life. Come up with examples from art that no one has thought to make. It’s a lot easier to find your own spin on a topic that already exists, rather than trying to think up a whole new one!
You are a unique, individual person with your own thoughts, ideas and experiences. You have value to give to your post! It’s just a matter of finding it!
Pick a Good Post Title #
I know that we say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but that’s not what happens in the real world, is it? People judge all sorts of things. They tend to judge that book (or blog post) by its title the most! So, we need to make sure that we have a good one! A good title will get people clicking on the post. Along with a good picture and summary, it’s the bait. Then, you just need to reel them in with the content!
A lot of new bloggers make the mistake of thinking that they need a clever title. They think that they need something witty and fun! Maybe a pun. Or a pop culture reference. They think that’s what’s going to draw their readers in, but that’s not the case at all! In fact, it could actually work against you in terms of the whole Google search results side of things. Google is not a person. It doesn’t have a sense of humour. So, it’s not going to get your references. If it doesn’t get them, it might just rank your content low out of confusion.
Instead, get your keywords in as soon as you can. What are you actually talking about in the post? Get a phrase in that summarises the content of the blog first. Then, because we want to keep the title to around 50 characters (with spaces included), you can do what I do! You can add a colon (:) and then put your witty stuff in after. Just make sure that your first few words are a phrase that summarises the post.
Have a look at some of my recent blog posts to see what I mean.
Check That You Aren’t Duplicating Post Titles #
One way to kill the SEO on this site is to have a blog post title that’s the same as something that already exists. It will confuse readers and mean that two blog posts are competing for the same space! When they’re on the same site, there’s really no need for two posts to be at odds like that!
That doesn’t mean that you can’t write a blog post on the same topic as something that already exists on the blog. Of course not! In fact, it’s a good thing to do! As long as they have different purposes, it’s a good idea to write lots of stuff on the same topic to make us the go-to authority on the subject.
For example, have a look at my Mary-Sue stuff. I have a quiz, a checklist, a blog post on how to fix them and a blog post on why flaws aren’t enough to fix them. Each of those things has its own purpose, even if they talk about the same thing. Even the two blog posts on how to fix them! One of them is a broad look at all of the things you can (and should) do to fix a Mary-Sue. The other is a deep dive into one of those ways and how to do it well. If I was smart, I would link them both to each other!
So, the problem isn’t having posts on the same subject. It’s when the posts are so close in content that the titles are too similar, or the same. Check the blog to see what other people have written about! If your topic has already been covered, put your own unique spin on it. If someone has done the broad look, why not try the deep dive?
Do Your Research #
It is so, so important that you know what you’re talking about when you write a blog post. Even if you think you know, though, you should still look up the topic to make sure! Trust me when I say that I highly doubt that you know everything about your topic of choice. There is always more to learn and find out about.
There are plenty of reasons why you should make sure to look up your topic before you write your post. For one, you don’t want to make any mistakes. Second, it will help you to give readers the best and most useful links. The most important thing for a blogger, though, is finding out what people are looking for.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you want to make money from your work and get lots of traffic, you need to make sure that you’re writing things that other people actually want to read. The best way to do that is to find out what they’re searching for on Google. If you know that, you can literally make a blog post that uses those words in the title. It will help you to get all of those precious clicks that will help us to make money and grow the blog.
As much as I’m a big socialist, I can say that the internet is all about supply and demand. Well, actually, it’s probably the other way around, if I’m honest. Demand and supply. There’s a demand for some type of info, and you can supply it if you’re smart and savvy with Google.
Do a Little Keyword Research #
Keyword research is a great way to start. It’s all about finding out what people are searching for. If you know what they look for, you can tap into that in your own writing. Appeal to what you already know people want!
The good thing about keyword research is that it means you don’t need to take as many risks with your content. If you know that people already want to know more about a topic, you just need to spend your time finding a way to give them what they want! It saves you a whole lot of time when it comes to finding new ideas.
But how do you do it? Well, there are lots of tools out there to help you! For one, Google has a tool that’s for their Ad programme. So, it’s supposed to be for people to make their own ads, but it works quite well if you want to find what people are searching for!
It lists the average number of searches, so you know how many potential people could stumble across your content. The more, the better! Also, it tells you how many people are buying ad space to advertise their content on that keyword in the “competition” column.
Then there’s Moz. It can give you keyword suggestions based on a word that you put in the search! Then, you can see if a search is common or not! This is a great way to find more topics to write about in your blog post. The free version only gives you 10 searches per month, and the paid one is very expensive, though, so use those free words wisely!
Ask Readers What They Want to See #
Another good way to research new ideas is by using your readers. You can get that info straight from the source! That way, you know exactly what the readers are looking for and how you can give them what they need. Plus, the fact that you care to ask builds up trust! It takes a lot of the guesswork out of blog post writing. They know what they’d stick around for, so they can help you to help them.
There are loads of ways to do this. You can do polls for your own site. You could even create a paid subscription for people to get the chance to vote! If you’re popular enough for that, anyway. Polls are a great way to engage your readers. It shows them you care and also makes them invested in your blog. There’s something about voting. It just makes you excited to see if your choice won or not! So, you’re much more likely to stick around on the site to find out. Maybe they’ll read a post or two while they’re there.
If you’re writing for this site, you can ask the Forums! Lots of people who use them read our blog posts, so you can ask them what they’d like to see you write. In fact, we have a whole sub-category for that! You can make polls, ask questions, or just read the posts that other people have written on there. That will give you a good idea of what they want! Then you know you have a few readers, at least.
Also, make sure to read the comments on other blog posts. Did the readers ask any questions? Can you write a whole new blog post on what they said? It’s worth checking out!
Ask Me for Information on Activity #
Which posts did well? Which ones didn’t do so well? All of that info is here if you ask for it! And all of it can help you to find out what your next blog post could be on.
Reflecting on whether your post did well or not isn’t just some sort of ego exercise. Or a way to self-harm, for that matter. It’s a good way to know what you did well, what you can work on and how you can get better in the future! I do it a hell of a lot. In fact, that’s why I have so much stuff about Mary-Sues!
You see, my Mary-Sue quiz has the most traffic of any other post or page on the site. So, I know that people are looking for content on Mary-Sues! Just like with your keyword research, you can use this info to come up with new ideas for blog posts that you can write in the future. And that’s what I did! You like my Mary-Sue quiz?Well, when you’re done with that, why not see my advice on how to fix them? Here! I’ll help you with a link between them!
If you see a pattern with the posts that do well and the posts that don’t, you can use that to help you in the future. It might not just be the content! It could be the picture, the title, the meta description or a bunch of other things. I know that my new posts do better because I understand SEO better now. That means that I know how to make content that Google likes.
So, take the time to find out which posts work and which don’t. If you take the time to think of reasons why, it will help you next time!
Look for Facts and Data #
Now, it’s time to talk about the other side of research: the facts and the data. You need to have a think about if there’s any way you can add them to the blog post you’re writing. It’s as simple as that. They back up your points and show the reader that you know what you’re talking about.
Of course, with writing this isn’t so easy. You might not be able to find a study or a fact to back up what you’re trying to say because a lot of writing is about subjectivity. It’s about what works for you. What you like or dislike. What you think works. How you think that the reader can improve their writing!
While I would argue that most of my advice is pretty good for anyone, I can’t say that I have studies to back me up, because it’s just based on my own observations of what works, what doesn’t work and what gets reads. However, when I can, I try my best to make sure that I put some facts in my blog posts here and there. I link to blog posts that explain the Dunning-Krueger effect when it makes sense. I add stuff from people who know much more than I do. Or, I give examples from stories.
It is always nice to see if you can add in a fact here or there. It just builds that trust between you and the reader, which is so important! The best blog posts are written with facts in mind, so be aware of that!
That doesn’t mean that you always need to have figures and data to back up what you have to say. It just means that you take the time to think about if those figures exist or not!
Make Sure That the Content Is Your Own #
Plagiarism is against the law for a reason. I can’t stress that enough! Do not copy other people’s content. It is wrong for so, so many reasons.
For one, it hurts the original owner. They’ve worked very hard to write their blog post, and then you come along and steal it! That’s horrible, as it diverts attention away from their own work, even though they were the ones who did all the research and planning and put in all of the thought. They might even report you to Google or get the law involved, which is fair. You did steal from them.
Second, it hurts our Google ranking. There are two main reasons for this. If you are copying content from other places on the same site (even if it’s your own), you’re confusing search engines. They don’t know how to rank the blog post! You can find more details on the Moz article about duplicate content.
If you steal from other places on the internet, this is known as “scraped content” and is a form of stealing. Google will rank sites lower on purpose if they find that you have scraped content from other places on the internet.
Also, it just hurts the trust between you and the reader. If you want them to come back for more, you’ll have to make them trust you. Readers aren’t stupid! If they think that you’re just copying and pasting from elsewhere, they might think you’re a bad writer and find somewhere else to go. Don’t bring the name of ShanniiWrites down into the gutter by stealing content from someone else.
Never Copy and Paste Long Pieces of Content #
You should never cut and paste long bits of content from other sources. If you do, that’s not your work! It’s the work of the original writer. So, the reader might as well go to find what they wrote instead. After all, you’re not adding value to the topic if you’re just copying and pasting.
Sure, you might say that you want to make a list of the best posts on the topic. That’s a great thing to want to do! But a blog post is not the place to do that. Instead, if you just want to start a “directory”, then why not make a thread on the Forums where you list the best blog posts? Just make sure to add a link to the work. Don’t copy and paste.
This isn’t just about plagiarism. I mean, it’s a huge issue and it’s against the Forum Rules for a reason. However, there’s more to it than that. Of course, there are lots of old books and stories that are fair game for copying. If you take bits of work from them or you’re inspired by their work, you’re not going to get in trouble. However, that doesn’t mean you should copy and paste those, either.
While you’re not breaking any laws if you’re copying from work that’s free of copyright, it could still hurt the blog. You’re still confusing the search engines by duplicating what already exists somewhere else. So, it could still make us rank low.
I’m not talking about a quote here or there. That’s fine. In fact, I’ll talk about how to do that well in a bit. But if you’re copying more than a sentence or two in a row, that’s where we have a problem. Just link instead!
Read Widely to Avoid Paraphrasing Someone Else’s Content #
It is super easy to accidentally scrape content if you’re not careful. It usually happens if you didn’t do enough research. You rely on one single source, which means you’re prone to just repeating what they say. I know you didn’t mean to, but it still hurts the blog, so you need to find a way to add value.
I find it easy to avoid this by reading more than one other blog post. You can get your facts, tips and tricks from all over the place! It doesn’t have to just be from other blog posts, either! In fact, I encourage you to read books, watch videos, read newspapers, ask people things. Get your info from as many different sources as you can.
The more you read, the less of a chance there is that you will take too much from one source. Plus, it gives you all of the info from every single source you’ve read! That arms you with lots and lots of info, which can help you to add value and think for yourself.
I find that reading two sources that disagree helps me, too. If they all have the same views, it’s easier to accidentally fall into the same patterns. However, if you read lots of points of view, you’ll have to choose a side. You can’t agree with them all!
Just be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the middle of two opinions is always the best. Sure, sometimes it can help to see the value in both sides. However, you’re not really thinking for yourself if you go in assuming that you need to find the middle road. And the middle of right and completely wrong is half wrong. Remember that. I’m looking at you, flat earthers.
Critique Your Research Before You Write Your Blog Post #
Critique your sources. Write down what you agree and disagree with. Slot in your own ideas, examples and information while reading! Link the different sources together with a “source A and B say the same thing”. Plus, think about what they did well and how you would write differently.
Why does this help? Well, if you can decide what you, as an individual, thought about the things you read. Not just what they said, but how they said it, too. If you want to add value, the best way to do it is to know what you want to do differently! And thinking about how they wrote their work will help you to develop your own sense of style (just don’t force the style thing. That comes with time).
When I wrote my blog post on magic systems, I printed off a whole bunch of blog posts. Then, I spent some time highlighting all of the sentences, facts and arguments I liked. I would link them to one another, too. If one of them said something better than another, or one went into a point deeper, I would say so! Then, I thought of my own examples of what they had to say. Once I had thought of all of that, I asked myself what I thought about the subject.
Of course, you don’t need to do all of that. It was overkill. Trust me! Just make sure that these things are on your mind as you do your research. It will help you to form your own point of view and consciously slot in your own ideas, thoughts and opinions.
That’s how you add value. You don’t just repeat what you’ve read. You tie it all together, critique it and build on it.
If You Want to Quote, Cite it Right! #
As I said before, it is ok to quote. In fact, it’s often a good thing! You just need to make sure that you give credit where credit is due. Plus, don’t quote whole paragraphs of text.
If you want to quote, be sure to use quotation marks. I haven’t settled on whether I should use double quotation marks (“”) or single (”), so either is fine right now! Just make sure to use them and stick to the same ones for the whole of the blog post.
Then, once you have written your quote, make sure to say where you got it from. Who’s the author? What site is it from? Can you link them to it? This gives that all-important credit and shows that you know how to quote well. This is a writing blog, after all! So, it’s good to show that you can do all the things that writers are expected to do. Make sure to build that trust with your readers!
I recommend quoting no more than three sentences at a time. If you need to give the reader more information, tell them the context in your own words! Then, link back to the blog post. If you need to quote lots of things from the same article, you can! Just make sure that you only quote the most important information, cite it and surround it with your own words and context
Only quote the things you need to, and never the whole post. Not only does this stop your quotes from hurting the SEO of the blog, but it also helps the writer of the source, too. If you quote bits, then readers might want to go to the source to read more!
Give Credit Where Credit is Due #
Even if you’re not quoting – even if you’re just summarising the ideas of another writer – you should still give credit. Admit it if you weren’t the first one to come up with an idea and point your readers to the original source. It will show that you’re honest and build the trust that I keep going on about.
It’s quite an art to quote well. Being able to work it into your blog post in a natural way can take time and study. It’s a good idea to see how other people do it well! I think I don’t do so badly with it, so you can always have a look at the blog posts on here. In fact, it would help us out a little bit! The best links and quotes don’t take attention away from the actual blog post or make it worse. Instead, good links make those blog posts better!
So, why is it so important to make sure that you write your sources into your blog post? Well, other than not breaking the law or hurting the blog, it can actually help us! For one, a blog might be happy to link your work if they think that you play well with others. If you link, it will come back and help you. We will also get into why outbound links help SEO in a little bit. Also, though, it might be an opportunity for affiliate links!
You see, one of the ways that we make money on this blog is through affiliate links. If you have a source from a book, other people might want to read the whole book! So, it’s good to give them that choice with an Amazon link! I can add those in once you’re done!
Understand SEO for Blog Writing #
I’ve spent a lot of my time speaking about SEO in this blog post. That’s because it is super helpful for you to learn how to use it well!
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s all about making your content as Google-friendly so that your blog post will rank nice and high. In other words, it’s a type of free marketing for the blog! Rather than spending a whole lot of money on ads, we can spend our time making our blog great, so that we get as many posts as possible on the first page of Google.
Since most people stick to that first page when they search for something, getting your SEO score up is a great way to make sure that you get seen. It takes some hard work, but it’s worth it in the end! I got my SEO score up from 30/100 to 70/100 in the last year! There’s lots more that we can do, but we’re doing well so far!
If you have your own website on WordPress, I recommend using Yoast SEO. That’s how I write my blog posts on the back end of this site! It gives you lots of tips on how to improve your SEO score and supports you along your blog post writing process.
But for those of you who are writing on the front end of the website, your writing platform will look very different. So you’ll need to learn how to write good SEO content without it! That will benefit you better in the long run, anyway. It means you can write up an SEO blog post in your word processor like a pro! So, here’s a quick guide to SEO.
SEO Analysis #
There are two parts to good SEO. The first part is about helping Google to know what your blog post is about and whether it’s good quality. That is called SEO Analysis. The second part is about making blog posts easy to read so that people don’t get confused. That’s called your Readability Score. Together, they give your readers a good experience and help you by increasing the rank of your blog post on search engines. That sounds like a win to me!
When it comes to SEO Analysis, there are lots of different things you need to think about. First of all, there’s your focus keyphrase. Then there’s your post length, meta description and all the search stuff. Of course, we can’t forget about the links, either! They’re super important, too!
That sounds like a lot, right? It sounds like it might be too much to remember? Well, don’t be afraid! SEO can seem really scary if you’re new to it, or if you have to learn it all by yourself, like I did. But it doesn’t need to be like that for you! I’m here to shed some light on it, explain it in easy terms that make sense and give you the help that you need on the Forums if necessary. Plus, you can always come back to this post for a recap when you need it! The table of contents is your friend!
If you want to print, you should be able to. I find it doesn’t work sometimes on Google Chrome, though. If that’s the case with you, just open it up in an incognito and press the print button at the top of this article. That should help you!
Focus Keyphrase #
Ok, so what is a focus keyphrase? Well, it’s a group of 2-5 words that sum up the content of the blog post. Not just blog posts, either! Pages, docs like this, anything on your site!
My focus keyphrase for this doc is “How to write blog posts”. That sums up what I’m writing about, right? I put that into my Yoast SEO and it takes out the most important words. So, it will look at the words “write”, “blog” and “posts”. Then, it sees if you use them throughout your post!
Why does this matter? Well, you need to write your focus keyphrase more than once in your post. It doesn’t matter what order it’s in, whether it’s in a different tense or if it’s plural or singular. As long as all of the words are in the same sentence, it counts!
So, what do you do with this keyphrase? Well, it’s supposed to be the first words of your title, as I said earlier. Then, you should write it again and again throughout the blog post. Like I just did in the last sentence! I put the three words together! Don’t do it too many times, of course. That would be overstuffing. I recommend maybe once for each bit of content under a header.
Speaking of headers, try to make sure your focus keyphrase is in a few of them. Not too many! Just enough to show that you wrote your blog post with the phrase in mind. Don’t worry about the order of the words, either!
The phrase should be evenly spread throughout the post. Don’t say it 6 times at the start and then forget. Space it out!
Post Length #
Now, let’s look at post length. This one is pretty simple, really! You need enough content to show Google that your post or page has value. That’s why I asked all of you to fill in your profiles here! Write a bio! Give us updates on your writing goals and achievement! Make sure that your profile has lots of content on it so that it isn’t seen as short or lacking value.
What is the sweet spot for length, then? Well, each blog post should be at least 300 words. Any less than that and it will be seen as a pointless waste of time by search engines. Personally, though, I think that between 1000 and 1500 words is the sweet spot. It’s long enough to give value to the topic and be worth reading, but it’s short enough that your readers won’t lose interest. Attention spans are… not great.
Saying that, though, I tend to go way over that. Last year, my average blog post was about 3000 words. This year, it’s about 2000. This article is already over 7000 words long, and I haven’t written any of the content for the headings below this one! I tend to have a lot to say when I write a post. That’s not going to hurt my SEO, so there’s no need to worry. There’s no upper limit for post length. You just need to think about your readers and how much you think they’d be willing to read.
So, I try to have a table of contents for any of my longer posts. That way, people can dip in and out when it suits them. More text means more ads, which is great! But the most important thing is the enjoyment of the reader.
Outbound Links #
I have spent a lot of time talking about links. They’re crucial for your blog post! You can use them to point to related posts that you think are useful or to show that you know what you’re talking about by linking to studies and data. Plus, it helps you to support other bloggers who you think are great!
When I write a blog post (focus keyphrase), I use outbound links for all sorts of reasons! I like to show my readers where I got my info from. I can show people that I know what I’m talking about by showing that a trustworthy site backs me up. It lets me link my other projects like Shani’s Tutoring. Plus, it saves me a lot of time when it comes to explaining a term that I use in passing in my blog post. Instead of stopping to say “this is what the Dunning-Krueger effect is” in the middle of a paragraph, I can just link to a blog post dedicated to that topic! I support that writer (that’s the mission of ShanniiWrites) and keep my blog own post efficient! (There’s that focus keyphrase again! Yes, “writer” counts.)
As Yoast SEO explains, outbound linking builds a sense of camaraderie. We all need inbound links to our blog posts to improve our own SEO! So, if everyone is encouraged to put an outbound link or two in their work, then we have more of a chance to build up each other’s SEO and improve the internet as a whole! Blogging isn’t about competing with everyone! It’s about giving the reader what they need.
Just consider these things:
- Don’t put a link on your focus keyphrase
- Don’t only link to ads or affiliate links
- Make sure that your links are not broken
Internal Links #
Internal links help with SEO so much. While outbound links go to other websites, internal links are about linking from one post to another on the same site. Or linking a post to a page, or a forum thread to a post. As long as it’s shannniiwrites.com to shanniiwrites.com, it counts. It doesn’t matter if it’s the site or the Forums!
Internal links are about connecting the whole site so that the reader (and the search engine) can zip from one place to another easily. It ups the amount of time that readers spend on our site, as they’re encouraged to check out post after post. I don’t know about you, but I know I can spend hours on Wikipedia going from one article to another, just because they link to each other. That increases ad revenue and traffic and helps us so much.
So, make sure that your blog post links to one other place on the website when you’re writing (this is the last time I’m going to point out that I used the focus keyphrase again). I’ve done it quite a few times in this article! I linked Mary-Sue posts, the Cinematography guide and Writer’s Block, to name a few!
How do you do that? Well, any time you mention in passing a topic that we already have a blog post on, just make a link! If I’m making a blog post on dialogue and I mention that characterisation is a big part of good dialogue, I should make sure to link my characterisation blog post for people to zip to! That’s an example. Both of those posts are still being worked on.
Just make sure to follow the rules I set in the “outbound links” section!
Google Search Appearance #
The rest of the SEO Analysis is about how the blog post is going to look when it’s on Google. This includes the title, the picture and the meta description!
The title shouldn’t be too long or too short. Yoast SEO says that you should stick to 600px, but what does that even mean? How can you tell? Well, according to Moz, you need it to be about 50-60 characters, including spaces. However, this includes the site title with the dash that comes after the title ” – ShanniiWrites”, which is 16 characters long. So, instead of counting yourself, I would put the blog title followed by the site title into this meta length checker tool and make sure that the whole title (including the site name) fits with no ellipses (…).
Then, you should check the meta description. In the checker tool, this is just called the “description”. As you can see, it should be under 160 characters! The sweet spot according to Yoast, though, is between 120 and 155 characters. The meta description should include – you guessed it – the focus keyphrase once and only once. Only use each important word in it once. I make the meta the same as the summary on the website, so I’ll take your summary!
For the photo, don’t worry too much. Just make sure that your blog post has a featured image that is good quality and relates to the post. Use royalty-free images, images you have written permission to use or create your own art. Plus, try to put most of the important image stuff in a square in the middle so that it doesn’t get cut off.
Now that the SEO Analysis stuff is all done, let’s look at how easy your post is to read. This is crucial. If people struggle to read your blog post because the sentences or paragraphs are too long, they aren’t going to stick around to read the rest of what you wrote!
When I first learnt about readability, I rolled my eyes, too. Like, I can read long sentences. No big deal. I do that stuff all the time at uni! But who wants to make a blog post on here work to read? I know I don’t! I want the readers to enjoy reading it! That way, they might come back for more! Plus, we don’t want our posts to be inaccessible. What if English isn’t their first language? What if they have dyslexia? People should still be able to read the blog post with ease, no matter their circumstances.
But that doesn’t mean you have to dumb yourself down. Of course not! If you want to write a good blog post, all you need to do is split it up into easy, readable chunks. Have lots of headings and make sure that your sentences and paragraphs aren’t too long. Still talk to your readers like they’re your equals – because they are! Never talk down to them. Don’t be afraid to use a hard word here and there. Explain, don’t patronise.
Here’s a list of things that you need to think about if you want your blog post to be easy to read. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much easier than the other stuff! It just takes a little time. Plus, if you’re a comma fan like I was, you’ll have to learn how to swap out those long sentences with 6 commas for shorter ones!
Flesch Score #
Yoast checks your Flesch reading score when you write a blog post. This score tells you how easy your blog post is to read, based on a lot of things. It tests the words you use to see if they’re long or short (based on how many syllables there are in the word). It also has a look at how many sentences there are compared to the number of words. Lots of interesting maths done, there! Then, it gives you a score out of 100. 100 is super easy to read and 1 is very hard.
I try to stick to a score of 70-90. This means that it can be read by adults very easily, without being too child-like! The sweet spot for me is in the 80s.
Readable has great advice on the reading score of your work. It even gives you the maths formulas that are used to give you the number. Basically, though, a word with lots of syllables will drop your score down by a lot. So, you need to buffer this with lots of short one-syllable words in between. It’s like what I said in my post on big words: if you want to add a big word into your work, make sure you give your reader lots of smaller ones so that they can guess what it means with context.
You should have more one-syllable words than two, more two-syllable words than three and so on. Our brains can read over short words pretty quickly, so it will help with the flow of your blog post.
Sentence Length #
Sometimes, a sentence is so long that I lose the point is was trying to make by the end! Other times, the commas are all over the place. That really lowers my enjoyment of a blog post. What’s the point? I might as well read some Charles Dickens!
There are two people who write in long sentences with way too many commas. First, you have the people who are too smart for their own good and have 100 things that they want to say all at once! Then, there are the people who just haven’t been taught how to use commas properly. Either way, it makes your post hard to read.
Yoast SEO wants us to make sure that no more than 25% of our sentences in our post are over 20 words long. That’s harder than it sounds! I tend to go through my own blog posts after I’ve finished writing and shorten at least 30 sentences. Maybe split them in half. But since I’ve been more aware of the length of my sentences, I’m getting better and better at doing it the first time around!
This really makes reading your blog post much easier. It also helps you to see where you need to split the post up into paragraphs! You see, the longer the sentences are, the easier it is for you to ramble and talk about lots of topics all in one go! That muddies the water when it comes to splitting paragraphs.
You can check your average sentence length with the Flesch calculator I recommended above. Try to keep it below 18 words, if you can! Vary your sentences between a few long ones and lots of short ones.
Paragraph Length #
Your paragraph length should never go over 200 words. If it does, Yoast does not like it one bit! To be honest, I think it’s a good idea to keep them short and sweet if you can. Stick to around 100 words. Well, unless you really need to keep all of that text together! I doubt you’ll need to, though.
After all, you don’t want to overwhelm people. The chances are that they’re reading on a screen. Not many people these days print out blog posts! So, it can look like a whole, huge wall of text.
As someone with dyspraxia, I sometimes struggle to follow one line to another in a wall of text. Often, I’ll end up reading the same line again by accident! It doesn’t happen a whole lot if the paragraphs are short, because it’s quite easy to see that each line is further down than the last. When they’re huge, though, it doesn’t feel like you’re making a dent! So, I tend to get lost!
When I have a real book in front of me, I like to run my finger along the line to keep track of where I am. I can’t do that on a phone, though, without messing stuff up if I accidentally tap! So, seeing long paragraphs can throw me off and even stop me from reading the blog post at all. I’m sure there are other people out there who have problems like that. Don’t forget about them! Make your blog post easy on their eyes so that they can read and enjoy what you have to say.
You can still say everything you want to if you split it up into smaller paragraphs. It just helps out the people who read your blog post!
Every blog post should have headings. They help the reader to get the gist of what you’re saying if they just want to scan the post. Plus, it helps them to read the blog post in chunks if they need to, or come back to your best advice at a later date.
So, when you write your blog post, make sure that you have no more than 300 words before the next heading. This is the hard limit. I try to stick to it as close as possible, if I’m honest, sticking to at least 250 words per section of my blog post. I will never go over 300 words if I can help it, though.
For me, this is the hardest thing to do. I have so much to say about the stuff I talk about! How am I supposed to fit a whole idea in one sub-heading? In 300 words? It’s really tough for me! I know that this is my weak spot, though, and I make sure to think about that when I write a blog post.
So, how do I make sure that I stay under 300 words? Well, I make as many headings as I need! Your blog post should only have 1 H1 heading, which is the title of your post. Then, all of the main points should be the next biggest ones, which are H2 headings. If you have lots to say under one heading, it’s a good idea to split the text of that heading into lots of little H3 ones! And so on and so on.
I use this heading hierarchy to split my work up into smaller chunks of info that’s easy to read. It helps both me and the reader!
Big Words #
Big words are great. They can often help you to sum up complex ideas quickly and easily! But I’ve seen way too many blog posts in which the writer overuses big words. It makes their writing either sound clunky or pretentious. Not a good look!
As I said before, big words can destroy your Flesch reading score, if you’re not careful. So, you need to take the time to think about which big words you’re using and whether or not they’re necessary. I’m not saying that you can’t use them ever! You might need to use a big word here and there, and that’s fine. But if there’s a way that you can say what you want to say with short words, it will help your readability and make your blog post more of a joy to read.
I find that, from time to time, a writer will resort to big words when they’re not quite sure what they want to say. Big words and pretentious language are a great-cover up for that! After all, they give you the appearance of being knowledgeable without all of the hard work that goes into actually knowing stuff. I don’t remember which writer taught me that. Maybe Philip Pullman? But writing should be accessible. It should be there to help people to understand, not confuse them more.
So, if you want to use big words, know why you’re using them and make sure that you give your reader the context they need to be understood. Take the time to think: is there an easier way to say this? How can I help people to understand what I’m trying to say? Do you know what you mean? And who are you writing this blog post for?
Transition Words #
Transition words. Not very easy to get right, from my experience! After headings, this is probably the hardest thing for me to get right! I often write without even thinking about how they can help to make your writing flow and aid the understanding. Maybe that’s my own little bit of elitism speaking, but I just didn’t feel like I needed them. I felt like my blog posts flowed just fine without them.
But I was wrong. Transition words are a great way to help the writing sound good, link your points and add to the tone of the blog (I’ll speak about that a little later on). They’re a great way to make one sentence or paragraph flow into another, and just humanise you, the blog post writer.
So, what are transition words? Well, Yoast SEO explains it quite well, so here’s their definition:
Transition words are words like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘because’. They show your reader the relationship between phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs. When you use them, you make it easier for your readers to understand how your thoughts and ideas are connected. What is more, they prepare your reader for what’s coming.Yoast SEO post
Personally, “so” is probably my favourite. You might have noticed that in my own blog posts, or even here in this doc!
In your blog post, you need at least 30% of your sentences to contain a transition word. That will make your Yoast SEO score nice and green, which helps us to rank high on Google and makes your blog post easier to read. Trust me when I say they help a lot!
If you need help to find some words, here’s a great list for you to check out! It helped me loads!
Passive Voice #
I talk a lot about passive voice in my English classes on Shani’s Tutoring. If you can find it, you can boost your marks. But when it comes to the blog posts you write, you should try to avoid using it too much. Yoast doesn’t like! People often use it too much without realising the effect it has on their work.
Passive voice is hard to explain if you’re not so big on the whole grammar thing. If you know grammar well, I could just say that passive voice is when you take the verb “to be” and add it to the past participle. Like “I was jumped on”. Or I could say it’s when you switch a sentence around so that the object becomes the focus of the sentence. But who even knows that a past participle is these days? And who knows what the difference between the subject and the object is? You don’t need to know that to write a blog post! Or even to avoid it!
So, I’ll just show you the difference. “Mum sat on the chair” is active voice. “The chair was sat on by mum” is passive voice. If the person or thing doing the action is the focus of the sentence, you have active voice. If the person or thing having the action done to them is the focus of the sentence, that’s passive voice!
Why does it matter so much? Well, passive voice sounds weak if it’s used too much. It makes you sound a little unsure or unconfident. Plus, it tends to take way more words to say the same thing as an active sentence. Not so good when you have a word limit per header! So, stick to 10% or less of your sentences being in passive voice!
Read Through Your Own Work #
So, you’ve done all of those other things that I recommended you do. You have a great blog post written and you’re ready to submit it for review. But hold up! Have you checked through your work? Have you had a read through it to see if it makes sense, sounds good and helps people? Are you sure you’re really ready to post it?
The review process is vital to your blog writing. In fact, it’s just as important as the actual writing! After all, if you don’t do it right, then you’re letting yourself down. You’re throwing away all of that hard work that you put into the writing process. Your blog post deserves the justice and extra care of that last read through.
This is the chance to make sure that you’ve said what you want to say, that you haven’t deviated from the plan too much and that the title matches the content. You can also take the time to put your reader’s hat on. If you were reading this for the first time, would it answer the questions you were asking? Does it give you enough information? Is it helpful, or does it just give you vague instructions. Does it teach you what you need to know? Or does it just preach to the choir?
Don’t freak out too much, though! You can’t be perfect! I know people find loads of things that I need to fix and change in my blog posts. That’s why we have a badge for typo detectives on the Forums! But you should see what I looks like before I do my own check. It’s bad!
Here are some things to look out for when you check your work. It will help you a lot!
Check for Typos! #
Typos are the bane of my existence. Let’s be real. I don’t think I have one single blog post where another reader hasn’t found a mistake. But the problem is that, when I read over my own work, I tend to read what I meant to say, not what’s actually there on the screen! Yikes!
So it might seem a little hypocritical if I tell you that the first thing you should do is to check for typos. For me, I have a MacBook. So, if my laptop registers two spaces one after another, it will add a full stop there. And since I’ve had this laptop for years and years now, it lags all the time and I get those spaces way too often. On top of that, I just accidentally type the wrong things from time to time! The woes of typing fast, I guess!
Sometimes I’ve got the wrong language set on my autocorrect and my laptop likes to change “the” to “thé”, just to mess me up. Lots of things go wrong when I try to write. That’s why I need to take the time to find those damn typos – and I still miss so many of them!
There are probably loads of reasons why your blog posts have a typo here and there. And the chances of you having none at all in any of the blog posts you write is very slim. So, you need to check for typos before you choose to post! It will save you a hell of a lot of time in the long run and just improve the quality of your blog post.
I know that they’re hard to find. Trust me. I know. So just do your best, ok?
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar #
Spelling, punctuation and grammar. Or, what I’ve known as SPaG since I was 5 years old. Finding SPaG mistakes is not the same as finding a typo here and there. Typos are accidental and you know they’re wrong. You might laugh about them if you notice them! I know I do when I write a swear word instead of “duck”. SPaG mistakes, on the other hand, are more things that you just didn’t how to say or write right. So, they’re harder to find and correct. After all, you don’t know that it’s wrong.
We all make SPaG mistakes here and there. Sometimes. I accidentally put a full stop where I meant to put a comma. Or, I forget to close off my speech marks or brackets. I tend to be ok with grammar things (unless it’s a typo), but I can suck at spelling some things. English is a hard language when it comes to spelling! What even is the word “diarrhoea”? (I totally just tried my best and then used spellcheck even then.)
If you are like me and you need some help from time to time, I really recommend Grammarly! It’s so good for SPaG mistakes! It can help to put you on the right track and make sure that people know what you mean. Plus, it’s quite good at adding commas where we tend to forget. After the dreaded semicolon, commas can be the hardest type of punctuation to get right 100% of the time!
Grammarly (and its even better Premium version) work really well with the blog post function on the website. Trust me! I’ve tried! So, you can take stress out of sorting out your SPaG with this great piece of software!
Make Sure That Your Content Answers the Question #
A while ago, I read a book on how to write diversity well. I will do a review on it at some point, I promise! But the big problem that I had with it is that it didn’t really answer its own question all too well. The writer spent a whole lot of time preaching to the choir and not a lot of time answering the question it posed in its own title.
What I mean by that is that too much of the book was dedicated to explaining why diversity matters, and not enough was on how to get it right. But if someone found and bought the book, the chances are that they know diversity is important! They just want tips on how to improve. How to get it right. And that’s what the title said it was going to give them!
The same often happens when people write blog posts. They have this great idea for a subject for their post. They try their best to give the reader the info that they promised in the title, but end up going off onto tangents explaining things that don’t need to be explained. Or maybe they do! But the writer dedicates way too much time to definitions and preaching to the choir and not enough time doing what they set out to do.
To avoid this, go through your work with the question “does this do what I promised in the title?” Check that the text matches the heading that it’s under. Plus, check that the headings match the point of the blog in the first place. If something you wrote doesn’t fit, save it for another blog post!
Consider the Tone of your Post #
I don’t usually encourage you to tone police. It’s even against the rules on the Forums! But when it comes to a blog post, it’s a good idea to think about the tone of your writing. It needs to be consistent! And not just throughout the blog post itself. It also needs to match the tone and style of the rest of the posts on there.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s all about how you convey your idea! You see, on the blog, I usually try to be informal, fun and conversational. At the same time, I want to show that I know my stuff with cool, level-headed and assured language. The point is to teach people without making them feel patronised, after all! So, I stick to a down-to-earth delivery with lots of examples, jokes and colloquialisms.
When I finish a blog post, I check that I’ve maintained this one throughout. It’s ok to stray a little here and there. Especially if you get passionate about a certain part of your blog post! But overall, you should maintain that kind of tone across the board. It keeps people engaged and happy and encourages them to keep reading.
When you write a blog post here on ShanniiWrites, please try to match that kinda tone! I’m not saying that you have to sound like me! Have your own spin on things. Use your own little language habits. Just make sure you don’t sound patronising or unsure when you do.
The good thing about Grammarly Premium is that it gives you little emojis that tell you what the tone of your work is. You can even set your goals. If you struggle with the tone, this might be a good bet! It works well with the site!
Ask Yourself: Is It Helpful? #
It’s all well and good to just write a blog post. They’re fun! You can add something to the internet and feel good while you fo it! But who are you really writing your blog post for? Yourself or your readers?
If your answer was either “my readers” or “both”, you’re on the right track. If it was “I’m writing for me”, maybe you’ve missed the point. Or maybe you aren’t all that keen to get reads after all.
But if you are writing for your readers, you need to think about whether or not the stuff you write would be helpful to them. You might have all the knowledge in the world about eels. It might be super interesting to you! But if you just blurt out all of the facts you know without any sort of rhyme or reason, it’s not going to help anyone – except for, maybe, your ego.
But that’s not to say that some facts aren’t helpful. Of course not! Any fact could help someone at some point. The problem is with how you present them. Does the title let people know how your facts might help them? Is the layout easy for them to navigate to get the facts they need? Have you written with your reader in mind?
If you want to write a blog post about eels, you need to think about other people who know less about eels than you do. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about what kinds of questions they might have on the topic and find a way to work those into your blog post. Remember to explain more than you think you should. And never use jargon without explaining what it means, first. Or leave a link to help them find out.
Be Happy With Your Work #
Be proud! You just wrote a whole blog post! That’s not something to laugh about! Don’t fret too much about the small details! Have a look at the big picture, check your SEO and proofread. Then, take a step back and be proud of the work you put in to make this blog post great. You’ve put a whole lot of hard work into this. So, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be proud of yourself!
After I write a blog post, I like to take some time to think about at least one thing I did really well. That gives me the motivation to write more. Plus, it tells me what I should try to do again next time! Every time you do this, you can add to your blog writing skills. So, by the time you’ve written 5 or 6 posts, you’ll look back on your first and see how far you’ve come.
Sure, there’s always work to be done. You can always improve and get better. But if you stick to that one blog post and tweak and tweak, you’ll never get anything out! So, try to take a moment to be positive. As long as you’ve checked for typos and SPaG, and you are sure your blog post adds value, you should just post!
You’ve done well – whether you finished that blog post or you just had the patience to read this 12,700+ word doc. You’re on your way to acing your blog posts. Now you just need reads, feedback and practice. So, make sure you give that much needed feedback to others in your boat, too, if you can. Now relax. You’re done!