I wrote my first blog post sometime in 2005 on a Blogspot domain. It’s still live in the dark corners of the internet; only because I do not have the login credentials to log in and delete it.
Whenever I look at it, I cringe. I am embarrassed to say I wrote this piece of content. However, it’s been more than 12 years. Moreover, my writing has improved a lot since my first blog post. I have become more efficient at writing exceptionally good content, thanks to my writing process.
Why have a writing process for content creation?
One of the reasons why Apple is so successful is because they consistently deliver great quality products. Without a process in place, Apple will fail to meet quality standards every single time.
Processes bring in efficiency and predictability, especially at scale. A writing process ensures that you deliver high-quality content, consistently.
Over the past decade, I have refined my blog writing process to create SEO friendly content, quickly. In this post, I’ll lay out my writing process. If you are struggling to create content consistently, my process will help you.
My 10 step writing process
Step #0: Pre-Writing (What do I write about?)
This is step 0 because generating blog post ideas should be different from your writing process.
Most writers make the mistake of starting the writing process by trying to ideate. This often leads to writer’s block and a much larger turnaround time for content creation.
Step #1: Collect your thoughts
When you write about topics you have experience in, you’ll often have many ideas. The first step is to collect your ideas and list them down in no particular order.
Since I use Trello as my editorial calendar, I create a checklist of my ideas. These are topics I want to cover in the post. The good thing about Trello checklists is that you can drag and reorder them later. You can also check off topics to ensure you don’t miss out key topics.
Step #2: Research
Whether you are an expert or a complete newbie, you need to do research. Head over to Google and see what people have written about the content you want to cover.
If you are not familiar with your content topic, do extensive research to understand the topic well. You should be a mini-subject expert before you start creating content.
Experts need to evaluate the content angle others have taken in the past. Your content will succeed only if it has a fresh angle to it. Talking about a topic the same way 1000 others have done in the past is not going to help your content marketing efforts.
This step should cover keyword research as well. Identify keywords (phrases) people use to search for your topic. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find the best keywords along with the volume (how many people search for a particular keyword).
There are dozens of third-party tools which offer help with keyword research. None of them are as accurate as Google (that’s to be expected). You will have to subscribe to a paid plan from one of these tool providers to get keyword volumes. Free plans often restrict the number of keywords you can see or do not display keyword volumes.
Step #3: Create a mind map
Mind mapping is a powerful technique to organize your thoughts. Once you have done your research and collected your thoughts, it’s time to structure them. Mind maps are the best way to create a structured visual representation of your ideas.
I use Xmind to create mind maps. Once I create the mind map, I export it as an image and attach it to my Trello content card.
There are tons of free and paid mind mapping tools out there. If you do not want to use software, use the good old paper and pen method for creating a mind map.
Step #4: Wait one day
It’s a good idea to take a break for a day once you have the mind map. You have already taxed your brain with extensive research and thinking. Revisit the content the next day. Start fresh and use the mind map as an outline to create content.
Step #5: Write the first draft
If you followed the earlier processes, writing the first draft will be easy. You have done your research and have a clear outline to create your content. So start typing.
I recommend using a distraction free app to write your first post. My personal favorite is iA Writer. Minimize all other windows. If you are using Microsoft Word, disable spell and grammar check.
You should never edit your draft while you write. Editing and writing require different parts of your brain to be active.
Practice free writing for your first draft. Even if grammar and tone are all messed up, just write. You can always edit it later.
Step #6: Wait 1–2 days
Once I complete the first draft, I take a break for a day or two. This is extremely important for the next step in the writing process; editing content.
If you edit content you recently wrote, chances are, you’ll fail to catch most of your mistakes. The longer the gap between writing and editing, the better you will be at spotting errors.
Step #7: Edit content
It’s time to turn your less-than-impressive first draft into a masterpiece. Proofread and edit your content to ensure clarity and brevity. The goal of an editor is to polish the content so that it engages your reader until the end.
Editing and writing are two different skills. I recommend hiring an editor or working with one for your most important content.
Step #8: Wait one day
Great job. You have done most of your work. It’s now time to take a break and revisit the content after a day.
This is an optional step. I often use this break to come back fresh and look at the final article from a reader’s point of view. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll end up rewriting major parts of your blog post when you critique your work.
Step #9: Make the content publish-ready
It’s time to make your content more appealing to readers.
The majority of your effort should go into finding images that can add a visual element to the narrative. Visuals help break the monotony of the written word.
Export your content into your CMS (like WordPress), and make sure the content layout is perfect.
- Add headings and sub-headings
- Use bullet points
- Stylize quotes if you use them
- Hyperlink relevant content to internal or external URLs as necessary
- Highlight important sections in your content
- Add meta title and description
- Use keywords in moderation
- Make sure search engines can index the content
- Ensure all the content elements display perfectly across devices. Tables, code elements, bigger images, etc. usually break on smaller screens
Step #10: Schedule for publishing
Once you have everything set up in your CMS (Content Management System), schedule the content to go live at a later date or publish it immediately.
Usually, there is no best time to publish content since most of us do not deal with breaking news. Timing matters when you distribute it on social media and other channels.
I always try and stay ahead of my publishing schedule. I create content one week in advance and schedule them for publishing as per my editorial calendar. By scheduling in advance, I am not under pressure if I take time off work or fall sick.
How do you apply this writing process to your business?
Customize my writing process to suit your requirements. While this process works well for me, it might not be the perfect fit for your business.
Take this process framework and tweak it to incorporate your requirements. If you need to get approval from other teams, include them in the writing process.