Have you ever sat back and read someone’s blog and wondered how the hell they put it all together? How they got the graphics together, the links, the content upgrade, the promotion and marketing and all the other bits and pieces that go into a great blog post? I have. All the time actually. I’m always curious about the blogging process people use and what works best for them. Why? They may have discovered something I haven’t. They may use a super awesome plug-in that I was unaware of that could save me time. And is there ever anything more valuable to a blogger than time? We’re busy people. Let’s be honest.
Most of us aren’t doing this full time.
And that means that we are working 40+ hours a week at our day job, while juggling a family, friends, and other life activities AND maintaining our super awesome blogs. (They’re all super awesome!!) This never ceases to amaze me. I struggle to keep up and I don’t have any kids. I see other bloggers like Betty who has three children to take care of, but still manages to churn out awesome content every week. Or people like Kelly who literally travels the world, works full time and still manages to find the time to blog. How do us bloggers manage it all?
We come up with a blogging process that works and we stick to it.
That process will likely look different for every single blogger. My blogging process has recently gotten much longer than it used to be. That’s because I’m trying to churn out better content for you guys. And I’m hoping that by doing that, one day I can monetize this and grow it into a business. I started writing this list down to help me ensure I didn’t miss anything as I’m writing up a blog post and then the light bulb went on. I should share this list with all my followers! Not only that, I should provide a checklist for everyone so our blogging process becomes simpler, easier and stress free.
Step No. 1: Idea Inception
Come up with an awesome idea. I have a whole store of ideas in Evernote which is the application I use to organize all things related to my blog so I first consult my Evernote and see if something strikes my fancy. I’m not always inspired to write about any of the ideas I have written down. If that’s the case I brainstorm and come up with something new. I usually think about problems I’ve had lately with my writing or my blogging. Problems that I have solved. I figure if I’ve had the problem someone else out there has experienced the same problem. Once I have my idea I can get to work.
Step No. 2: Outline
Next I create a rough outline of my post in WordPress. I start a new draft post and just start putting ideas down. I’ll put them in a bullet-pointed list and rearrange them as I see fit. I make little notes to myself along the way about things I want to include, reminders to talk about certain things, etc. Then I save the draft and walk away. This is an important step for me.
If I force a blog post out right away, it’s not the best quality it can be.
A blog post for me needs time to stew. It doesn’t have to be days. Sometimes it is. But other times it’s just a few hours. I step away, do something else and when I come back I’m fresh and ready to go.
Step No. 3: Elaborate and Expand
Now is the time to elaborate and expand. I start writing. I take my bullet-pointed outline and turn it into a blog post. I expand on my bullet points and give you all the good information that’s been stored up in my brain in the hours I’ve spent away from the blog. As I’m writing, I’m also formatting. I’m using heading tags to make sure that the post is easy to read. Heading tags are super important when drafting your post. Ashley wrote a great post explaining the purpose of heading tags, but I’ll give you a brief explanation here.
Heading tags tell Google and other search engines what your post is about. It lets them read the important stuff and figure out what you’re trying to say. If Google gets it, the world will too because Google is going to shoot it up to the top of the searches. Heading tags aren’t all about design either. You’ll notice mine all use the same font, but are just different sizes. Heading tags are for outlining your post, not for prettying it up. This step often takes the longest because it’s the meat of my post. It’s the good stuff. I take my time and make sure it’s done right. If you rush through a blog post, your readers will know. It will come across as rushed and sloppy and it’s likely that your readers will click off your blog. Spend the time to create epic, high quality content and your readers are going to keep coming back for more. This is the reason you only see me posting a couple times a week. This stuff takes time! I would rather churn out two awesome blog posts a week, than four mediocre ones.
Step No. 4: Graphics
Time to make some graphics! People are very visual. We like pretty pictures and if your blog post has none or has subpar ones, we’ll run away. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true.
It doesn’t matter if your content is gold. If you don’t have great graphics, your readers will click away.
I wish this wasn’t true. But I can’t fight it so I throw some effort into making graphics. Sometimes I use my own photography which you’ll see in all of my book reviews but sometimes I just create a graphic myself without photos. The two programs I use are Picmonkey and Canva. I’ve been using Picmonkey for a while and it’s my favorite way to edit my photos, but as far as building the graphics goes, Canva wins for me. One of my favorite things about Canva is that I can go back and edit my designs after finishing them. You can’t do that with Picmonkey so once you close that window it’s done. I also love the different layouts Canva offers and the way it lets you cheat if you’re not a graphic designer. I’m not a designer. I’ve never been artistic. But with Canva, I’ve been able to make graphics that are pleasing to the eye and that match the brand of my blog. This is important.
All of your graphics should be branded.
They need to match your blog. You’ll notice on the graphic used in this post that it matches the gray/pink scale of the blog. My URL is included in the graphic. The purpose of branding your graphics is to gain brand recognition. So when someone is on Pinterest they recognize your images. You shouldn’t just make graphics a certain color or style because you feel like it that day. You have to remain consistent. Use the same fonts. The same colors. The same general style. If you want to get more artistic consider making content upgrades (we’ll get to this term in a minute) like desktop backgrounds.
Step No. 5: Upload Graphics and Add alt Tags
Now that you’ve busted your butt making the perfect graphics, it’s time to upload them to your blog. Make sure that you change the title and alt tag of your image. You can do this right from the media section in WordPress on the right-hand side of the page. I make the title and alt tag the same. The alt tag is what Pinterest will pull when someone goes to pin your image directly from your website. So I usually write a short caption that includes my keyword and stick my URL at the end. For example, for this post the alt tag on my image reads:
14 essential steps in my blogging process – learn everything I do from start to finish when writing a blog post + get a free blogging checklist! – unboundpages.com
Once you have that done, you can insert your images into your post. You don’t need a lot of images, but I normally do one at the beginning and then try to sprinkle one or two more throughout the post where I think it’s applicable.
Step No. 6: SEO Optimization
Work that SEO! It’s time to optimize my post for SEO. What’s SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s basically a way to make your post easier for Google to find. We’ve already done some optimizing by adding alt tags to our photos and making sure we’re using heading tags, but there’s a couple more things we can do. I use the Yoast SEO Plug-in for WordPress and it is awesome! It literally tells you right in your post what you need to do to optimize. So at this point, I set my keyword and change my meta description which is the snippet that Google will show when on the search page. I’ll do a more in-depth post on this plug-in in the future so keep your eyes out for that!
Step No. 7: Link it up!
Internal links. The Yoast plug-in will actually remind you of this if you forget to do it. You want to include links in your post. It doesn’t have to necessarily lead away from your blog. Deep linking is really important to drive traffic to other blog posts. Deep linking is linking back to old posts within your new posts. You’ll see me do this a lot in my book reviews, referencing previous books in a series or just other books that remind me of the book I’m reviewing. But those book titles are always in the format of a link so people can easily find my review of that book. You know how when you’re on Youtube watching some video and then click on one of the recommended videos in the sidebar and then another and then two hours later you’re somehow watching videos of cats and you have no clue how you got there? That’s what you want to happen on your blog. Deep linking will get you there.
You want people to get lost down the rabbit hole that is your blog.
I also link to external posts as well. You’ve already seen a couple of these within this post. Why do I do this? Because you get what you give. Linking to other people’s posts allows you to build relationships with other bloggers. Building relationships fosters friendships and allows for opportunities to guest post, collaborate, etc. Be kind to your fellow bloggers. We aren’t competitors. We are partners.
Step No. 8: Content Upgrades
It’s time to make my content upgrade. What’s a content upgrade? It’s that extra bonus at the end of a post. If you read my post on how to avoid info-dump in your manuscript you’ll see that I offer a free comprehensive guide and workbook at the end of the post. That’s a content upgrade. And if you stick with me to the end of this post, you’ll get a free blog post checklist to help you through your blogging process. Again, I take to Canva to create my content upgrades. Canva allows you to create full-size PDFs and they have so many cool layouts and features for the design challenged person like me. The same rule for graphics applies to content upgrades.
Content upgrades should be branded just like your graphics.
Consistency is key here guys. Figure out your brand and what you like and then create! This actually makes it easier as you go because you have a basic template you can work with.
Step No. 9: Lead Pages
Now it’s time to set up my content upgrade so my readers can receive it once they put in their email address. This step was hard for me to figure out. The technology is just really complicated. But then I found Lead Pages and even though it wasn’t free, I decided that it was worth the price and bought it. I highly, highly recommend this service if you’re offering content upgrades in exchange for emails. I’ll do a more in-depth post on this service in the future so keep your eye out for that. At this point, I upload my content upgrade to Lead Pages, create my Lead Box and copy and paste the code at the end of my post. It’s super easy to use and I love it!
Step No. 10: Discussion
Now that my post is written and my content upgrade is included, I generate some discussion questions. Those always appear in bold at the end of my post. The goal here is to get people to talk to you. You want to encourage comments and discussions so be sure to always include some discussion questions. Be specific and ask a few different questions.
Step No. 11: Proofread
Please whatever you do, do not skip this step!! I read through my post two or three times before I’m ready to send it off into the world. Nothing drives me crazier than reading through a post and seeing all kinds of typos. One or two I can deal with. But when a post is riddled with typos and/or grammatical errors it drives me batshit crazy. You spent hours on this post! Don’t let it look like you rushed it through by skipping a simple proofreading step. I normally read through my post once out loud to myself. Reading out loud helps me catch more errors. And then I’ll read through it one more time in preview mode so I can check spelling and formatting at the same time.
If you don’t proofread your post it looks sloppy.
Step No. 12: Social Media
Okay the post is finished. Now it’s time to schedule my social media posts. I copy my URL and jump over to Hootsuite which is the platform I currently use to schedule although I’ve heard good things about Buffer and have been tempted to check it out. Whatever you use, jump over there and schedule some social media posts to promote that awesome blog post you just spent hours writing! You can’t just write a post and finish. No one will find it which means you worked super hard on something that no one is going to read.
Don’t just hit publish and walk away. You have to promote your work!
There are all kinds of tools you can use to discover the best time of day to post on each social media site. Chloe Social has a great post on the different tools you can use to find this information! Once you know your optimal times you can schedule your posts. I normally schedule three tweets on the day a post goes live and one Facebook post. Then I’ll pepper the rest of the week with one tweet a day (no more than this, you don’t want your followers to feel like all you’re doing is marketing).
Step No. 13: Schedule the Post & Publish
Stay with me. We’re almost there. Now I jump back to WordPress, change the publish time on my post and hit schedule. Okay I normally preview it one last time because I’m neurotic like that and have to make sure it still looks the same as it did five minutes ago. THEN I finally hit schedule.
Step No. 14: Relax
Pass out. The blog post is scheduled and now it’s time to relax! My idea of relaxing is curling up on the couch with my current read and a steaming mug of tea. Make sure to take some time to chill. You’ve earned it.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of this post! As you can see, my process is long. You might need all these steps, but I think it’s a good starting point for most bloggers. And I have even more exciting news! This post is kicking off a blog tip series I’ll be doing breaking down some of these steps in more detail! Stay tuned for a Canva tutorial, an in-depth post on Yoast SEO, an overview of Lead Pages and more! While you wait for those tips, download the ultimate blogging checklist using the button below and get started making your blog even more awesome than it already is!