Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
I hate writing. Writing English essays is definitely the most hated homework during my school days. And, I bet many of you bloggers are just like me.
Unfortunately, good content is the backbone of blogging (and in many cases, web marketing) success. Creating good content consistently is just too vital task to be ignored for bloggers and web marketers.
As much as I hate to write, I have written hundreds of articles on my websites and blogs in the past. I have also worked with dozen of freelancers and professional writers from different countries on numerous projects. Truth is, you can actually produce great content online without the love in writing.
In this post, I am going to reveal a powerful technique in six simple steps (and all the specific tools) I use to creating good content online regularly.
Let’s get started!
First, you will need to have a list of good reference blogs (or site or iconic person) in your industry. For example, if I am writing a SEO blog, SEO Book, Distilled Blog, and Search Engine Land would be some great examples as my reference sites; Aaron Wall, David Sullivan, and probably Rand Fishkin would be my persons-to-follow. Use Technorati or Google Blog Search if you don’t know who to follow in your industry. Make it a habit to read the listed blogs or persons’ Twitter/G+ shares regularly. I read mine at least once per week but I know some guys are doing it more frequently.
Do leverage the benefits of content management tools – it’s the most efficient way to ensure steady flow of information from your listed blogs or persons’ shares. Personally, Google+ and Flipboard work best for me. I use Google+ to follow my favorite persons’ shares (they are like my virtual mentor) and I use Flipboard on my iPad to track authority blogs in my industry. I believe Twitter, Google Reader, Email Subscription, Flud News, Pinterest, or even Facebook should work the same; but now, Google+ and Flipboard remain as my favorites.
In case you wonder how many blogs or persons you should follow (as Internet noise filtration is sort of important these days) – I do not set any limit on my list but I hardly go more than thirty. I would also suggest you to review and clean up your list once per six months (believe me, no matter how active they were initially, some blogs will just go dormant after some time).
Now, once you have that list of blogs or persons to follow; and, you are reading it on a regular basis; it is time to do some homework.
Jot down the titles of the articles that have a high social scores (say, 100 Retweets or 200 Facebook Likes or so on) in a simple notepad or an Excel spreadsheet. These titles are the topics that resonates well with your target audiences. We will then create our content around these topics at later stage.
I use Evernote and Evernote Web Clipper for this task (check out the image above, that’s part of what I had on December 2012). I like how my Evernote clipped content and personal notes sync seamlessly between my desktop, laptop, and tablet. I recommend you to try it if you haven’t.
Steve Jobs once famously said: Good artists copy, great artists steal.
This principle guided the late Steve Jobs in designing the Macintosh and building the most valuable company in our history. It’s also (somewhat) true when it comes to writing great online content too.
By collecting a list of popular titles related to your industry, you should now have an “inspiration catalog”.
Scan thorough the list weekly and pick at least one as your writing subject of the week. Select topics that you particularly passionate with or experienced in. The idea is not to steal the author’s writing in whole. Instead, what we want are good titles that we can further enhance with our experiences or/and different point of views.
Do you have any specific experience with the selected topic? Do you strongly disagree or agree with the original author’s opinion? Can you enhance the original articles with more examples or facts? Do you have any further suggestions on tools and other resources for the authors?
If your answers to the above questions are mostly yeses, then high chances that you already have some good ideas on what to write next.
It’s finally time to do some real writing.
Just like what my English teacher taught me about essays writing in school days, the most effective way I found to write an article is to use (1) outlines and bullet points to structure your article; and, (2) the Five W’s and One H’s (who, when, what, where, why, how) for the details.
For example, here’s what I will normally do, in this particular order, when writing an article.
Use simple headlines to describe paragraphs; use bullet points to elaborate what each paragraph will contain. Tweak headlines and subheadings to be more attractive. Map out the structure of the article to make sure it flows smoothly – change the paragraph orders if necessary. When the main frame of the article is complete, fill up each paragraph with details on who, when, what, where, why, and how.
Having a set of headline samples (or some call it hacks) help a lot.
Time yourself – add a little pressures to your writing might help.
Occasionally, I set goals like ‘finish this 1,500 article in 3 hours’ and use the timer on my phone to force myself to write within the preset time frame. Since it is all about writing efficiency, I believe we should be a little more time-sensitive and be specific with our goals.
As we are writing and publishing our content online, there’s no point for us to limit ourselves within words. Just like what you are seeing in this blog post, any supporting graphics, videos, photos, presentation slides, and audio should be added to your article.
Personally I love photography, so I have no issue with getting original high resolutions images from my own collections. But it’s okay if you don’t enjoy photo shooting, there are plenty of good places where you can get free high quality images – Flickr, Photo Rogue, Free Digital Photos, Morgue File, Free Photos Bank, and Pic Search – just to name a few. As for videos, well, YouTube and Vimeo are definitely the best two sources.
Confession: I don’t really do that much of proof-read on my work. Remember that I hate writing a lot? Instead of spending time fine tuning my writing, I always try to spend more time on research and study work; hoping that the facts and the usefulness of my article would overcome my grammar flaws.
However the truth is, I should do more proof reading and write better English. And, so do you.
The final step of writing your article is to proof read, spell- and grammar-check (I use After The Deadline for this task), post it, and preview it on your browsers. Some would preview their articles in different version of browsers and screen sizes for compatibility sake, but as long as your blog is running on a proper-designed themes I think you should be safe.
Here’s a final twist before I end this article. As many of you may have guessed – yes, this article is written based on the same technique that I’m explaining here. Although I have been using this technique for a while, I never thought about writing this down until I got inspired by Neil Patel’s (a successful serial entrepreneur and efficient writer) A Simple Plan For Writing A Powerful Blog Post In Less Than 2 Hours, which is inspired by another article by Pamela Wilson at CopyBlogger.com A Simple Plan For Writing One Powerful Piece Of Online Content Per Week.
You see, this technique works and it’s use by experienced bloggers and professional writers.
By reading this blog post until this point, you have already equipped yourself with a new, powerful technique practiced by many other great writers.
The only advice I will give next is ‘Get Started!’. Go on, do something! Build a list, write some outlines, fill up some details to your articles… the more you do, the more you practice the technique; the more you practice, the more efficient you grow in writing; and, the sooner you get started, the sooner your blog will be filled with constant flow of great content.