Over the last year or so, I’ve read quite a few blog posts about how long people spend writing blog posts. Some of the numbers are mind blowing. Some people spend an average of 7-9 hours per post, and sometimes that’s even before the they take time to decide on a title.
That’s fine for someone who has nothing else to do with their entire day. But for the rest of us:
So how do we shorten the time we spend writing blog articles so that we can get on with our lives and work? I would love to say there is a list of tips or hacks that can reduce your writing time to half or less, but effective and efficient blog writing simply comes down to planning. By planning ahead of time, you can cut down on the time spent on the process of writing and focus on the writing itself.
Wouldn’t it be easy to sit down for an hour and pump out a great post if you already knew what the topic was, had your research on hand (if you needed it), had an idea of the direction of the post laid out, and had keywords chosen? We spend so much time on blog writing because our brains have to switch between the writing process and the writing itself many times throughout the creation of the end product.
At Sigma, we start our planning process using a marketing and content calendar. There, you can see what campaigns and events are coming up that you want to be writing about, and you can do the planning process in bulk (we like to plan the next month of blog posts half way through the current month). This way you’re already in the mindset of the planning process and you can plan many in a shorter time, ahead of time.
Get a topic
Already have a mile long list of topics in your mind (or preferrably written down) that your audience would love? Great! More power to you. For the rest of us, however, coming up with a topic can be a huge time suck.
Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and resources out there to help you decide on a topic. Our 107 Content Marketing Ideas is a great place to see different types of topics you could write about. Also, try Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. All you have to do is put in a few general words and it will turn those into a week’s wrth of topics, ready for you to take as is or to tweak to your liking.
“What if I can’t find an original topic that hasn’t been discussed over and over?” Then you get to join the rest of us. We have this notion that we have to write completely new content every time, but that’s impossible and unrealistic. Whatever you have to say, I would be willing to bet others have thought of the exact thing before. The point is not necessarily to introduce a new idea or concept, but to say it from your own experience, expertise, and perception. It’s bound to register with some people in a way that other articles didn’t.
Now that you have an idea of what you would like to write about, go through your list of keywords to find 1-3 that would fit well into the topic, get some monthly searches, and wouldn’t be nearly impossible to rank for. We recommend sticking to a difficulty ranking of <40 for newer companies or those with less traffic, and <60 for more established businesses.
Develop a Working Title
If you haven’t already, this is where you decide on the type of post you’ll be writing. Is it going to be a list? Will it be instructional or a how-to? Is it a presentation of data or graphical information? This will lead help lead you to your working title that you will use as foundation for the blog and the direction you take it in. “X Ways to Build Your Online Authority” has a very different tone than “What Does Your Online Authority Say About Your Company?”
The working title will be fairly similar to your finished title, but may not have just the right language you need to make it click-worthy. It should include your top keyword and have an indication of what the reader should expect from the post, like “7 Secrets of…” or “Why your marketing should…” or “How to do…”
List Bullet Points
If you need to, do some research on the topic to make a short list of the points you want to cover. Include statistics or relevant information you want to be sure to include. This doesn’t need to be an in-depth outline, but it needs to have the main points you want to cover and you need to see that the ideas will flow from one to the next.
The entire process of preparing to write for one topic shouldn’t take more than half an hour, and, assuming you don’t nitpick at the details, will likely only take 10-15 minutes. Once you’ve got the pieces, then you’re ready to write!
Write and Publish in an Hour or Less
You’ve got all everything you need for your post. To keep you from spending all day at the actual writing, set a time limit for yourself. Create a reward for finishing it in a certain time, set a kitchen timer, do whatever it takes to give yourself a sense of ugency to git ‘er done.
Remember to add in enough time to finalize the title, edit and review the post, and add at least one image. Maybe you need to try to write in 30 minutes to get the rest down in the second half of the hour.
A really handy checklist is the Ultimate Editing Checklist, a no-download tool you can use to make sure you get all the nuts and bolts for a great post.
Pro Tip: It’s easy to get caught up in the minutae of what we’re doing, such as finding the perfect word or a great image that’s free and not copyright protected. These things are important, but not as much in the grand scheme of things. Focus on the priorities of the post, like a great title, interesting content, correct grammar and on-page SEO. The rest is just the icing on the cake.
Following these guidelines, you can consistently whip up great posts in a fraction of the time everyone else does, simply by planning ahead and keeping your brain focused on one thing at time.