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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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):
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?