What you are about to find out is awesome. Why? Because after reading this, you will know how to get rid of the overwhelm you experience if you are blogging or creating content online. Trust me, I know the feeling. There are so many questions to answer before you can actually start creating your content. What is my audience interested in? What angle should I choose? How do I write a great headline? Where can I find affordable images for my blog? What does a perfect blog post look like? How and where should I promote my stuff, and so on.
You might ask yourself, is there an app for that? Sure there is! There’s an app or tool for almost everything. But trying to find tools to help concur the overwhelm made me even more confused. There is so much available! And lately there are many blogs written about it. Some helpful, most useless. To bring an end to the overwhelm I wrote down all the main issues that came across while setting up a blog. Then I did very thorough research to find the best tools out there. In this blog post I will share with you: tools that are truly useful, give us the results we really want, are absolutely user-friendly and actually worth paying for. Because the tools itself cannot do the trick, I will also show you how to use them to create a great blog.
How to set up your blog
Choose your topic
First of all, you have to choose a topic for your blog. Let’s say you want to write a blog about content marketing. There’s still too much to write about so you have to narrow it down. Sometimes we have a clear idea what we want to write about specifically. But more often it is still vague and blurry. In that case, I strongly recommend the Content Idea Generator tool. You have to create an account first but heck— it’s free! What’s next is a list of questions about your idea. After answering them, you can click the ‘Generate’ button. You will get more than a 100 great content ideas for audio, video’s, blogs and more. If there’s a question you don’t know the answer to, you can leave that space blank. You will still get results.
In my case, the generator found 360 ideas! Play around with the results and pick out the ones that appeal to you immediately. Your audience will probably experience the same. I found 3 headlines that I liked:
- 10 Must-have Resources To Write Better Blog Posts
- Why Experts Need Content Marketing Tools To Write Better Blog Posts
- How To Write Better Blog Posts With Content Marketing Tools
Now that you have determined your blog topic (in my case – using tools to write better blog posts), you have to craft a headline. This is one of the hardest things to do and should not be underestimated.
Craft your headline
No wonder there is extensive advice on the techniques for writing a great headline. At last check, there were 118 million results in a Google search for “how to write a great headline.” Overwhelm all over again!
Well known conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe spends 90% of her writing time on crafting strong headlines. She knows that headlines are often the make-or-break moment for each and every blog post. According to Copyblogger, only 8 out of 10 people will read your headline. But 2 out of 10 will read the rest of what you post.
According to some of the best copywriters, you should at least spend 50% of the entire writing time on the headline.
In a recent issue of the Early to Rise ezine, copywriter Clayton Makepeace says to ask yourself these six questions before you start to write your headline:
- Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading?
- What specifics could you add to make your headline more intriguing and believable?
- Does your headline trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand?
- Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?
- Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?
- Could you add an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy?
Ok, we get that it is important and what it should look like. But exactly HOW do we make our headlines stand out? According to Hubspot, there are a few things we can include to create stunning headlines:
- Add some data about the outcome
- Throw in an “even if” clause to overcome hesitation
- Or, replace “even if” with “without” — what don’t you have to do to get the result?
Very useful info about how to write a perfect headline is provided by KISSmetrics. According to their usability research, readers tend to absorb the first three words of a headline and the last three words. We don’t just scan body text—we also scan headlines. Because only few headlines will be six words long in total, it’s important to make the first and last three words stand out. In terms of SEO, the headline needs to be around 55 characters or fewer. Then the entire title will fit on a search results page and abbrevation with an ellipsis will be avoided.
KISSmetrics pairs the workflow of headline writing with the science of human psychology. With that in mind, they share eight headline strategies that are backed by psychology.
- Surprise – “This Is Not a Perfect Blog Post (But It Could’ve Been)”
- Questions – “Do You Know How to Create the Perfect Blog Post?”
- Curiosity gap – “10 Ingredients in a Perfect Blog Post. Number 9 Is Impossible!”
- Negatives – “Never Write a Boring Blog Post Again”
- How to – “How to Create a Perfect Blog Post”
- Numbers – “10 Tips to Creating a Perfect Blog Post”
- Audience referencing – “For People on the Verge of Writing the Perfect Blog Post”
- Specificity – “The 6-Part Process to Getting Twice the Traffic to Your Blog Post”
We can also learn a lot from the headlines of high-traffic blogs. Lenka Istvanova developed a headline formula based on her analysis of best practices for headlines that get clicks.
The formula goes like this: Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise
For example: 12 Awesome Tools To Create More Valuable Blogs
Now that you know what makes a great headline, you can start crafting your own. There’s a really helpful tool I use to find out which headline is the best to use for my blog. The free CoSchedule headline analyzer will score your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value. What I usually do is go back to the list of ideas generated with the Content Idea Generator Tool and follow these steps:
- Pick headlines about the topic you want to write about;
- Choose headlines that start with ‘How to’ or a list (a ‘why’or ‘what’ headline could be fine to but score less at headline type since how-to and list headlines usually perform best);
- Type the headlines one by one in the search bar to find out which one scores best.
In my case there were only two headlines left.
‘12 Must-have Resources To Write Better Blog Posts’ scored 64 out of 100 with an overall B+ score
‘How To Write Better Blog Posts With Content Marketing Tools’ scored 66 out of 100 with overall B+ score
Problem with the first headline is the word balance scores low. I need at least an uncommon and emotional word in my headline. Uncommon words are unique enough to grab your readers’ attention. These words provide substance in your headline. A mix of 10–20% uncommon words in your headlines should do the trick. Examples of uncommon words are: actually, heart, awesome, here, social, beautiful etc.
The second headline has the same problem but is also too long. Headlines with approximately 6 words tend to earn the highest number of click-trough’s and this one is 10 words long.
With this info you can start crafting. For me I do this by trail and error. Just try things and see what it does for the score. By doing this I ended up with: 12 awesome tools you need to create more valuable blog posts. I chose to create a list and added three uncommon words, awesome, more and need. For the actual title I decided to go with this one: 12 awesome tools to create more valuable blogs. It has a slightly lower score because I changed ‘you need’ into ‘to create’. But I think this looks and sounds better. Most tools use automated generation. Since (luckily!) we are not robots, this can result in headlines that look and sound a bit odd to us. You have to use your human eye to find and adjust this.
Determine the content
Now you did most of the work but there’s still some important preparing left; creating the content of the blog itself. Where to begin?!
First of all, do your research. Look for blogs with valuable content that can support your own blog. Do this by searching for blogs about your topic through social media with hashtags or use Buffer or Feedly. This will give you an idea of what’s already out there, who are the influencers about this topic and if there’s something missing you could use to write about in your own blog. An important thing is you have to back your ideas with ‘prove’. This can be done by linking to actual research (numbers) or quote influencers in your niche. Now where do you find great content to use for your own blog? There’s a real valuable tool which can help you do this. It's called Buzzsumo. I use this all the time, it’s my Google search engine + analytics in one for content marketing. Looking for content is free, but the paid features such as influencer outreach, content alerts and the latest trending feature are very useful and worth paying for.
What I do to find the best content to support my own blog:
- Look for blog score; is the blog recent? What are the total shares and on which platforms is it shared the most?
- Look for influencer score; search for author. Does he/she often publish, about what and how popular are these posts? Is he/she an influencer in this field?
- Create a top 3 (depending on the number of valuable blogs you can find) which are close to your topic, have a great performance and can be useful for your own blog
- Use the right keywords/influencers/webpages
Note: Select a longer period to search for when there is little content available about your topic and a shorter period to search for when there is lots of content available about your topic.
Build the structure
To build the structure of your blog you can use a familiar marketing method called the ‘Attention-Interest- Desire-Action’ (AIDA) method. If you want to learn more about how to do that, Mindtools has written a great piece about that.
How to write your blog
Did you know that most people don’t read on the internet? They scan. So make sure your blog is scannable. This can be accomplished by writing short paragraphs and adding subheads (lots of them!), lists and images.
Where your headline should attract readers, you can hook them to continue reading with a great introduction. Ad a personal story or an engaging story from an expert or celeb to keep them glued to your post. Alex Turnbull found that posts with this kind of storytelling in the introduction lead to 300% more readers who stay 520% longer on the page.
According to Neil Patel, stories can work, but there are good and bad ways to tell them. If you want to begin your article with a story, they share a tip. Don’t reveal the conclusion until the reader is further into the article, or even until the very end. This is one of his 9 Tips For Writing Stronger Introductions:
- Keep your first sentence short
- Say something unusual
- Don’t repeat the title
- Keep the introduction brief
- Use the word ‘you’ at least once
- Dedicate 1-2 sentences to articulating what the article covers
- Dedicate 1-2 sentences to explaining why the article is important
- Refer to a concern or problem your readers might have
- Be careful with stories
There are a few other important things you need to know when you are writing the rest of your blog. Blogpros analysed 100 high ranking blog posts and created a very useful infographic with answers to the question ‘What makes a great blog post?’
My own research resulted in a few essential things I saw in every successful blog. Things I think you should add to your blog to make it more credible, sharable and findable.
Add social share buttons
To make it as easy as possible for your readers to share your blog post, add social share buttons. If you use WordPress for your blog you can install the DigDig plugin.
Add tweetable quotes
With ‘sound bites’ or ‘tweetable quotes’ you can attract extra social hares to your content. People love tweeting short quotes of wisdom so it’s not surprising tweetable quotes can bring up to 200% more tweets. You can create tweetable quotes with an online service or with WordPress Plugins like TweetDis or TweetThis.
For better SEO results take a look at your permalinks. According to Google it is best to use three to five words in the slug of your permalink. For example http://angelnijskens.com/best-tools-to-create-blogs
Add links to other successful blogs
Blog Pros’ study of 100 high-ranking blog posts found that successful posts have an average of nearly 10 links inside each story. If you add the links, choose option ‘open in new window’ so the reader will not loose the original page (your blog).
We are constantly analyzing trending hashtags and their relations to allow you to get noticed in the right moment. RiteTag provides you a set of tools to. Use the Ritetag tool to maximize your return on hashtags.
The ending of your blog is as important as a the introduction. Most people will remember openings and endings more than the middle. Your last sentence will be read by scanners. On Rainmaker.fm Demian Farnworth shares 5 ways to create the perfect ending.
- Add a Call to Action: One small step can make a difference and is manageable.
- Summarize the conclusion: People read the headline, scan the article and read the ending because they are looking and hoping for that summary.
- End with a cliffhanger: Keep something away from the reader. Releave the tention from the reader in the next article or video.
- End with a question: Send the reader away with the feeling that they are missing something. The last sentence starts with ‘the’ and creates an AHA.
- Your ending sould feel like a click of a box shutting: It has to be a full circle with the opening. So the reader has discovered a new idea/solution or learned something new.
How to find images for your blog
It is not easy to find affordable images for your blog. Fotolia is great because they have an extensive database of non-cheesy and affordable images to use for your blog. These are the steps I use to find suitable and affordable images for blogs:
- Use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer tool and type the headline you chose for your blog. Then scroll down and check out the keyword(s). In our case these are ‘blogs’ and ‘tools’.
- Type these keywords into the search bar in Fotolia and you will find the best matching images. Then choose an image you think is suitable for your blog. To find similar images, click below the picture on ‘search similar contents’. Now pick an image!
- Add the image in the right or left corner at the top of your blog to increase the readability. According to Buffer, placing an image at the top right/left of your blog post forces the first few lines of the post to shorten in width. This shortening leads to fewer characters per line. Fewer characters per line has a psychological effect on the way we view content: The fewer the characters, the easier the text is to comprehend and the less complex it seems.
How many images should your blog have? The results from the Blog Pros study show the 100 popular blog posts averaged one visual image for every 350 words.
How to edit your blog
Before publishing your blog, it’s wise to check for errors or weird sentences. Most of the time you cannot find those yourself anymore because you have been reading the text so many times. To check the readability of your blog you can use the Hemingway editor.
Let’s paste an early concept of this blog into the editor and see what it tells us.
The editor gives your text a grade and gives suggestions what to do to improve your blog. To give your blog a thorough spell and grammar check, you could ask your friend to give feedback. I haven’t found a useful tool to make that process easy yet. You could of course use Google Docs and WordPress also has a Share a Draft plugin. Medium also has the option to share a draft of your blog with your friends before publishing but there’s no possibility for your friend to edit it or add remarks. But I am still looking for a tool that also makes it possible for editors to simultaneously edit the same post. If you find or use one, please let me know!
How to promote your blog
Support your blog with appealing visuals. The easiest way to create them yourself is by using Canva. This is a free web-based design tool which helps you create web-, blog-, or social media images (with the right dimensions for different social media platforms). “Canva for Work” is specifically designed for organizations. If you want to try it, you can do that here. If your content contains a lot of numbers, for example a research, you might consider creating an infographic. The most user-friendly free tool to help you design one is Piktochart.
Now that you have everything you need you can publish your blog online. You can do this yourself via email or social media. With Mailchimp you can easily create mailing lists with different segments, design templates, create, track and measure the performance of your mailings. For publishing on social media, there are several free tools available such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Buffer. I use them all, currently Buffer is our favourite because it’s very easy to use on any mobile device with no complicated extra features. If you use WordPress for your blog you might consider using CoSchedule. With this plugin you can create your blog and social media content at the same time—before you publish.
Another option for publication are third party websites or guest blogs. You can do this manually but this can be a very time consuming process. That’s why I use outreach tool Buzzstream. With this tool you can use email templates to reach out to influencers and bloggers in your niche.
As an alternative, another tool you can use for finding guest blog opportunities is NinjaOutreach. It also has email templates you can edit/tailor to fit your needs and automated emailing on higher plans in order to speed up your campaign.
The tools I shared in this blog and the step by step guide on how to apply them to easily set up, write, edit and promote blogs helped me get rid of the feeling of overwelm. I hope it works for you as well! I’m curious for your thoughts. Which tools do you use for your own content marketing and why do they work for you? Or do you combine specific tools to utilize their benefits? For the best results I use Buzzstream combined with Buzzsumo (mentioned before). How I do this I will cover in my next blog.
Thanks to the valuable content shared by influencers @copyhackers, @brianclark, @copyblogger, @corey_bos, @neilpatel, @hubspot, @earlytorisehq, @kevanlee, @lenkaistvanova, @courtneyseiter, @socialtriggers, @timsoulo, @jamespars0ns, @alexmturnbull, @njellering, @ninjaoutreach