How Can You Write Killer Content in No Time Flat? Learn the Art of Outlining!

Write Killer Content in No Time Flat | #blogging #writingstrategies

How do you write a blog post? Writing strategies among bloggers tend to be fairly loose. If you’re like most bloggers, you use a freestyle approach to content creation: you write a post from title to end without any planning, editing or proofreading. You might run a spellcheck, but that’s about it. Doing anything else is just too much work!

But what if I told you that you may actually be working harder than necessary? What if you could find a way to work faster and to write a better blog post? It’s very simple, actually: just learn to outline your posts before you write them!

Killer content in no time flat | #blogging #writing
Most writers think outlining takes more time when in reality it increases productivity
(Image created in Canva using free elements)

 

How to Write an Outline

Many bloggers don’t know how to write an outline. Because they believe it will take more time, they prefer to free-write their posts. They don’t realize that creating an outline can help them to get more writing done in a shorter amount of time – and it can even be better quality writing!

Writing an outline is pretty painless. While you may think it’s going to take you more time, outlining is actually one of the writing strategies that successful freelance writers use to get their work done faster. Here’s how to create an outline for your blog post:

Step 1: Brainstorm Some Details

Before writing a blog post, take a few moments to jot down some of the things you already know about the subject. Just write the ideas as they come to you, in no particular order. You can write them on a notepad or in a word processing document, or you may prefer to use a graphic organizer.

Don’t try to write out full sentences at this point. Bullet points are fine at this stage. And don’t edit. This is an exercise in generating ideas, not judging them. Just create a list of as many ideas as you can generate in a fixed amount of time – say, five minutes. Once the time is up, stop writing.

Step 2: Choose Your Main Points

Once you have your list, see if you can group any like ideas together. In the process of grouping your points, you will likely notice that some are major points while others are sub-points or serve to explain or illustrate those larger points. It may help you to arrange these sub-points and other details under the bigger points; you’ll flesh out these arrangements later.

Once you’ve attempted to group all like points, look for points that don’t belong to any group. These are likely points you’ll want to leave out of your post. They might be a great starting point for a later post on the same topic, though! So never throw them out completely.

Most writing consists of between 3-5 main points, so pick out at least 3 but no more than 5 main points for your post. Try to choose ideas that will work well together. Any unused ideas can be reserved for a later post, so resist the urge to try and jam it all in!

Step 3: Create Your Outline

Arrange your main points in an order that makes sense and flows well. If there is a natural chronological order to your subject (as in a recipe or how-to post) just go with that order. If you are writing a persuasive piece, you’ll want to put your strongest arguments at the beginning and end of your post; put the weaker or less significant arguments toward the middle of your outline. If you are writing a comparison, you might choose to alternate back and forth.

Whatever the arrangement, each major topic of your post is now a sub-heading. And all of the sub-points are going to be sentences in the paragraph you write for that sub-heading. At the beginning, you’ll have an introductory paragraph, which is often used to list the topic areas you’ll cover in your post. At the very end of your post will be a conclusion, which you may want to use to pose a question for readers to answer in the comments, or to deliver a call to action.

Now you have the skeleton of your post. It takes a few extra minutes of work to make your writing outline but your post is now better focused – and the bonus is you also have ideas ready for the next post on the same topic!

 

Benefits of Outlining Your Posts Before You Write

  • Brainstorming, freewriting, and mapping ideas are all great ways to combat writer’s block;

  • Creating an outline helps you narrow your topic, which can help boost SEO;

  • When you write a blog post from an outline you tend to be better at sticking to your topic;

  • Writing a blog post from an outline means less editing once the post is written;

  • In the process of eliminating topics from your outline, you will discover ideas for future blog posts.

 

Boost writing productivity by using an outline| #howtowrite #outlines
Learn how to write an outline and boost your blogging productivity
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(Image from a public domain graphic by Viktor Hanacek/PicJumbo)

 

Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my writing blog, RubyWriter. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

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In a Pickle? How Twitter Turn-Offs and Facebook Faux-Pas Hurt Your Brand

Social media etiquette: Don’t get yourself into a pickle! | #networking #branding

Social networking sites are an integral part of promoting your brand, whether you’re an amateur crafter who posts a weekly how-to video or a celebrity or corporation big enough to hire someone to manage your social media accounts. If you consistently share quality content you’ll probably do just fine on any social media site. But there are a few pitfalls that many people get caught in when they share business content on their social networks. Are you making these common mistakes?

Facebook Faux-Pas

Flooding your personal Facebook account with business stuff – If you’re a writer, photographer, graphic designer, sales representative, etc., why not set up a Facebook page for your business posts? Having a neutral page that people can follow means you don’t have to friend complete strangers and have them looking at pics of your kids at the latest family gathering.

Think safety first, and send business folks to a Facebook page they can follow. If I’m your friend, but not interested in buying Younique or whatever else you’re selling, I’ll just remain your friend. If I want to follow your writing, your home-based catering business or your interest in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’ll like your page. Who knows, I might even share your posts on my own page!

Only sharing your own stuff – Even if it is on a business page, it’s pretty boring to see post after post that just announces your latest products or sales, links to a post full of affiliate links with very little authentic content, or in some other way obviously promotes your business. Try to be a little more subtle. And show an interest in other people’s stuff. You might just develop a little depth.

Social media etiquette: Don’t get yourself into a pickle! | #networking #branding
Are your bad habits getting you into a pickle on your social networks?
(“Dill pickles” illustration from the New York Public Library Digital Collections, public domain)

Getting Into a Pickle on Pinterest

Repetitive pinning – It’s perfectly all right to repin some of your older content so it doesn’t end up getting forgotten at the bottom of a board somewhere. But think about how it’s going to look. First of all, don’t repin the same three pins every day for a week. And if you must repin exactly the same pin with the same pic and the same text, try pinning it to a different but related board. You’re likely to get better exposure for your pin that way; remember that some people only follow select boards!

This same thing happens on Facebook too, and especially on Twitter. I totally get that you’re trying to reach more people and you’ve read that your social media shares are only fresh for so long. But if I’m looking at your boards to see if I want to follow you, I won’t want to do it if they seem content-poor. Try adding in some repins from other pinners whose content is similar to yours. Create some new content too. I’m ore likely to follow you if I can see that you have more than just a couple of ideas to share!

Twitter Turnoffs

You do nothing but retweet – Your Twitter feed has no original content. Every single Tweet is a retweet, and none of them even have any comments to show why you thought the Tweet was worth sharing. This is like the people whose entire Facebook feed is just memes, and copy and paste social games. There’s no real substance, no personal connection to you. Why should I bother following you? I’m better off to follow some of the people you retweet – and I probably will!

Too many ads – All your Tweets read like ad copy. They probably are. You’re more interested in selling me your latest e-book, getting me to buy your Scentsy products, or sending out sponsored Tweets to bother having any genuine interactions with me or any of your followers. You talk at us, rather than engaging with us. Again, I’m not even going to bother following you. Get a real life.

Your entire Twitter feed is sourced from another social network – Some people just use their Twitter account to mirror their activity on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. The result is a bunch of Tweets that contain little more than a shortlink – no image, no preview text, nothing to give context. So if I want to know what the Tweet is about I have to click the link.

What a waste of a social network! When I’m on Twitter, I’m looking for standalone Tweets or Tweets with an image and a bit of preview text. When your whole feed consists of meaningless shortlinks, I’m going to take a pass. If I wanted to follow your Instagram account, I’d go to Instagram to do it.

Social media etiquette: Don’t get yourself into a pickle! | #networking #branding
Share the love! Help spread the word about social media practices that can get you into a pickle. Please pin and share this post on your social networks.
(Image from a public domain photo by Paul Sherman/WP Clipart)

 

Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my writing blog, RubyWriter. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Secrets to Success: 3 Generic Headlines Get a Boost

How to Transform a Generic Title | #bloggingtips #headlines

Titles are an important part of your total writing package. They are among the first things to jump off the page when a reader loads your page, and they are also part of the information that will be copied to a search engine or when a link from your page is shared on a social media site. Strong titles help to boost your search ranking, and they will attract readers too.

Among several factors you should be considering when you compose a title for your content is the headline style. Most people find it challenging to choose a title; many will opt for a short, rather flat generic title because they really aren’t sure how to go about choosing their headline.

Questions, lists, and how-to titles are some of the most effective headline styles. There are also a number of lesser-known styles that compare two things, reference time, or focus on a negative. All of these headline styles are preferable to a generic style (e.g. “Introduction to Web Writing” or “Key Elements of Effective Titles.”)

How to Transform a Generic Title

It’s not really hard to transform a generic title. To prove this, I picked several posts from LiteracyBase, a writing site that publishes user-generated content. I scanned the titles in the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. Then looking at the structure and content of the post, I rewrote the titles so they’d get a higher rating. In some cases, I was able to improve the score by 40 points or more. That kind of improvement could

(Note: I’ve slightly altered the titles for publication here, out of respect for the original authors. But the scores cited are for the original title as it was first published here on LiteracyBase.)

Targeting Beginners

The first title I looked at was, “Mortgages for Beginners.” The subject matter was great, and the post had some good bullet points explaining the benefits of mortgages and how they work. But the title rated only a 51% – a red light. It’s too short, too generic, and has no power words or emotional words whatsoever. Looking at the way the post was written, I proposed a new title: “8 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know About Mortgages.

I went from a short generic title to a list with more words and characters. I also added the power word, “awesome,” which helped to boost the score for the new title to 75% – a green light from the analyzer!

How to Transform a Generic Title | #bloggingtips #headlines
Boost your content with the most effective headline styles
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Celebrating People Who Do Good

The next title I chose was, “Tribute to Nurses,” and belonged to a post that extolled the virtues of this important profession. The title ranked only 26%, in large part because it is extremely short. But it’s also generic and lacks any emotional triggers.

I proposed a change to, “Let’s Celebrate Dedicated Professionals on Nurses Day!” That title is a time; and the power words, “celebrate” and “dedicated,” add emotion that improves the score to 70% – a green light. Going one step further, I came up with, “Time to Celebrate Dedicated Professionals on Nurses Day,” which is a bit closer to the optimal length for a title. This title ranked a 73%.

Writing about Life’s Milestones

As most people experience certain rites of passage throughout our life, writing about these in an informative and yet entertaining manner can result in a lot of interested readers. But the title needs to appeal to readers too! I found a lovely post entitled, “First Born: Oh the Happiness You May Know!” The title does have a power word, and it’s got a decent length. But as a generic title, it only ranks a 66% – a yellow light from the headline analyzer.

I tried, “Do We Easily Forget the Downside of Becoming Parents?” because a good half of the post focused on the unexpected costs and challenges of being a first-time parent. This question title had two power words and was slightly longer than the generic title. But it only scored a few points better at 70%. Still, that earned it a green light!

Is Parenthood Worth All the Troubles It Brings?” earned a slightly better score, at 72%. I scored a 75% with, “What are the Hidden Costs of Your Delightful Child?” Admittedly, it doesn’t sound terribly positive! But that’s the point! People want to read about trials and tribulations, about challenges, about hidden costs or other secrets we feel we should have been told upfront. We’re hard-wired, both for intrigue and to identify with someone who may have been cheated.

How are your titles stacking up against the headlines in my examples here? Can you take a generic title that rates poorly, and turn it into a power performer?

Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my writing blog, RubyWriter. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!