You’ve got your WordPress website with a remarkable domain name. Now comes the really hard part, the writing! Your first post may seem especially difficult because the pressure is on to make a good first impression. Don’t worry though, after reading this step-by-step guide, you should have a good idea of how to write your first blog post and make it SEO-friendly so future fans can see it.
This post covers all the basics of writing your first blog post in ten steps:
- Step 1: Choose a Blog Post Topic
- Step 2: Pick a Post Type
- Step 3: Research
- Step 4: Write Great Content
- Step 5: Create a Call-to-Action
- Step 6: Add Visuals
- Step 7: Assign the Post to a Category
- Step 8: Optimize for SEO
- Step 9: Proofread & Review
- Step 10: Promote Your Post with Email
Step 1: Choose a Blog Post Topic
This goes for all of your blog content, and not just one post, but you should choose a niche subject to write about. The more specific the blog topic the better. This is because you want to appeal to a certain audience that will become a dedicated fanbase. For example, a blog about budgeting is way too broad to find an audience. Narrow it down to budgeting for single moms and you’ll find your following. This is because there is a more personal connection between you and your audience since a specific subject makes it seem like you’re talking to a specific reader.
A narrow focus will also make your content easier to rank on Google. This is because Google measures topical authority, and the more authority your articles have, the higher they rank. It’s easier to establish topical authority with a specific subject than a broad one because it makes research simpler and you can go off of personal experience.
Focusing on long-tail search terms (three words or more), also helps you increase conversions because the search intent is much more clear. Using the budgeting example already mentioned, if a user searches that, you really have no idea what they are looking for. They may have no idea themselves but just want to see what’s out there. However, if someone searches “budgeting apps for couples,” then their search intent is very clear and you can write a really targeted piece of content that answers that query.
Whatever topic you choose, make sure you write about it with a unique “voice.” This will be how you establish yourself alongside your expertise.
Don’t write in an overly formal manner as you would to an authority figure, but don’t try to be funny if humor doesn’t come easily to you. It could take anywhere from five to fifty blog posts before you find your voice, and that’s okay! As long as it sounds authentic and passionate your readers will respond well and keep coming back for more.
Step 2: Pick a Post Type
For a first post, it might be tempting to just write an “about me” type post, but unless this is purely a journal-type blog, you want to save that type of content for your about page.
A good question to ask yourself is what’s the first thing someone new to your niche topic needs to know? Focusing on cornerstone content to start is a great way to come up with some first blog post ideas. So if your post is about Broadway then the first article could be something about the best places to buy tickets to shows.
Think about what kind of post you want to write. This will help you outline and structure your post. Some of the main types of blog posts are:
- Listicles: Listicle is a mashup word that stands for list-articles. Posts like this are popular because they’re easy to read, and they’re easy for new bloggers to write. “10 Ingenious Ways to Trellis Cucumbers” would be a listicle post.
- Rankings: Rankings are a form of listicle, the difference is—you guessed it—they rank something. Typically they include words like “top,” “best,” “greatest,” “ultimate,” etc. Something like “Top 10 Shows on Netflix to Binge Right Now” would be a ranking post.
- Guides and Tutorials: How-to posts, like this one, educate readers on a specific topic with in-depth information. Hint: You’ll want to use the words “how-to,” “guide,” “tutorial,” “instructional,” or something of the like in your post name. Steps, screenshots with annotations and/or captions, infographics, and videos lend themselves really well to guide-type posts.
- Interviews: These usually include an interview with another expert in your niche or they could be a collection of interviews on a particular topic. They can be pretty easy to write since you’re just typing up what your guest said, but make sure you share a few your own insights as well to tie it all together.
- Reviews: Reviews are also on the easier side of the writing spectrum since you’re just talking about your experience with something. Make sure to consider questions others might have on whatever you are reviewing and answer them.
Step 3: Research
Every piece of content should start with keyword research. Keywords are how people find your content through a Google search so find out which ones go with your content and use them accordingly. Some good tools to use for this research are Google Keyword Planner and KWfinder.
First compile a list of “seed” words such as “budget,” “theatre,” and “technology.” The aim is to find “long-tail” keywords that contain three or more words. These usually have a low monthly search volume, but they often also have low competition. As a new blog, long-tail keywords are the only ones you’ll be able to rank for on Google. The “seed” words have high levels of competition so steer clear of those.
Make sure to use synonyms and other related keywords. Google understands closely related terms and this approach is a million times better than keyword stuffing.
You should also do research on your topic. Personal expertise is good but if you want to rank on page one of Google then you have to have the most topical authority in your subject. Google measures the depth of any topic so blog posts that cover a topic more will rise to the top.
Good research means reading the top five posts related to your subject and combining all of their information into your post (in your own words of course). You want to be able to incorporate as much expert knowledge, along with your personal knowledge, so that you can become the go-to source in your subject.
Step 4: Write Great Content
If the research didn’t make you cringe, I know some of you may be freaking at this point. You might be thinking you have great ideas and a lot of passion for your topic, but your writing skills…well, they need work. Not to worry because you’re not writing a novel here.
Writing for an online audience is different. If you can keep it simple (simple doesn’t necessarily mean short by the way), authentic, and answer the question, then you can write really great blog posts.
Each blog post has five key elements: hook, introduction, body, transitional phrases, conclusion.
The hook is the opener. This is the most important part because it’s supposed to “hook” readers into the rest of the post. If your hook is boring then they will exit out of your blog. The hook is often a question because readers try to answer it so you grab their attention easily. Good hooks are short, sometimes shocking or funny, and usually empathetic (the writer seems to know what the reader is feeling).
There are a lot of ways to write an introduction, but a formula that usually works is to present a problem, offer a solution, and make a promise. This works because a lot of people use Google to find solutions to specific problems and people want to know within seconds if your post will be able to help them.
The body is where you present the subtopics of your blog post. Use headings and subheadings to break up the text. Nobody wants to read long blocks of text with no spaces. There are always exceptions to the rules, but generally, short paragraphs with no more than three to four short sentences are ideal.
Transitions between paragraphs are what gives your posts smooth readability. Some examples are:
- You may be wondering…
- Now, here’s the interesting part
- Case in point…
- You’re about to find out…
- Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Finally, your conclusion is where you sum up the article. If it’s a long post you would want to summarize your key points as bullet points.
The last thing you should do is actually the first thing that readers will see: the title. You should write the title last because if you spend too much time thinking of the perfect title you could get writer’s block for your content.
Step 5: Create a Call to Action (CTA)
The end of your post should always contain a call to action (CTA). This is where you would tell the reader to share your post on social media, comment on the article, fill out an opt-in form, or download a content upgrade. Every blog post should have a marketing purpose so that your fanbase can keep growing.
Consider that a CTA is the beginning of a marketing funnel. The funnel leads people to a final action that you want to happen. There are often multiple steps in a marketing funnel. For example, the blog post’s CTA might promote a free guide or ebook that then leads to a sales funnel to sell a paid course on the topic.
Step 6: Add Visuals
Before you publish your blog post, make it visually appealing to the reader. It’s boring to just look at text-based content. Add a featured photo at the top of your post that’s both striking and relevant to your content. If the post is long then you might want to add some graphics to break up the text.
Step 7: Assign the Post to a Category
WordPress posts where no category is designated will default to the Uncategorized category, so make sure to designate the category when creating your post. If you don’t already have a couple of core categories set up, take a moment to do that. When creating categories for your blog content, don’t go overboard—4-8 is a good amount. Assign your post to only one category whenever possible to make it easier for users to find exactly what they need.
Step 8: Optimize for SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is how people find your blog through a Google search. I talked about keywords to obtain SEO but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. There are on-page SEO factors that you should pay special attention to, which I’ll be talking about below, and there are overall or technical SEO factors to consider (like page speed, broken links, redirects, etc). As you get further along in your blogging journey, you are going to want to make yourself more familiar with technical SEO and how it affects your site, but our goal right now is to get your first blog post up so we’ll be looking at some on-page SEO factors you should pay special attention to. These factors are specific to the page itself and it’s ranking as a singular entity.
A great way to optimize your blog posts is to install the free Yoast SEO plugin. (This only works for WordPress blogs.) It’s also very easy to use. All you have to do is follow the prompts until the Yoast indicator turns green.
Embed a Video
Google measures how much time people spend on your blog pages and uses that data as a ranking factor. A video is a good way to keep someone on your site longer. YouTube is the easiest source to embed videos from. We think it’s best for you to create your own video to add to the post.
Add an SEO Title (aka the Title Tag)
When you’re optimizing your article for SEO you need to keep the Google snippet in mind. This consists of the SEO title, the URL of the page, and the meta description.
You can customize your SEO title in the Yoast SEO snippet tool. When the Yoast SEO Title indicator turns green, you have the right number of words in your title. Make sure to include your keyword as close to the beginning of SEO title as you can, to avoid it cutting off if you go over the character limit.
Make sure that your title tag is different than your H1 tag. These two tags are both great opportunities to describe your post for search engines, but the title tag holds more much more SEO weight as it is what shows up in the search engine results page (SERP) when you enter a search query.
Write a Good Meta Description
The meta description is extremely important to your Google ranking. Like your title tag, this is the description that shows up in the search results for your post. You have 160 characters to persuade a Google user that your post is worth clicking on. Include your keyword phrase at the beginning.
To create a compelling meta description use basic copywriting rules: use action words, focus on benefits, and offer a solution to a problem.
Use your Keywords in the URL “Slug”
Don’t worry, no actual slugs are harmed in the making of your post. The slug is the part of your URL that comes after your domain name in a Google search. We recommend using a URL structure where the post name is used as the slug. This structure is optimal because it tells users and search engines what the post is about. Include your keyword (or a variation) when possible. The slug should be as short as possible because Google gives preference to shorter URLs. Before you publish the post, edit out “stop words” that do not contribute to understanding. Often these are articles “a, an, the,” pronouns “he, she, they, them, we, us,” and conjunctions “and, but, or, because, etc.”
Add Links to Relevant Content
Adding internal links within your content is important because it tells search engines what pages are most important and how they are related. Internal links are links to other pages or posts within your site. They also help users find more of the information they really want and need.
External links are links to other websites. When—and better yet, why—would you want to use an external link? External links are important because like internal links, they help the user find more of what they need. You cannot be an expert on everything. Linking to credible sources builds relationships and makes it more likely that others will link back to you. These are called backlinks and they are really important to how Google perceives your website’s authority. The more backlinks you gain from trusted, expert sources, the better your domain will rank. Remember, links should be made to related content. Don’t create random links.
Step 9: Proofread & Review
I know it can be tempting to edit as you write, but try to save this step for the end. Fixing typos and grammar errors as you write can be really distracting and derail your writing flow. Also, be sure to review the entire post to make sure all links work, images are not linking to anything, and that all the formatting looks correct. Feel good about the way your post reads and looks? Take the plunge and hit that publish button!
Step 10: Promote Your Post with Email
You’ve written a great first post, now how do you get people to read it in an email? That’s your next step. Every successful blogger knows the importance of content marketing and having an email list. Your list may be small right now or it may just be your inner circle, but that’s okay! We all have to start somewhere.
The goal is to make your readers click through your emails instead of letting them go unread in their inbox, deleting them, or unsubscribing.
An irresistible email is one that relates directly to a reader’s needs. Get to know your target audience so you can find out what their most pressing questions are and how you can answer them.
The thing you need to deliver in each email is value. If your readers are getting something that they can only get by reading your emails then you’re on the right track.
When you’re consistent in helping subscribers solve their problems and achieve their goals they’ll actually look forward to reading your emails and posts.
Write like a friend, not a stranger who just wants attention and money.
An easy way to get started is to summarize the post in your email. Give your readers enough where they are intrigued and want more, then link to the full post on your website.
If you are on social media you might also want to create a quick Tweet or Facebook post to share your work with the world. Even if that just means starting with friends and family, it’s a way to put yourself out there and start building brand recognition, and who knows, people may even share it.
BONUS – 14 Blog Post Writing Tips & Best Practices
Whoa, you made it all the way to the end! As a reward, you get some really awesome bonus tips. If you like them, you can get all the deets on each one in our course, How to Build a Remarkable Blog.
- Answer one question thoroughly.
- Create a post outline to organize key points.
- Stay true to your brand.
- Write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, and what your readers want to know.
- Use lots of headings for skim readers.
- Break up text with graphics and visual elements.
- Provide concise post summaries.
- Maybe include a video (with captions).
- Don’t forget references, linkbacks, and attributions.
- Recycle old content a little (but not too much).
- Research what your competitors are doing and do it better.
- Create personas and write content specific to helping each of them.
- Write your “evergreen” and “getting started” topics first.
- Add social share buttons. (You only need to do this once by installing and enabling a plugin like Shared Counts.)