Michael Hyatt is a productivity blogger. He’s famous for writing concise blog posts that are actionable and easy to read. Currently his site has an Alexa rank of around 62,000, and a Moz Domain Authority score of 68. This means he earns a substantial amount of traffic from Google and his blog posts rank highly for a variety of keywords.
Fortunately, Michael describes his writing strategy in a number of blog posts and interviews. This makes it easy to learn his approach and use it to improve your own blogging process.
Prewrite using a template
Choose a topic the night before
Michael chooses his subject the night before he plans to write. Many writers also prefer to sketch out an outline for their topic during this time. Planning in advance gives your brain some time to intuitively prepare and organize ideas.
Use downtime to think
Many executives enjoy a morning ritual in which they exercise and listen to audiobooks, TED Talks, or the news. Michael is no exception. He prefers audiobooks and says that this quiet time allows him to engage with new ideas.
After exercise, Michael turns off “the noise.” He formats a loose outline in his head, then he sketches his ideas into his prewriting template.
Sketch ideas into your template
Michael’s blog writing template includes fields for his:
- rationale (why the subject is relevant to readers)
- personal experience to incorporate
- key points (these will become your headers)
- title ideas
- illustrations and images
- links (to research materials and and image sources)
- discussion question (shared at the end of a blog post)
Create a focused environment
Michael uses an app called Freedom to block distracting websites across all devices. Most of us are addicted to stimulation, whether it’s the news cycle, sports, stocks, or some other interest. Limiting your access is a proven way to focus your attention, channel your energy, and maximize your productivity.
Cold Turkey offers a similar set of features, whether you use their main Blocker app or their Writer app, which effectively turns your computer into a typewriter and holds your device “hostage” until you meet your writing goal.
Turn on music
I think Alexandre Desplat has some of the best soundtracks for writing, such as Little Women, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape of Water, and The Imitation Game. If you could use additional suggestions, WeScreenplay has a list of popular movie soundtracks by genre. (You might want to avoid horror though!)
Set a timer
Michael states that his blogging routine is centered around his iPhone timer, which he sets for 70 minutes. The timer helps create a sense of urgency, which compels him to focus.
Write now, edit later
Michael prefers to power through a first draft before stepping into editing mode. He explains that writing is a right brain function while editing is a left brain function. Switching between the two inevitably slows down your productivity. If you power through a first draft, you’re much more likely to finish your writing goal for the day.
Write the body text
Michael has a few tips for writing compelling body text.
- Incorporate a personal experience to connect with your readers, so long as it fits with your brand.
- Use bullets and numbers to make your content scannable. You can even structure your blog post as a numbered list. Then inside sections you can add bulleted lists where needed.
- End your posts with a question to start a discussion with your readers. Michael used to do this regularly, although he appears to have stopped, perhaps to limit time spent responding to readers.
Michael’s editing process focuses on:
- Shortening words
- Shortening sentences
- Shortening paragraphs
To help you write simple, readable sentences, try reading your work out loud at this stage. If anything causes you to stumble, explore cutting out adjectives and adverbs, breaking the sentence in two, and removing parenthetical details.
Optimize the post title
Before you leave the editing phase, revisit your title and make sure it’s appropriate to the blog post you actually wrote. Try putting the main keyword phrase from your title into Google and see what search suggestions appear. It might be a good idea to use one of these search suggestions to complete your title. It might also help to set your title up as a list (Top 10 Ways to…) to increase clicks. Try to use your title to make a promise or inspire intrigue.
Michael also recommends writing a concise lead-in after your title. There’s no point in spending too long to set up your article’s subject. Once people have clicked to view your blog post, they generally already know why your subject is important or how the material fits into their life.
Polish and publish
Format your blog post
To format your blog post:
- Define H1, H2, H3 headers
- Bullet or number your lists
- Bold key ideas.
- Add internal and external links
Links are vital to cite sources, connect readers with other valuable content on your website, and provide additional information about topics that your readers might not be familiar with.
Because Michael’s blog posts are usually under 700 words, one featured image works for him. However, new bloggers just now getting established should aim for around 1,600 words. A longer blog post usually requires more media to break up text. If this is the case for you, you may want to embed YouTube videos and add additional photos, illustrations, and infographics.
Remember to add a descriptive name and meta description to each image you upload.
Publish your draft
Your writing and publication process will depend on what technology stack works best for you.
Michael writes in ByWord, a well-reviewed app for exporting production-ready HTML from a markdown document. He exports his writing and uploads it to MarsEdit. Here, he adds relevant metadata such as his post category, post description, and keywords. Finally, he used to run his content through Scribe, a defunct keyword analysis tool that used to allow him to optimize his content based on keywords.
In contrast with Michael’s software approach, I think it’s very practical today to simply write posts in a text editor. (I like Apple’s Notes app, since it allows me to focus on just the content without seeing any other controls. I also like it’s dark mode, which somehow helps me focus.) Then I recommend publishing directly inside WordPress. You can either use the built-in Guttenberg editor, or format each blog post. (Personally, I format each post in Elementor to better control the design.) I use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimize for my main keyword phrase, and write a page title and meta description that will attract readers from Google.
This writing strategy can help you make writing a part of your daily or weekly routine. I’ve intentionally focused on how to write. What to write is an entirely separate topic!
For information on what to write – including how to target long-tail keywords, how to pack your posts with value, how to set your blog post up for link-building – I recommend visiting Neil Patel’s guides, “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Blog Posts That Rank in Google’s Top 10” and “How to Write a Blockbuster Blog Post in 45 Minutes”. (I don’t think anyone will be writing a blockbuster blog post in 45 minutes, but Neil’s recommendations are still valuable!)
What makes your writing process work for you? What helps you meet your writing goals?