What? There's a formula?
Yes, there is. It's like a paint-by-numbers, only you need to know how to both count and paint. In other words, you need to know:
a) Your subject, and
b) How to write - not Pulitzer-quality, but enough to get across what you're trying to say. That is, as long as your colleague doesn't walk over as soon as you send her an email to ask, "What? What do you want me to do?" you should be good.
1. Know Your Audience
If you're writing for your own blog, you should have a pretty good idea of who your audience is. If you're writing a guest post, this is where you start. Read through the last few blog posts and the most popular posts on the blog. Look through the comments - see for yourself who the readers are and what they are thinking.
2. Pick Your Subject
Now that you've acquainted yourself with your audience, you have a better idea of what will interest them. Choose a topic that overlaps between what your audience would want to read about, what you know, and what you're selling (or at least the first two).
3. Pick Your Keywords
What topic did you pick? What audience do you want to attract? What keywords do you want to be associated with your post? Think about this, do some research using Google's Keyword Tool and by looking at your own blog stats, and pick a couple of keywords you want to go with.
4. Do Your Research
Unless you're sure of your topic or are writing a blog post that's more about your opinion (like this one :p), do some research. Quoting research and experts in your post makes you look more authoritative, and gives your audience another reason to trust you.
Okay, stop procrastinating and write it out. Not a writer? Just write it like you're talking to your best customer. Or even record yourself saying it out aloud and then transcribe that. Don't worry about editing just now, just write.
6. Add Links
Add links to those reports and quotes you researched in #4, to other relevant blog posts - yours or someone else's. The objective here is to a) give your readers more resources, b) acknowledge as far as you can how others' thoughts have informed your own, and c) get more SEO-juice (of course!)
7. Pick a Photo
8. Edit Your Title
Did you write a title when you wrote your post (#5)? Now improve it. Can you pack a bigger punch? Make it unexpected or mysterious, so the reader will have to read on? Are you sure you packed in a keyword in a way that doesn't look forced?
9. Edit Your Post
Now read your post and edit it. If you have the time, do this after a few hours or even a night's sleep, so you're coming back to it with a fresh mind. Correct any errors you made, but also, now is when you make sure your post is readable and witty and all those other things you want it to be.
Okay, focus on readable. Are you sure every one of your target audience will understand what you mean? Will get that joke in the third paragraph? Won't be offended by that religious reference at the end?
10. Optimize Your Post
Did you file the post in the right category? Add all the relevant tags? Did you add good alt text for the photo?
What about the URL? Have you optimized that? Keep it short but definitely use a keyword.
11. Tell the World
And NOW you publish. And share it on every social media site you're on, and email it to a customer or two who might find it useful. Don't go sharing it with everyone in your email list or tweeting it every hour though - you'll just get yourself blocked.
12. Reply to Comments
Was your post a success? Comments pouring in on the blog post and on Facebook and anywhere else you shared it? Great - remember to thank the commenters by replying to what they said. Even if you don't agree, thank them for their time, politely disagree, and move on.
Give it a few days and then check your statistics for the post - whether it bombed or got you the most comments ever. Did you meet your objectives? Are you ranking high for the keyword(s) you targeted? What can you do better next time?
Do you follow a posting formula? Tell us in the comments!
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Unmana is the co-founder of Markitty, a tool that recommends actions to improve your online marketing. She writes about marketing for startups and small businesses on the Markitty blog and can be found on Twitter @Unmana.