It’s a lonely feeling.
You’re with a group of people who are discussing an unfamiliar topic – a topic completely and utterly foreign to you.
So, you smile. You nod your head. You slowly backpedal out of the room so you can Google the foreign topic on your smartphone.
And when you return to the conversation a few minutes later, ready to proudly share the information you just learned, you discover the conversation has switched to a different esoteric topic.
You want to scream, but all you can do is smile, nod your head, and begin the dance anew.
When you’re new to blogging, most resources and “how to” posts can make you feel the same way.
You’ll see an intriguing headline promising to teach you something new. Excited, you’ll click on it and start reading. However, your excitement quickly fades.
“What the heck is this blogger talking about?” you’ll mutter under your breath.
You skip ahead to the comments section hoping to connect with other, equally-confused individuals. Alas, everyone else seems to know exactly what’s going on.
This only makes you feel worse.
“What language are these people speaking?” you’ll wonder aloud. “I don’t understand any of this!”
Trust me – it’s not you.
We experienced bloggers forget there was a time when “this” was all foreign to us. A time when we didn’t have it all figured out (like we pretend we do now). A time when we were newbie bloggers.
Heck, I’m as guilty of this as anyone…
I am reading all your tips, but there is one flaw in your approach. You assume your readers know what you are talking about! This reader does not.” – My Mom
Thanks for the Email, Mom
Most bloggers writing today long ago moved beyond the basics. “How do I add an image” and “how to start a blog” have been replaced with questions related to on-page SEO and getting more email subscribers.
That’s why when you search “how to write a blog post” on Google, you don’t get beginner-friendly results.
You get wonderful posts from amazing sources in your results, yes, but they’re posts designed for readers who already know a thing or two about blogging.
They’re not designed for you. They’re not designed for my Mom. They’re not designed for new bloggers who need the information most.
Let’s remedy this. Shall we?
Finding Your Unique Voice as a Blogger / Choosing a Topic / Types of Blog Posts / Choosing a Title
Technical Mumbo Jumbo
The Formatting Toolbar / Visual Editor and Toolbar Toggle / Bold, Italics, Strikethrough, Underline, and Font Color / Lists and Blockquotes / Text Alignment / Hyperlinks and ‘More’ Button / Headings, Paragraph, Address, Preformatted / Paste, Undo, Redo, and Keyboard Shortcuts / Decrease and Increase Indent / Add a Photo (aka Add Media)
Getting Started: How to Write a Blog Post
This article will walk you through the entire process of writing a blog post. It’ll discuss the steps in choosing a topic, publishing the post, and “all the technical mumbo jumbo” in between.
WordPress will be used for our examples, but the concepts are the same regardless of the blogging platform you use.
Lots of screenshots will be provided (since they’re said to be worth a thousand words), and lots of links will be included to other great, helpful resources.
The question is…
Can you handle it?
At 10,273 words, reading this article in its entirety will require strength, stamina, and determination.
It won’t be easy. Distractions will be plentiful. Children, spouses, and co-workers will likely interrupt you on numerous occasions. Squirrels will inevitably do something cute outside your office window. New cat videos will most assuredly be uploaded to YouTube.
But for those special few who can focus, who can read the article and learn everything it has to share, great things are possible.
Let’s get started.
Finding Your Unique Voice as a Blogger
Before getting into the mechanics of blogging, let’s step back for a moment and discuss a mistake I see many bloggers – new and old – routinely make when they sit down to write a blog post.
(If you want to jump ahead to the mechanics, click here to go the next section.)
The blogosphere is a lot like being trapped in an elevator with actors Jack Nickolson, William Devane, and Christian Slater. If you close your eyes, everyone sounds the same.
We bloggers write the same way. We cover the same topics. We use the same plugins. We follow the same advice, we kiss up to the same influential bloggers, and we all part our hair to the left (I’m assuming).
We’re followers. We do what we see the leaders in our field are doing. If Darren Rowse, Pamela Wilson, and Jon Morrow started writing “you know what I’m saying” at the end of every paragraph, bloggers everywhere would begin doing it, too. You know what I’m saying?
Why do we do this?
Well, we’re conditioned to behave this way.
When you’re young, standing out is oftentimes the most embarrassing thing imaginable. You’re rewarded for conforming, so you dress the same way as your friends, listen to the same music they do, and say the same silly expressions they say.
This conditioning continues when you reach adulthood.
Companies usually don’t hire the guy wearing the super comfy and sensible sweatpants – they hire one of the dozen guys wearing a black suit.
Pretty girls usually don’t go for the guy with the blue Mohawk – they go for one of the million guys with “the businessman” haircut.
But here’s the thing…
Blending into the crowd can only take you so far.
Lady Gaga started playing the piano at age 4, wrote her first ballad at 13, and began performing when she was only 14. And yet, no one paid her a lick of attention until she started dressing like an alien from outer space.
You (probably) won’t have to wear a dress made out of plastic bubbles to succeed as a blogger. But you are going to have to separate yourself from the crowd. You’re going to have to be that one gray suit in a sea of black. You’re going to have to find your voice.
The Importance of Uniqueness
The trap many bloggers fall into is we believe if we write just like a popular blogger, we’ll be popular, too.
Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, but in blogging it’s a no-win proposition. Even if you succeed, you’re still a poor man’s version of someone else.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to remind people of someone else. I want to be the someone else.
God made each of us unique.
There might be billions of people on the planet, but there is only one you. You have unique DNA. Your hopes, thoughts, and dreams are unique. Even the face you make when you accidentally walk into a spider web is unique.
It’s time to tap into what makes you… well, you.
Need help? Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
#1. Stop Reading Other Blogs for a Little While
I know this seems counter-intuitive, and believe me I’d love it if the answer to finding your unique voice could be found by reading my blog and joining my email list, but first you need to clear your head of influences. (THEN you can join my email list!)
Stop reading Jon Morrow for a day or two. Stop reading Pamela and Darren. Stop reading your favorite blogs.
Because it’s difficult to find your voice when you keep hearing theirs.
Think about it. If you were a musician about to record an album, and you kept listening to someone else’s album over and over, don’t you think it would influence the music you create?
So, clear your head.
Then you can start writing.
#2. On Paper, Write Down as Many Details About Yourself As You Can
Don’t hold back. Need an example? My list might look something like this…
I’m a writer. I’m a micromanager. I’m funny. I simultaneously wonder sometimes if I’m putting my graduate degree to good use, and if I should have kept going until I got a doctorate. I’m a sinner. I’m a believer. I love my wife. I enjoy teaching. I know a lot about blogging. I have a full head of hair. I worry I just jinxed myself by saying I had a full head of hair…
Most of what you write won’t be germane to blogging. However, a clear picture will eventually develop.
For example, I’m a writer who likes to teach and make people laugh. Also, my hair might be falling out soon.
Highlight with a marker the key, applicable details you wrote down. Whenever you write, at least one or two of these highlights should shine through in your writing.
#3. Audibly Review the Will Ferrell Movie “Elf” While Someone Takes Notes for You
No, it doesn’t have to be “Elf.” It doesn’t have to be a movie. It doesn’t even have to be a review.
The idea is to pick a topic you know fairly well, and talk about it while a friend writes down the words and phrases you use.
At a basic level, finding your unique voice as a blogger means finding a way to incorporate the things you say into the things you write.
If you read aloud something you wrote, and a friend can’t answer “yes” to the “does this sound like me” question, try the following trick used by English teachers:
Forget what you wrote. Ramble about the topic out loud while someone takes notes for you. Take their notes, memorize them, and begin sprinkling a few of your common words and phrases throughout the blog post you wrote.
After doing this, read your post aloud for your friend again. I guarantee they will say “yes” to your question.
Why does finding your unique voice matter?
It matters because you have a perspective which can’t be found anywhere else. If you don’t share it, who will?
John Lee Dumas can’t share it. Neither can Jeff Goins or Chris Garrett. Jon, Pamela, and Darren can’t share it either.
Only you can share it.
Finding your voice as a blogger is important because the alternative is depriving the world of something special, precious, and unique…
The world already has a Chris Brogan, Joanna Wiebe, and Blaine Wilkerson. What it needs is [your name]. It’s time you shared you with the world.
Ready to write a blog post that doesn’t look, sound, and smell like thousands of other posts that came before it?
If so, let’s push forward…
Choosing a Topic
Do you already know what you’re going to write about?
Great! You’re ready for the next step.
However, if you’re pondering what you want to write about, or you want to learn how you can find topics to write about in the future, keep reading.
If your blog is a personal one (meaning you write about your own life), you’re in luck. You’re surrounded by inspiration!
If it’s related to your world, it’s blogging material. For example, you could write about…
- Your loved ones
- Your job
- Your recent trip to the torture chamber known as “the shopping mall”
- The time you went to work wearing mismatched socks
- The time you gave your boss head lice
Really, the possibilities are endless.
Still need more ideas?
Try an online topic generator.
HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator allows you to enter up to three nouns, and it will generate several blog topics on which you could write.
Entering “jogging,” “running” and “sore feet” in the available fields generates the following potential topics:
- “10 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Jogging”
- “How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Running”
- “Why We Love Sore Feet (And You Should, Too!)”
- “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Jogging”
- “10 Quick Tips About Running”
Is it perfect? No. Capable of sparking an idea? Absolutely.
Another option is the Content Idea Generator by Portent.
Unlike HubSpot’s, Portent’s tool allows you to enter one word. This is the subject of your potential post.
However, you can get a seemingly-unlimited list of options for your subject by clicking the reload button.
An added bonus of content generators like HubSpot’s and Portent’s is, with a little tweaking, they can give you titles for your blog posts. We’ll discuss titles a bit later.
Here are a few more tips for discovering topics:
- Read the newspaper
- Watch TV
- Go for a walk
- Browse Facebook and see what your friends and family are discussing
- Read comments people have left on other posts you’ve written (if applicable)
So, feeling better about picking topics for your blog?
Great! Let’s move on…
For More On Choosing Topics, Check Out:
- 19 Blog Post Ideas to Spark Your Creativity and Inspire Your Writing by Henneke Duistermaat
- 101 Blog Post Ideas That Will Make Your Blog “HOT” by Mike Wallagher
- How to Choose a Topic for Your Next Blog Post by Darren Rowse
- How to Decide What to Blog About by Amy Lynn Andrews
- 4 Simple Ways to Choose the Best Blog Topics for Your Audience by Neil Patel via HubSpot
Types of Blog Posts
Think of blog posts like they’re movies.
You have documentaries. You have shorts. You have action-packed blockbusters. You have comedies. You have dramas, westerns, musicals, sci-fi, thrillers, and whatever the heck Nicolas Cage is doing these days.
The type of movie goes a long way to determine who its audience will be.
Want to make a lot of money? Make an action movie. Want to win awards? Make a musical.
The types of blog posts you can write are almost as endless. And, like movies, their type plays a major role in determining who will want to read it.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of blog posts you can write. If you want to skip this part and go to the next section, click here.
Instructional posts (tutorials, how-to’s)
This is why Al Gore invented the Internet when he was a small boy (he writes sarcastically).
To allow people to share information. To let them teach others. To provide individuals the means to learn how to do something new.
When someone reads a how-to or a tutorial, they’re not doing so by accident. There is something they want to learn, so they find a blog post promising to teach it to them.
When you write an instructional post, you’re filling an information gap.
There is something you know others do not. You teach them what you know.
Examples of instructional posts:
- More Email Optin Ideas Than You Can Eat! (And Some You Never Heard Of) by Ashley Faulkes
- How To Drive Traffic with Your Outdated Content by Ana Hoffman
- How to Convert Pinterest Visitors to Subscribers by Jeni Elliott
- Blogger Outreach: How To Get Influencers To Generate More Traffic by Tor Refsland
- How To Get A High-Traffic Blog, Even If You’re Blogging Solo by Julie Neidlinger
- How to Create Cornerstone Content that Skyrockets Your Authority by Ahmed Safwan
- Expanded Guest Post: How to 100x the effectiveness of your next guest post by Bryan Harris
Oh, and the post you are reading right now?
It’s also an example of an instructional post.
List posts are easy to spot by their titles.
See if you notice a pattern in the following examples…
Examples of list posts:
- 21 Beginner-Friendly Tips for Landing Freelance Writing Jobs by Smart Blogger
- 5 “Five-Minute or Less” Blogging Tips That Yield Big Results by Pat Flynn
- 20 Rules for Writing So Crystal Clear Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand by Glen Long
- 5 Reasons I Still Use CommentLuv by Kristi Hines
- 15 Pro Blogging Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know by Dominique Jackson
- 13 Quick Tricks to Drive Traffic to Your Blog in Minutes by Pooja Lohana
- 25 Smart Ways To Increase Your Blog Comments by Neil Patel
As you can see, the titles of list posts follow a distinct pattern.
15 tips… 20 rules… 5 reasons… 16 ways… 7 ideas… 61 excuses…
The idea may seem overly simplistic, but blog readers love list posts. It’s also, for many bloggers, the easiest type of post to write.
Little wonder list posts are arguably the most popular type of post.
Resource posts (roundups, list of links)
It’s easy to confuse list posts and resource posts due to their similarities.
Both may have a numbered list. The difference is a resource post curates the content of others, while a list post is primarily your own, original content.
For example, Top blog quotes by 101 amazing bloggers is an example of a resource post. It’s in a list format, yes, but rather than supplying my own content I am curating the content of other bloggers.
However, 22 ridiculously easy blog tips you can use right now is an example of a list post. It’s in a list format, and the content I provide is my own.
(None of this is to suggest resource posts are “easy” to do. You may be curating the work of others, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A good resource post can take longer to put together than a regular post, in fact.)
Your head is spinning right now. Isn’t it?
The good news is it really doesn’t matter if you confuse list posts with resource posts.
Whatever you call them, resource posts are very versatile.
You can collect and share websites you enjoy, quotes you find inspiring, or tools you believe are super useful. Some bloggers do weekly roundups of posts they’ve enjoyed from other bloggers.
The applications are numerous.
Examples of resource posts:
- 43 Experts Share Their Top Tips To Grow Your Online Presence by Adam Connell
- 15 Top Bloggers Reveal How They Make Money Blogging! by Enstine Muki
- 10 Top Bloggers Reveal Secrets Behind Their Author Bio by Tom Hunt via UK Linkology
- What Seriously Makes People Unsubscribe From Your Email List? by Pauline Cabrera
- The best RSS Reader / Aggregator by Bauke Roesink
- 125 Marketing Quotes from Top Bloggers by Uttoran Sen
Reviews are a fun type of post to write.
You can review movies, television shows, an appliance you recently purchased, a restaurant, or any other random whatever.
The kind of reviews you write will depend on the type of blog you own.
Again, if your blog is a personal one, you can review anything you desire.
But if you have a movie blog, for example, reviewing a car won’t make a lot of sense to your readers.
(Unless it’s a review of a car in a movie, of course.)
Examples of review posts:
- First look at the new Syracuse University mobile app by Anthony Rotolo
- OptinMonster Review: A Platform For Rapid Email List Growth by Adam Connell
- Switching Away from Disqus Review – Increased Comments by 304% by Syed Balkhi
- Reviewing WooCommerce Memberships by Chris Lema
Still with me? We’ll run through the last few quickly!
As a new blogger, you’re unlikely to create your own videos and publish them to the web any time soon. However, inserting a video you find online into your post is certainly doable!
With video posts, you can place YouTube videos into your posts as an accompaniment to your text content.
So, as an example, if you were reviewing the TV show “NewsRadio,” you could include in your review YouTube clips of the show.
We’ll cover inserting YouTube videos a bit later in the tutorial.
What’s an infograph? Here are a few examples:
- Why Every Business Should Blog [Infograph] by Neil Patel
- How To Increase Your Blog Traffic (Infographic) by Sue Anne Dunlevie
- Tips & Tools For Creating Infographics by Creative Meerkat
- 3 Reasons You’re Not Getting a Positive ROI From Infographics by Brittany Bullen
Basically, an infograph is an image used to represent information.
Don’t know how to create an infograph? Don’t worry. You can find great infographs online and embed them into your blog posts – just make sure you cite the source and give credit to the author.
You will want to write a paragraph, two, or three of text so the infograph makes sense to your readers, of course.
Blogs allow us to channel our inner Walter Cronkite.
Bloggers interview other bloggers all the time. It’s a way to help each other out (through cross promotion), and it’s a great way to help others see you as an authority (if someone interviews you, you must be important, right?).
Plus, interviews are fun!
Intimidated? Don’t be intimidated.
Whew! We’re done with this section. Let’s move on to the next one, shall we?
For More On Choosing Types, Check Out:
- 73 Types of Blog Posts That Are Proven to Work by Kevin Gates via OptinMonster
- 12 Types of Blog Posts to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog by Rich Brooks via Social Media Examiner
- 7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work by Brian Clark
Choosing a Title
Your title (also referred to as headline) needs to grab the attention of your readers.
However, it should be relevant to your topic.
Post Foods may be able to call its breakfast cereal “Grape-Nuts” despite the fact it contains neither grapes nor nuts, but the title of your blog post should make sense.
Your title should make readers want to read the first word, sentence, and paragraph of your post. If it accomplishes this, you have crafted a good title.
So, how do you write a good title that accomplishes such feats of strength?
The two online topic generators we discussed earlier should have given you some clues. Here are some of the ways a title can be good:
They ask questions which beg to be answered. Examples:
- 7 Reasons Why Coaxing a 4 Inch Cockroach from my Bathroom in Fiji Made Me a Better Blogger by Ryan Biddulph
- Is a Secret Obsession With Being Special Costing You Friends? by Katharine Di Cerbo
- How Do Blog Comments Help Your Blog’s SEO? by Lisa Sicard
They promise something of value to the reader. Examples:
- Everything You Need to Know About Blogger Outreach by Will Blunt
- How To Create An Email Opt-In Offer Your Dream Customers Will Love by Sally Ann Miller
- How To Build Authority Online by Scott Taft
- How To Effectively Use Social Proof To Your Advantage To Convert More Visitors by Andrew Warner
- How to Use Pinterest to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog by Charlene Kingston
They are fun. Examples:
- Freddy Krueger of Blogging: How to Write Highly Successful Guest Posts in under 2 Hours by Ana Hoffman
- Does This Mean I Can’t Do Insanity Anymore? by Kate Erickson of Entrepreneur on Fire
- How To Promote an Unsexy Article (and boost shares 252.4%) by Jason Quey
They stir the pot and aren’t afraid to step on people’s toes. Examples:
- The World’s Worst Blogging Advice by Adrienne Smith
- 11 Ways to Lose Friends and Alienate People on Google+ by Ryan Hanley
- I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry by Tim Soulo via Ahrefs
- Why Nobody Reads Your Blog Posts (and What To Do About It) by Tom Southern
They use buzz words like “free”, “cheap”, and “best.” Examples:
- 99 Ways to Promote Your Blog For Free by Jason Mathes
- The Best Plugins to Start a WordPress Blog by Ashley Faulkes
- How I Got 532 Subscribers in 43 Days Using Cheap Facebook Ads by Mary Fernandez
Each of these examples bring a little somethin’, somethin’ to the table.
(Do you need to write your title before writing your post? Not necessarily. Do what works for you. I would suggest at least having a working title for your post before you begin writing it.)
So, do you think you are you ready to write a great title that captures your readers’ attention and makes them want to read what you’ve written?
Let’s keep going…
For More On Choosing Titles, Check Out:
- 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work by Brian Clark
- How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog by Darren Rowse
- Can You Resist Clicking These 3 Headlines? by Jerod Morris
- The Formula for a Perfect Headline by Neil Patel
Writing content: Overview
According to Neil Patel (as well as many other knowledgeable bloggers), blog posts should follow a very predictable (but very effective) pattern:
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3, etc.
- Closing with CTA (call to action)
Seems pretty straightforward, right?
Now let’s look at each part of this pattern…
Writing your intro
Okay, so you’ve picked a title sure to draw in readers like a moth to a flame.
Now it’s time to keep the momentum going.
Blogger Mary Jaksch says a good introduction “invites the reader in” and makes them feel welcome.
Bloggers like Jon Morrow begin many of their posts with a question.
Many bloggers will begin their posts with quotes or statistics.
I’m personally fond of beginning posts with an anecdote.
There are many techniques for writing introductions, but the good ones have one thing in common:
They captivate your audience.
Introductions do not exist merely to transport your reader from Point A (your title) to Point B (the body of your post).
They do this, sure, but good introductions are so much more than primitive forms of transportation.
Brian Clark says your introduction should “capture the reader’s imagination and pull them deeper into your content.”
Lofty goal, but doable!
- How to Write Spellbinding Introductions by Shamelessly Copying the Pros by Shane Arthur of Boost Blog Traffic
- 11 Ways to Write an Irresistible Intro to Your Blog Post by Mary Jaksch
- 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang by Brian Clark
- 6 Steps To Writing Captivating Blog Post Intros Every Time by Alicia Rades via Blogging Wizard
Body of Your Post
You’ve picked your topic, chosen what type of post you want to write, and written your intro.
Now it’s time to get to the meat of your blog post… the body.
This one is all on you. Your unique voice, writing style, your thoughts, the way you look at the world… these are things which are distinctly you. Only you can write them!
But don’t worry, I’m happy to offer a few guidelines which have served me well over the years…
Write Short Paragraphs
Large blocks of uninterrupted text are very difficult for readers. Solution? Keep your paragraphs short.
A paragraph consisting of only one, two, or three sentences is quite common in blogging.
I realize this goes against what your writing teachers taught you in school, but trust me: It’s okay to have lots of one-sentence paragraphs in your blog post. Your readers will thank you for them.
Use Heading Tags
We’ll cover heading tags in more detail later in the tutorial, but “use them” is a tip warranting multiple readings. They help Google prioritize your content, and they help organize your content for your readers!
Proofread and Edit
Don’t get into the habit of publishing the first draft of your blog posts.
Proofread them. Make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Look at your sentences with a critical eye, and see if you could rewrite them to make them better.
Give Credit When Credit is Due
If you are quoting something or using an idea you found online, be sure to credit the source and hyperlink to them.
In addition to being the right thing to do, this has the added benefit of potentially getting the attention of the source. They might mention you on Twitter, or even visit your blog and leave you a comment.
Write Long Posts… or Short… Doesn’t Matter, Just Write
If you haven’t already, you’ll eventually ask someone whether it’s better to write long posts or short posts.
Short posts allow you to write more frequently, which depending on whom you ask is either a great or horrible thing.
And long posts, in theory, should take longer to write. Which means you won’t publish posts as frequently, which, again, is either a great or horrible thing depending on the person you’re asking.
Some will tell you short posts help boost your blog’s traffic, while others will say short posts hurt the number of comments and social shares (people sharing your posts on Twitter, Facebook, etc) you receive.
And some have similar, or totally different, thoughts regarding long posts.
It’s a hornet’s nest of a discussion, in other words.
Well, my take doesn’t matter.
I just think you should write.
If that means writing short posts once a day, great.
If that means writing one long post once a week, awesome.
I’ve done it both ways. I’ve gone through stretches where I wrote short, bite-size posts on a frequent basis, and I’ve written behemoth posts like the one you’re reading now.
Once you’ve learned the ropes on blogging, please do analyze your publishing habits and see if there are tweaks you can make.
Maybe you’ll discover long posts work better for you. Maybe you’ll discover short posts fit your writing style and your audience better.
Maybe, like me, you’ll discover both can work.
But right now?
You’re in the home stretch! All that’s left to do is tie a ribbon on this puppy and you’re finished.
And by “tie a ribbon,” I mean write the greatest closing paragraph (or paragraphs) in the history of blogging!
Pretty easy, right?
Too many bloggers, yours truly included, botch the end of their posts. We’re so happy to be finished, we rush to the Call to Action.
As a new blogger, you need to develop good habits early on. You need to value your closing paragraph as much as your introductory paragraph.
You need to realize your last paragraph is just as important as your first.
So what makes a good closing paragraph? Well, it depends on your particular post.
Maybe your closing needs to kick your readers in the rear and propel them to take action?
Maybe your closing needs to reassure your readers?
Maybe your closing needs to ask a question your readers must answer?
Whatever your post needs, make sure your closing provides it.
To use a sports analogy: Don’t fumble the ball on the one-yard line.
- A Rabble-Rouser’s Rules for Writing Kick-Ass Closing Paragraphs by Henneke Duistermaat via Copyblogger
Call to action
Your post is complete! Time to sit back and relax with a glass of orange juice, right?
Have you given your readers a call to action?
Well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this.
Let me ask you a question: What do you want readers to do after reading your post?
Do you want them to leave you a comment?
Follow you on Twitter?
Sign up for your mailing list?
Whatever it is you want your readers to do, tell them to do it.
Don’t assume they’ll know you appreciate comments. Or really hope to be friends on Twitter. Or to grow your mailing list.
It’s time to publish your post!
Aren’t you excited? Well, I’m excited.
Let’s look at the details you should know when publishing a post…
To the right of your writing area, you will notice a section for “Categories.”
When you first start WordPress, you will have one category available to you: Uncategorized.
You can edit categories (add them, delete them, rename them, etc) by going to POSTS in your WordPress Dashboard and selecting CATEGORIES.
However, you can also add new categories on the fly while writing your post!
Click the “+ Add New Category” link and you’ll be able to create a new category. WordPress even allows a hierarchical order, so if you want your new category to be a “child” of an existing category you may do so.
“But what is a category,” you ask?
Categories are broad groupings for your posts.
Need an example?
Let’s say you have a blog for reviewing movies, television shows, etc on Blu-ray.
You could have a primary category called “Reviews”, and you could have “child” categories like:
And for non-review posts, you could have another parent category called “Announcements” or “News.”
So, if you were reviewing “Field of Dreams,” you would put it inside the “Movies” category.
If you review the TV miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” you would mark it as “TV.”
And if you wanted to write a post about Kevin Costner being cast in a new movie, you would mark it in the “Announcements” or “News” category you created.
A post can be marked for multiple categories, but it has to be in at least one.
Don’t worry. If you forget to select a category, your post will be marked in your default category.
(Your default category is your first category, which is “Uncategoried” or whatever you chose to rename it.)
“Okay, but what are tags?!”
If categories describe your posts in broad terms, tags describe them in more detail.
So, continuing our “Blu-Ray review blog” example from earlier, the movie “Forrest Gump” would go in the “Movie” category.
However, you can give it tags such as:
- Tom Hanks movies
- Oscar-winning movies
By adding tags, you are better connecting your related posts.
Without tags, “Forrest Gump” and “Turner and Hooch” would only be related by both being in the “Movies” category. But with tags, they’re also connected by the “Tom Hanks movies” and “Comedy” tags.
How detailed you want to be with your tags is entirely up to you. And you can also go back later and add new tags to a post if you like.
Note: While your post must be in at least one category, it does not have to be in any tags. So if you don’t add a tag to it, WordPress will not add a tag for you.
Edit your URL
By default, once you click the “Save Draft” or “Publish” button WordPress will make the end of your URL whatever the title of your post happens to be.
So, if you wrote a post titled “20 reasons Kevin Costner is the greatest actor in the world,” WordPress would turn the end of your URL to “20-reasons-kevin-costner-is-the-greatest-actor-in-the-world” (but without the quotes).
This is a pretty long URL.
So, if you wanted to shorten it (or you just wanted to customize it), you could click the “Edit” button.
Be sure to separate your words with dashes. Also, only use numbers and letters. Keep it simple.
Publish your post
Let’s look at each area of the screenshot.
WordPress will automatically save your changes every so often. However, clicking the “Save Draft” button periodically is a good idea.
If you want to see what your post looks like so far, clicking the “Preview” button will open it in a new tab/window.
The status of your post can be one of several. For most of your blogging needs, it will come down to two:
If the status is “Draft,” it means you haven’t published it yet and no one (but you) can see it.
If the status is “Published,” it means it’s visible to the world.
You have three options:
- Password protected
“Public” is what most all of your posts will be, and your post is marked public by default.
However, if you want to allow only certain individuals to read a post, you can password protect it. Only readers who have the password you enter will be able to view it.
Finally, you can set a post to private. This means it’s published, but the only person who can see it is you.
How many times have you clicked “Save Draft” or “Update” is reflected in the number of revisions.
My number is usually quite large!
By default, your posts are set to “Publish immediately.”
However, if you click the “edit” button, you can choose a different date for publishing (either in the past or future).
If you set the publish date for some time in the future, your post becomes “scheduled.”
And when this scheduled time arrives, WordPress will publish your post for you.
This is very handy if you have written a post before going away on vacation, but you want it to publish several days later.
You will only see this option if you use the WordPress SEO plugin I use. In other words, don’t worry about it.
When you are ready to publish your post, click the “Publish button.”
Once your post is published, you will see the status changed to “Published,” the “Publish…” changed to “Published on” followed by the date and time, and the Publish button itself change to an “Update” button.
If you make any changes to your post in the future, click the “Update” button to make those changes appear on your blog.
And that’s it. You did it!
You published your post!
Ok, but how do I…
(The technical mumbo jumbo)
If you’re anything like my Mom, this entire time you’ve probably been thinking:
That’s great, Kevin, but how do I actually write a post? Where do I go?? What button do I click?!“
It’s time to dive into some of the technical aspects of writing a blog post.
Up first? The formatting toolbar…
The formatting toolbar
If you’re familiar with Microsoft Word or Open Office, you should be familiar with a few of the buttons on the formatting toolbar.
Let’s briefly go over the key ones. Those which require emphasis will be discussed further a bit later.
Visual Editor and Toolbar Toggle
By default, you will be writing your posts in WordPress’s Visual editor. Unless you are familiar and comfortable with HTML code, you shouldn’t use the Text editor.
The pretty buttons you see in the image above will go away and, depending on what you have written, you will see HTML code sprinkled throughout your blog post.
If all this sounds Greek to you, just remember one thing: Stay in the Visual editor.
At least for this tutorial, you’ll want to be able to view all the formatting options available to you.
To show all the options (including underlining, changing the font color, and the undo button), click the Toolbar Toggle button. Conversely, you can click the button again to make the extra options go away.
Bold, Italics, Strikethrough, Underline, and Font Color
Bold and Italics
You don’t want to overuse them, but making a word or sentence bold (like this) or italics (like this) can help important parts of your content stand out.
Another way to highlight your text is to strike a line through,
This button lets you underline a word or group of words, like I’m doing here.
Use it sparingly. Readers are conditioned to associate underlined words as hyperlinks. If you are underlining words which aren’t links, your readers could become confused. Similarly…
If you want to change the color of a word, you can use the highlighted button.
Just please don’t overuse this. In fact, feel free to never use it.
However, if you do use it, make certain you don’t change any words to the same color your blog uses for hyperlinks.
In other words, if hyperlinks on your site are the color red, don’t make other text (which aren’t links) red. It will confuse your readers.
Lists and Blockquotes
Bulleted (aka unordered) list
If you have a series of short points to make, using a bulleted list is a great way to do it.
- Here is my first point
- Second point
- Third point
A bullet list is an unordered list, which means there is no hierarchical order. Each item has the same bullet to the left of it.
Numbered (aka ordered) list
On the other hand, numbered lists (also called ordered list) do have a hierarchical order. Here is what they look like:
- My first numbered point
- My second point
- My third point
The blockquote is a super handy formatting option when you’re writing a blog post.
If you have a quote or piece of text you want to emphasize or set apart, highlighting the text and clicking the blockquote button will give you the following:
(Superheroes) can disappear for months or years and then burst back onto the scene with a climactic display of their impressive powers. Okay for superheroes, not okay for your content. It might feel boring and constraining, but publishing consistently brings results.” – Amy Harrison
How blockquotes are styled is different from one WordPress theme to another, so yours will probably look different.
By default, your writing is going to be left-aligned. What this means is your text starts at the left-most margin of your display area. This is an example.
If you want to center your text, the “Align Center” button will do it for you. This is an example.
If you want push your text to the right-most margin, use the “Align Right” button. This is an example.
To duplicate the look you find in books, where the beginning of a line touches the left-most margin and the end of the line touches the right-most margin, use the “Justify” button. If you write long paragraphs, Justify can offer a nice, pleasing look to your text. This is an example.
Hyperlinks and More button
If you want to add a hyperlink to your post (which will take the user to a different web page when they click on it), highlight the text you want to turn into a link.
Next, click the “Insert/Edit link” button you see highlighted. It will look like chain.
You will be shown a popup similar to the following:
In the “URL” field, enter the address you want users to be taken to when they click on your link.
In the “Title” field, enter the text you want to display when the user hovers over your link. For example, if you were linking to BeABetterBlogger.com, an appropriate title would be “Be A Better Blogger” or “The Blog That Changed My Life.”
Checking the box with the label “Open link in a new window/tab” will do exactly what it says. If you leave it unchecked, when a user clicks your link the destination address will replace your blog. Effectively, the reader will have left your blog.
However, by checking the box, the destination will open in a new window or tab, leaving your blog in its existing window or tab (and making it easier for your reader to return to your blog).
Clicking the “Add Link” button will complete the process.
If you need to edit your link, click the linked text in your WordPress Visual Editor, and re-click the “chain” button.
If you want to remove a hyperlink, click anywhere inside the linked text in your Visual Editor, and click the “Remove link” button.
Insert ‘Read More’ tag
If you want only the first part of your post to be displayed on your blog’s home page or archive pages (as opposed to the entire post), use the “Insert Read More tag” button.
When you do this, a link will be placed directly after your excerpt text, which will take your reader to the full post once they click it.
To use it, place your cursor where you would like your text to stop. A common place would be after your first paragraph, or after your introduction.
Then click the “Read More” button.
Headings, Paragraph, etc. formatting
Throughout this tutorial, I’ve been using different headings to break up my text.
Have you noticed the larger, bold text used to introduce each new section? Those are headings.
I add them by typing the words (such as “The formatting toolbar”), highlighting the words, and choosing “Heading 2” in the drop-down box highlighted in the image.
There is a hierarchy with the “Heading” elements, with Heading 1 being most important and Heading 6 being least. Here is how they look:
Please note: Your particular WordPress theme could have different sizes for each of these headings.
I omitted displaying “Heading 1” because you really shouldn’t use Heading 1 tags within the body of your blog posts. There should be only one instance of Heading 1, and that is your blog post’s title at the top of the page. (Your theme will use a Heading 1 tag for your title for you, so there is no extra steps you need to take.)
Beyond improving the readability of your post by breaking up chunks of text, heading tags help search engines like Google. Your title (hopefully) describes what your post is about, so you don’t want it competing with other Heading 1 tags for Google’s attention.
(This is one of those on-page SEO things I mentioned earlier. Don’t dwell on it, just know Heading tags have benefits which go beyond readability.)
- The heading structure for your blog by Joost de Valk of Yoast
- The Ultimate Guide to Writing Irresistible Subheads by Gary Korisko
The “paragraph” formatting element is used for most of your post’s text. It’s the “normal text” you see when reading a sentence such as this one, and you can add additional elements like bold and italics by clicking the appropriate buttons on the formatting toolbar.
The “address” formatting option is for, you guessed it, displaying mailing addresses. It italicizes the text and pulls the lines closer together. Honestly, I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years and I’ve never once needed to use this particular option.
The “pre” formatting option is commonly used when you need to display code inside your blog post. Keep it in mind if you have such a need, but a majority of bloggers won’t ever need it.
Paste, Undo, Redo, and Keyboard Shortcuts
Paste as text
If you have copied text from somewhere else (another web page, a Microsoft Word document, etc) and you would like to place it within your blog post, the “Paste as text” button is your solution.
When you’ve clicked and activated it (you will see a border appear around the button), you will now be able to paste the text your copied without inserting any strange formatting. You’ll be inserting the text and only the text.
With your cursor placed where you would like the text to go (and with “Paste as text” activated), paste your text using one of the following methods:
- CTRL + V (While holding down the CTRL key on your keyboard, press the V key)
- Right-click your mouse and choose the “Paste” option
Note: Copy and Paste works differently on tablets and smartphones.
If you accidentally make a mistake, such as deleting an entire paragraph, the undo button will be your best friend. Click it and your previous action, whatever it may have been, will be undone.
You can undo several previous actions if needed.
If you need to cancel an “undo” action, click the redo button.
So, for example, if you accidentally clicked the undo button and the paragraph you’ve just written disappears, clicking “redo” should bring it back to you.
Want to learn keyboard shortcuts, such as CTRL + V and CTRL + C? Click the keyboard shortcuts button and you’ll be presented with a list of handy shortcuts you can use for when the need arises.
Decrease and Increase indent
If you are using a bullet or numbered lists, you can increase or decrease the indention of those lists. For example:
- This is a point I’m making in a bullet list
- Here is a sub-point I’m making
- And here is a point I’m making in a numbered list
- And here is a sub-point
This comes in especially handy with longer lists.
Add a Photo (aka Add Media)
Sometimes, as my friend Will Hoekenga likes to say, words fail to do justice. Sometimes, you need to add images to your post to really paint a picture for your readers.
That’s why it’s necessary to learn how to insert photos into your blog posts.
Let’s say you wanted to insert an image of an adorable kitten.
Where do you go?
What do you do?
Don’t worry, it’s really easy!
First, you need to click the “Add Media” button you see highlighted in the example image above.
After clicking “Add Media” button you’ll see…
(If you have trouble viewing the image clearly, click it to see a larger version.)
1. Media Library
By default, you’ll see the “Media Library” tab. This displays all the photos you have already uploaded to WordPress.
2. Upload files
If you want to insert an image saved to your computer, this is the tab you’ll want to select.
3. Photos already in Media Library
If you haven’t uploaded any photos yet, this will be empty. However, assuming you’ve uploaded photos in the past, you will see all of them here.
4. Insert photo from URL
Be careful with this one.
If you have images stored on another blog you own, for example, you could grab the URL of the image, click the “Insert from URL” link in the above image, and paste your image link.
This would be fine.
However, don’t use a URL belonging to someone else! This is called hotlinking, and you’re stealing bandwidth from the owner of the image.
In short, if you don’t own the domain where the image is located, don’t link to it.
5. Insert into post
Once you’ve chosen the image you want to use, clicking this button will insert it into your post.
After clicking the “Upload Files” tab you’ll see…
If you’re handy with your computer’s operating system, you could drag one or more images to this window and WordPress will upload them.
Or, you can manually choose images by clicking the “Select Files” button.
After clicking “Select Files” you’ll see…
Find the image you want to use. Click the image and then click the “Open” button.
Note: My images were all stored in my “Downloads” folder. Yours could be on your Desktop, in your Pictures library, or somewhere else entirely.
After selecting image and clicking “Open” you’ll see…
(If you have trouble viewing the image clearly, click it to see a larger version.)
1. Your photo
Once uploaded, your picture will be highlighted (notice the blue border and check mark).
2. Align, link to and size
You will have the following alignment options:
- Left – When selecting this alignment, your image will be to the left of your text
- Right – When selecting this alignment, your image will be to the right of your text
- Center – When centering, your image will be in the center of your content area, and your text will be below it on the following line
- None – Your image will default to the left, and your text will be below it on the following line
You can also make your image be a hyperlink. Options include having the image link to a larger version of itself (which comes in handy when you have a large image forced to be made smaller to fit into your post), and having the image to an entirely different URL such as BeABetterBlogger.com.
Finally, you can choose what size your image will be in your blog post.
If it’s a large image, you can choose “full size”, “medium” size, “small” size, and “thumbnail” size. The smaller your image, the fewer options you will be given.
3. Insert into post
Clicking the “Insert into post” button will place your image wherever your cursor was located.
Congrats! You’ve inserted an image into your blog post!
Frequently Asked Questions
Certain topics didn’t fit elsewhere in the tutorial (or did, but were removed for brevity’s sake).
We’ll go over those here.
How to find links?
“How do I find links to use in my posts? How do I find links to Facebook pages”
No problem! Let’s start with finding a link for a basic webpage.
Finding links for regular pages
What if you wanted to use the URL for this post of mine you’re reading right now? (He writes pretending he’s not wishing and hoping you’ll want to do so.)
Scroll up to the top of the page and look for the following:
(Pay no attention to the hundreds of tabs I have open!)
The highlighted portion is the URL for this post.
Simply highlight, copy it (hold down CTRL and C on your keyboard, or right-click your mouse and select “Copy”), and you’ll be ready to use it in your post.
Find the link to a Facebook page
Guess what? If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, you follow the same steps as above!
Just scroll up to the top of the screen and copy the URL in the address bar.
However, what do you do if you’re using a Facebook app on your tablet or smartphone?
How do you find the link to the Facebook page?
You should see something similar to the attached image.
If you click the “More” button, you should receive an option to “Copy Link” or “Show Link.”
This is the link to the Facebook page.
How to embed YouTube videos?
Okay, let’s say you wanted to embed a YouTube video into your blog post like you see on other blogs.
How do you do it?
Well, let’s walk through how you would embed the following YouTube video from the hilarious-TV-gem-from-the-90s, NewsRadio.
When you view the video on YouTube, beneath it you’ll see info similar to the following:
By default, you will see the “About” info for the video.
Click the “Share” button and you will then see…
First, you’ll see all the different social media files where you could share the video you found. (Keep that in the back of your mind if you want to do this one day.)
We want to click the “Embed” button.
When you click the Embed button you’ll see…
This is where the magic happens.
If you want to change the default video size, you can do so in the available drop-down box. There are other options available to you as well, which you can check on or off.
Once you’re happy with your options, highlight and copy the code like you see in the image above.
Now it’s time to take this code and put it into your blog post.
For the first and only time in this tutorial, we will leave the “Visual Editor” and use the “Text” editor.
Depending on whether or not you have any formatting in your post (bold or italic text, headings, numbered lists, etc) what you see when you click the “Text” editor tab could be confusing.
Fear not! Ignore the odd symbols and focus on the words you understand. Find in the text the location where you want the YouTube video to appear in your post.
Make room by hitting ENTER, if necessary. Then paste your YouTube code.
(Remember: You can paste by holding down the CTRL and V keys on your keyboard, or by right-clicking the mouse and selecting “Paste.”)
And that’s it!
That wasn’t so bad was it?
- Embedding videos and playlists by Google Support
Where to find photos I can use?
Searching Creative Commons images for Flickr is a very handy resource for finding photos for your blog posts.
It’s what I use.
By default, you’ll search for photos whose owners permit their images to be modified and to be used for commercial purposes.
When you find a photo you like, click on it. In the bottom right-corner you’ll see options, including an option to download the image.
Also in the bottom-right corner you’ll see a link to the copyright information.
If it says “Some Rights Reserved,” you’ll be permitted to use is so long as you follow the citation instructions. Typically, all you have to do is provide a link to the source, a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate whether or not you modified the image.
Here’s an example:
It’s time to open a new tab in your favorite web browser.
Depending on whether or not you checked the “Remember Me” option when previously logging into your blog, you might still be logged into your blog’s dashboard.
Go to the following URL:
Change “example.com” to your your blog’s domain.
Now, if you’re already logged in, WordPress will take you to your dashboard. However, if you aren’t, you will be redirected to the login screen.
Whether you registered for a free WordPress.com blog, or you’re self-hosting a WordPress blog, you picked (or were given) a username and password.
Don’t worry, I can help you remember if you’ve forgotten.
If you have a free WordPress.com blog, your username is the same as your domain.
So, for example, if your blog’s domain is peanutbutterfan.wordpress.com, your username is peanutbutterfan.
You can also check your email. When you registered, WordPress should have sent you a welcome email.
If you self-host a WordPress blog, the odds are very good your username is admin.
(For security reasons, “admin” isn’t a good username. But that’s a topic for another tutorial.)
Again, if you’re unsure, you should have been sent an email when WordPress was installed.
Now, as for your password…
What’s my password?
Ideally, the password you selected is one impossible for anyone else to guess.
It should be unique and unlike any of the other passwords you use for email, banking, etc.
And it shouldn’t be written down anywhere, especially on a sticky note adhered to your monitor.
Also, hopefully you remember what it is!
However, never fear if you don’t. Beneath the “password” field on the login page is a link for “Lost your password?”
Clicking it will take you to a page for retrieving your password.
Simply enter your username or the email address you used setting up the WordPress account.
Instructions for resetting you password will be emailed to you.
Once your password has been reset, return to the login screen (using example.com/wp-admin or example.com/login) and log in using your credentials.
That wasn’t so hard. Was it?
Start a new post?
If you’ve never seen or actively used the WordPress dashboard before, you might feel overwhelmed at first.
However, for writing a blog post, all you need to know is where to go to write a post. Thankfully, you have three options.
The “New Post” link in the top-right corner is going to be your easiest option.
You will be taken to the “Add New Post” screen.
Congratulations! You’re ready to write a blog post.
- Master your dashboard by WordPress
Are You Ready to Write a Blog Post?
It can be difficult for new bloggers out there.
So many buttons, so many steps, so many things to remember… it can be quite confusing when it’s all brand new to you!
And what people tend to forget is you could be a blogging novice, but still be a writing savant.
Take my Mom, for example.
Don’t let her quote in the introduction of this post fool you…
My Mom is sharp as a tack.
She’s an amazing, witty writer, too.
She’s new to blogging and the “technical” aspects of it (hence the reason she emailed asking me to teach her how to write a blog post), but this doesn’t change the fact she has writing talent in spades.
You’re probably the same way. You have writing skills, you just don’t have blogging skills.
Don’t let being unfamiliar with all the “technical mumbo jumbo” get you down.
Don’t let any feelings of being overwhelmed discourage you.
Don’t compare yourself, your blog, or your writing to those who have been blogging for years and years.
We all were new bloggers, once upon a time.
Never forget that.