Blogging Basics, from Content Flow to Imperfect Grammar

Especially if you’re not a professional writer, putting together a blog post can be daunting. Yet more and more we ask subject matter experts to put together blog posts rather than the content marketer themselves. There are some great reasons for this that we’re not going to touch on here. Instead, if you’re a subject matter expert without bags of writing experience behind you, this is the article for you.

Blogging Basics - How you can write the perfect piece of content

We’ve said before that a great piece of content always starts with research. Well, if that’s the case, planning should come second.

Plan your content flow, not content structure

If you’re a subject matter expert such as an SEO expert or Automation guru, you probably look at the topic in front of you and break it down into an understandable structure.

But it’s not the best method.

Don’t worry, you don't have to throw out that neatly organized, structured plan. Instead, just move onto the next step: creating a content flow.

What is a content flow 

A structure plan for content is rigid. It defines your content. But a piece of content is alive. It has rhythm. So instead of planning a content structure, you should plan a content flow.

Think of it this way. A sentence is a single thought. That thought can be clear and concise, or it can be long and twisting. But it’s still just one thought.

That one thought is part of a longer concept. That concept is your paragraph. So every paragraph you write should contain one solitary idea. No more.

Each paragraph is one idea related to the sub-topic from your sub-headline.

But you may look at that and still see structure, not flow. Which is where the tricky part comes in. Every sentence should link back naturally to the sentence that came before it. Which is true for the start of every paragraph and even for every sub-headline.

This means that every sentence, every paragraph and every section naturally flow on from each other. Even when your reader moves from one section to another, there should be continuity.

How do you plan your content flow?

You can’t plan for each and every sentence you write, though: you may as well just write the article. Instead, when it comes to planning your content flow, simply take into account how your audience will read the article, and how you want them to.

So let’s say you’re writing about SEO for beginners. You have decided on the sub-topics of:

  • What is SEO?
  • What are the main ranking factors for Google?
  • What are the on-page elements for perfect SEO?
  • How should your site serve your overall SEO goals?
  • How do you build backlinks?

Two things can help you build a content flow. The first is H3 tags, basically sub-sub-headlines. You want your reader to be able to skim your article and get the general idea just by reading the headers. So let’s add some in.

  • What is SEO?
  • What is Technical SEO?
  • What is On-Page SEO?
  • And What is Off-Page SEO?
  • SEO is more than Google
  • What are the main ranking factors?
  • How do you build backlinks?
  • What are backlinks, anyway?
  • Domain Authority’s influence on search
  • What are the on-page elements for perfect SEO?
  • The Technically Perfect Content Checklist
  • And where does social come in?
  • How should your site serve your overall SEO goals?

You may have noticed that we moved one of the topics. This is part of building a content flow. When you plan an article's structure, it's natural to write each section in the order you take care of them. So backlink building comes after making sure your content is technically right. But that may not be the best way to keep your audience engaged. Instead, each section should be directly related to the section before and the section after.

Planning content flow doesn't ensure your article flows, though. Poor sentence structure or a two thoughts in the wrong order can interrupt your reader. Which is where grammar comes in.

Grammar is a guide, not a set of rules

Grammar is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of modern content creation. Copy editors love perfect grammar, and commentators tear apart articles for having incorrect syntax or misspelling a word.

But grammar, in English at least, is not a rigid set of rules. Your blog should not be defined by grammar rules. Instead, use them more as a guide to help you create great content, rather than a box in which you absolutely must play. It’s ok to go outside the lines every now and again.

George Orwell's 5 Rules for Effective Writing

Image source: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/441352832217944034/

Orwell’s last point is the most valuable. Keep to the rules, but if your blog flows better with a grammatically incorrect sentence, use it. Don’t flip it around into a sentence that’s going to be difficult to understand.

There are helpful grammar tools 

With that in mind, there are some helpful tools you can use to make sure your work flows well, reads well and is as grammatically correct as it needs to be.

Grammarly

The free version of this tool highlights “critical issues” with your article. These can be simple spelling mistakes, contextual errors and grammar mistakes. If you want a more in-depth analysis, you’ll need to buy the full app.

We use Grammarly in our Creator Engine, and it shows up all kinds of errors we may make as we create. We also use the browser plugin, which can give you definitions and synonyms if you click on a word: a great tool when you can’t quite find the word you were looking for.

Hemingway App

Unlike Grammarly, you do not need to pay to use Hemingway’s core features. Here, as well as a grammar and spelling check, you can see what reading standard your readers should be at. Plus it highlights difficult sentences, very difficult sentences, adverbs and the passive voice.

As with grammar rules in general, you can ignore some of these suggestions. Most of the time the adverbs or simpler alternative suggestions are miss rather than hit, but that’s AI for you rather than a human copy editor.

But your most important copy editor is yourself. And there is one more trick you can use to make your blog posts more interesting for your readers.

Write a letter

One of the most important things for any piece of writing is whether it talks directly to your audience. Each reader should feel like he is being addressed individually, throughout the article. And one of the best ways to do this is to write the blog to him or her as if it were a letter.

Start by writing

Dear Lucy,

At the top of your page. Then write your article as if it were a letter to Lucy. Now Lucy can be Bob or Max or Sarah, but they should be one of your buyer personas. And when you’re finished, just delete Dear Lucy.

This is even better for things like Facebook posts, headlines and emails.

Which is good, because one of those is the most important part of any piece of content.

Headlines are super important

The perfect blog post is something that’s going to be read and enjoyed by many. It’s going to shared by your buyer persona, it’s going to increase brand awareness and trust. But it cannot do any of those things if it is not read.

Your headline is what gets people reading your article.

Headlines are difficult, because they need to include the keyword your audience has searched for. They need to include enough information so the reader knows this is the right article for them. And they need to provide an emotional trigger, or a reason to click through.

And getting all of that into a headline short enough to fit in a meta title is not so easy.

Direct response copywriters write a pre-headline, headline and sub-headline, and together they give this information. And together they’re usually extremely long.

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We don’t have that space to play in, usually, so spending time on writing your headline is worth it. Every time.

So now we’ve covered the basics of how you can add blog guru to your LinkedIn profile, what’s the next step?

Keep your eyes peeled for our advanced writing tips, coming soon. If you don’t want to miss out, sign up to our newsletter and be among the first to get your hands on new content.