Writing the Perfect Blog Post: A Formula That Works

March 5, 2013 · 19 comments

I love variety in blog posts — as both an editor and a reader. I love creativity and uniqueness. I love fun leads and solid storytelling.

How to write a blog post

All the right ingredients

So I had a hard time writing this post because it basically tells you NOT to be creative when writing blog posts.

Of course, there are lots of smart ways to construct blog posts. But if you’re still mastering the art of blogging, it can be helpful to have a formula to follow. And as much as I hate to admit it, there is a formula that works, both for your own blog and when you’re guest posting for someone else.

Not only do I write many of my own posts using this formula, but as editor of Brazen Careerist’s blog, I almost NEVER turn down a post that includes all of these components.

So whether you’re trying your hand at blogging for the first time or a seasoned blogger who’s struggling to share a complicated idea in a concise way, here’s my formula for the perfect blog post.

The Perfect Blog Post Formula

1. Awesome headline

That means not only telling the reader what the post is about, but also enticing that reader to click. And it should be SEO-friendly, too. In fact, if you do nothing else to optimize your post for SEO (that’s search engine optimization), make sure you think about keywords in your headline — it’s the biggest bang for your SEO buck.

Want to learn how to write SEO-optimized headlines? I’m about to give a free webinar on this topic! Sign up to save your spot.

2. Solid introduction

If there’s one part of the blog post that gives writers the most problems, it’s the introduction. Newbie bloggers tend to overwrite the intro — to the point where I often want to lop off the first two paragraphs — or underwrite it, failing to properly introduce the reader to the topic.

Your introduction should answer one simple question: Why should this topic matter to the reader?

Whenever possible, start your post in the YOU voice, talking to the reader, not about the reader. Tell the reader in those first two sentences why they should care, without using “I”. Once you’ve started your post in the YOU voice, you can bring in a personal experience or anecdote to make your point, including “I” in the second, third or fourth paragraph. (For an example, see No. 1 in this post I wrote for Problogger.)

If you’re writing for your own blog, this YOU premise isn’t as important. You’ll notice I started this post in first person — because you all know who I am, who “I” is. But when you’re writing for another blog, the reader doesn’t necessarily know you, so “you” is likely more powerful than “I”. Plus, using the YOU voice forces you to make your post helpful and relevant to your readers, even if it’s about your own personal experience.

3. Segue into your main points

Sometimes writers make the mistake of jumping right from their intro into bullet points. But it’s smoother if you can offer some sort of lead-in, perhaps one that reiterates the title. Examples:

Here are seven tips for writing a great blog post:

or

Now onto a few ideas that will help you launch your business:

Before we move into the next few components of a perfect blog post, here’s a snippet of a blog post I wrote for Brazen to show you the first three components in action (and here’s the link to the post in case you want to see it full screen):

Perfect Blog Post Formula

4. Smart bullets

Now’s when you get into the meat of your post. If your headline tells the reader to expect a certain number of ideas, number each of your main posts. Otherwise, a subhead for each new idea works, too.

Beneath each subhead goes your description, details and examples.

Make sure each of your bullet points match whatever you promised. For example, if you promised 10 mistakes, your first bullet shouldn’t say, “Make sure to walk your dog in the morning.” Instead, it should be presented as a mistake: “Forgetting to walk your dog in the morning.”

Want a more in-depth explanation and examples of well-done bullet points? See No. 4 in this post I wrote for Copyblogger.

5. Not-too-repetitive conclusion

You don’t need to revisit every point in your conclusion like you would for a college essay, but it’s nice to have some sort of closing statement.

Here’s an example:

Now that you understand the basics of writing a blog post, get out there and write a great one!

It’s simple but does the job; it gives the piece a wrapped-up feeling, so you don’t leave the reader hanging.

6. Invitation for feedback

Blogging is all about creating conversation, and a call to action will foster that chatter. So ask your readers a question they can answer in the comments! Make it an easy question, so readers are apt to comment. Here’s an example:

Do you ever follow this format while blogging? Do you think it makes for better posts?

7. Your bio

If you get to include a bio at the bottom of your post, use it to your advantage! Write a short (two sentences is optimal), concise bio with one or two links to whatever you want to promote — your blog, Twitter profile, etc. More than two links kills a bio, making it cluttered and overwhelming.

Plus, the more links you include, the less likely it is that the reader will click on the one link that’s most important to you.

Some writers even take this to another level, creating a landing page specifically for readers who arrive via the blog they’re guest posting for and including that link in their bio. This is generally only worth doing if that blog has a large audience. Here’s an example from a writer friend who’s trying this for the first time for the Brazen Careerist audience.

8. Relevant links

This isn’t really part of the formula, but more like an extra tip that will help you get the most bang from your blog posts. Whether you’re writing for your own blog or guest posting, scatter helpful, relevant links throughout your post, ones that will help your readers find more information about the topic you’re writing about and hopefully direct them to other posts on your blog.

Some blogs don’t allow links back to your own site in guest posts, but I figure if they’re relevant and helpful, why not? If the blog you’re posting for does allow this, the best place to include a link back to your site is in the first or second paragraph; the higher up in the post it is, the more people will click it. Of course, the higher up in the post, the higher the bar for helpful and relevant, since it might trigger your editor’s spam radar. Do your best to be super helpful, and you can’t go wrong.

Putting this all into practice

While this might seem rather restrictive, there actually IS room for creativity within this formula. You can be creative in how you write (your voice) and what you share — and posts that are creative in some way tend to do best.

And before you clobber me with feedback, YES, OF COURSE this formula only works if you write well. But regardless of whether you consider yourself a top-notch writer or blogger, including all of these components will help organize your post in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand — which will make editors want to accept your guest posts and your community want to come back for more.

Got anything to add? What other components would you say are crucial to a successful blog post?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny Rubin March 5, 2013 at 9:27 am

Great post, Alexis! Really informative and easy to understand.

I would add the importance of heavy, heavy editing. You can almost always cut down your word count after 2-3 revisions. Like Alexis said, make your intro tight and focused. Always ask: what’s the quickest way to say what I need to say?

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Marko Saric March 5, 2013 at 10:11 am

Great formula! I would just add a piece on use of images bot hin terms of a thumbnail that shows in social media shares and also main image post. These are increasingly important these days to get your articles shared on Pinterest, Facebook etc.
Marko Saric recently posted…Beppe Grillo: 9 Steps From A Blogger To A Political LeaderMy Profile

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Alexis Grant March 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

Good point! I tend to focus on writing, but including an image is important now, too.

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Amanda March 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Super helpful, thanks. Any tips for the kind of blog posts that attempt to tell a story, or small anecdote/thought, rather than service-oriented posts? (i.e. the sort of things that make for a blog posts but are not quite articles?)

And yes, I’ll request this in my reader survey when I fill it out (and will soon!)

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Alexis Grant March 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hey Amanda — Right, those types of blog posts wouldn’t work like this. Maybe down the line I’ll do a post that focuses on that type 🙂 But I’d say, in that case, go for the personal lead!

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Sarah March 6, 2013 at 11:13 am

These are great tips. I must say that making the article personable is very important. Also, if the blog is boring then nobody will want to read it no matter how good the SEO is.
Sarah recently posted…New Guest PostMy Profile

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Richard Perfect March 7, 2013 at 1:58 am

Alongside the invitation for feedback, I would also add other kinds of call to action. Something like a link to a free resource, or signing up to an email newsletter.

It doesn’t have to be an in-your-face sales pitch and maybe it’s not every post either. You’ve caught someone’s attention long enough, that you want to make use of that and lead them into some other action with further breadcrumbs of tasty goodies.

Btw, I didn’t make up my name just to comment on this post it really is Perfect 🙂

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Cayuqui March 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

Hello Alexis,

Great job you’re doing. you’ve convinced me. I’ve always had an abhorence of Facebook, Tweetting or Blogging. The most I was willing to go would be a Website. Reading your Blog has changed that. I am willing to splash right in. Thank you for giving me the confidence. Now what? I guess I just have to keep gathering information, finish constructing my website, and tweet, tweet, tweet.

Thanks, and best wishes,
Cayuqui

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Jessica Lawlor March 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Incredibly useful post, Lexi! I love how you break this down in a way that’s extremely simple and easy to understand.
Jessica Lawlor recently posted…Social Media Marketing Done Right: How FatCow Won My Heart (And Business) For LifeMy Profile

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Laura J Stephens March 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

Hi Alexis, I just wondered if you had any thoughts on the maximum length for a personal blog that offers personal story/examples and includes tips/advice? Thanks and best wishes, Laura

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Alexis Grant March 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

Hi Laura! For blog posts, I shoot for at least 500 words, sweet spot is around 700-800, max no more than 1000. But sometimes longer posts, especially ones that include personal stories, can do well, too. Hope that helps!

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Amanda March 16, 2013 at 8:31 am

This is great! I think you’ve covered everything a good post needs.

I would add emphasis on the headline & beginning. Get people interested right away. Spending a little time to write a creative or interesting beginning can help a post stand out.

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Javi March 21, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Where to Start…

1.-Make Your Writing Scannable
2.- How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
4.-Using Titles Effectively on Blogs
5.- Writing Good Content

Great post!!

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Dana Leavy-Detrick August 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Great post. As a resume writer and career blogger myself, I’m often working with job seekers to help them craft their career “story” into more of a narrative, and reflect that in the resume and other materials. The challenge sometimes can be taking very factually-heavy information, and rewriting it in a less dry, more narrative-sounding voice. Cheers!
Dana Leavy-Detrick recently posted…How to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search (Part 1)My Profile

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sarah November 30, 2015 at 11:41 am

Very helpful! Your guidelines are quite easy to grasp and comprehend for begginers like me . A very important point though, i would like to add.
â–¶ The idea should be expressed in a neutral way, not based on writer’s personal interests and opinions that may offend someone.A generalized description.
â–¶ Focus of the idea should be broad, considering broad range of readers in gender,age,race,financial status etc

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Samson January 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Amazing tips Alexis. I actually landed here from brazen and I can proudly say that my knowledge is a notch higher. Thank you so much.

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