The Anatomy of a (Great) Blog Post
January 29, 2018
Disclaimer: Not naive to the fact that there are probably more than a few blog posts on the topic of writing blog posts — both from the technical side and the readership engagement point of view — however, the tried and true approach (below) that we share with clients seems to work well for lifestyle / health / food bloggers as well as small business blogs.
A truly great writer is also a voracious reader. Your favorite author probably has a list of their favorite authors who probably have a list of their favorites, and so on.
As a someone who blogs (or has aspirations), I bet you read other blogs — whether or not they are in your industry — and have a list of your favorite bloggers because they write consistently great, engaging posts. And while it’s easy to know a great blog post when you read one, it’s not always easy to put your finger on what makes a blog post so enjoyable and memorable.
So what is the “it” that makes a blog post draw you in? Is there a formula for writing great, engaging blogs regardless of the topic?
Before you begin, create an outline for your blog post.
An outline provides — even for those of us who are at ease with allowing our thoughts to flow onto the page — an organized way of presenting your topic and helps your readers follow along and stay engaged. While it is tempting to skip this step, outlines help you draft posts that have a logical flow for your reader and make the writing process easier on you.
Following the formula of an introduction, the main points, and a conclusion, start the outline with the blog post topic, break it down to two to three main points, and with each point, provide examples, proof points (statistics or data), and links to additional related content — either yours, or a third party site where the reader can get additional information.
Outlines also allow you to work in your blog keyword or phrase in a more natural way, and while you’re writing for humans, you do need to consider how Google will index your content.
Create an attention-getting blog title.
Yes, the title of your post should help set— the expectations for what the reader will find when they click through — and you certainly don’t want to mislead people into clicking — but don’t just summarize your blog content. Use the headline to grab the reader’s attention and draw them in.
According to CopyBlogger, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but on average, only 2 of those 10 will read the blog post. The headline is a critical component to getting what you’ve written seen by a larger audience.
Make sure that your headline includes your keyword or phrase. Google will be looking for that…
Keep it short and simple.
To make your posts easier to read — and scan — keep your paragraphs to one or two sentences. Studies done with eye-tracking technology have shown that short paragraphs perform better as readers tend to skip over large blocks of text. Bulleted text and numbered lists are easy to read and remember.
With the majority of readers accessing your blog on a mobile device, the width of your text is decreased, while the length is increased. No one wants to scroll to read a long paragraph, and so while it may feel odd to break-up your content, your readers will thank you, and your blog posts will be better performers.
Also, keep your formatting simple. Fancy fonts and bright colors are a no-no. Anything that feels like an advertisement will get glossed over, and the reader will not get the full value of your content.
Use subheaders in your blog post — they are your friend.
As a society, we have developed remarkably short attention spans. We scan, rather than read, especially on the internet. Studies have shown that we read only about 20% of the text that is on a page and that it takes about 30% longer to read text on a webpage then it does on paper.
So how can you engage your readers if they aren’t really reading your post? Use subheaders so readers can easily scan your post and still understand your main points. When you format your subheaders with larger, bolder text, you’re calling attention to your most important points. Subheaders allow you to organize your content, highlight your key points, and call attention to your takeaways.
Oh, and make sure to use your keyword or phrase in at least two of your subheaders… another one of Google’s requests.
Use images and graphics to enhance your blog content.
Humans are visually oriented — we connect thoughts and ideas to visual memories. Using unique and relevant photographs and graphics will not only help draw the reader in and keep them engaged, they will reinforce your content and help the reader remember your key points.
Should also add be real, be useful, be practical, be specific. Provide at least one actionable takeaway in every blog post — translate broad concepts into specific solutions that your reader is able to apply to their situation. When the reader is able to take action — and get positive results — after reading your post, they will begin to trust you. For businesses, trust is crucial to transitioning online interest to offline relationships, and to make sales.
Remember to follow the golden rule of blogging! 80% of your blog posts should be educational and informational, focused on helping your readers with their challenges. The remaining 20% can be somewhat promotional — organically mentioning your product or service — but only when appropriate. Never put promotions before helping your readers.
Tell your readers what to do.
Be very clear and make it easy for your readers to know what to do when they finish reading… do you want them to provide feedback or engage with your post by commenting? Should they contact you to begin a conversation? Do you want them to read additional blog content, download more information, obtain a free offer, register for an upcoming event? Subscribe to your email?
Many bloggers leave calls to action out of their blogs because they either believe that the reader already knows what to do if they are interested in learning more, or they feel that calls to action are obnoxious. Either way, omitting a call to action will cost the opportunity to further connect with your readership.
You’ve followed the formula and are ready to post your GREAT blog, but, wait — you’re not quite done yet. Make sure to edit before posting by asking a grammar-conscious co-worker, spouse, or friend to proofread and catch any grammatical or spelling errors. Wouldn’t want your message to be overshadowed by a silly spelling error…
To help you as you write your next blog, we’ve created an infographic. Grab your copy and in no time, you’ll be publishing one great blog post after another.