I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately. I’ve been actually writing a lot too, but in those (infrequent) times when I’m not writing, I’ve been thinking about how and why I write. It’s made me wonder if there isn’t some formula for writing, at least for certain forms of it. Then I wonder if there isn’t some more-effective way of writing or some sort of template to use.
The answer: Yes, there is. For someone who writes blog posts or short articles on a personal website (or the websites of others as a guest poster), there are certainly key components to a blog post. They’re the essential pieces of the writing puzzle, without which a blog post or article will fall under the radar and either go unnoticed or be completely disregarded.
As I’ve read great pieces from many different publications and gave my own writing a closer look, I’ve noticed that the best blog posts have these 6 key components:
A Catchy, Concise Title.
Chances are this is what people are going to see before they even reach your site. Your blog post’s title should tell them what they’ll be reading, but it should also make them want to read it, especially when they’ve probably run a search for a topic and your post is competing with those of dozens of other bloggers.
A Catchy, Concise Intro.
The first paragraph (or two) of your blog post is the reader’s introduction to your topic. It should give them an idea of your unique scope or perspective on the subject matter and bait them into reading more. Many people look at the start of a blog post as an audition, choosing whether or not they will give you their time and read your blog post based on the allure of your introduction.
You could publish a blog post without any pictures. However, people are innately visual creatures. Posts with pictures or other media like video are going to engage readers much more than text alone. Even if you’re a modern Hemingway and your prose are the syntactical equivalent of a Monet painting, images are going to be more attention-grabbing. And you can’t just add any images; they need to be relevant, pertaining to what it is you’ve written about. If you want to be really professional, hunt down your own stock photos from any number of sites (such as from iStock) that offer them either for free or very little money.
Personal Experience or Illustrative Example.
Depending on what it is you’re writing about, your blog post should include some relevant personal experience. This will ensure and prove your credibility to your readers, giving them reason to trust you and perhaps garner you more long-term followers. Sometimes we write about things with which we have no firsthand experience so it’s fine to also add some sort of example that illustrates what it is you’re trying to communicate in a more concrete, less abstract sort of way. Stories and examples will help people to conceptualize what they read and also remember it later.
The main body of your blog post is going to vary in length. However, blog posts aren’t supposed to be super long. People are going to tell you different things as to the length a blog post should be, but generally speaking most effective blog posts are about 500 to 700 words and no more than 1,000 words, give or take. This is about as long as a reader will devote to reading a blog post from start to finish unless it’s a topic about which they’re especially interested or passionate.
Call to Action or Discussion Prompt.
As you wind your blog post to a close, your conclusion shouldn’t be the simple summary that you’d write at the end of a book report for tenth-grade English in high school. The conclusion of your blog post should inspire further thought and reflection in your reader, perhaps a call to action [tweet]. In a perfect world when your reader finishes your blog post, they’ll continue to read more of your content either because they want more information about that subject or they want to read what you have to say about other topics. The end of your blog post is where you’ll include some sort of discussion prompt, perhaps asking your reading a question that’s natural and relevant to the subject about which you’ve written in the hope that your reader will post a comment on your blog post. Readers comment because what they’ve written evoked a strong enough response to warrant expression of their opinion, which also makes them more likely to remember and return to your blog or website in the future.
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While these aren’t necessarily components of an effective blog post each and every time, there are some other things to keep in mind that are important as well.
- Internal Links. Remember how I said that people only have the attention span to read blog posts that are about 1,000 words? There’s a way to get around this that will actually benefit you. If you want to write a blog post about a topic that’s complex or you want to cover something in some depth, consider outlining that post into a series of posts. Then you can create internal links on your site between those posts so that readers know that they can either read more or continue reading without leaving your blog or website since you’ve provided them with links to your other installments. Additionally, internal linking is seen as a hallmark to a quality blog or website and of equal importance to sites that backlink to yours. Linking to other pages on your site or blog makes it easier to navigate and also makes your writing more accessible to your readers. It also encourages them to interact more with your site, which means helping your retention and conversion rates.
- Length. While I said that blog posts can be up to 1,000 words, that’s actually pretty generous. Most readers don’t have that sort of attention span. They’ll go back to Google and find a site that gives them all the information they’re looking for, but condensed into a single paragraph or even a single sentence. If you need more length, consider breaking the blog post up into a series of posts.
- Proofing and Editing. It’s incredibly unprofessional to have tons of typographical and grammar errors throughout your blog post. While the errant punctuation error or flip-flopped letters happens to everyone and is forgivable, if it’s happening in every sentence you need to tighten your writing up. Most word processors and even browsers have spell-check these days. Personally, I just re-read my blog posts and articles backwards, paragraph by paragraph. I find that it makes me less likely to try to skim or speed-read since I’m not as focused on the content or flow of the piece and more tuned-in to the sentence structure and spelling.
- Short Paragraphs, Short Sentences. It’s true that sometimes long, flowy sentences can sound really beautiful, but blog posts are about communicating. Blog posts aren’t the time to show off your writing chops. Long sentences with lots of punctuation stringing the clauses together can get confusing to some readers, who can forget how a super-long sentence started and what it contained by the time that reach the end four lines below. Shorter paragraphs and sentences make it more accessible, but it also makes it easier to organize your thoughts and to separate your blog into sections if need be.
- Sub-headers. Some people will tell you that you should almost always use headers and sub-headers, but then others will say that you should only use them when they’re absolutely necessary. I personally like them, but if I’d only have a single paragraph under each section I don’t use them. Most times if I’m labeling sections I’ll only have one or two sub-headers.
And that’s about all there is to it. In theory it seems like it would be much more complicated and have a longer list of parts, but the anatomy of a blog post isn’t like the anatomy of a human body. There are much fewer parts even though each part is much bigger and a more more important piece of the puzzle.
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Are there any other components that you include in your great blog posts? Comment below.
And if you liked this post, here are some others you might find helpful:
Preparing to Succeed as a Freelance Writer
Dane’s Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Synopsis
Finding Paid Work as a Freelance Writer