Batching content writing (part 3) – drafting your blog posts
Do you find writing blog posts for your business easy? Or do you feel the whole process takes too long every week? Then you’ve come to the right place. This post is the third step of a series of five articles that will help you learn how to batch your blog writing. If you haven’t read them already, I suggest you head over to the two previous posts in the series: How to batch content writing for your business blog – planning your blog content and How to batch your content writing (part 2) – outlining your blog posts. Once you’ve taken the time to plan and outline your blog posts, it’s time to starting writing! So read on to find out more about drafting your blog posts.
Remember to batch your activities!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that to get the time-saving benefits of this process, you need to batch your activities. So when you’re sitting down to draft one post, try and draft as many as possible out of the ones you’ve planned for the month. If you’ve planned 4 posts, you may not be able to do all of them in one sitting.
But do try.
What we’re trying to do here is to become more efficient and productive by sticking to one type of task rather than switching between various activities that require different skillsets or different parts of your brain to be engaged.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about writing your first draft.
Expand on your outline
So you’ve planned your posts, and you’ve outlined them. Now it’s time to go grab that outline and copy and paste it into the backend of your website. If you followed my advice on outlining, by now:
- Your topic is crystal clear, and you have your draft title.
- You already have a few subheadings or key points you want to expand on.
- You have bullet points with further information you want to cover in your posts.
So let’s start expanding on those.
I always recommend that you leave a few days between your outline and your first draft. This is because once you’ve outlined your posts, they become ‘work-in-progress’ projects. This means that as you go about other things in your days, you’ll come up with more ideas to add to your outlines. So make sure you have your notebook, Google doc, or digital app handy. You’ll want to capture those little nuggets (they can even be short sentences sometimes) and add them to your outline.
Sometimes I find that by the time I sit down to draft my blog posts, I’m already sitting on about 200-300 words. Doesn’t starting from 200-300 words feel so much better than starting from a blank screen? Plus, because the blog post has been at the back of my mind for days or even weeks, I find that when I sit down to write the words flow much easier.
How to write your first draft
The first draft is my favourite part of writing! Almost by definition, the whole idea of drafting your posts means that no one will see what you’re writing right now (unless you’re working with someone who edits your work). This is your chance to literally dump your thoughts on the page as they come out.
So try to remove any pressure you may be feeling to ‘get this right’. Your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. Lower your expectations here – you’re just getting some words on the page that you will edit later. That‘s when your blog post will really start to take shape.
So here’s what I suggest you do:
- Write freely without thinking too much about form, grammar, spelling etc. This is more about what you’re going to be talking about, not so much how you’re going to express it.
- If something doesn’t come out right, don’t worry about it. Don’t edit yourself. Just carry on.
- Turn your bullet points into sentences.
- Do some research as you write if you need to and add snippets of what you’ve learnt to your draft.
The dreaded first sentence!
Hopefully, because you’ve started with an outline, you’re not struggling to get started and stumbling for words at the very beginning of your blog post. But if that first sentence still eludes you and you find yourself procrastinating over it because whatever you have isn’t perfect, try one of these techniques:
- Start with a question – address your audience directly and ask them if they’re struggling with or want to know more about the thing you’re writing about.
- Write whatever comes to mind. If nothing comes to mind, write gibberish, like ‘I’m just writing this to get started and blah blah blah, but this is what I really want to talk about…”
- Start with ‘Dear Customer’ (or ‘Dear Friend’). This is a technique I picked up from the book Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley, which I definitely recommend.
It really doesn’t matter what you write in that first sentence. You’ll come back to it when editing.
How much should you write in your first draft?
How much you write all depends on the topic, the angle you’ve chosen for your blog posts and the reason why you’re sharing a particular post. But as things stand, Google and the other search engines LOVE long-form content.
Because Google’s mission is to find the best possible and most relevant content for its users. Longer content means better chances for the user to find the information they’re after. So longer blog posts (as long as they’re optimised for the relevant keywords the user was searching for) will rank higher.
This doesn’t mean that every single blog post you write has to be epic. Aim for about 700-800 words as a minimum. But if you want to write more in depth-content of around 1,500-2,000 words or more feel free to! As harsh as this may sound, there’s almost no point in blogging if you’re only going to write 300-word blog posts. The chances of a very short blog post showing up on the first page of Google are very slim.
Plus, can you really get into a topic and add value to your ideal customers and clients in just a couple of paragraphs? Push the boat out.
How can you go out of your way to help more and show your reader how much you know?
The longer your content, the more likely it is to be comprehensive, useful, and engaging for your readers. And as they spend more time on your website reading, you’re giving Google another signal that your website is full of good stuff and therefore worth visiting. This, in turn, can improve your chances of ranking well.
Keep an eye on the ‘readability’ of your posts
I’ll talk more about this when we get to the editing stage, but a big part of writing engaging blog posts that your audience will want to read is making sure they’re visually enticing and easy to read. No one wants to read a big block of text with no breaks! This is especially important if you write long-form articles (1,000+ words).
If you’re on WordPress and are familiar with the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll know about the ‘Readability score’ that the plugin assigns to each of your blog posts. Getting a green traffic light on your Readability score isn’t the be-all and end-all of blogging.
But following the criteria that the plugin uses to score your text isn’t a bad idea. You can read more about the topic in my blog post: How to optimise your business blog content with the Yoast SEO plugin.
If you can keep these guidelines at the forefront of your mind when you’re drafting your posts, you may find editing them much easier and quicker when you get to it.
So if you can:
- When you write, try to keep your sentences short – around 16-20 words. If you find yourself writing long and complicated sentences, try and alternate those with much shorter, punchier ones. Like this. That gives a nice rhythm and cadence to your writing.
- Aim to write short paragraphs of 3 or 4 lines max (or around 100-150 words).
- Overall, try to keep the text under each sub-heading under 300 words. And if you can’t, consider adding more sub-headings.
- Use bullet points where appropriate to make it easier for your reader to scan through your text and pick out the most important points.
Would you like some help?
Maybe you’d like your journey into blogging to stop now. Maybe all you’re interested in is to create an outline or a first draft of your blog posts. And now you’re ready to hand it over to someone else to take the time to turn your drafts into well-written, well-structured, and well-optimised blog posts. If you do, get in touch, as I may be able to help you edit and proofread your work so you can get it over the line. And if you want to learn how to do it yourself, head over to the next post in this series, which is all about editing.