As a content creator, you know that at the heart of every great marketing strategy is a thoughtfully crafted blog, chock-full of high-quality content to increase brand awareness, delight audiences, and influence revenue growth.
According to 2022 research by Hubspot, most consumers read blogs multiple times per week and have purchased something from a brand after reading the company's blog. So it’s no surprise that 56% of marketers who leverage blogging say it’s effective (we’re not sure what the other 44% are doing wrong, but maybe you can send them this guide)!
To help you write articles that get found and get read, our team put together an essential guide—by content marketers, for content marketers. In it, we’ll guide you through eight steps of writing effective blogs that make lasting impacts on your intended audiences, such as:
✅ Identifying your blog goal
✅ Understanding your audience
✅ Formatting your blog structure
✅ Creating authoritative pieces.
P.S. - You’ll also find a sample blog post template and a handy dandy blog writing checklist—that we give you full permission to steal.
1. Identify the Goal of Your Blog
Before you type a single word of your next blog article, you need to be clear about the goal(s) of the piece you’re about to write and who you’re writing it for. You can draft the most eloquent, clever, or grammatically picture-perfect piece ever written, but if it was drafted without understanding the business goal or target audience, don’t be surprised if it makes zero impact.
3 Most Common Blog Goals
There are many valid reasons to write and promote blog posts, but let’s discuss what we’ll call The Big 3: inbound marketing, SEO, and brand awareness. You’ll notice that some aspects of these three goals will overlap, and it’s totally fine for your content to do double (or triple) duty and have more than one primary goal. That being said, it’s important to always keep in mind “the why” behind every piece of content you create.
- Inbound Marketing / Lead Generation
Generally speaking, one of marketing’s primary goals is to bring in qualified leads. Depending on the business, this might mean funneling them to a sales team or nurturing them until they make a purchase. In the traditional marketing funnel, the “awareness & consideration” phase is at the top. This is where content can really make an impact.
Your blog is an ideal place to invite potential customers, clients, or partners to take a look around and engage with what you have to offer. It’s a safe place for them to learn about your business without worrying about pestering salespeople or committing to anything before they’re ready.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Every marketer dreams of that coveted “page 1 position” on Google for their industry keywords. While this may or may not be possible for your business, optimizing your blog for search and keeping it stocked with fresh, quality content can improve your position and help people find you.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to SEO. The right keyword, subheadings, anchor text, meta titles, and internal linking (just to name a few) are all important for optimizing your articles. If playing the algorithm game isn’t necessarily your thing, partnering with an SEO expert can be a big help.
[ Learn about Compose.ly’s SEO services. ]
- Brand Awareness / Thought Leadership
Your blog can be a great platform to elevate your business or leadership team as experts in your industry. Sharing knowledge and a unique point of view on a specific topic can help you build trust with potential customers.
Hubspot found that 54% of decision-makers spend more than one hour per week reading and reviewing thought-leadership content. So make sure your content is answering the right questions, providing education, and adding value for your readers.
2. Get to Know Your Audience
The most effective blog content is catered to a business’s target audience. It speaks their language, covers the topics they’re researching, addresses their pain points, and offers solutions.
Most companies have multiple buyer personas — different target audiences for various products or services, and different content to cater to each, depending on where they are in the buying cycle. (For example, someone in a later stage who is closer to making a purchase decision may want more product-focused content, whereas someone in an earlier stage may just want to learn more general information.)
Also, consider whether you’re targeting prospects or customers with your content. Potential industry partners can even be a target audience. Think about the different groups who engage with your pieces and ensure you have something of value to offer them. (Bonus: Segmenting your content in this way also makes it easier for your teammates in marketing, sales, and customer success to promote the right blog articles to the right people.)
There are several ways you can learn more about your target audience and what they care about. Here are a few:
- Google Analytics. If you’re not digging into the goldmine that is Google Analytics, you’re missing out on some really useful information about your audience. (Tip: In your website’s GA platform, click through to Audience > Interests > Overview)
- Social insights. Social media can give you more than just hearts and thumbs up if you know where to look. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn provide demographic information about the people who engage with your business pages.
- Buyer personas. Personas are detailed descriptions of what an ideal buyer is like, including demographic information, professional details, and psychographic traits. (Check out our free template to create your own!)
- Talking to people. You probably can’t take your entire blog audience for coffee, but you can conduct a survey or personal interviews with customers and prospects to learn about their interests and the type of content that resonates with them most. (Just don’t forget to reward people for their time.)
3. Choose a Blog Topic
Once you’ve identified a goal and learned more about your target audience, it’s time to choose your topic(s). Many content marketers build out an editorial calendar and plan their topics ahead of time, as much as a year in advance. We recommend planning ahead if you can. Knowing what topics you’ll be covering will help you align your content promotion with other marketing tactics and campaigns. If it’s not realistic for you to plan your topics that far ahead, the following steps to writing a great blog still apply, whether you’re selecting one topic or 50.
[ If you like to plan ahead, check out How to Create a Content Marketing Calendar. ]
Since you’ve already learned a bit about your target audience and what they care about as it relates to your products or services, you should have a general idea of the topic you want to cover. You might find that some of your key topic ideas are quite broad and include some more common keywords that may be difficult to rank for. This is a great use case for a pillar strategy, in which you write multiple related articles to generate more traffic and credibility on a topic.
[ For more, check out our free guide: How To Develop a Pillar Content Strategy. ]
As you drill down further into your topic and keyword selections, we recommend a couple of online tools for generating ideas.
- Trend analysis tools. There are a few good trend analysis tools out there, like Google Trends or BuzzSumo, that allow you to explore high-performing content and research trending topics.
- Keyword research tools. Semrush and Google Ads Keyword Planner are popular keyword research tools that let you search a topic and see hundreds of related phrases that people are searching for to help you drill into popular topics and sub-topics.
Another great way to level up your blog post is to read through top-ranking content on your topic and cover any points those sources might be missing. Adding more depth to your content can boost your ranking and add more value for readers. (A little one-upping of the competition never hurt anyone, right?)
You can also leverage social listening (i.e. trending hashtags, influencer content, and UGC) and generative AI tools to help you brainstorm blog post ideas that are timely, relevant, and trending for your target audience. We asked ChatGPT to come up with three blog post ideas that would resonate with content marketers right now, and here’s what it suggested:
4. Remember to E-E-A-T
When researching your topics and preparing to write, remember that you’re not only writing for your audience but for Google too. When the Google algorithms are ranking blogs, they’re looking for what they call E-E-A-T: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
- Experience is the extent to which the content creator has first-hand or life experience for the topic. A product review is typically more trustworthy when the content creator has personally used the product. But this is not always the case. For example, you may not be able to personally try an enterprise security software solution as you don’t have the capacity to install it onto a wide variety of machines and situations. However, your life experience using this type of software would allow you to make informed judgments.
- Expertise and the amount required to be trustworthy varies depending on the topic. For example, medical advice from a licensed doctor would be more trustworthy than from a med student. Essentially, the creator of the content should be an expert in the given domain.
- Authoritativeness takes into account how well the content creator is known as a reliable source for the topic. Keep in mind that the majority of topics don’t have an official website or content creator. However, when it exists, they are one of the most trustworthy sources. For example, your city’s official page for garbage collection schedules would be unique and authoritative on that subject.
- Trust is the most significant member of the E-E-A-T quartet, and Google encourages search quality raters to “consider the extent to which the page is accurate, honest, safe, and reliable.”
The days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Content needs to be legitimate, factual, well-written, relevant, and fresh. Make sure it is something you find helpful. After all, if you wouldn’t want to read it, why would anyone else?
Consumers are looking for original content that you or your brand are uniquely positioned to write or speak about. For marketers, that means relying on experts and credible sources to develop valuable, trustworthy content written by experienced, high-quality writers. Consider where you have brand authority and look for ways to highlight your unique perspective across multiple channels (e.g., video, audio, expert guest authors, etc.).
Google E-E-A-T can be improved throughout your content by optimizing the search intent of your blogs as well. In order to ensure your blogs are providing accurate answers to your target audience, it’s best to first understand the different kinds of search intent: Informational, Transactional, Commercial, and Navigational.
Once you’ve determined the kind of information your audience needs, you should research relevant, top-ranking pages that target similar keywords. Analyze these pages, perform content gaps, and study their structures. Then, aim to create a piece of content that answers your audience’s questions better than your competitors.
Working with subject matter experts to contribute, review, or write your blogs can also strengthen your content into authoritative pieces. This is especially important if your business falls within YMYL industries. Hosting accurate, updated content on your site that is reviewed by subject matter experts significantly increases your E-E-A-T. For example, health publications often have their content written by or reviewed by medical professionals or both.
At Compose.ly, our subject matter experts are well-versed professionals with a passion for sharing accurate knowledge. By choosing Compose.ly as your subject matter expert review partner, you’re guaranteed to work with an external SME who quickly augments your internal team with experience in your particular field as well as in content review.
Three Authoritative Brands With Effective Blogs (Plus Examples)
Speaking of credible sources, here are three of our favorite top brands in the marketing space that we believe have reliable, consistent, and engaging blogs. They transcend keyword stuffing and infuse their brand voices and unique perspectives throughout the blog while informing and educating their audiences.
The work of marketing champions, HubSpot’s blog never ceases to engage us (and actually help us too). Their blog hub allows for easy navigation based on the category or topic their readers are searching for, and they have a section for “featured blog posts” as well.
They’re experts at introductions—clearly stating a blog’s goal, its intended audience, and how the blog will address the given topic. They weave in branded graphics and designs throughout to break up their lengthy posts and utilize formatting techniques, like bullet points and listicles, to ensure optimal readability.
The SEO pros, Semrush’s blog is a masterclass in building authority and credibility via extensive interlinking and targeted keyword strategies. Their educational content is broken up by images that guide readers on how to implement certain SEO strategies or how to use keyword research tools (including their own suite of solutions).
Each section has clear, SEO-optimized headers with relevant images, branded graphics and banners, internal links, and when applicable, authoritative external links to credible sites—sometimes linking to Google itself. This certainly helps strengthen their E-E-A-T and appeases Google’s ranking factors. But, E-E-A-T isn’t just about getting those juicy links. You can build trustworthiness amongst your audience and showcase your expertise by fully matching search intent as well.
Semrush earns trust via their blogs by answering their audience’s questions, speaking with experience about each topic, and formatting their blogs so even the newest SEOs can easily digest complex aspects.
Effective blog writing shouldn’t only increase SERP rankings and drive conversions. It should boost brand awareness and strengthen thought leadership, too. The masters of design, Figma, lets their award-winning, colorful, dynamic brand shine through their blogs as well.
With interactive quotes from industry experts, animated motion graphics, and video clips, Figma ensures they’re creating high-quality, on-brand, engaging blogs that build lasting relationships with their readers (heck, even their mouse cursor is branded for fun scrolling).
5. Write Your First Draft
You’ve done the heavy lifting to research and plan an awesome blog topic that is relevant to your audience and aligns with your business goals. Now it’s time to make the topic your own and put it out into the world—the fun part!
In this section, we’ll break down how to structure and format your articles for readability and searchability and offer some tips for writing content that is compelling and matches your brand voice.
First Things First: Create an Outline
Trust us: you’ll be glad you did! An outline can help you structure your blog article in a way that flows nicely and hits on all your key points. It will ensure you’re covering the right information in each section and not conflating different ideas. Developing a good outline can also make the writing process easier and more efficient, as it keeps you on track as you transition from one section to the next.
Here is an example of a good blog outline format to start with. (Once you get this framework in place, you can start to flesh out the content more until you’re ready to start putting sentences together.)
- Intro/hook (1-2 paragraphs)
(H2) Subtopic 1
- Section intro (1-2 paragraphs)
- (H3) Key point with 1-3 supporting points below
- (H3) Key point with 1-3 supporting points below
(H2) Subtopic 2
- Section intro
- (H3) Key point with 1-3 supporting points below
- (H3) Key point with 1-3 supporting points below
- Closing thoughts & link to next steps (2-5 sentences)
The outline is a good place to organize your content, flesh out your headings, and make sure you know what each section will cover. Your article can include as many subtopics and key points as you need.
When formatting your article, be sure headlines follow the appropriate order: H1 (headline) > H2 > H3 > H4. In each section, an H4 should always be nestled below an H3, an H3 below an H2, etc. Google algorithms are looking for content to flow sequentially in this way. Plus, it just makes it easier for your audience to read or skim the content when it’s well organized.
Write a Blog Title That Gets Clicks
Your blog title can make or break whether someone chooses to click on your blog or scroll on past it. It also plays a big part in how the article will rank in search. According to digital marketing influencer Neil Patel, 8 out of 10 people read headline copy, while only 2 out of 10 read the rest of the article.
“Simply pushing whatever headline first comes to mind won’t cut it. You have to compete for people’s attention. This takes effort.” - Neil Patel
Some people like to start their article by writing an amazing headline, while others prefer to wait until the end, once they’ve written the rest of the copy, to ensure the blog title best reflects the content. This is really a matter of personal preference—you do you!
When you do decide to sit down and write that killer blog post title, consider these 3 major types of headlines:
- The Direct Headline
This headline is straightforward and tells you what the article will deliver, what value it will add for the reader, or what pain point it will solve.
Formula: [Audience’s pain point] + [Solution to pain point]
Example: “The Best Clinically-Proven Cream For Funky Feet”
- The “Reason Why” Headline
This type of headline promises to explain why the audience experiences a specific pain point or why something is a certain way.
Formula: [Number] + Reasons Why + [Audience’s pain point]
Example: “5 Reasons Why Your Feet Get So Sweaty When You Hike”
- The “How To” Headline
This headline is just like it sounds—it tells your reader how to solve a problem. It insinuates a step-by-step process to tackle a pain point or learn a new skill.
Formula: How to + [Action your audience wants to learn] + [Unique benefit]
Example: “How to Keep Your Hiking Boots Smelling Fresh All Summer
Once you choose the best formula for your headline, make sure it also appropriately describes the content in your blog article (you never want to pull a bait and switch), and be sure to include your target keyword. If you want a little extra help, there are some nifty online tools that can analyze and help improve your headlines (we like this one from CoSchedule).
[ Need help optimizing your headline for search? Check out our SEO checklist. ]
Hook Your Reader With a Compelling Intro
Depending on the industry, blogs can have an average bounce rate of 65–90%. That means out of every 10 people who click on your post, only 1-3 people will actually read it. That’s why it’s so important to grab a reader’s attention right out of the gate.
To entice your visitors to keep reading, begin your blog intro with a great hook. An effective hook could include:
- A quote
- A question
- Your post’s thesis
- An interesting fact or anecdote
- A controversial statement
Whichever type of hook you choose, be sure it accurately conveys the tone of your piece and the information your reader will glean from the article. You also never want to “bury the lede,” as they say in the writing biz, meaning don’t wait until three or four paragraphs down to share your juiciest stuff. Give the people what they want, dear writer!
Write With Style and Set the Right Tone
Your writing style and the tone of your blog article should be catered to your company’s brand voice and the characteristics of your audience. (Again, that persona work and audience research really comes in handy.) You can also take a look at other content your company has put out and make sure your content matches that same style and tone.
Some companies have a well-documented style guide or brand guidelines that outline what makes the brand unique and how the voice should sound. It may also include content formatting preferences (e.g., whether to use title case or sentence case, how to write specific product names, etc.).
[ Don’t have a style guide? Check out How to Write Brand Guidelines (with Free Brand Template Download). ]
6. Format Your Blog
A well-formatted blog article improves your website ranking, increases conversions, and creates an overall better experience for your readers. Follow these four tips for formatting your blog to make your next post more readable and engaging.
- Break Up Content With Short, Scannable Paragraphs
When most people see long blocks of text, their eyes glaze over, and they hit the back button faster than you can say, “too long didn’t read.” To make your articles more inviting, format your blog so it’s easier to navigate and scan. It’s okay if your audience doesn’t read every single word, as long as they stay on the page long enough to find the information they’re looking for and are interested enough to keep engaging with your brand.
Here are a few ways to make your content more digestible:
- Break up content into shorter paragraphs (1-4 sentences)
- Keep sections short (2-4 paragraphs) and use descriptive headings
- Make sure your first few sentences are strong and informative to increase the quality of featured snippets (WordPress and HubSpot offer snippet tools that make it easy)
- Use numbered lists or bullet points (like these!)
- Add images or videos throughout your content (more on that in #3)
- Pay Attention to Word Count
Content length has always been a hotly debated topic, and best practices have changed over the years—mostly due to ongoing changes Google makes to their algorithms. Nevertheless, our current recommendation is to shoot for a blog post length of 1,000 - 2,000 words.
If you want your post to rank well, it should be at least 300 words. And while 85% of blog content clocks in at less than 1,000 words, longer pieces consistently get more shares and links. Some topics require longer posts, and it can sometimes work in your favor to write more than 2000 words.
If you’re not sure how long to make a particular article, take a look at high-ranking posts for your keyword and try to keep your length somewhere in that ballpark. Just be sure you’re following those rules in tip #1 above to keep long content scannable and avoid overwhelming your audience.
- Add Relevant, High-Quality Images
Including photos, infographics, screenshots, videos, or other helpful visuals can help your content flow better and increase engagement. Consider these stats:
- Articles with relevant images get 94% more views than those without images.
- 40% of people respond better to visual information than text.
- In 100 of the highest-ranking blogs on the internet, there was at least one image for every 350 words.
The data is clear that embedding imagery and other types of media can improve blog performance. That being said, it’s equally important that the images or videos you include in your blog posts are high quality, on-brand, and relevant to the content. Using fuzzy images or poorly-produced videos can actually do more harm than good. You’re better off including no imagery at all than using low-quality assets.
- End With a Strong Call to Action
A call to action (CTA) is an invitation for someone to take some kind of next step. In blog writing, it’s asking your reader to stay on this journey with your business to learn more about a topic or see more of what you have to offer. From a business perspective, you’re enticing them to dive a little deeper into your marketing funnel.
Here are a few of the most common types of blog CTAs:
- Read related blog articles
- Share the article on social media or use a branded hashtag
- Download a piece of content (e.g., ebook, report, infographic, calculator, etc.)
- Visit the company’s product or service page
- Fill out a contact form
- Subscribe to a newsletter or join a community
- Make a purchase
- Start a free trial
Your CTA could be a few sentences of text, a button, or a linked image. In some cases, you may include a form and ask your reader to trade some contact info to get something in return (e.g., their email address for an ebook download). This is typically referred to as “gated content” and is a common inbound marketing strategy. In other cases, it may be more appropriate for your CTA to include a link to another post or ungated resource. Including these internal backlinks helps boost your SEO and keep people engaged with your site.
The type of CTA and format you choose to include depends on your marketing goals and strategy. What matters most is that the copy is compelling, enticing, and relevant. You should also make it clear what the reader will get if they take that next step. For example, if you’re targeting prospects in a later buying stage, give them the opportunity to raise their hand. Let them indicate they’re ready to buy or talk to a salesperson by adding a form or link to the contact page.
[ Want to level up your CTAs? Check out How to Write an Awesome (& Effective) Call to Action. ]
7. Review and Edit Your Blog
...and edit some more. It feels pretty good to finish a blog post draft—you should be proud! But don’t pop the champagne just yet. Your work isn’t done until that puppy has been thoroughly reviewed and checked and you’re 100% sure it’s ready for prime time.
A good editing and review process should include most (or all) of the following steps:
- Author reads through 2-3 times to ensure the piece flows nicely, gets the key points across well, and is free from poor grammar or typos
- At least one other stakeholder or subject matter expert (SME) reviews for accuracy and company voice/tone
- Edits are made based on reviewer feedback (if needed)
- Content is run through a software tool (e.g., Grammarly) to check and improve grammar, spelling, and punctuation
- Article is reviewed for SEO (relevant internal links added, target keyword saturation, headings formatted properly, etc.)
- Final draft is reviewed by relevant stakeholders for approval (if applicable)
- One more check for grammar/typos! (Even if you use a tool like Grammarly, also run spell-check in your Google or Word Doc. Sometimes it will catch things Grammarly might miss.)
That may seem like a lot of review steps. But trust us, taking a little extra time to read through your content and get other eyes on it will be well worth it. Having even a couple of typos or grammatical errors can really bring down the perceived quality and professionalism of your blog article.
When we write something, our brains can sometimes fill in blanks or make us read it back the right way, even when a word is out of place or something is misspelled. Even bestselling authors make silly typos in their writing, that’s why they have entire teams of people who edit and review their manuscripts. And with the advanced content editing tools we have available today, we can catch human error in a flash.
Leveraging AI-Assisted Writing Tools for Blog Optimizations
You’re nearly done with your brand new blog and this question comes to mind, “Should I have used AI to help me write this?” The answer depends on your goal, bandwidth, and resources. AI-assisted writing tools are great assistants, not replacements, when it comes to creating original content.
Nicole Leffer, Tech Marketing Leader & CMO AI Advisor, said it best: “The future of content marketing will be a harmonious partnership between human creativity and AI efficiency. As marketers, our unique ideas and perspectives will be the secret sauce that brings AI generated content to life, ensuring authenticity and relevance.”
However, generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, can certainly help you optimize top-performing blogs. For example, submit your blog outline and ask ChatGPT to generate any additional, relevant headers or sections. Did you miss any obvious topics? Or did you address everything thoroughly that ChatGPT suggested?
The AI tool can also help analyze and improve your SEO by identifying the best target keywords for your blog and categorizing the search intent for any keywords you’d like to include in your piece.
[ Learn more about how to leverage AI to your advantage in our latest resource, The Content Marketer's Guide to AI Content Creation. ]
8. Publish and Promote Your Blog
Get your champagne ready because it’s almost time to put this beautiful blog post out into the world! The technical steps for publishing your blog will depend on your unique system and hosting platform, but there are a few common best practices across the board:
- Upload the post to your blog site as a draft and review it to make sure all your formatting is coming through correctly and there are no broken links
- Check that your embedded images are compressed to avoid slowing down your site’s loading time
- Find the best time to publish based on when your site generates the most traffic and schedule it for then (if possible)
- Create a promotion plan to share your blog on social media, in your newsletter, with prospects, etc.
- Share a link to the blog with your internal team and enable them to share on their own social networks or send to customers who might find it valuable
Okay, we know you’ve been waiting patiently… go ahead and pop that bubbly now! Your blog is out there doing its thing. We hope this guide has helped you jumpstart your blog strategy, and you can reference these resources whenever you need a refresher.
While you sip, check out the bonus resources below. And if you’re interested in high-quality blog content written and reviewed by experienced writers, we’d love to chat with you about our professional blog writing services.