While the process of writing a blog post can be learned very quickly, the brand new blogger is often a bit confused about what to do and where to do it. This post will cover some of the basics of writing a blog post.
This guide is primarily focused on the mechanics of writing a blog post in WordPress, but the process is very similar with other blogging platforms as well, such as Blogger, or Typepad.
Also, aside from the mechanics of writing the post, there are numerous layout tips and tricks, and well as some copywriting principles to keep in mind when you are writing blog posts. We will cover all these in later posts. Make sure you subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss them!
Create a New Blog Post
The first thing to do is create a new post. This can be done in two ways.
If you have the Admin bar turned on in your User Settings, you can create “New Post” from the top of your screen. Alternately, select “New Post” from the “Posts” section of your Dashboard.
When you do, you will be greeted with the following screen:
As you can see, I have made notations on what goes where in the Blog Post Draft screen. Let me go through each section piece by piece in more detail.
The Blog Title
The blog title goes up top. Use something eye catching and interesting. Later, I will write more about crafting good blog post titles as there is a definite art and science to it.
Once you write a title, the URL of your post will appear beneath it. For now, you can probably just leave this as it is, but later, I will write a post about editing these URLs to be “pretty.”
The Blog Post
Underneath the title, is your post composition area.
Most of the buttons are fairly standard if you have used any sort of Word Processing software such as Microsoft Word. If you don’t recognize a button, you can hover your mouse over each button to see a description of what it does.
Over on the right are two tabs, one for the Visual editor, and one for HTML. If you are new to blogging, I recommend you just stick with the Visual editor. Later, I will give a quick summary of HTML and some of the tweaks you can make to your blog posts in the HTML screen.
I will also write a post later on how to properly organize your blog posts. But for now, let me just say that blog posts should be broken up in to paragraphs. You never want to have one long blog of text. That is very bad.
When you break your text up into paragraphs, try to keep the paragraphs at 2-3 sentences each. Sometimes, you will have paragraphs of only one sentence.
It is also helpful to break up your blog post into sections by using subheadings. See the drop down menu which says “Paragraph” in it? If you highlight a subheading, you can select what style you want for that subheading. Search engines use Heading 2 to help determine what your blog post is about, so use this style to break up your blog post into various pieces. This also aids blog readers in skimming your post for main points.
Watch your Word Count
Down near the bottom of the blog post composition area, you will also see a word count. While it is not always possible, a good “target word count” is 300-500 words. But this is not a hard and fast rule. It is usually better to have a complete post and make it 1000 words than to divide a great post into two 500-word mediocre posts.
I mean, this post is nearly 2000 words! Yikes! But where could I have cut it? I suppose I could have been more succinct in my explanations…
Add A Blog Image
Every Post should have at least one image. This not only helps keep readers interested (everybody likes a little color), but it also helps with a few of your plugins, such as the Add Link to Facebook, and nRelate (not yet installed on this blog), both of which require images to work properly.
Where do you get images? Most of my images come from Google images. A company will not sue for using an image found on Google images. If an image turns out to be copyrighted, and they find it on your site, they will simply ask you to remove it, which you should promptly do. You could only get sued if you use an image on a product that you then sell.
Nevertheless, if you prefer to be super careful, you can use the free images at Creative Commons but I have found that the selection there is somewhat limited. I will do another post later on using images for blog posts.
When you find an image, first download it to your computer by right-clicking on the image, and then saving it to your hard drive. Insert it by clicking in the blog post with your mouse where you want the image to go, and then click the “Insert Image” button.
A window will pop up asking where the image is. If you saved it on the hard drive of your computer, click the “Select Files” button, locate the image, and then upload it.
When you do, you will get this screen:
You can see the fields I fill out and why in the image. Occasionally I want the image to point to a different page or website, and will enter that URL in the URL field. Sometimes I want the image to be on the left or the right, and if so, I will usually use the 300x??? size of the image. Remember, these default image sizes were set up in the Media tab of our Dashboard settings.
Also, I set the featured image at the bottom as this helps with some of our plugins.
When everything is set, click “Insert the image” and it will send you back to your blog post:
You could have done this as you wrote your blog, but let me talk about it here. If you reference another blog or website, or another article you have written, and want to point people to it, you should do this by adding a hyperlink to your text.
First highlight the text you want to add the hyperlink to, and then click the little “Add/Edit Link” button.
A little window will pop up asking you to enter the hyperlink. Don’t try to type the link into this window. Always copy-paste (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V; or Cmd-C, Cmd-V if using a Mac) it from the webpage you want to link to. If you type it, you will inevitably type in a bad link, but even if you do, it’s okay, because the Link Checker plugin will catch it.
I also add a Title for search engine purposes, and so that readers can see a bit more about the link when they hover their mouse over it.
Click “Add Link” and the link is added!
Select Your Category
This is very easy.
Choose which category your blog post best fits under. If you need to create a new one, that is fine, but don’t create too many categories.
What about tags? I don’t enter any tags in the area provided. I think they are useless. Eventually I will explain why.
Filling out the WordPress SEO Section
On this blog, we use the WordPress SEO plugin to help manage our meta data and help search engines index this blog. Here is the section it includes at the bottom of your post.
Here is mine after I filled it out:
The Snippet Preview is how your post will appear on search engine results like Google. If you fill out nothing, it will try its best to fill in the information. But I always prefer to tweak it so that I can help search engines and readers know what a post is about.
I enter the Focus Keyword which I want the blog post to focus on. I will write a lot more later about keywords, but try to make it a phrase (not a single word!), which appears several times in your blog post. Ultimately, you want all the little descriptions below that keyword phrase to be green. Initially, they will be red.
Then go down and use your blog title as your SEO Title. If I did a good job creating a catchy but keyword-focused title, the title should be fine as it is. Notice that I changed my blog post title from what I had previously to include my keyword phrase.
Next, type a description of the post, making sure to include the keyword phrase at least one time. The earlier you have the keyword in the description the better, but I ended up putting mine near the end. Notice that there is a letter limit of 156 characters! This is not much longer than what is allowed by Twitter, but you cannot use the Twitter language full of abbreviations. Make the description helpful and catchy as once again, this is going to be what potential readers will see on Google or Bing when they are searching for something. If your description stinks, they won’t click the link to your site.
Finally, enter keywords in the bottom separated by a comma. Really, these are optional since some search engines don’t use keywords anymore. But I enter them anyway, just because it helps me learn to focus my blog content around a few keyword phrases. If you do enter them, make sure you include the focus keyword from above!
Once all the information is entered, you may need to click “Save Draft” at the top right of the screen in order to get the SEO plugin information updated.
Add Link to Facebook
Facebook drives a lot of traffic to your blog, so make sure you send a good image and description to Facebook using the Add Link to Facebook plugin we have already installed.
If you already uploaded an image and if you entered a good description in the WordPress SEO plugin blog, then this is simple. Just select the image you want to use, and copy-paste your description down into the Facebook description area.
And as long as you are copy-pasting the excerpt here, you might as well also paste it into your post excerpt section. It doesn’t hurt to have it, and you may eventually need excerpts for other WordPress features or plugins.
Publish Your Blog Post!
You are now ready to publish your blog post! Read through the post one more time to check for spelling or grammar mistakes that you may have missed.
Also, at this point, I usually like to add a “more” tag to my post. I don’t like the entire post on my front page, but only the first paragraph or two. This allows more posts on the front page with less room, so people do not have to scroll down as far to see other posts.
So I pick a spot and insert the “More” tag before publishing.
When all is done, click publish, and your post is now live! WordPress will send notice to Feedburner to update the feed, a Tweet will go to Twitter alerting your Followers, and a link will get put on Facebook inviting your Friends to come read your new post.
You might as well also go check out the blog post to make sure everything looks okay.
Looks good! Now go enjoy a tall, frothy, ice-cold glass of…. Milk.
You deserve it.
Oh, but before you do, since this is your FIRST blog post, there one last thing to take care of…
Delete the Default WordPress Blog Post
Oh, one last thing! Before publishing your post, don’t forget to delete the default post that WordPress sticks in there. You don’t need it anymore.
Select “Posts” from your Dashboard, and then select “Trash” from beneath the blog post called “Hello World!”
Now you can go celebrate.