By Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD
The prevalence of content marketing has led to an explosion of blog writing—whether for a personal or business blog, a website, or a LinkedIn article. It’s also relevant to job seekers: writing blog articles can be an effective way to show your productivity and increase visibility by sharing knowledge in your area of expertise. Here is a step-by-step guide to writing a blog article.
Step 1: Determine your goal for writing the article
In other words, what outcome are you hoping to achieve? For many job seekers and businesses alike, the goal is to show expertise on a particular topic and to build brand visibility.
Step 2: Establish broad categories of topics to write about in light of your goal
Ask yourself the following questions:
— What general areas can I write on that show me as someone who is knowledgeable in my field?
— Of those categories (generated above), what will my intended audience likely value, or find most helpful?
Consider the perspective and knowledge you have to offer to readers. When thinking about this, make sure your selected category or categories align with your overarching strategy. For example, I tend to write about proactive career management and writing well; those are my professional “bucket” categories. A project management professional might write about various aspects of project management, while an operations director might share a perspective for increasing efficiency. In contrast, even though I love to travel, writing about that hobby wouldn’t advance my goals unless I wanted to transition into the travel industry.
Step 3: Select your specific topic
In each article, you should make one main point and one main point only. Note that this very article is about writing a blog post—not “Blogging.” That is too broad.
Assuming you plan to write more than one article, it’s helpful to generate a list of topics by brainstorming ideas either on your own or with a colleague or collaborator. Often, two brains are better than one. If you are not under time constraints, be open to the fact that your best ideas might come when you allow yourself to think creatively. Whenever you have ideas, record them to revisit later. That way, once you’re ready to start on an article, you already have a list to choose from.
Step 4: Outline
Organize the key points for your article in whatever format you want, whether that is a traditional outline, a visual spider web map, or paragraphs. You will use this to guide your draft.
Step 5: Draft
A grad school friend of mine once told me to “start with what’s easiest,” and that is some of the best writing advice I have ever received. Sometimes people get stuck because they don’t know what the first sentence should say. But don’t worry about the first sentence yet! Start with whatever idea, section, or paragraph feels easier—even if that information goes in the middle of the article. After you’ve written that part, move to the next part that feels doable. Remember, you don’t have to write the introduction first, the body second, and the closing last. You can skip around during the drafting process to keep the momentum. Do not worry about perfecting each line; there’s no time for that, especially when that line might get cut later. The goal at this point is getting your ideas down.
For blog articles, a “how to” approach tends to be helpful, as does a “step-by-step” format. Otherwise, what you learned in your high school English courses still holds true: open with a “hook” and thesis statement, include three points or so that are supported with evidence, and then close with a takeaway that pushes beyond just restating what you already wrote. There are countless ways to veer from these structures (and I encourage you to do so!), but if you’re a beginner you will likely find them helpful.
Step 6: Revise
After you have a full draft (which might take several discrete sessions), let it sit, then review it with fresh eyes and edit. Ideally, you will also get an outsider’s feedback on your writing. If you do, guide your reviewer by being specific about the type of feedback you want. Don’t just say “Let me know what you think.” Instead, say, for example, “I’d like to know if my writing is clear and concise. The audience is educated, but not knowledgeable on this topic. I’m also open to minor wording changes, but that’s not my main concern at this time.” After you receive feedback, edit accordingly.
Step 7: Consider formatting and SEO
Select an appropriate image for the article. Think strategically about the title in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). Likewise, you might want to consider SEO for subheadings as well. SEO tends to be a moving target, so consult a recent article or two on what seems to “work” for helping you get hits. But remember that the content should be your top concern. Even if an article appears at the top of a Google search, it likely won’t matter if the content is not good.
Step 8: Proofread
As the saying goes, “the devil’s in the details.” Don’t skip this crucial step. In very prominent places I have seen both “quality” and “excellent” misspelled. Readers might forgive one typo, but they are not likely to overlook several. If you’re in a field that professes attention to detail, excellence, and/or writing, then you have to take this step extra carefully. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you do let a typo slip past you, though. The fact is, that can happen even when you have a thorough proofreading process, but you should do everything you can to minimize these occurrences.
Step 9: Publish!
After proofreading your article, confidently hit the publish button. Remember Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Don’t let insecurities stop you from getting your ideas out there.
If you’re trying to build your brand and job prospects through content creation (and we, indeed, live in the age where content reigns supreme) remember that blogging can be a useful tool to help you as you network and execute a job campaign.
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