Writing a blog post — specifically, a blog post on a technical topic that will impress readers — is like painting a wall in your house. If you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to underestimate how much work it takes to complete the job well.
You might think that painting a wall is as simple as picking up a gallon of paint at your local box store and rolling it onto the drywall. In reality, as any experienced painter will tell you, there’s a lot more to it than that. You have to prepare the wall by patching and sanding it. You have to give it a coat or two of primer. You have to figure out which type and sheen of paint to use. And you have to apply the paint tediously, taking care to cut in cleanly and keep your edges wet.
Similarly, you might think that writing a blog post is as simple as sitting down in your chair, typing out your thoughts and calling it a day. In fact, it’s much more complicated.
To prove the point, let me walk through all the steps of Fixate’s process for producing blog content.
Defining the target reader and voice
The first step in writing a blog is to figure out who you’re writing it for, and which “voice” the blog should have to reach that audience well.
A blog designed to be consumed by an executive will have a different style and tone (typically, a more formal and authoritative one) than a blog post written for a developer or IT engineer. The latter tend to respond best to a conversational, familiar voice.
You also need to know your target reader in order to select the right topics, which brings us to …
Blog topic selection
In many respects, determining which topics to write about in a blog is the hardest and most important step in the process. A well-written blog post on a topic that your target reader doesn’t care about won’t be successful. Neither will a post that covers a topic that has already been discussed in a hundred other posts on the Internet. Of course, it’s also important during topic selection to ensure that you can actually write compellingly about the topics you select.
Weighing all of these considerations to arrive at a good topic is hard work, and is one of the most time-consuming parts of the blogging process.
At Fixate, we don’t always produce outlines for blog content and ask clients to review them. Sometimes, we simply give our practitioner-writers a topic and let them run with it. They are the experts, after all, and our goal is to ask for as little of our clients’ time as possible.
But in cases where content needs to align with specific technical or marketing goals, we work with the writers to outline content before it is written, and ask our clients to review those outlines. Outlines create some extra up front work, but they make the process faster overall in the long run.
Blog post review
Even short blog posts go through a lengthy and multi-stage review process at Fixate.
Review starts with having other developers or IT engineers review each post via our peer-review process. Our editorial staff then performs their own reviews — one for content, and one for copy editing. Finally, our senior editor signs off on the content before it is delivered to clients.
Throughout the review process, blog posts are revised and updated in response to comments. By the end of it, posts are lean, mean and ready to be published by our clients as soon as we deliver them.
The blog process doesn’t end with publication. We also carefully assess how blogs perform once they are published.
Since most of the blogs we write are published on third-party sites, collecting performance metrics is a bit tricky, but we have various strategies for assessing how well a post performs. Sometimes, our clients share data like page views and bounce rates with us directly. And we can always track things like how often a post is shared on social media or referenced within other posts.
Assessing blog performance is critical for helping us to understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s especially important given that the preferences of technical audiences are always changing, and the topics or styles that work well this month may not prove as effective in the next.
Writing a blog post might seem as simple as putting some words about a random technical topic on your screen and hitting Publish in WordPress — and it is, if you are not worried about writing a post that will mesh well with your target readers.
High-value blog content requires a much more thorough and systematic production process. It’s a process that demands a lot of expertise and experience in writing effective blog content. It’s also one that takes a lot of time (the Fixate editorial team and network of peer reviewers spend about 12 hours per post just on planning and review, not counting the time it takes to write the post itself).
So, unless you want a blog post equivalent to this paint job, don’t underestimate how much time and effort it takes to produce truly successful technical blog content.