At The Copywriting Conference this year, Mez Homayunfard from Online Marketing Gurus spoke about the optimum length for blogs, a length that, statistically, results in more shares and, ultimately, more traffic.
That length he spoke about was 1800 words.
When he said that, I thought of you.
Writing isn’t your thing.
You didn’t go into business to become a writer or a publisher, yet here you are, being told you need to churn out these mega-posts.
Online-marketing pro Neil Patel also recommends that blog posts for most industries come in around 2000 words.
2000 words. Two thoouuussand words.
I know what you’re thinking.
That sounds like a hard slog.
Probably too hard to bother.
The statistics are clear: longer posts perform better (if more readers and more traffic are things you’re aiming for).
The way I see it, if you’re going to bother writing a blog post at all, you might as well give yourself the best possible chance of that blog post being read!
I recommend to my Steal the Spotlight clients that they blog less frequently, usually monthly, but make each blog post longer.
Longer blog posts are more in-depth, more helpful, and have a higher perceived value to their readers.
I know you don’t find writing blog posts (especially long ones) particularly easy or enjoyable. I know that because none of my clients do.
I want to make your blogging life easier.
I asked eight professional copywriters to help me come up with fifteen pro tips to make your blog writing process faster, smoother and hopefully a little less painful!
No, I haven’t switched my career path to productivity coaching, but you and I both know that if you sit down for an hour to write a blog post, you’re going to spend 45 minutes of that time responding to email notifications, scrolling through Facebook, or dealing with any other possible distraction that comes your way.
Set yourself up to write by closing everything on your computer except what you use to write. Get your phone out of the room.
I’ve started using the Pomodoro method this year, which is a time management technique that guides you to work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break.
Apparently it’s based on a kitchen timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), so you could head to the shop and pick yourself up a delightful plastic kitchen timer, which would also nicely satisfy your urge to procrastinate, or you could just use an online timer, like I do.
Twenty-five minutes seems to be a sweet spot, it’s short enough to induce a mild panic to achieve something in that time but long enough that you actually can achieve something and get a sense of satisfaction.
In your five minute break, get away from your blog post. Perhaps do something physical to get your energy levels up (even getting up and walking around helps). Whatever you choose, I recommend it include a change of scene.
There’s probably a nifty quiz that you could take (another tick in the procrastination box) to let you know at what time of day you’re most productive.
Morning, noon, or night. Have a think about it and decide what time of day would be best for you to write. Save your sleepy times for the email replies.
I must add one note to this one however, you can’t let this be an excuse for not writing.
If you’re a morning person but you have small kids (welcome to my world) or a day job, then too bad. You’re just going to have to suck it up and write at the time of day you’re able to.
“It seems obvious, but just start,” says Sydney copywriter Katherine Pranic.
“Stop procrastinating, and get some words onto the page. Simply starting with page headers can begin a trickle of typing that suddenly turns into a burst dam of words.”
For me, this is a bit like going to the gym. Once you get your runners on and get there, chances are you’ll follow through and do the exercise.
It’s the same thing with writing your blog post, once you sit down and start putting some words on paper, chances are you’ll keep going.
Kate Toon talks about getting started typing anything. Type the date, your URL, or put your logo on the page, if you want.
It kind of sounds like procrastination, but it gets the process MOVING, and that’s pretty great.
I’m sure if you were answering a question from a client or customer, rather than writing a blog post, you’d just let the answer and the information flow.
You can do that in your blog post too! Just let the words flow. Be real. ‘Talk’ your words onto the page. If it’s easier, say it out loud and then write it.
Copywriter Andrea Rowe, from Your Coastal Connection, suggests that you forget about trying to be a brainiac in your blog post and, instead, write like you’re having a relaxed Sunday afternoon with friends.
“Write like you’re sharing a conversation at a BBQ, sharing your expertise between the cabana and the chops,” says Andrea.
Don’t worry too much about being ‘correct’.
You’re not going to get marked on this assignment, and providing you’ve got the basics right and your post isn’t riddled with spelling errors, people will be pretty forgiving.
Write in short sentences; use caps, bold, italics. Do whatever you want.
If you’re injecting your personality and giving great information in your blog post, no one will mind about the odd, slightly oddly structured sentence. Like that one.
This is huge.
I think it must be the biggest time-waster for writers. You can type a few words on the page, then, OOPS, need to go tidy that up and tweak a few words here and there.
If you’re switching between being creative and being critical, you’re asking your brain to make huge leaps each and every time.
Self-editing is a big no-no!
I heard an awesome tip to overcome this, at The Copywriting Conference.
Copywriter Bill Harper mentioned to the group that he likes to prevent self-editing by turning off his monitor while he’s writing.
I LOVE THAT!
Your aim, when you sit down to write a blog post, is to GET.IT.OUT. Get that first draft done.
It doesn’t matter how crap it is! Just get it done, tick it off your list and feel the satisfaction.
You’re writing your blog post for a client or a future client, so why not go and have a real conversation with a real human client?!
Pick one that loves your guts, and bliss out on the motivation and inspiration you get from talking with them.
This happens to me all the time. I think, uuurrrgghhhhhh this is so borrrring, everybody knows this stuff and they’ve read it a thousand times this week, it’s so OBVIOUS.
You know what? It really ISN’T obvious to anyone but you!
All the Facebook groups you’re in, the networking events you go to, the industry articles you read, they all give you a false sense that everyone is having the same experience as you and has the same knowledge as you.
They’re not, and they don’t.
What you’re doing is writing some content that will REALLY HELP someone. It will make their life easier and their business better and they will appreciate your help.
When you lose your motivation, try putting yourself in your client’s shoes and remembering that what you have to offer is of value.
Another thing I find useful when I’m feeling a bit down on the value of my content, is to head to my email folder called ‘nice people’, where I stash testimonials, thank-you emails and letters of referral. These boost me so much and make me remember that I do have a lot to offer my clients.
I spent ten years as a producer at Triple J, so it may surprise you to know that when I’m writing, I head for orchestral music. I do!
I just get in the zone. I find that it instantly makes me feel focused and creative. In fact, at this moment I’m listening to The Nutcracker, Waltz of the Flowers. I am!
I don’t listen to that type of music any other time, so it’s a signal to myself that it’s time to write.
Sometimes the couch, a pen and a writing pad is more conducive to writing than a keyboard. Whatever works!
Don’t feel constrained to do what you feel you probably ‘should’ do.
You could try mind-mapping, brain dumping or just letting a stream of consciousness flow onto the page.
You could go outside, to a cafe, or anywhere that you might get a fresh perspective. It’ll also help remove the distractions on your computer.
Or, for a totally different approach, if you’re great on video (or audio), then do that. Record what you want to say; give it to someone to transcribe; edit it, and you’re done!
Bonus points for posting the video or audio as well, but remember to include the written words so Google can see them!
SEO copywriter Sandra Muller suggests giving your writing some time to, shall we say, let the flavours develop.
“Never hit publish as soon as you finish writing your blog post,” Sandra says.
“Give it some percolating time, preferably overnight, and I guarantee you’ll come back to it with fresh ideas that will add the wow factor. Your subconscious mind will practically edit the thing for you.”
Sandra says if you’re on a tight deadline, even a break for an hour or two will help elevate your writing.
Everyone works differently, and myself, with my anarchist tendencies, I like just writing.
But! I find that most people prefer a little structure in their lives (and probably have tidier offices too).
Tegan Ang, from Writing Your Story, says that most posts can use the same single structure.
“Find a structure that works best for you and see how much quicker you write,” Tegan says.
“My favourite is: introduction to the topic, example of the topic, actions you can take (this is usually where you bullet point), and a closing remark that sums up the topics and ends with a call to action.”
Brisbane copywriter Ali Strachen has a good tip for you if you find yourself getting a little lost or rambling through your blog posts. She recommends first writing the heading of your blog, and making sure it’s specific.
“It helps keep the content on track because you are accountable to that headline,” Ali says.
I think you need to figure out what works best for you.
If you’re most comfortable writing the bulk of the blog post but struggle with nicely summarising your ideas, content strategist Matt Fenwick’s approach might suit you.
“Write the body of the article first, then come back and write the lead paragraph and headline,” Matt says.
“That lead paragraph is hard to write: it has to sum up the direction of the article, spark interest and set the tone. It’s far easier to do those things when you’ve got the body written and can then come back and summarise.”
Copywriter Libby Hakim recommends that you avoid the temptation to write EVERYTHING you know in this one blog post!
“Instead, choose a topic and then narrow it down a couple of times before settling on a blog post topic. Once you’ve settled on a topic for the post, jot down 3 key points you want to make in the post before you start writing,” Libby says.
Writing this post, I’m super tempted to write about how to choose your blog topic, how to optimise for SEO, how to distribute it and maybe how to pitch it as a guest post. I can always write those posts another time and link them all up!
Exercise a bit of restraint. Know that you don’t have to tell 100% of the story right now, and, in fact, if you did your audience would be completely overwhelmed!
There you have it: an insight into how professional copywriters tackle the blinking cursor at the beginning of a long blog post.
For the record, this blog post was drafted in 90 minutes (including asking for contributions from the Clever Copywriting School community), tweaked and edited in another 60 minutes, then proof-read (by someone else), and uploaded/formatted which took another 30-ish minutes. Word count: 2179.
Thanks to The Clever Copywriting School members for their contributions.
Which of these tips are you going to try? Leave a comment and let me know!