This article was published by ProBlogger and curated by Closer Spot. Be sure to check out other Closer Spot news and advice to help you win more business.
This is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke
Do you plan your blog posts? Or do you dive straight into the writing?
A lot of bloggers barely plan their posts (if they plan them at all). They’re either too eager to get started, or feel rushed and see planning as a waste of time.
But taking just five minutes to plan your posts can make a huge difference to your blogging.
Five Great Reasons to Plan Your Posts Before You Start Writing
#1: More Planning = Less EditingBy spending five minutes planning, you can often save yourself 15 or 30 minutes of editing. If it’s clear at the planning stage that a post isn’t quite going to work, you can easily change it before you start writing, which will save a lot of time and effort.
#2: A Good Plan Makes it Easier to WriteWhile some bloggers feel that planning kills their spontaneity, I find a plan liberating. It’s much easier to write when you’re not trying to keep everything in your head and constantly worrying you’ll forget the next three points you want to make.
#3: Well-Planned Posts are More Engaging for Your ReadersIf your post wanders off the point and doesn’t deliver on what you promised in the headline or introduction, readers will understandably get fed up. They may not finish reading it. And they certainly won’t be eagerly subscribing to your blog for more.
#4: Planning Can Help You Come Up with More IdeasThe process of writing down your ideas and getting them into a structure can often spark off new ideas. Some may help you deepen the post you’re planning, while others may give you the seed for a whole new post. If you find it hard to come up with new post ideas, plan more.
#5: You May Have to Plan if You’re Working With an EditorChances are that at some point in your blogging career you’ll have to write a plan. If you pitch a guest post or a freelance piece, you’ll often be asked for an outline. If you’ve never planned your own posts, writing a plan for someone else to read may feel very daunting. So get some practice in now.
Before I run through how to create a plan for your next blog post, let’s take a quick look at what a plan might actually look like.
The Plan for One of My ProBlogger PostsInitial idea: “Should You Stop Taking Comments on Your Blog?”
I’ve been blogging for so long my ideas often take the form of potential titles, as this one did. In the end the title became “Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?” (which is far more succinct), but it was good enough for the planning phase.
The PlanThis is the brief version of my plan for the post:
Introduction – why close comments?
Prominent bloggers who removed comments – Steve Pavlina, Seth Godin, Copyblogger (brought them back), Michael Hyatt (brought them back).
Carol Tice (Make a Living Writing) – always answered comments but clearly not sustainable.
Deciding what to do about comments
Close them or not? Link to Charlie Gilkey’s post
– Anti-spam plugin
– Close comments on old posts
– Use Disqus / FB comments
Conclusion – comments are valuable but you don’t NEED to have them on your blog
Now this is a very bare-bones plan. This might be enough for some bloggers, but I tend to flesh out each section with a few more notes before I start writing. (I’ll be recommending it as part of your own planning system in a moment.)
You may also have noticed that my plan has “Introduction” at the start and “Conclusion” at the end. Every plan I write includes these sections, and making sure I have those in place helps to give my posts a solid structure.
Using a Standard Template for Your Blog PostsAt its most basic, a good blog post template looks like this:
- Main body
You may want to develop your own template, or even a template with variations for different types of post, to help you create plans quickly and easily.
How to Plan Your Next Blog PostOf course, this isn’t the only way to plan a blog post. But hopefully it’s a useful starting point for you. Once you’ve tried it out, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your workflow.
Step #1: Write Down Your Topic or IdeaWrite down the idea/topic for your blog post. Turn it into a working title, which often helps pin down the format of the post. For instance, “7 Ways to…” is clearly going to be a list post.
Step #2: Create a MindmapOn paper, or using an app, create a mindmap for your post. Write your title (or a short version of it) in the centre of the page, then jot down your key points around it. You may find that you start coming up with more details – perhaps an idea relating to one of these points, or a link to include. Write those down too. If your mindmap starts getting unclear, circle or highlight your key points in a different colour.
Step #3: Type an OutlineType your key points into an outline, with any sub-points or extra details beneath each point, as in this example (from my plan for the post you’re currently reading):
Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts
– Introduction, main body, conclusion
– Michael Hyatt’s template
How to Plan Your Next Blog Post
– Write down your topic or idea
– Create a mindmap
– Type an outline
At the start of your outline, add “Introduction”. And at the end, add “Conclusion”. Even if you don’t include any further details, it will remind you to write those sections.
Write down the topic, and come up with a working title to help you pin down the format.
Step #4 (optional): Flesh Out Your OutlineFor a very short post, or one where you know the material well, you may want to omit this step. But again, I believe that every minute you spend planning will save you several minutes of editing.
Go through your outline, and write a few notes for each key point. What will that section of your post cover? Are there any resources (yours or other people’s) that you want to mention and link to?
Now, it’s finally time to write. Hopefully you’ll find drafting your post easy, as you’ve got the whole structure laid out for you. And at a glance you can see where you’re up to and how far you’ve got to go, which can help you pace your post appropriately.
For your next blog post, challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes planning and see what a difference it makes.