What questions should be asked before writing a blog post? With almost five years of blogging under my belt, I’ve determined my biggest blogging kryptonite: I have too many ideas and too little time to write all of them.
At first glance, this might not appear to be a weakness. But the big oof that comes with having tons of ideas is getting overwhelmed by them. Having many ideas results in asking many questions. Should I go for it? Which idea do I work on first? Where and how do I start? Moreover, it can feel like splitting my attention a hundred times, leading to a hundred incomplete drafts. Conversely, there’s also a risk of fully investing in the wrong idea or an idea that initially sounded great but actually isn’t. And no pain is as exquisite as the regret I feel after exhausting my energy in something not worth my while.
In addition, let’s not forget that for a lot of us, blogging isn’t a full-time job. We have commitments and responsibilities outside of our little online bubbles. Unless our entire livelihood is rooted in blogging, we don’t have the privilege of solely focusing on our blogs. Thus, it’s extremely vital that we know which blog posts to prioritize and which ideas to invest in. Especially before we commit to writing these blog posts.
- What makes an ideal blog post?
- So, before writing blog posts, what are the right questions to ask?
What makes an ideal blog post?
Truthfully, there are many valid answers to this question. The “ideal” depends on the content creator’s goals and values. Personally, my mantra is to always create with clear intent and purpose. Vicky has written a beautifully insightful post on what blogging with intention means to her. A lot of what she’s said really resonates with me. But of course, my intent varies slightly from hers.
For me, the ideal blog post is personally meaningful to me and valuable to my readers. In other words, there needs to be a good balance between the passion I feel and the impact I can make through my content. Between expressing myself and catering to my audience. As much as possible, I keep in mind that these two goals are not mutually exclusive — and with the right set of questions, I can find the sweet spot that can satisfy both.
So, before writing blog posts, what are the right questions to ask?
Many people, including bloggers and content creators, have several misconceptions about strategy. For instance, some view strategy as an invitation to additional, unnecessary stress. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth, in my opinion.
Because at the heart of it all, strategizing means identifying methods for ease and efficiency. Its goal is to streamline processes, not further complicate them. Moreover, it’s the practice of assembling guidelines that can help you work better and smarter.
With that said, a key component of a good strategy is knowing what questions to ask. In this case, knowing what questions to ask before writing a blog post. I’m not going to pretend that I know everything there is about strategy. (Because I truly don’t!) But for today, I’d like to share my personal guidelines that have helped me purposefully create content that I’m very proud of. Here are six big and important questions that I ask myself before writing a blog post.
1. How strongly do I feel about this topic?
I work best when I’m passionate about what I’m doing. And this very much applies to my writing and blogging as well. In fact, as a passion-driven person, writing about a topic that I don’t feel personally connected to can feel like pulling my own teeth. Painful, tiresome, and why on earth would I do it willingly?
The reality is that coming up with ideas is quick and easy, but carrying them out and seeing them through can be very laborious. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. In my early years of blogging, I was guilty of starting blog posts, losing steam, and abruptly abandoning them. Looking back, it was a lot of wasted effort, time, and energy.
I’ve learned that ‘losing steam’ is frequently due to short-lived or fleeting interest. It can also be caused by impulsive decision-making. Therefore, it’s important to take a step back and really reflect on our feelings and on our level of commitment.
- What is your personal connection to this idea?
- What’s driving you to write this post? Is this motivation spur-of-the-moment, or have you been thinking about this for a while?
- How confident are you that you can finishing writing this post?
2. Am I qualified to write about it?
One of the most wonderful things about blogging is the freedom of expression, especially creatively. But if you want to write something meaningful, you need to be knowledgeable and sufficiently equipped to write it. Specifically, this means having ample knowledge about the subject matter and self-awareness of your position in relation to it.
For example, if you’re hoping to write about Asian representation in mainstream media, what do you know about it? More precisely, what do you know on a personal, firsthand level and what do you know on a broader, more professional (e.g. academic-wise, industry-wise) level? What is your role in this — are you an actor, director, college student majoring in media and film, or part of the target audience for Asian-led media? Are you Asian or part of the Asian diaspora? Are you directly involved or affected? If yes, how so?
To clarify, you do not need to be an expert on the topic in order to discuss it meaningfully. In the same vein, you do not need fancy titles or formal certifications to establish your ‘qualification’. However, in an age where anyone who’s anyone can say whatever they want on the Internet with little to no repercussions, disinformation has become more rampant and more dangerous than ever.
Moreover, when you have a platform, you are responsible for the content you create and the information you disseminate. Even if your blog post is nothing more than a casual conversation or a collection of personal musings. It is your own responsibility to assess your credibility and to determine whether you are fit to spearhead the discussion.
- Are you the best person to write about this topic? Why do you think so?
- By writing this blog post, are you talking over someone else? Is that someone else from a marginalized community that you aren’t part of?
- What sources, expertise, and experiences do you have that establish your credibility on this topic?
- Are you confident in your knowledge of the topic? If not, how do you plan to bridge the gaps in your repository?
- What tools do you have at your disposal that can help you facilitate this discussion?
- Are you ready to write this? And more importantly, are you ready to accept full responsibility for writing it?
3. Is it time-bound or evergreen?
In an increasingly fast-paced world, timing can make or break everything. Blog posts are no exception! A poorly-timed blog post can result in poor performance in terms of views and engagement. Similarly, publishing a post at the most opportune time can incite a lot of interest in you and in your blog. And this can then lead to incredible growth. Thus, timing is an essential component in deciding which blog post ideas to prioritize.
As a rule of thumb, I prefer writing blog posts that are either time-bound or evergreen. This is because, with the right strategy, you can use these posts to your advantage. Meanwhile, blog posts that are neither time-bound nor evergreen tend to stagnate. They are also more likely to have little relevance, shorter shelf life, and limited opportunities for growth. But I’m getting way too ahead of myself.
Time-bound Content vs. Evergreen Content
A time-bound blog post pertains to content that performs better or worse, depending on the time. This encompasses timely and seasonal posts. Timely content is currently relevant, whereas seasonal content tends to pique interest during certain times of the year. For example, a post about protecting your mental health amidst a global pandemic is timely because COVID-19 continues to impact our lives. For another example, a post about gift-wrapping tips and techniques becomes really relevant around the holiday season. Both guarantee an increased bump in views and engagement for short, limited periods of time.
Meanwhile, an evergreen blog post pertains to perpetually relevant, lasting content that will continue to accumulate traffic long after its publication. In other words, its relevance is not tied to time. And because of that, it’ll stay “fresh” and sustain a healthy amount of views and engagement. Although evergreen content might not lead to a rapid increase in statistics, it does guarantee growth and benefits in the long-run. Popular examples of evergreen blog posts are curated lists, instructional “how-to” guides and tutorials, and product reviews.
4. What can I contribute to the conversation? How valuable is this contribution?
Here’s a little-known secret: you do not need completely original content to have a hugely successful blog. An unpopular opinion, I know. But if you asked me to pick between original ideas and valuable ideas, I’d happily bet on the latter.
Why? First of all, “100% original” ideas are very difficult to come by in this day and age. Second, people may want original content, but there are very few ways to actively find them. Hypothetically speaking, if you’re an undergraduate student looking for a thesis topic that’s never been done before, how are you going to find it online? What keywords will you type into your search engine’s bar? Exactly. Odds are in favor of you accidentally stumbling across original content, but not because you typed a magical string of keywords together. Finally, original ideas aren’t necessarily great ideas. A delivery service that pairs up books and cupcakes together? Possibly a novel idea, but there probably isn’t a demand for it.
In contrast, people will actively seek out content that they believe is valuable. This exact reasoning is why instructional tutorials, guides, and tips are considered evergreen content.
All of this is to say that you should worry less about being “original” and focus more on being value-adding. A good example is this post (yep, the one you’re reading right now). If you type in “questions to ask before writing a blog post” on the Google search bar, you’ll find around 1,430,000,000 results. So, why did I decide to write it anyway? Simple. Because I know that I can still contribute something valuable, if not helpful, to my readers. So, before writing a blog post, assess its value.
- Would people still care about this topic?
- How popular or widely talked about is this topic? Is there a new angle or a new perspective that you can add to this conversation?
- Are you solely reiterating points and arguments made by other bloggers? Or is your take fresh and unique?
- What would set your blog post apart from everyone else’s?
- What would make your blog post valuable or useful to other people?
5. Can I arrange my thoughts into a cohesive outline?
Your answer needs to be a solid yes. Because a good idea will fall flat if the execution leaves a lot to be desired. In other words, you have to be prepared to write it well. This encompasses (1) sufficiently knowing your material, (2) having enough material to work with, and (3) translating that material into a great outline. If you don’t know what to say or if you don’t know how to say it, then no one would be able to appreciate your thoughts and ideas, no matter how good they are.
An outline is the building block and the backbone of your entire blog post. It’s an extremely useful tool in ensuring that your blog post is in its best possible form! A good outline can show you what your main points are, which parts can be divided into sections (which is great for SEO!), how your ideas can flow logically, and even which parts are lacking in comparison. Moreover, it can also serve as your framework, guiding you into writing effectively and concisely.
6. What am I hoping to achieve by writing this post?
Before writing a blog post, ask yourself what your intention is. Ultimately, what are you trying to do? And what are you hoping to achieve? By asking these questions, you will be able to effectively gauge whether the blog post is worth your while.
The purpose behind your content must be evidently clear. More importantly, it’s essential that you assess whether what you’re writing is, in fact, aligned with what you’re aiming for. For example, if your goal is to build up hype for an upcoming book release, then writing an early book review might help you achieve that. As another example, if you’re hoping to organically grow your viewership, then you might be able to do so by focusing on creating evergreen content that’s catered to your niche audience.
This might sound harsh. But if your post has no clear intention or purpose, discard it and move on. You can — and should — invest your time, energy, and effort in creating more worthwhile content instead. Remember that you are human: you have limitations, you have a flourishing life outside of your platform, and you deserve to focus on content that you can be proud of.
- What is the main purpose of your blog post? Are you trying to promote, to inform, or to entertain?
- What do you want readers to take away from your blog post?
- What do you want your readers to do after reading your blog post?
- What feelings or thoughts should your blog post provoke in your readers?
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I’d love to hear from you!
? Do you struggle with creating content for your blog? How do you work through it?
? What factors do you consider before you commit to writing a blog post? Does asking questions help in your decision-making?
? What do you think about this post? Do you find it helpful?