When I first started blogging, I had the impression that it can all be done “in my spare time.” It was an impression that blogging doesn’t take that much effort on a day-to-day basis and that almost anyone can build a career during the afternoon coffee break.
Well, that wasn’t accurate. At all.
But in my defense, it’s hard to blame me. After all, the web is chock full of blogging advice preaching the part-time-blogging gospel and trying to sell you on yet another e-book on how to pull it off.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
What I keep finding again and again, every day, is that blogging is much like any other career, as in you need to put in the work to see any worthwhile results.
Furthermore, if you want to treat your blogging seriously then it will take a lot of your time.
And that’s where templates come into play.
Templates are those “fill in the blanks” things that you can use for a number of things, like: writing blog posts (structuring your writing), pitching guest posts, doing SEO outreach, contacting clients for freelance work, writing social media posts, and so on.
Again, when I say templates, I mean pre-developed documents that take care of a given task and can be customized with “fill in the blanks” info. I don’t mean blog designs (themes) that also tend to be called templates by some people.
Bloggers love templates because they speed things up massively. Just imagine, instead of writing 30 emails by hand, you can write just one and send it to 30 people at the same time.
But the question is: Should we really use them? Isn’t it cheating? What are the best moments to use them vs. when to ditch the idea completely? Also, how to use a template in a way that it doesn’t look like a template?
Here are your answers:
3 reasons why you should use templates
Like I said a minute ago, the main reason and the main benefit of using templates is the amount of time they can save you.
Templates easily double your efficiency when it comes to writing content, and introduce something like ten-fold improvement when we’re using them for communication and outreach.
The second reason is that templates allow you to improve your methods over time. You can keep developing a template for months if not years, and ultimately end up with the most effective one for your individual scenario.
And finally, you can split test templates – use two templates against each other and check which one brings more results. This is something impossible to do when handling things manually.
1 reason why templates are not ideal
Okay, I feel I owe you some honesty, so I have to admit that there is one big downside.
No template in the world will ever work as well as a 100 percent customized message (or post, or whatever the template is for).
You need to keep in mind that deciding to use templates means trading off some of your results for the possibility to do things more efficiently. It’s always like this.
The sweet spot is in creating a good enough template that doesn’t cost you too much potential results in comparison to going with a completely manual approach.
Using templates for blog posts
Now, let’s get to the how-to.
One of the most straightforward things you can use templates for are your actual blog posts.
The good thing about this idea is that you can take it as far as you like. You can use templates for only headlines, or you can use them for entire blog posts. Or anything in between. Whatever tickles your fancy.
For instance, I will be the first person to admit that virtually all of my headlines are built with templates. While at the same time, I only write around 10 percent of my actual posts’ contents based on templates.
But that’s my approach and you will surely find your own balance. That being said, it’s always nice to have your personal database of blog post headlines and structures that you can use whenever writing block strikes.
To give you some great resources, feel free to check out these posts and tutorials on how to use templates:
- The Foolproof Formula for Writing a Solid Blog Post [Template] – Published by HubSpot, it’s a great fill-in-the-blanks template for a complete blog post. It can help you out massively if you’re really struggling to understand what elements build a quality blog post.
- A Blog Post to Help You Write Blog Posts [+5 Free Blogging Templates] – A similar resource, and again brought to you by the guys at HubSpot. It’s a set of five templates along with a tutorial on how to use them for maximum results.
If you don’t need whole blog post templates but could use some help coming up with the headlines then feel free to browse through these (some really great concepts in each of the following guides):
- 10 Attention-Grabbing Blog Post Templates for Your Freelance Blog by Greg Ciotti
- 3 Great Blog Post Structures You Can Use Today by Ali Luke
- 17 Copy-And-Paste Blog Post Templates by Pat Flynn
Keep in mind that you will always get best results by tweaking those templates slightly and making them fit hand-in-glove with your specific blog, audience and niche, instead of using them as is.
Using templates for outreach, pitching and communication
The other, very popular scenario where templates come handy is when you need to perform any kind of outreach. This includes things like: pitching guest posts, doing SEO outreach, contacting clients.
In my opinion, this is where the usefulness of templates really starts to shine.
Of course, a small percentage of people will still call you out on using a template and possibly even get mad, but that’s just the price of efficiency that you must be willing to pay.
Now, there are two things I want to discuss here:
- When to use a template vs. when to switch to 100 percent custom messages.
- How to use a template in a way that doesn’t look like a template.
Let’s start with the first one – when to use templates. From my experience, templates are the most effective when used for initial communication or pitching.
The whole idea of a template is that it needs to be a thought through document that has the best chance of resonating well with a big number of people. So over time, you will perfect your template, tweak it and move things around to find the one that’s the most effective for you.
Then, setting the initial communication aside, once you get your foot in the door, so to speak, you will need to switch to normal communication and forget about any subsequent templates.
In short, templates for the initial communication, no templates later on.
About the second part – how to make a template not look like a template.
The best way to do this is by introducing some minimal customization into every message you send. I know that this might feel like we’re defeating the whole purpose of using a template, but it really is the simplest way to make your outreach two or three times more effective with just minimal work.
What you do is write one custom intro paragraph for each message you send, while the rest of the message stays a template.
In this intro paragraph, try to build rapport with the recipient by mentioning some of their work and commenting on it. This will ensure them that you’ve taken at least a minute to have a look at what they’re doing.
For exact how-to resources on templates in outreach, feel free to visit these great sites:
- Proposal and Freelancing Resources – This is a great set of resources, templates, and even e-books on how to handle outreach and client proposals. It will come very useful if you ever decide to offer consulting services or freelance blogging services.
- The Link Builder’s Guide to Email Outreach – Brought to you by Neil Patel; a nice set of fill-in-the-blanks outreach emails.
- Outreach Letters for Link Building [Real Examples] – Similar resource, but this time by the guys at Moz – THE guys when it comes to SEO expertise.
What’s your opinion?
My whole point of view about templates can be summarized in one sentence:
Use them, but proceed with caution.
It’s without a doubt that templates can be great at multiplying your results over time, making you more effective and more on top of things.
However, at the same time, if you’re using some really poor templates, you will only burn your contacts and achieve a completely opposite effect.
But what’s your take? Do you use templates in your blogging, and if so, for what purposes?