Are you ever jealous of those blogs or writers whose posts always seem to generate thousands of links, social shares and views, no matter the specific topic or time of day?
While these pieces of content seem to come so easily to those who write them, the fact remains that there is a very long, laborious process toward creating those epic blog posts that seem to generate buzz and exposure for months (and even years).
Vero, one such company that does a great job at writing popular posts, outlined their process for blog content creation on their own site, and these lessons (as well as others found examining blogs like QuickSprout, Buffer, and HubSpot) break down into a few common steps.
Pick Your Tools
Sure, there are hundreds, even thousands, of free and paid tools online today that promise to make writing easier, to help even the most inexperienced graphic designer produce engaging visuals, or to even kick off the brainstorming process. However, the best tools are those that work for you. Just as each to-do list app or project management platform doesn’t work for every organization, neither will the tools that are used in content creation.
When it comes to the brainstorming and creation process, some of the tool areas you will need to research include: idea generation, outlining, graphic/visual design, and social sharing/online promotion. Some great tools in these arenas that I see recommended again and again are WorkFlowy, Evernote, MindMapper, Penflip, Canva, PicMonkey, Visual.ly, Buffer, and Edgar.
Additionally, beyond the tools, think about the people that can help you. If you have a graphic designer on staff, work with him or her to great custom illustrations, charts, or infographics for your posts. If you’re having a hard time coming up with blog post ideas, network with the sales or customer service teams to see if they get repeated questions from your customers. Then, answer those questions in a single epic blog post.
Create an Outline
Once you have your tools and basic idea in place, start creating an outline of each section. Most epic blog posts are thousands of words, so make sure your headers are specific but broad enough that they need to be covered in 200-500 words. While there isn’t a specific minimum word count for “epic” blog posts, most are at least 1,500 words, up to 5,000 or even 7,000 words, which is the average length for an average published short story. This is no coincidence: think of your blog posts as telling the “story” of what you hope to answer or provide on your blog’s topic.
Make each section of your outline able to stand alone, but also flowing from one to the other. While transitional sentences aren’t always necessary if they don’t provide any additional information, be sure that each section forwards the “story” and works with the post’s purpose as a whole.
Do a Ton of Research
As you sit down begin to write the post and fill in each section, it’s important to both have research ready before and during the process. Beforehand, look for academic studies or industry research that you can shape specific points around that further what you are trying to say. Then, as you are writing, use a second monitor or an open browser tab to look for reputable sources that can back up your points. These sources can provide more information on what you mentioned, just like the Buffer blog post does in the above link, for my point about researching for blog posts.
Conversely, you can use outside sources to prove your point by providing links to specific statistics. For example, for this post, explaining that blog posts that are longer than 1,500 words get almost 70% more tweets and nearly 23% more Facebook likes, according to QuickSprout, is a great way to reinforce my point that spending time creating epic blog posts can help your content strategy and online visibility.
Be sure to use reputable sources, such as published studies, .gov or .edu sources, or thought leaders that are knowledgeable on the topic. Writing your blog posts both around your research and with sourced statistics and points is the only way to create a post that makes an impact.
Ready, Set, Publish!
After you’ve written, edited, and asked for internal or colleague feedback on your post, it’s time to think about publishing it. While most popular bloggers or organizations can publish blog posts at any time of day and still get a lot of traffic, there have been several studies on when is the best time to publish content.
For instance, a Track Maven study found that there is a lot of competition for reader’s attention during the workday, when most blogs and organizations publish their posts. So, it makes sense that their research found that “leisure hours,” which are after 6pm, are “prime for engagement.” Conversely, a KISSMetrics study found that 11am is when the average blog gets the most traffic, and Mondays and Saturdays are the best time for traffic and comments, respectively.
screenshot of KISSMetrics study results taken January 2015
The best way to make this work for your company and content is to experiment with posting times.
Create a Promotional Strategy
Your creation process doesn’t stop once the blog post is published: a promotional strategy is just as important as the blog post itself. Before hitting publish, it’s important to determine:
1. Where your content will be shared or promoted online, both internally and externally
This includes recent post widgets, social media, email newsletters, company intranet, Triberr, message boards, and more.
2. What is shared automatically and what isn’t
Maybe your blog’s RSS feed is set to automatically publish to certain social media networks. For those that aren’t, assign a person and a deadline to who is responsible for manual promotion of the post
3. Ways to rework content to increase its visibility
Could you use the main points from your content to create visual quotes, infographics, or charts that would look great on Pinterest or Facebook? Outline the set process for making your content more visual, which helps its chances of being found online. In addition, could a collection of blog posts be turned into an ebook or white paper? Or, could it be syndicated on a site like Business2Community or LinkedIn Publisher? Consider how your posts could be transformed into other pieces of content.
4. A plan and process for re-sharing
Many social media tools, like Buffer and Edgar, allow you to re-share posts you’ve scheduled on their platform before. Delegate who is responsible for this process, or create a social media editorial calendar that leaves space for consistently re-shares evergreen long-form content.
In order to make the effort and process of epic blog post creation worth it, take the time to plan out your tools, outline, research, visuals, and promotion process ahead of time. This will work in your favor, as it helps generate a streamlined, useful post that will be shared time and time again.
About The Author: Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their businesses. Now as the VP of Marketing at When I Work, he’s applying the tactics and strategies he’s learned and developed over the years to take the company to the next level. Get more exclusive growth tips from Sujan at 100daysofgrowth.com.