Blogging isn't just about writing your 1000 words and then hitting "Publish". Readers only see the finished product, but there's a lot of work that goes behind every single blog post professional marketers put out on their websites.
What goes on behind the scenes? The editorial process, of course. From ideation to final copyediting, there are a lot of steps to take to ensure that you're writing the best blog post possible.
Step 1: Coming up with ideas
Coming up with blog ideas is either really easy or super hard. It depends on how your brain works. Some people brim with ideas while others struggle to clearly define their topics.
The first tool to help with coming up with ideas is a content idea generator. Our social media marketer Rachel wrote a post about the results from 3 content idea generators. Sometimes they can be useful, other times they're downright silly.
The BlogAbout by Impact has another one that I think works really well.
If you're looking for other ways to come up with blog ideas, check out this list on Copyblogger.
Step 2: Outlining your post
After finding your topic idea, you need to outline your post.
Many people skip this step and get right to drafting, but I would suggest you stick to the full process, at least until you're really comfortable with writing and can already imagine an outline in your mind while you write.
Outlining lets you write down all your thoughts, ideas and knowledge about a topic and organize them logically. Think of it as a brain dump that you can clean up later.
Here are some tools you can use to outline your posts before drafting them:
- Good ol' pen and paper (my favourite when I really need to clear things up)
- Your usual word processor (Word has a useful "Notebook Layout" view that lets you write lists quickly)
- An outlining program made specifically for that purpose. Here are 5 for PC (all free) and 5 for Mac (not all free).
Outlining is the first step for a well-organized, logical blog post that will be easy to follow and read.
Step 3: Drafting your post
The drafting phase is where you put the ideas together with sentences. There aren't that many tools that can help you this particular step–I personally recommend letting go of the need to check grammar and spelling as you go and leaving it for the next phase.
You can draft your post in whatever you're most comfortable with; you can write it directly from your outline, or you can print your outline and write your draft in something else.
Drafting directly in your blogging engine is the easiest way to go, as it lets you edit its formatting as you go along. But if you'd rather use a distraction-free writing environment, you can do that. Just make sure to check the formatting before hitting "publish".
Step 4: Revising your post
This step is also too often forgotten. Revision means more than just reading over and correcting spelling errors; it means "re-viewing" your writing from another point of view.
In this step, you should focus on the clarity and accuracy of your content. Is every argument clearly explained? Are there any unstated assumptions that might stump a reader? Are facts and stats properly cited?
This is also where you would revise the writing to keep with your brand's tone and style. Keep your style guide nearby for quick consultations.
This Poynter post covers questions and techniques you can use to revise your writing thoroughly.
Step 5: Editing your post
Okay, NOW you can take your red pen out and correct those shameful spelling mistakes. This is what the editing phase is for. (Although I suggest you use green rather than red for psychological reasons.)
Proofreading and editing can be difficult, especially when we are so close to our writing that we can't see the spelling anymore.
For spelling errors, I like the SpellCheck Plus tool. It's free and web-based, but it won't save your documents. You can pay a small amount to be able to spellcheck larger documents and keep them for later reference.
For those who really want to look at their writing more in depth, there's one tool that's known in academic circles but not professional ones: Editor by Serenity Software. It's not pretty (looks like old Windows) and doesn't work on Mac (unless you get CrossOver), but it's worth the price. I swear by it for all my long-form writing. The program requires patience, a good printer and a bit of a learning curve, but it will change your writing process forever.
Step 6: Finding visuals for your posts
The next step in your blogging editorial process is finding visuals for your posts. You can certainly publish posts without any photos or graphics, but research proves that the most successful blog posts have visuals.
Another tool we've discovered in the last few months is Canva, the free graphic design web app. It has thousands of free icons and images to use, along with others that cost $1.00 each.
I've had no issues using these free stock photo sites along with Canva to create attractive blog graphics, all for free!
Step 7: Formatting your post for the Web
Unless you already wrote your post in your CMS (see step 3), you'll need to copy your post into your blogging engine and format it properly. Word documents tend to copy rather badly. Some people like using Markdown to ease the process (there are many Markdown writing tools in those mentioned in step 3).
Markdown simplifies HTML syntax for text formatting, so it's easy to transfer while keeping your headings and list formatting intact.
Before you hit "publish", see your post in "Preview mode" to check for any formatting snafus and to adjust the size and placement of the visuals if necessary.
Step 8: Publish and celebrate!
Congratulations! Your great blog post idea is now a fully developed piece of content that's logically organized, without spelling errors and with great visuals.
Go get yourself a beer or a cup of your favorite tea; you've earned it!
What part of this process is the hardest for you? Are there any tools you use to make writing blog posts easier?