Presented live on Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017
Struggling to write post after post? Feeling the fatigue? In this tutorial, special guest Kaleigh Moore – contributor to Inc and Entrepreneur – shows us how she writes post after post for blogs with massive traffic. Features tips like “start in the middle” and insights into making your post more enjoyable to read.
Kaleigh is writing in Airstory, the writing software for research-based projects.
Joanna Wiebe: … record. Cool, we’re recording.
Today we’re talking about blog posts with mass appeal, is really what I am super interested to hear Kaleigh talk about. She’s written regularly for Inc., for Entrepreneur, she’s worked with us, she’s written posts for us on Copy Hackers, and we used to have something called Airstory review, she wrote for that as well.
We loves Kaleigh. Kaleigh, what are you going to share with us today?
Kaleigh Moore: Today I wanted to talk a little bit about structuring a blog post, and how I tackle outlining these and writing more efficiently. Because, when you think about it, if you’re a freelance writer like me, the faster and more efficiently you can write and maintain quality, the more money you can make.
Of course, you want to raise your rates and do those things over time, but efficiency, I think, is a big point of struggle for a lot of people who something either get burnt out or they just get to the point where they’re looking at a blank screen and they’re like, oh my God, what am I supposed to write? I’m totally blocked or I have no fresh ideas.
It happens so often and I hear about it all the time. I think that this is a really great topic that hopefully will help something other people when they get to that point, kind of have a actionable approach to fixing that problem.
Joanna Wiebe: Right, that’s cool, I completely hear that, and we hear that all the time, even from experienced writers, people who then when … doesn’t matter how many times you’ve sat down and looked at that blank page, every time is like trying to find your way in. Very cool. Good.
You will be sharing … you’re going to show us somethings as well?
Kaleigh Moore: I am. I-
Joanna Wiebe: Cool. All right, well, I’m going to go a little bit quiet now and just let you take over.
Kaleigh Moore: Okay, great.
Joanna Wiebe: Cool.
Kaleigh Moore: I will leave time at the end for Q&A, so I’m going to try not to ramble too much, but I just want to jump into this. What I’m going to do, is I’m going to reference, I’m going to share my screen here just quickly and then I’ll probably shut it off, but I’m going to reference this particular blog post.
Can you see this here? This one. This Copy Hackers. Yes? Okay. Great, so … Okay, so what I-
Joanna Wiebe: Sorry, I was on mute there but, yes, we can see it, it’s perfect.
Kaleigh Moore: Okay, great. This is the blog post I wrote for Copy Hackers back in November of last year. It’s a pretty long-form post, it’s about a 20 minute read. It took me, I would say, about 12 hours to write from start to finish.
I just wanted to walk through the process with this. Now, for the work that I do, I do two kinds of blog content, for the most part.
I do these super long-form, very deep-dive posts like this one, that you can read and walk away from and be like, wow, I really learned something and I feel so much smarter now.
And then the other thing I do, is I write for publications like Inc. and Entrepreneur, and those are very much short-form, bite-sized, quick, here’s the five thing I want to share with you and it’s maybe a three minute read, it doesn’t take as long.
The thing that’s the common thread through both of them is I structure them both the same way. When I’m looking at my assignments for the week, I sometimes run into that feeling of, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? I can’t come up with an idea. It feels very daunting just looking at the blank screen.
One way I really try to break this down, and make it much more manageable, is to start with an outline every time. I’m going to share my screen again so you can see what this looks like in Airstory over on this side. The blank page is one of those things that’s like, sometimes I’m tempted to just sit down and write everything, and just kind of vomit onto the page and just sort it out later. But I found that if I can put together an outline with three main pieces, it becomes much, much easier.
This is kind of what it looks like when I start writing. And this is referring back to this Copy Hackers post over here. When I write I always write the middle section first. I just do a brain dump for the middle, and then I do the intro and the closing last.
I’m going to go in order of the outline I have over here with intro, middle, closing. But just keep in mind that when I’m actually doing this hands-on, I take a different approach to it, because I feel like once I do the middle first, then I can write a really well-recapped and well-rounded intro and closing, because I know everything that I covered. That’s just a kind of a sidebar note.
Let’s start with the opening. When you’re structuring a blog post, you want to piece it out to make it easier for yourself. It makes it easier to research more efficiently, to write more efficiently and, like I said easier, that’s important when you’re freelancing, especially because to work efficiently that means you get to do more jobs and do better work, and it’s good for your business.
The thing with the opening, I found that it’s really good to start with a problem, it’s really good to start with a pain point, and to just keep things really simple and conversational at the beginning. If you look over at the Copy Hackers post here, you can see that it really does that right off the bat. It talks about sustainability being a problem for freelance writers. That’s a pain point that a lot of us can understand and can relate with. And, so, I just dive in from there and I take a very slow gallop into drawing the reader in when I’m writing intros.
I found that really short staccato sentences work well. So, maybe just one sentence and then a space, and then one sentence and then a space. It is just something I learned, honestly, from reading what Jo writes. I mean, that’s what she does and every time I find a post like that I find that it’s just less intimidating to get into because it feels like you’re having a conversation. It’s almost writing the way you speak because it’s very short and there’s a little humor in there sometimes, there’s some good facts, and it really draws you in that way because you feel that connection with the writer.
That’s what I did in this post here, and over on the Airstory side of things, you can see that I just keep it really simple in the beginning and I think, okay, this is the one thing I’m going to focus on in the intro, this is the topic that I’m trying to address and solve for the reader, and we’re going to take a deep dive on this.
From there I say, okay, what’s the problem? Over in the outline you can see it says, The problem: Sites like Upwork. Then I just start to throw ideas down on how I’m going to address that.
Then I really get down into the middle over here. The opening, like I said, I leave that to the end, but that’s my approach to the opening is to just take it really slow and draw the reader in. And then, when I start to really focus on building out the middle section, I always want to make that very meaty. That’s where I want to focus most of my time and attention.
For a post like this one, this one took me anywhere from … I probably, when I did the first draft, it probably took me about six hours. But I let it sit for a little bit, and then I come back and I do some editing before I send over the first draft. It a long process when you’re writing a post like this, and that’s something to keep in mind when you go into it. Don’t rush, don’t think: I’m going to get this done in two hours. Really give yourself some time to think it over and to do the research, and to build out the pieces of the middle section. This is where my middle section starts, right here, is the How to solve the problem section. And I’m really walking through each step of my approach.
What’s so great about this, I think, is that is really teaches something. I’m not just giving a couple of quick hacks or tips I’m really diving into: this is what I do every single time I sit down to write. It’s laid out in one, two, three, four. You can see that there.
So, when I sit down to write a post like this, here’s how I do it. This is my first section here: Get in front of dream client with guest posting. That’s one of the main things I’ve done to help myself find new clients and help me become a more respected copywriter within the niche that I serve.
What I did here is thought, okay, for each section I want to have a few key elements that I’m going to include. I want to have quote from somebody other than me, so another writer who’s used this tactic successfully. I want to have a couple data points, so I want to reference some case studies or research, or something that backs up the point that I’m making with some hard numbers. And I also want to include some actionable steps, so I want to have that in there.
You can see, over in the Card Library here, I’m just building out the steps and the pieces of this one section piece-by-piece. I’ve labeled them all with the same type of grouped heading, so I can find them easier.
Aaron Orendorff is an example that I had here, he was one of the quotes that I found that I wanted to use in this section. So, I just copy and pasted in here. He sent me a quote over email and I copied it, I made a card out of it, and then, once I’m ready to start building out the section, I’m going to drop this in here.
I might reorganize that a little bit later to get the flow really nailed down but, essentially, that’s how I do it. I just take little blips of information, these little bit-sized pieces that are going to make each section really actionable and valuable for the reader, and I just start making cards. And I label them so they’re easy to find.
That’s kind of the process that I took for this whole post. If you look at the post you can see that each section has all of those different elements: it’s got the quote, it’s got the data points, it’s got the actionable steps, and it also keeps the flow conversational, because it works in things like rhetorical questions and I wrote like I speak, where I work in interjections that make it more like I was teaching you something face-to-face.
I think that a lot of posts on Copy Hackers do that very well. They keep it very conversational, easy to read, and that makes it more enjoyable, it makes the reader stay in tune more because it doesn’t feel so stiff.
So, yeah, that’s how I do the middle section. I usually strive to have at least five to eight case studies or pieces of research, or screenshots or images that break down a process. That’s not necessarily the case in this article, but a lot of the how-to posts need elements like that, that I write.
I always try to include a walkthrough of processes with step-by-step, so that makes that super simple. I also … the statistics, the research, the expert quotes, I think, add a nice story element because it’s not just you speaking all the time, you can shift the spotlight to somebody else, so that their voice is telling the narrative that you’re trying to communicate as well.
And then I try to keep the humor in there too, which I know Lianna taught about a few weeks ago, she did a great job. I use GIFs, or GIFs, however you say it. I incorporate little funny things or pop culture references because, again, that makes it more readable. That makes it more relatable as you’re writing this fairly technical walkthrough. It’s not always easy to find something that fits or that … I mean, you don’t want it to detract from you’re trying to teach but you also want to keep it light, and you want to keep it readable.
Again, that would be other cards that I would put over here in Airstory when I’m building this out. It might be, oh, I want to drop in this GIF in this section, or I want to be sure to reference this particular screenshot that I found that illustrates a process that I’m talking about.
And, by doing it this way, and just really piecing every little saying out, in no time at all I basically have the article written. I have every single piece that I need. The middle is done. All I have to do is go through and make it flow, and then tie everything together in the opening, so set up the point that I’m going to make, say, this is what I’m going to teach you, teach it in the middle section, and then the closing, I always just do a recap of the steps and include a call to action to do something else, so there’s not just a hard stop at the end. Maybe it’s to read another blog post, or to send me an email if you have a question about the post or about the topic that I just covered. Something that keeps the conversation going.
Comments are a great opportunity for that as well. I always try to hang out in the comments for at least a week after I do a post like this, because there are always a lot of questions, and I like answering those and fielding maybe the things that I didn’t think about in the article or just addressing questions and concerns that come up along the way.
This is really how I do it, and even for the shorter-form articles for the places like Inc. Magazine or Entrepreneur. This is the same approach that I use. It’s just piecing it out so that at the end it’s just stitching all the pieces together.
And, Jo, I know that you’ve talked about that before. It just make the whole writing process so much simpler, and you’re sure that you’ve covered all of your bases, you’re sure that you have a really solid article, and it just makes the whole writing process so much simpler.
Joanna Wiebe: Doesn’t it?
Kaleigh Moore: Yes, I rambled for a long time. I’m going to take a breather.
Joanna Wiebe: You know what I love, is that you kept saying teaching. A lot of people think writing when they’re blogging, and sure you are, but you’re actually teaching something. That’s always, like that’s even with an opinion piece, you’re still persuading somebody to think the way that you do, which often times is, of course, teaching. I love that.
I know we’re getting some questions here, that was awesome. I loved seeing your process too. Such a cool process.
Okay, so I will look at some questions here for you. People want templates. People love templates. [Od 00:14:46] was like, do you start with a basic template? Is that where the outline comes from? Or what do you do? How do you sit down and first start putting those points together?
Kaleigh Moore: The way I structure … I’m going to refer to this example here, and I’ll share my screen again so you can see it. I just try to nail down, what are the top five to eight things I want to cover in this post? Then I just jot those down, and the headings that I have here, they’re probably not going to stick, but it gives me the gist of what I’m going to write about and I massage it from there, and get to the point where everything flows and I’m sure that I’ve covered all the bases.
But, in its simplest form, it’s really just about, what are the five to eight thing that I can’t forget? Or, if it’s not a process post like this one, maybe it’s, what are the steps to achieving x end result. It’s usually just as simple as that.
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, and I think that’s really … even when you say five to eight, good use that number guys, use that as a starting point. Have five to eight, if you don’t have five you don’t have enough, if you have eight you’re getting there. Okay, that’s awesome.
And coming up with that is just a matter of, I think, sometimes we’re looking for real intense shortcuts into things, but it is just sitting there and jotting your thoughts out quickly.
Kaleigh Moore: Yeah, for sure.
Joanna Wiebe: Okay, cool. Then, other questions are kind of … there’s like the dual screen and how you set up your card library, that somebody asked. But you don’t write with those do you? You were just doing that to demonstrate? It was like the Copy Hackers site-
Kaleigh Moore: [crosstalk 00:16:31]
Joanna Wiebe: … and then the other screen was there. So, good there.
I’m just going to answer that one live. Let me see. People are saying various things in chat: Kelly’s … sorry, Kaleigh’s teaching perspective is one of the things I love about here and her mailing list, I always learn something from her stuff and it is very valuable to me.
Then there’s, of course, the discussion about GIF versus GIF.
Kaleigh Moore: Oh, gosh guys, I don’t know. I don’t know.
Joanna Wiebe: I know, right?
Kaleigh Moore: I know, so lets just drop it, all right?
Joanna Wiebe: Whatever you say is right, exactly, tomayto, tomahto.
Kaleigh Moore: Yeah, everybody’s right.
Joanna Wiebe: Yep. Vanessa asks, how do you keep your topics fresh?
Kaleigh Moore: That’s a good question. Just a lot of the time I’m assigned topic by an editor or a content manager, so that makes that easy. But, if I’m writing for my own site, and I write about topics on writing and freelancing, and how to navigate that whole crazy world, I usually just go to the people who are either on my email list or who I have seen asking questions in forums that I participate in, whether it’s a Facebook group or a place like Reddit or inbound.org
I look at the questions that people are asking there and that’s how I find my topics, because I know that people want those answered.
Then I also thinking about the questions that I had too, when I was getting started. So, I think that’s the case with any industry that you write for as well. It’s just thinking about, what are the questions that people want answered? Like, what are the top questions? What are the FAQs?
And then thinking out really thoughtful answers to those questions and tackling them with a deep dive. Not just saying, here’s five quick tips. I feel like the deep dives do a little bit more and are more valuable to the reader.
Joanna Wiebe: Great, yeah, totally. That’s where you come up with the ideas, and somebody else asked, Courtney asked: are there any go-to places or site that you prefer for your actual research? Where do you go?
Kaleigh Moore: That’s a good question too. I use … so, I have a lot of statistics that I reference in my posts. I use a lot of Pew research, I use a lot of Statista information, again, I don’t know how to pronounce these things, come on guys, don’t worry about it.
Joanna Wiebe: Just go with it.
Kaleigh Moore: You know what I’m talking about. But, yes, I try to use … A lot of the people that I work for are software companies or e-commerce companies, so there are a lot of competitors to be aware of, so I try to use those more neutral sites that conduct these pieces of research on a more neutral playing ground, so that I’m not referencing competitors or I’m not having skewed data, things like that.
That’s what I strive for.
Joanna Wiebe: Cool, love it. Ally, asks the question, and I think it’s a question that she clearly struggles with, do you ever start writing and realize that the real juice idea in the post is actually something other than what you started with? And then how do you deal with those ideas that come to you as you’re writing? Do you shift focus or do you stick to the plan?
Kaleigh Moore: Sometimes I’m able to work those in, and I feel that they add another perspective and dimension to the post. Even, again, with this article again, I’m going to share my screen one more time, this was kind of something that happened with this article.
If you go down here at the end, sorry if I’m making anybody sick with my scrolling, if you go down here you can see at the end that I had this thought that was like, okay, if I do this it’s going to work, right? But somebody who is going to read this post and be like, okay great, I’ve got this whole great sales strategy now, I don’t need a marketing plan, I’m just going to do what this post says. So, I had this header and it was just a thought like, okay, if I do this should I put all my eggs in this one basket and not do anything else? And, so, it added a unique perspective to the plan and it was a good reminder for anyone reading that it wasn’t a cure-all, you can’t just follow these steps and be like, okay great, everything’s going to be wonderful.
That’s one of those instances where I was able to work it in. Does that happen every time? Not always, but sometimes it’s a good thought to tie in at the end.
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, love it. Cool, so I know we’re at the end of time here, but maybe two more questions?
Alessandra asks, do you have any SEO or keyword considerations when you’re writing?
Kaleigh Moore: Some clients do give me particular keywords that they want worked in. Usually that’s not a huge concern as I’m building out the outline. I’m able to work those in as I’m writing so that it’s natural and it doesn’t feel like I’m stuffing for keywords or anything like that. Sometimes I’ll work those keywords into the headers, so I remember to touch on those thing whin each section that I’m going to be writing out, but I try to keep that a secondary focus rather than really focusing on keywords for what I’m writing, because that impacts the quality, I feel like, more than it should.
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, totally agree. Yeah, awesome. There are a couple, but I’m going to go with Rich’s question and Rich Cook feel free to read the post that Kelly, Kaleigh … Why am I doing that?
Kaleigh Moore: [crosstalk 00:21:58]
Joanna Wiebe: Right? She just referenced, and you can go through it and see some tips there.
But, Rich asks, how do you break in to get paid writing assignments, or I assume just writing assignments, with Entrepreneur? Or do you have a single best tip, now that you’ve shown people how to write this stuff?
Kaleigh Moore: My single best twit … my single best tip is to use Twitter because that’s how I landed my first gig, and you’ll see that story in this article. I found an editor who was working at Entrepreneur, he and I connected over Twitter, we just kind of went back and forth, and built a friendship up, and I didn’t make a direct ask right off the bat. We just chatted and I commented on the articles that he shared.
And I wasn’t becoming friend with him to have this strategy on the backend, I was just trying to get to know people within the industry that I wanted to work in and the opportunity just organically arose where we connected on LinkedIn on day and so I thought, okay, this is a good time to send a message here and say, hey, is there any tips you can give me, I’m pitching? Or are there opportunities that maybe you could help me out with here? It just happened that way.
So, I think Twitter is a great tool for connecting with other writers or with companies that you want to work with, with content managers that you want to work with. Go in just hoping to make friendships, that’s the number one thing you can do.
Joanna Wiebe: Wicked advice, totally agree, that is awesome.
Kaleigh, thank you so much. We have lots of other questions that I just … I mean, feel free, guys, to reach out to Kaleigh online. Where can they find you on Twitter? What’s your Twitter handle?
Kaleigh Moore: It’s @KaileighF and I’ll put this in the chat because my name is hard to spell. But, yeah, Twitter is a great place to connect with me. I use it, basically, as my virtual office water cooler throughout the day, so I check in there a lot. And it’s a great place to just go back and forth with me quickly. I try to respond so everyone, so-
Joanna Wiebe: That’s awesome.
Kaleigh Moore: … just say hi.
Joanna Wiebe: Cool. I’ve also chatted out the link to your site, where people can go and learn more from you, get more great … well, read awesome posts from you as well. Go check that out, guys.
The Twitter is now in there as well.
Someone else has shared out the actual link to the article that Kaleigh referenced today. So, that’s cool, check that out as well.
And that is everything. Kaleigh, thank you so much for coming in today. This recording will be going out afterward and hopefully we’ll see you again another time in these Tutorial Tuesdays.
Kaleigh Moore: Thank you so much.
Joanna Wiebe: Thanks everybody, have a good one. See you next week.