Blogging can be scary. The blank page. The blinking cursor. What if nobody reads it? What if they read it and they hate it? When you take some time to figure out your motivation for blogging, brainstorm topics, and focus on the storytelling arc, you’ll be in a much better position to let your voice shine through and share your expertise with your readers.
Whether you think you’d like to start blogging but you haven’t gotten past the blank page or you post regularly but you want to make your writing really pop, here are some great tips for how to tell compelling stories to help current clients, connect with new clients, and position yourself as a mental health leader.
Why would you like to write a post or start blogging? Do you want more content to put on your site? Do you want to guest blog for other publications? Do you want resources to share with your clients? Do you want to attract new clients? Do you want to drive traffic to your website or have content to share on social? Maybe you just want to write for yourself because you want to try it out.
Figuring out your motivation and goals for your posts is a good first step and north star to guide you in developing your voice, deciding on the topics you will write about, deciding where to share your posts, and figuring out how often to write.
If you want resources to share with your clients, you might end up writing some longer posts or a cornerstone piece that’s focused on your main area of expertise with other, smaller peel-out posts afterward. If you want lots of posts to share on social, you could write some medium-length pieces and get some nice images to go along with them (we use Unsplash for great, freely-usable images). If you just want to practice writing and get your expertise down on paper, you could think of a topic that you’re particularly passionate and knowledgeable about that will give you the momentum to keep going.
After you have an idea of why you want to write, think about where you want it to end up. If you have a website, you have a ready-made place to post. If you don’t have a website, you can throw it up on Medium or Linkedin for free. You can also pitch it to a place like MyWellbeing or guest blog somewhere else (be sure to check out the pitch process for a site before you write the entire piece, expecting it to be accepted!).
People often think that they have to do a lot of research to write a post or think of a brand new topic and learn everything about it before they can write at all. Of course, lifelong learning is good, but when it comes to blogging, especially if you’re just starting out, you should be writing about what you know first.
What is the niche of your therapy practice? What are you an expert in? What subjects can you sit down and talk about with relative ease? The more detailed, the better! Instead of Top Ten Self-Care Tips, try The Best Self-Care Tips to Recover From A Panic Attack. When you pick topics that you’re an expert in and focus on a more detailed subject, your writing will sound more engaging and it will be a much faster writing process for you.
Taking a reader-focused approach means that we’re thinking about how we can help our reader or solve a problem for our reader, not thinking about what we want to share or what we want to tell people. Thinking of the question that you’re going to answer for your clients with your post to make sure that it is reader-focused is going to make your writing a lot tighter and more compelling.
Say you want to write about reframing negative beliefs. Even if you’re an expert on this topic, you don’t just want to share your broad expertise in a single post. To make a topic reader-focused, all you really have to do is turn it into a question—Where do negative beliefs come from? How are negative beliefs formed? How can I overcome or learn to cope with my negative beliefs?—and then answer it as if someone was actually asking you. This is going to help you formulate your headline and your keyword and keyword phrases that you’re going to use in the post.
You don’t have to be a search engine optimization expert to start blogging! There are a few simple things you can do to your post as you write it to help you with SEO and increase the chances of your post showing up when people search for your topic on places like Google.
So for the topic of negative beliefs, our keywords and keyphrases could be negative beliefs, coping with negative beliefs, and reframing negative beliefs. You want to use these in the blog, but you can’t use them a dozen times each, so you’ll need some other phrases and things to cover.
Think about what your reader is going to be Googling. What are negative beliefs and how can I overcome them? What can I do to reframe negative beliefs? What’s the best memoir about overcoming negative beliefs? These are questions you can answer for your reader.
Google your keyphrase and check out the “People also ask” section in the search results. If I Google “coping with negative beliefs,” the “People also ask” section says things like:
Now you have a ton of related phrases, keyword synonyms, and questions that you’ll be able to use throughout your post like how to cope with negative beliefs, tools for managing negative beliefs, how to manage negative beliefs, help with negative beliefs, and coping mechanisms for negative beliefs. You’re going to use your keyword or phrases in the headline, the section headers, in the first paragraph of your post, and throughout the rest of the post when you can.
If you Google ideal blog post length, you’ll find a million different responses! If you’re blogging simply to share your expertise with your audience, your post should definitely be more than 300 words. Posts that are 300 words can be good for generating discussion. They rarely get many shares on social media, and they’re not good for SEO, but if you allow comments on your blog, short is good. 300-600 words is a good middle-ground for social shares and comments, but too short to gain much authority or SEO. 800 words is a respectable, good middle ground.
Once you hit 1000, you’ll start to get more shares on social. 2,000 words and more will help you rank well on search engines, but you have to write about a topic that people are actually searching for and think more about keywords and how you’re going to use SEO.
My personal preference is a solid 1,200-word post. I feel like it covers all of the bases. For the sake of kicking it off and sharing your expertise, if you can write around 1,000 words, you’re good to go.
Ideally, you want to link to an outside site in your posts at least once. These links should be good quality mental health brands, journalism, or research. Aside from sources being great, this creates a backlink, which is a link created when one website links to another (which is another element of SEO). If you have content on your own site you can link to (known as internal links), that’s great too.
Google what you need to know and look for reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic, The National Institute of Mental Health, National Alliance On Mental Illness, and the CDC. URLs with .gov .org .edu are usually safe and if you need statistics, Google whatever the topic is + statistics. If you don’t know the source or it looks questionable, don’t use it! You can also link to other therapists’ blogs (and be sure to reach out and share a link to your live blog post with them when you do!).
Now we’re ready to write! Laying the groundwork makes this part so much easier. Writing is the fun part of blogging, so the planning you did ahead of time will allow you to concentrate on your story and message.
You want your readers to go beyond just your headline, so you have to write a great headline that encourages them to want to read on and see what your content has to offer. The headline comes more naturally when you’re thinking about your reader. Going back to the negative beliefs example, if your reader wants to know how to cope with negative beliefs, your headline could be Here Are The Best Coping Mechanisms for Negative Beliefs. CoSchedule’s headline analyzer will help you figure out the strength of your headline and see where you can make changes.
Let’s use an example from MyWellbeing’s Content Corner, our therapy-seeker blog. I wanted to write about the feeling of pandemic guilt that many people are having during the COVID-19 crisis, so my headline was What Is Pandemic Guilt and How Can You Cope?
The headline is the subject, title, and question you’re answering, the first header reinforces your thesis or defines terminology, your second and third headers answer further questions or more specific points, and your fourth header can give a solution and start to wrap things up. Shoot for four 250-word paragraphs along with an intro, and that’s going to put you over 1,000 words!
My first header explains more about the topic. It’s a definition or gives the reader more background to let them know why this subject is important and why we’re talking about it. It doubles down on the thesis. So in What Is Pandemic Guilt And How Can You Cope? my first header was “Pandemic guilt is the feeling that you aren’t suffering enough or you don’t deserve health, happiness, or comfort while others are suffering from COVID-19,” and I continued to explain that definition throughout the paragraph.
The second and third headers answer any questions that might have been raised after you explained your thesis, tell you reader how to do whatever you’re talking about with actions or tips, or start to answer the question that the reader Googled. If you find that your second header is getting long or is splitting off into another point, you move on to your third header, and if that gets too long, you can add another.
So in the pandemic guilt article, my second header was “The signs and symptoms of pandemic guilt are similar to survivor’s guilt” (because once I defined pandemic guilt in the first section, I anticipated that a reader might think hm, that sounds like survivor’s guilt or I wonder how to tell if I’m feeling pandemic guilt?).
My third header was “Why do I feel stress and anxiety if I haven’t been directly impacted by COVID-19?” I’m always answering questions my readers might have in a logical thought progression. What is pandemic guilt --> how do I know if I have it? --> what business do I have feeling that way? --> and finally, how can I cope?
My fourth header is “There are a few ways you can cope with pandemic guilt,” finally answering the question. After that, I have my conclusion or wrap-up. At MyWellbeing, we keep it positive and go out on a high note, so I have a final header with an uplifting section for my conclusion in that post, “This is a stressful time, and pandemic guilt will only increase those feelings.”
You can also add a call-to-action to the end of your post, like a button to book a consultation call or sign up for a workshop. At MyWellbeing on the therapy-seeker side, our CTA is to fill out our match form.
So to write a post, I usually write out the headline and headers first as an outline, do a draft introduction paragraph with my intro sentence and a personal anecdote if I have one, collect links and stats in each section that I want to use, write a couple of sentences in each section, then go through and write the post. Again, by that time, I’ve hit a few hundred words and I have the entire outline, so the bulk of the post is there.
You’ll be able to hear the weak parts of your writing or when things don’t make sense. If you’re pausing for a break multiple times in a sentence, that sentence is too long. If you’re stumbling over a word or a phrase, your reader will too. If you’re using acronyms and you haven’t defined them, you’ll notice that when you hear it out loud.
You’ll also be able to hear your tone and see whether it’s too clinical or decide if you want it to be warmer or more authoritative. I read every single thing I write out loud! It’s my secret weapon.
Create a little workflow for yourself so it’s easy for you to share your post. Every time you post, you could, for example, share to all of your social media accounts and put it in your monthly newsletter if you have those things. Or email an update to your clients. You could put a link to your post or blog in your email signature so when you email people, you’ll have a call to action in the bottom of every email. Keep a little content brainstorming note on your phone or notepad so when you get questions from clients that you think would be beneficial for a larger audience, you can create new posts.
You could also share with other therapists. Say something like, “Hey I know we were talking about this last week and I was thinking about our conversation so much that I had to write about it. If you share it with anyone, feel free to tag me!” Or, link to authors’ or practitioners’ work in your posts and when you share on social, tag them.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, hopefully some of these tips will help you speed up the writing process and help you focus when it comes to content planning. If you’re just getting started with blogging, don’t be scared! The blank page can be intimidating, but if you focus on your areas of expertise and break your writing into manageable chunks, the writing process will flow much more easily for you. The words are there, you just have to get into a clear headspace and start writing. This is a judgement-free zone! Your clients and the rest of your readers will thank you.
Match with the *right* clients for your practice while growing your professional community.
Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.