Small Business Guide: How to Write a Blog Post

Blog posts are important for a small business, because they help you reach your target audience and provide value to your industry. When written well, they showcase expertise, inspire trust and even entertain. Here are the basics of writing a blog post.

Pick a topic

If you’re looking up how to write a blog post, chances are you’ve already got an idea of what you want to write about.

Refine that idea by thinking up potential titles for your blog post. You can use Buzzsumo for ideas on which titles are most popular, or Google Analytics to discover any relevant popular search terms.

Do some research

Unless you’re already an expert on the subject, the research phase of the writing process is vital. Articles should be well-researched, authoritative and informative.

Decide what you want to say

Now that you’ve done some research, take a stance. Decide what you think on the topic and jot down your notes.

You could brainstorm about;

  • Best way to approach the topic
  • Top 3 takeaways on the topic
  • Why it’s important for your target audience

Get your first draft down

Write like the wind. At this stage, don’t worry about perfection. Just get your thoughts down on the page, and then organize them into a reasonable structure.

Tips on writing;

  • Stick to one idea per paragraph.
  • Have a clear beginning (introduction), middle (body paragraphs) and end (conclusion).
  • Avoid unsupported claims.
  • Avoid jargon that readers outside your industry wouldn’t understand.

Edit x3

Edit, edit, edit. Add any links that are needed and make sure you cite your sources. This is the stage where you or your editor (if you have that luxury) will weed out any mistakes in spelling, grammar, ideas or flow.

Tips on editing;

  • Change the font size to catch mistakes hidden by line breaks.
  • Read it out loud.
  • Run your post through content tools.
  • Ask someone else to look over your post.

If you’re writing this blog post on WordPress, like I am, you’ll also want to refine the SEO settings, add a featured image (don’t forget alt tags) and select the appropriate categories.

Hit publish

Pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re done! …Until it’s time to work on sharing it 🙂

37 Tools to Research, Write and Share Remarkable Blogs

Online Content Creation Tools

After writing 538 professional blog posts (and that’s the last time I’m going to hunt down all the articles I wrote for various clients), I’ve decided to share the many tools I’ve found useful to research, write, edit and share remarkable blogs.

Here’s what’s in this article;

For Inspiration and Collecting Ideas

Evernote, Trello and Google Keep are great tools for collecting ideas and collaborating with other blog writers on your team. Evernote supports everything from short lists to lengthy research, Trello uses the kanban board system and Google Keep is like your personal post-it note board on the web. Each of these tools allows you to write your ideas down and brainstorm useful resources for each post, ie. helpful URLs, comments, rambles.

This is a Trello board where I can collect upcoming blog post ideas

This is a Trello board where I can collect upcoming blog post ideas

Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts are your eyes and ears on the web. These services will monitor the web for keywords that you determine, then alert you when they are mentioned. For example, if you’re interested in online marketing, set up alerts for “inbound marketing” to get emailed whenever someone mentions it online.

Inbound marketing Google Alert - Content Creation Tools

Pocket and Flipboard are excellent for discovering and saving interesting content from around the web. If you find an interesting article, just add it to your Pocket account to revisit later. On Flipboard you can “flip” different articles you find into your own personal online magazines. You can browse the articles that other users store in Pocket or Flipboard based on topics you’re interested in.

Flipboard - Content creation tools

Want more? Kristi Hines collected 25 Resources for Content Marketers so you never run out of blog post ideas again.

Doing Keyword and Topic Research

These are the tools that I use to discover the best keyword to optimize for.

Keyword Planner - Content creation tools

Google Keyword Planner and Keyword Canine* both show how popular a keyword or phrase is via average searches per month. They also show how high the competition is for that ranking.

*Keyword Canine now has paid plans only. A free (for now) alternative is SEMrush || KeySearch is an alternative to Keyword Canine that provides good analytics, but is a bit pricey.

Keyword tool - Content creation tools

Keyword.io and Keyword Tool provide great keyword suggestions based on what you’re looking for. Keyword Tool uses Google’s autocomplete to recommend keywords based on an algorithm from objective factors such as how often past users have searched for a term. You can use these to find keywords that are sometimes hidden in Google Keyword Planner.

Discovering Your Title

Ahrefs Content Explorer - Content creation tools

Buzzsumo and Content Explorer both show highly shared articles so you can draw inspiration from their titles. You can also search popular questions on Quora to find out what kind of questions people are asking about your topic. Position your title as an answer to those questions.

Headline Analyzer - Content creation tools

When you have a good title in mind, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to get it “graded.” It will let you know whether your title is too wordy, what types of words you can add to make it more engaging and more. Aim for a score of 70 or higher. If you’re having trouble getting your score up, you can also check out CoSchedule’s list of Power Words.

TitleCap - Content creation tools

You can also use Portent’s Content Idea Generator to create titles for you, then run your title through this title capitalization tool to make sure you’re capitalizing the right words based on your style guide.

Here’s an awesome article on 9 Useful Headline Tools that has even more useful links.

Writing and Publishing

My absolute favorite content management system is WordPress. It’s customizable, beautifully designed and has a great user interface. WordPress.org also has awesome plugins (my favorite is Yoast for SEO) and great themes. This blog is run on WordPress.com because it’s incredibly low maintenance, still has awesome themes and it’s free. WordPress has a “distraction-free writing mode” that makes the visual/HTML editor full-screen so you aren’t tempted to switch to a different tab or window.

WordPress distraction free writing mode - Content creation tools

Medium and Ghost are a few other blogging platforms you can use to get your writing out there. I’ve personally used Medium and find it easy to simply get your point across. Medium also has some amazing blogs you can explore, I’m signed up to get email digests and always enjoy the articles they send.

Medium - Content creation tools

If you want an incredibly simple website, you can also check out Squarespace. You pay one fee and they take care of your domain and e-commerce compatibility.

Every Good Post Needs Images

All great blog posts need awesome images. I’ve personally used Canva (my favorite), Piktochart and Pablo from Buffer. I love how easy it is to use these tools! You can select the perfect image sizes and they provide stock images right in their platforms to make the user experience even easier.

Canva - Content creation tools
Easel.ly will help you create infographics and Page2Images allows you to create a screenshot of a page by inputting the URL. Gratisography and Unsplash are two places to find amazing high-resolution royalty-free photos that you can use anywhere without worrying about copyright infringement.

Don’t Forget to Edit Your Article

Once you have your keyword, title, article and images all set, it’s time to edit the content. Read over everything you wrote and use these tools to make sure it’s perfect.

Grammarly - Content creation tools

Grammarly and the Hemingway App detect common spelling and grammar errors in your writing. You can input your text into either of these to evaluate readability and grammar. Grammarly also has a Chrome extension that works as you type and will check your work in real-time. It is able to detect contextual spelling errors, and will alert you if you use the wrong word even if it’s correctly spelled.

The Readability Test Tool - Content creation tools

The readability score of your blog will tell you how easy it is for people to understand your writing. The goal is to make your article as accessible as possible. It should be easy to understand and absorb. You can use this Readability Test Tool to evaluate your content from a URL or direct input.

Search Engine Optimization

Hooray for search engine optimization! I love SEO because it adds a technical aspect to a creative pursuit. SEO is almost a game; Our content competes with other, endless content on the Internet to reach the top spot on search engine results and land on reader’s screens.

Yoast SEO - Content creation tools

The Yoast plugin, as mentioned above, helps you create optimize articles based on a set of best practices. Here’s a quick rundown on SEO best practices and you can view an SEO article I wrote for 237 Marketing + Webhere.

Keyword density analyzer - Content creation tools

Use this Keyword Density Analyzer to make sure your article includes your keyword enough (but not too much).

Share It

I use Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule social media shares (you can also find awesome gifs to add here). As far as I know, Hootsuite is the only platform that allows for pre-scheduled Instagram posts. Buffer is incredibly easy to use and can tell you when the best time to share for your audience is with their Optimal Scheduling tool.

Buffer - Content creation tools

You can encourage blog readers to share your post by generating automatic sharing links with this Share Link Generator or pre-written emails with mlto.tk. WordPress plugins like Better Click to Tweet  or CoSchedule’s Click to Tweet can generate click-to-tweet content right within your blog article. *You will need to use WordPress.org to use these plugins.

Better click to tweet plugin - Content creation tools
Going beyond social media, you can use JustReachOut to pitch to journalists.

Measure Results

Almost done! After you publish your blog, make sure you measure the results. Google Analytics is awesome for seeing how many visits a certain blog post earned and how many views you’re getting each day, week, month or year. Check out where your visitors are coming from, how long they’re spending on your site and where they’re going after.

Google Analytics - Content creation tools

You can also analyze your site or blog post with Moz’s Open Site Explorer to discover how many backlinks you received and where you’re mentioned on the web.

Your Turn!

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for checking out these 37 content creation tools. I hope you found something useful.

Happy puppy

A Street Corner of Stories

I am sitting at a wine bar facing the corner of 4th and University St. in Seattle. I brought a book, but in the moments I take a break to sip my wine and watch the people walk by, I wonder what their stories are. So many individual strings and lives occupying the same busy street corner even for just a few seconds…it gives me a funny feeling to acknowledge there are so many lives just outside the window.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar

I wonder, too, if anyone has ever watched me walk by, if they made up stories for me, and what those stories are. What are the lives that I may have lived in someone elses imagination?

Becoming a Copywriter: How and Why to Create Content

Communication is what connects us all. Depending on how you spin it, content can be funny, inspiring, educational or all of the above. A string of words, ordered a certain way, can incite action — and that’s powerful.

In today’s global economy, content and communication unlocks opportunities across industries and continents.

Copywriters play a large role in business success, from branding to internal coordination. You can find content in email newsletters, marketing materials, advertising and more. Copywriters can create movie scripts, name businesses or even write the clever CTAs (call-to-action) in your favorite online games.

Ajax Stronger than GreaseFun tidbit

Have you ever heard the Ajax slogan “stronger than grease”? Ajax was a renowned Greek soldier who was stronger than all of Greece. I thought it was clever.

Almost any passion or profession you may enjoy probably incorporates copywriting at more than one level. That’s why learning how to craft copy is a great place to begin turning your passion into a career.

Hustle and Grind purpose venn diagram

A neat venn diagram from Hustle and Grind. Click it to visit their website.

If you enjoy creating stories and want to take the plunge into writing, read on for a little advice on where to start. I’ll keep it quick.

Who to Write For

If you’re writing for a target audience, like you have to do in marketing/branding, define that audience. When you know who they are, what they pay attention to, and how they prefer to communicate, you can develop your style, voice, tone, humor, etc. and incorporate it into your writing.

If you’re writing for yourself (a novel, journal, opinion piece) then write for yourself. Do it unapologetically.

When to Write

There is a lot of rich content about efficiency and your most productive hours in the day, but the answer to “when should I write?” is generally; regularly. Work on your own schedule but continue to create content whenever you can. You can beat writer’s block with routine and willpower.

Where to Write

Find a place you can write everyday, settle into it and make it your spot. Then surprise yourself. Go somewhere new and write. Visit a coffee shop, write in the park, backpack around the world with a pencil and pad of paper. Write everywhere inspiration strikes. The world is your story.

Great content can come from anywhere, so make sure you have a pen and paper (or some sort of electronic device) to capture it.

How to Write

Keep reading, keep thinking, keep questioning–and you’ll find your own voice. Just keep putting one word after another.

Want a better answer than that? Check out Help Scout’s article on How to Write with Substance or Hubspot’s 6 Characteristics of Top-Notch Copy.

Why Write?

Write because it educates, it empowers, it helps you think and learn at the same time. Write because you have something to say (don’t write without anything to say, btw, it gets boring). Write because you believe in it. Write to change the world, or to inform a person. Write to represent a brand you love. Write to get better at it.

There are endless reasons to craft content. I recommend writing because it’s a step towards improving. Create content today that will change your tomorrow for the better, even if it’s just by a tiny bit.

Why do you want to write?

4 Tips to Avoid Typos

Everyone hates typos, especially once they’ve been printed, paid for and distributed. Having a mistake on a communications piece that’s gone out to consumers puts your company’s reputation on the line. What kind of quality can you assure clients if your marketing materials look like they’ve been proofread by illiterate amateurs? I learned about the importance of proofreading to my frustration, when I wasn’t given a chance to review a sample of the final hardcopy materials before they went to press. It sucks.

The Importance of Proofreading

Why is proofreading necessary?

  • It helps you maintain credibility in shareholders’ eyes (and clients, partners and anyone else who reads your communications materials).
  • Your business earns respect by producing consistently high-quality content.
  • Reprinting communication materials is frustrating and costly in terms of both time and money.
  • It’s important to have a credible portfolio (this is for the copywriters and content creators out there–no one wants to hire writers whose previous work is full of errors).

4 Proofreading Tips for Flawless Content

1. Clarify the proofreading process. When you’re working in an office, there are multiple people who can catch mistakes, add information and edit copy. If you don’t have a clear process, insist on one. You won’t regret it. Make sure whoever the final copy runs through before being sent to press is detail-oriented and experienced.

An example of a clear editing process is Journalist > Editor > Communications Director. Another example is Copywriter > Marketing Associate > Marketing Director. Make as many rounds as you need, as long as you are absolutely sure that the content is going to press with NO errors. Insist on always seeing a sample (both printed and virtual) of the most updated copy before something goes to press.

2. Read forwards and backwards. When you read backwards, you avoid glossing over a familiar sentence and overlooking spelling errors. This is because reading backwards makes it harder for your brain to fill in the blanks and correct mistakes without you realizing. Having words out-of-order also encourages you to read each word individually, not as part of a sentence.

3. Change the font styles or margins. Altering the layout may expose errors that were missed before, because you’re looking at your content in a new context. A missing word or double space may have been overlooked because of a line break. An extra word or incorrect “a” vs “an” could come to light because you’re reading each sentence a different way.

4. Always work with the most current copy. Making corrections on old content is a useless waste of time. Make sure you edit updated materials so you don’t have to jumble through edits that have already been made, or confuse yourself trying to transfer corrections after you’ve made them. It’s a recipe for disaster, and anyone who says “this isn’t the most updated content but could you take a look at it?” is wasting your time. Don’t let them.

Implement these best practices and avoid going through the despair and humiliation of typos!

Productivity Practice for Long Commutes and Idle Minds

While fighting the honking, swerving crawl of Manila traffic, I realized that what bothered me most about having to sit in the parking lots we call highways wasn’t the actual traffic (as awful as it is), but the idea of wasted time.

In the two hours I sit in my car taking what should be a 20 minute commute, I could have written an article, read a book, played a game, watched a movie, or spent time with friends and family. Multiply that two hours by the number of days I go in to work (3x/week) for for six months (the length of my contract), and I would have lost approximately 180 hours of productivity. That’s about a week of working straight, without eating or sleeping. Imagine the things I could have done and the places I could have seen.

The solution? Learn on the road. Here are a few ideas.

  • Listen to audiobooks, such as World War Z or A Fault in Our Stars (although bring tissues for that one)
  • Listen to TED talks, which are inspiring talks given by some of the greatest minds of our era
  • Learn a language (less fun than listening to World War Z, but probably more useful in the long term)
  • Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up (using a hands-free device, of course)

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments section!

Obssessed with how well my boss writes

I’ve decided to just admit to my #RabidFan moments–and how weird they are. Most people obsess over sexy actors or their favorite characters in a TV show, but my fangirl moments happen when I have the honor of witnessing magnificent writing.

If there is one truth I’ve learned in the last year working for 237 Marketing + Web, it’s that Krista is an awesome-beyond-belief writer. The other day, she sent edits on something I wrote and I actually went “squee!” because she is just SO good at writing.

My mom has witnessed a few of my admiration outbursts and finally asked to read whatever I got so excited about. When I showed her a sample of my writing vs. Krista’s edits, and she said my writing was boring in comparison. This was followed by a minor panic attack on my part, because she’s right!

My professional writing style is factual, to-the-point and boring. My informal writing style, on the other hand, is spastic, filled with panic-attacks and raNdoM caPITALIZatiOn every now and then when I just HAVE to emphasize how AMAZING someone’s writing is and run on sentences when I’m freaking out and my brain is thinking too fast for punctuation.

So I’ll be working on improving my writing and studying Krista’s writing style to try and emulate it. I’d like to be able to easily switch from an effective, active writing voice that is business-professional, to an appropriate but casual tone.

I am constantly inspired to develop my writing ability thanks to her examples of (seemingly effortless) incredible storytelling. She’s a lead-by-example expert writer whom I look forward to learning even more from.

The writing project my mom read was a portfolio piece write-up for a website we recently launched. My version is below, followed by Krista’s edits.

The Kitchen at Middleground Farms – Recreational Cooking Classes

THE KITCHEN AT MIDDLEGROUND FARMS WEBSITE

The Kitchen at Middleground Farms offers recreational cooking classes that emphasize traditional cooking methods. Chef Jessica Hansen skillfully guides classes in the basics of cheesemaking, food preservation, baking and more. Find your confidence in The Kitchen after learning the science behind food and how to use local, seasonal ingredients.

Their website reflects this local culinary approach with banners across each webpage that showcase fresh ingredients, and a homepage slideshow that broadcasts Oregon bounty. The background image of barn wood subtly highlights the farm setting of The Kitchen, and the casual handwritten-like font emphasizes the fun, casual class atmosphere.

Interested site visitors can register and pay for classes online through The Kitchen at Middleground Farms website, and can add comments if they have any concerns (ie. food allergies). In addition to a list of classes and class information, the site has a chef bio page, blog, newsletter registration, contact forms, and an embedded Google map.

View Chef Jessica’s list of classes here to get started on a culinary learning adventure like none other.


Krista’s edits.

The Kitchen at Middleground Farms offers recreational cooking classes that emphasize traditional cooking methods. Students are taught the basics of cheesemaking, food preservation, baking and more from Chef Jessica Hansen, The Kitchen’s founder. Chef Jessica will teach you the science of food AND how to use local, seasonal ingredients in a supportive class setting.

Class registration is a key function of Middleground Farms’ website. Interested site visitors can sign up and pay for classes from numerous locations throughout the site. The site also features a bio page, blog, newsletter registration, contact forms, and an embedded Google map.

In addition to the site function, we love this site’s design. Page banners showcasing fresh ingredients are used to communicate Jessica’s local culinary approach plus Oregon bounty. The background image of barn wood subtly highlights the farm setting of The Kitchen, and the casual handwritten-like font emphasizes the fun, casual class atmosphere.

Curious about cooking? View Chef Jessica’s list of classes here to get started on a culinary learning adventure like none other!

SQUEE!

#RabidFan ramble over. Thanks for tuning in!

10 Companies Revisited

Writing has been pretty hard lately. I seem to be repeating everything I’ve already said whenever I try to create new content. As a writer, I don’t have the luxury of looking at my craft and going “I’ve gotten good enough.” The rule of 1% is to aim for a 1% improvement everyday. I’m a little behind.

A career isn’t as convenient as school, where you have semesters or trimesters that wrap up neatly in a box of notebooks and folders you put away when class is over. I don’t know how to work this way! I like being able to pack away a syllabus and start learning from scratch again. I always liked handing in a project and calling it done.

I’m taking a small step past that open-close mentality by listing 10 great companies that I’ve had a personal experience with, and a possible money-making idea for them. Without further ado, here’s a blast from my past (and present, for some of them).

Couture House, by Christine Go

Target Audience: Newly engaged couples, teenagers about to have debuts, and upper-middle class families who may need gowns and tuxedos made.

Idea: Place an ad targeted at high school students in the school papers of international schools in Manila. The ad should feature tuxedo and dress types and prices, with contact information.

McMinnville Economic Development Partnership

Target Audience: Small businesses in McMinnville who are looking for business management guidance, and potential business owners.

Idea: Implement a blog compilation of consultations with clients, questions and answers, and seminars. The blog should be categorized by department (marketing, human resources, business development, investment ideas), so it can be used as a resource for small businesses.

Travel Yamhill Valley

Target Audience: Businesses in the Yamhill Valley; wineries, restaurants, lodging and services.

Idea: Host influential bloggers and writers, and partner with members to offer a Yamhill Valley experience to write home about.

Profiles Asia Pacific

Target Audience: Human resource managers and executives involved in hiring and company development.

Idea: Offer in-house training seminars to current clients based on what they feel is their workforce’s biggest challenge. Ex. teamwork, leadership, creativity, efficiency, motivation.

Tajimaya Yakiniku Restaurant

Target Audience: The “foodies” of Manila.

Idea: Sponsor a charity event wherein food is served, and bring 5 to 10 percent off vouchers.

Yamhill Action Community Partnership

Target Audience: Potential donors, volunteers, and individuals who may need assistance living self-sufficiently.

Idea: Hold a drawing at the next YCAP auction or event with business cards as entry tickets to capture information.

237 Marketing + Web

Target Audience: Small business owners who take their company marketing into their own hands and may need a little help and guidance navigating the waters.

Idea: Hold free quarterly educational webinars for WebCare clients and former marketing/website clients. Participants can send in questions they’d like answered beforehand or at the end of the webinar.

Eyrie Vineyards

Target Audience: Upper-middle class wine lovers nationwide, and distributors.

Idea: Partner with a travel agency to offer a foodie tour of all the restaurants and establishments where Eyrie wine is served in the Pacific Northwest. OR host a book and wine pairing event. Partner with Third Street Books or Powell’s and hold an event wherein people try wine and read book excerpts. Entrance fee covers the cost of their favorite bottle and book.

Fast Company Magazine

*I haven’t worked with Fast Co. personally, but I enjoy their content and have followed their stories for a while now.

Target Audience: Highly educated media consumers and innovative creatives, who may work in a marketing or design company or freelance for the arts. Writers, young professionals, and social media influencers.

Idea: Publish a book of their features from past magazine issues. They have amazing content online.

Velvet Monkey Tea

*I haven’t worked with this company either, so I don’t understand their strategy from an insider’s perspective. But while I lived in McMinnville, I spent afternoons reading, working, and enjoying tea here.

Target Audience: Tea enthusiasts.

Idea: Host a mix-your-own-tea workshop wherein participants can experiment and create their own custom blends. Include a list of special health benefits beside all teas, so participants can also customize based on what ails them.

The Value of Journaling

We are creatures of never-ending change. Our lives are a flow of experiences, people and growth. A journal chronicles your journey through adventures, struggles, and happiness.

You will be a completely different human in a few years, both mentally and physically. Your thought processes will be different and your experiences will have molded you in unexpected and wonderful ways. You will be stronger, smarter, probably more stressed, and different.

Keeping a journal reminds you of where you came from. It’s a homage to the people who no longer have a place in your life. It’s a reminder of the places and periods you’ve left behind.

A journal remembers who you were, sees who you are, and helps you mold who you want to be.

If that isn’t enough reason, then 10 years down the road when you make a stupid mistake, just look back on your old journals and you will be unspeakably grateful for the mistakes you’ve made and grown from.

Are you pitching to travel writers soon?

Travel Yamhill Valley has published a great article, which quotes Travel Writer Jennifer Nice about Travel Writers: What they are looking for and how to provide it.

Here are some of the tips she provided…

  • Know your target market explicitly. Is it couples? Families? The budget traveler? The wine aficionado? Foodies? Your marketing message must resonate with your prospective customers.
  • Communicate consistently with your return customers to cultivate a relationship. They will return, and they’ll talk about your business. You can do this through enewsletters and social media. And keep your website updated with fresh content so people have a reason to visit it again and again.
  • Figure out your niche. (your unique selling proposition -USP) and market it. Travel writers are drawn to new and/or unique destinations. They like to “discover” niches. What makes you different and/or better than your competition?
  • Convey a sense of place (“paint a picture”) in your online and print marketing materials. Show, don’t tell. If this is too challenging, hire a qualified copywriter to do it for you.
  • Submit a press release to local publications whenever you have a news-worthy event to promote. Sometimes these get picked up by major newspapers and magazines.
  • Give travel writers a discount or comp if they ask. By all means, request to see their credentials and/or published clips to make sure they’re legitimate. And once the story is published, send a thank you note. They may pitch another story about your business in the future!”

Jennifer Nice