Beg, Borrow, or Steal: The best ways to write a blog post


Image courtesy of Javier Kohen on Flickr

We’ve all been there.

You had a great idea for a blog post. It’s a topic where you can truly shine, demonstrating your knowledge by offering readers helpful content.

But once you hit “New Post” you’re stuck. You just can’t decide where to start.

This is a problem I face all the time… but it’s also a problem I know how to solve.

How to write a blog post when you don’t know where to start

I tend to have lots of ideas for blog posts.

In fact, almost every time I sit down to brainstorm, I come up with dozens of post ideas. But there’s a big difference between having an idea for a post and actually writing one.

Fortunately, I came across some great advice very early in my blogging career:

One of the worst ways you can torture yourself as a writer is to believe everything you do has to be original. […] It’s far, far better to steal.

This quote was from blogger and “his royal awesomeness,” (his preferred title) Jon Morrow. Jon is CEO of Smart Blogger and used to be an editor for copywriting powerhouse, Copyblogger.

In fact, that quote is a line from the intro to his helpful guide (the one ebook I’ve not only read cover to cover, but reference again and again): Headline Hacks.

In Jon’s book he’s talking specifically about the idea of using proven headline formulas to help make your blog post titles clickable and make the posts themselves more likely to be read.

For example, my post “Write this, Not That: 5 Simple Swaps That Will Make Your Blog Posts More Appealing” uses the same formula as the title for a best-selling book, Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds–or More!

And I actually got the idea from Hubspot, which published “Tweet this, not that. Simple Swaps That’ll Make Your Twitter Posts More Appealing.

But this same idea can be applied to the posts themselves.

When writing blog posts, it’s far, far better to steal

When I’m stuck for how to structure a post or how to write an intro, I remember Jon’s line: It’s far, far better to steal.

So I do.

I keep a list of blogs that I love  and whenever I’m stuck I go scan a few recent posts. And then I think to myself: What can I beg, borrow, or steal from these posts? I like using that helps me organize my ideas while I’m writing and makes my articles sound more professional.

Sometimes it’s just an opening line. Sometimes it’s most of a post.

If you scan through the opening few lines of posts on a site like Smart Blogger or Social Triggers you’ll likely notice some similarities.

In fact, in a quick review, I noticed at least 2 Smart Blogger posts that began with, “Admit it.”

And just the first page of posts on Social Triggers had two posts that ended their teaser excerpts with, “Why?”

There’s a reason for this. Those formulas work.

7 Sites I like to steal from—and you can too

I’ve already mentioned a few of the sites I like to visit when I’m stuck for where to start:

  • Smart Blogger — Each post has a great headline and a great intro. Not surprisingly, Jon’s blog is probably the one I steal from most often.
  • Social Triggers — Derek Halpern’s site is another great reference. His posts just seem to pull you through them; they’re easy to read and always educational.
  • Copyblogger — While they’ve seemed to stray in recent years away from copywriting advice, and are focusing more on podcasting and other forms of media, their old posts are a goldmine.
  • Hubspot’s Marketing Blog — Another good one for headlines or intros; since they’re written by marketers for marketers, they tend to make sure the content is not just good, but great.

…but here are a few more.

  • Buffer’s Blog — These posts tend to be much longer and go much more in-depth… which often means there’s a new “intro” idea under every subhead!
  • KissMetrics —Kissmetrics headlines and posts tend to be very tailored to their audience, which makes them easy to tweak without making it obvious you’ve done so.
  • Cosmopolitan Magazine — Ok, this one is a bit different from the others, but it’s the ultimate headline brainstorming tool. They run these headlines because they work. And so can you.

Next time your stuck with a great idea but can’t find the right words, give some of these a try.

A quick visit to a few of these and usually it’s not long before I’ve gone from “New Post” to “Publish.”

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© 2014 Melissa Breau. All Rights Reserved.

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