How to Write a Good Blog Post (and Make Money Blogging)

Share on LinkedIn
Created by our Community

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

In this blog post, we cover:

  • How to set a goal for your piece
  • How to create an effective outline
  • The best tricks for making your writing engaging 
  • Understanding SEO
  • How to make money blogging online

I’ve been writing blog posts since 2015. But it wasn’t until 2017 that I learned how to make money from my work. And now, a large portion of my income comes from writing online. I like to think I’ve learned a few things about good writing along the way.

In this blog post, I’m going to share all the basics I know about writing interesting, clear, and compelling blog posts. Hopefully it can serve as a jumping-off point for you to start blogging yourself!

As we go, I’m also going to show you my process for writing this piece. The first step of writing any post is creating a space for your writing. I do this within Edvo because it allows me to customize my writing space however I want, and bring in all my inspiration and tools I need to write.

Allowing yourself to have a space that enables flow and minimizes distractions is key. The best writing comes from being in the flow. More on this later! Here’s my setup:

Step 1 of writing a good blog post: figure out the goal of your piece

In order to be valuable to a reader, any blog post you write has to have a core message – a key piece of value it’s unlocking for the reader.

That's the starting point for any piece you write. What’s the core value you want to communicate?

For me, it’s helpful to try to boil my thoughts down into a simple sentence. For example, the goal of this post is to show you how to write a blog post. A secondary goal would be to make blogging feel easy and straightforward. (You’ll have to tell me how I did!)

Summarizing your goal before you start writing is important, because you want your post to be informative but focused. People have short attention spans – they want useful details, but they’ll get distracted very quickly if they don’t see the value in what they’re reading.

When you start a new section, you can double check: does this help move my readers towards the end goal of this post? If it does, keep going. If it doesn’t, delete the section and move on.

You can write down your core goal at the top of your document, or on a sticky note attached to your desk. Mine is always pinned in my Edvo workspace:

Put this into practice: next time you write a blog post, figure out the goal of your piece before you start writing. Summarize that goal in a single simple sentence, and save it where you can see it as you’re writing.

Lesson from David Perell of Write of Passage:

I his writing course Write of Passage, David Perell runs sessions where he’ll outline an article in real time. He’ll start by scrolling through his Evernote (where he keeps tons of notes, ideas, quotes, and articles for reference) until he finds inspiration.

Then he’ll pull 4-5 other ideas that somehow connect to his original idea. His core goal is to look for connections/ideas he could pair together. Once he has 4-5 ideas (or more) gathered, then he’ll determine the core point of the article.

Once he’s decided on the point he’s making, he’ll organize his ideas in the order he wants to address them, then craft his article around that.

Step 2 of writing a good blog post: create an outline

I’ll admit, I used to be anti-outline – I thought they were boring and a waste of time. Now I almost never write without one. I changed my mind when I realized how much faster the writing process is when you outline first, fill in all the details second – plus how much clearer the finished product became!

There are a few different ways you can outline a blog post, but here are my favorite steps and strategies:

  • Try to finish your initial blog post outline all in one go, and as fast as you can. I always find this to be most effective. If you leave an outline halfway through, it’s too easy to lose your train of thought – and because there’s no pressure for an outline to be perfect, it’s easy to get the words out onto the page without tripping yourself up.
  • If you’re going to be referencing different resources and ideas, it’s helpful to work them into your outline right away (with links!). Don’t worry about fleshing out the reference or explaining the idea – it takes you out of the flow. Just jot in what you want to reference and come back to it later.
  • There’s no one right way to outline. The key is to do what works for you. Lots of people create full-on bulleted outlines, like you may have learned how to do in school.

I personally like a mix between plain text and bulleted outlines. I use plain text for my section headers and intros, then bullets for all the secondary points. Here’s a screenshot of my outline for the start of this post:

See how I’m bulleting the core ideas I want to include? I’m not writing anything extensive – I’m just hitting the core points. All the details can be filled in later!

Lesson from Jon Hersey, Editor-in-Chief of The Objective Standard

if you know what you want to write about, but don’t yet have a clear handle on your thoughts, start by doing a brain dump of all the ideas you know you want to cover. Complete this exercise brainstorm-style – don’t think too hard about what you’re writing, just write down everything that comes to mind.

Dump everything you can think of into a bulleted list, then go through the above process of organizing your outline. Jon Hersey does this when writing his longer-form pieces, and I’ve also found it to be helpful.

This is especially useful when you have an idea but don’t yet know what your core point is – or when you’re writing about a more complex topic that requires more extensive research.

Once I finish outlining, I pull all the resources I’m going to reference into my Edvo space for easy access. This makes sure I don’t go hunting for things later and breaking my flow. 

Here’s a picture of Edvo writing space after my outline is finished:

Put this into practice: next time you sit down to write a blog post, complete an outline before you start writing. Bullet out all the points you want to cover, then come back and fill them in later.

Step 3 of writing a good blog post: write the body of your piece

Once you have your outline finished, you’re ready to write. It’s time!

This may feel like the most intimidating part of the process. If my blog post isn’t well-written enough, people won’t want to read it, right?

Yes, but there are also a lot of things you can do to write a well-crafted piece.

The most important thing: a good blog post is clear, detailed, but focused. It tells you what you need to know in a way that’s compelling enough to remember, but not so detailed that you get lost. Stories are great, but only as they serve to hook a reader’s attention and illustrate your points.

A few strategies I love for writing blog posts:

  • Start with a story. This is actually a part of the submission guidelines for one of the Medium publications I write for, The Startup. A story is an emotional hook that pulls the reader into the text with you. I’ve written a number of blog posts that have opened with stories; this and this are two of my favorites.
  • Illustrate your key points with examples. “Show, don’t tell” is one of the most oft-referenced pieces of creative writing advice, but it applies to nonfiction writing too. An example is worth a thousand words of technical explanation.
  • Use simple language whenever possible. It can be tempting to use big words to try to sound smart; don’t. This memo from advertising legend David Ogilvy is a great example of why.
  • Use different formatting tricks to break up the text. We don’t have great attention spans when we get bored (especially not in the 21st century). You’ll notice a lot of callout boxes, bolded text, and bulleted lists in this blog post. All of those things are there to move people’s eyes down the page and keep them visually interested. Don’t be afraid to experiment with visual formatting to keep things interesting!
  • Remember that people hate big walls of text. Paragraph breaks and white space are important, because they draw people’s eyes down the page.
  • Remember that people skim! Emphasize the most important parts of your piece. The more you can do to pull out and emphasize the key points for your readers, the better. Think about your own reading experience, and how you skim – often, you go through the basic points of a page (headers, first lines of each section, callout boxes and bolded text, etc.). It’s like you’re getting the basic skeleton of the piece, or the map of what it covers. When you see a point that seems interesting, you zoom in and read the rest of that section. Assume that’s what your readers are doing, and make the core ideas in your post as clear and visible as possible, to maximize people’s likelihood of a) finding value and b) referring your blog post to others!

Lesson from Suzannah Windsor Freeman:

Draw the reader's eye down the page.

People like white space. They also like writing that feels easy to read. A big wall of text is intimidating, because it feels like work to read. Have you ever noticed how sometimes your eye skips over long paragraphs and straight to the short ones? Cater to the same tendency in your readers. Don’t make your paragraphs so short that they’re annoying, but remember to use white space to help keep people interested.

If you really want to nerd out, here’s a ton of information on using white space in writing, and if you’re really interested, here’s how the strategy is used in other types of design.

Also remember that people love interesting sentences. This is a great quote from Gary Provost on the art of sentence length:

Put this into practice: next time you sit down to write a blog post, choose a few tricks to help increase the quality of your piece. Use stories to engage your reader, utilize white space, and vary your formatting to draw a reader’s eye down the page.

The basics of good blog post SEO

If you’re serious about blogging and gaining traffic, you probably have a lot of questions about SEO. SEO stands for “search engine optimization” – writing your blog posts in a way that increases the likelihood they’ll show up in Google searches and people find your work.

But SEO isn’t just an optimization thing. Most SEO best practices go hand in hand with writing best practices.

For example: SEO cares very much about your article formatting. It places priority on articles that have a clear header structure: key headers for main points (H1), with smaller headers (H2 and H3) for subsections. Even if you don’t care about your SEO rankings, using clear headers is still important!

SEO also cares very much about keywords. You want to structure your post around a few core words or phrases, which will become your keywords for the piece (the google searches that will pull up your post as a result).

For example, one of my early articles (Six Rules for Writing Good Articles) did very well in terms of SEO – mostly by accident, because I didn’t know about SEO yet. I published it in 2017, and I still get messages from people who’ve read this article.

It did so well because people consistently search “rules for writing good articles.” Because I used that keyword again and again in my piece (in every H1 header, to be exact), it shows up near the top of Google’s search results when people look for that phrase.

SEO is tricky (and some keywords are very hard to rank for because there’s so much competition), but if your keywords are more niche topics it’s much easier to rank.

Here’s a great article to walk you through the basics of SEO. I’d also recommend checking out Neil Patel’s SEO tool Ubersuggest.

Really the key takeaway is:

  • Format your article in a way that’s clear and easy to read
  • Make sure your title is descriptive and not too long (mysterious-sounding titles usually aren’t the best idea for a blog post – if people don’t know what it is, they won’t click)
  • If you have any keywords you want to use, make sure you include them a few times throughout the article.

How to make money writing blog posts

Okay, so you understand how to write a good blog post, but you want to do this professionally. Awesome! I make a large portion of my income through writing, so I’ll share what I know.

There are tons of different options to make money as an online writer. Freelancing sites, writing for 3rd party publications, working as a contractor, blogging and making money through affiliates – to name just a few!

These are a few of my favorite ways to make money blogging:

  • Publish to Medium behind a paywall. Medium’s Partner Program allows you to collect royalties on your writing. I recommend writing for publications as you’re getting started, because they have a bigger audience than you do, and it’s the best way to get eyes on your work. Nicolas Cole has some great resources on this.
  • Look for other publications you enjoy reading (off Medium) and look at their submission guidelines. If they pay for each piece they publish, that can be another great secondary source of income.
  • Fiverr and Upwork are also great platforms to use. Alexandra Fasulo is a great resource on building a Fiverr business, and she has great resources on getting started as a Fiverr content writer.
  • Make your work available on Twitter (or other social media platforms) and communicate that you’re open to writing projects. You never know who you’re going to meet on social media who will end up being a great client. Show off your writing skills through Twitter threads/social media posts, and post new articles when you publish them.
  • Over time, you may build relationships with standing contract clients. There are tons of opportunities to do ghostwriting, copywriting, content writing for blogs and brands etc. … as you meet more people, your potential opportunities will expand too.

Regardless of what avenue you choose, building a portfolio is really helpful. That’s how I got started. I wrote on my own website, and then I started publishing on third-party sites. As my portfolio grew, people started finding me through my writing. Some of my best clients found me through the work I’d already published and reached out!

I’m working with a number of different clients now. Here you can see me start my day in my “All projects” space and then clicking into the project space for this post. I optimize my writing time by having everything I need, for any project, in one place.

How to get started writing blog posts yourself

Really, my top piece of advice is to just write. It’s easy to get caught up in preparation for writing, but besides understanding the basics, that can only get you so far.

The best way to learn is by trying your hand at it yourself, doing some writing, seeing what happens, and adjusting your approach based on what you learn.

My challenge for you: go write a blog post! Decide what you want to say, create an outline, draft a post – and most importantly, publish! Writing is the only way you’ll ever become a writer.

Want to use Edvo to help organize your writing?

Sign up to be a Founding Tester!