How effective are your blog posts?
Maybe you’re churning out regular posts, hoping to build your search engine rankings and engage your readers — but they don’t seem to be having much effect.
You could spend months mastering SEO, tweaking your blog theme and building up your network on Twitter … but you could be wasting your time. Your blog won’t succeed unless your posts are well-written.
Here’s how to build a great post, in six steps:
Step #1: Know Your Purpose
Whenever you start a post, you need to know what you’re aiming for. Are you writing a post that teaches the reader something new? Are you trying to be entertaining? Inspiring? Encouraging?
Having a clear purpose makes it much easier to write your post. Often, you’ll have more than one aim in mind: you might be teaching your reader how to use WordPress, but you’re also trying to build trust by demonstrating your own expertise.
Step #2: Create a Structure
To keep your reader engaged, your post needs a clear structure. Like any piece of writing, this means that it should have a beginning, middle and end. For a post, that looks like:
- The introduction — this should grab attention and set up the scope of the post
- The main part of the post — where you should deliver what you’ve promised (implicitly or explicitly) in the title and introduction
- The conclusion — this might be as short as a single sentence, but it’s important to have something that rounds off the post
Without a clear structure, your post is likely to come across as abrupt or confusing.
Step #3: Write Directly to the Reader
As you write, focus on the reader. That means avoiding long paragraphs all about you — unless you’re a very good writer and have a compelling story to tell, readers are likely to switch off.
Use “you” frequently, and write as though you’re talking to just one reader (don’t write “all of you reading this” — it’s distancing). If you get stuck, imagine you’re sending an email to a specific reader — you might even like to have a particular commenter in mind.
Forget what you were taught in school about writing essays: there are no prizes in blogging for big words. It’s fine to use contractions like “I’ll” for “I will” and “shouldn’t” for “should not” — these help to make your writing sound casual and friendly.
Step #4: Add Subheadings and Formatting
A very short post might not need any subheadings — but once your post is more than 400 words or so, it’s useful to break it up. Subheadings help your reader to map out your post, letting them instantly see where one topic ends and another begins.
It’s important to use formatting to help with readability. That means:
- Use bullet-pointed lists where appropriate, instead of having long, dense paragraphs
- Add in bold text to pull out key sentences (maybe one or two per subsection)
Put quotes into “blockquote” formatting so that they stand out
- Readers will be put off by long, grey blocks of text, so make sure your post is visually interesting.
Step #5: Edit Your Post
Unless you’re a very confident writer, always allow time for editing your posts. This doesn’t just mean looking for typos and grammatical mistakes — it means polishing up your writing until it’s as good as possible.
When you edit, consider:
- Are there any tangents in your post that should be removed? (Sometimes, these can be used for the basis of a new post.)
- Have you used the same word or phrase too many times within a paragraph?
- Do you have any long, complicated sentences that could be written more simply?
- Can you cut out any redundant phrases? (Look out for things like “it is my opinion that…” or “most people will agree…”)
Step #6: Include a Strong Call to Action
Add a strong call to action at the end of your post. A “call to action” is a request to your reader, asking them to do something specific. You’ll want actions that help you in some way:
- Getting more traffic to your post (“if you enjoyed this, please click the ‘tweet’ button to share it”)
- Selling your product or service (“click here to find out more about my latest ebook”)
- Engaging the reader with your blog (“leave a comment below to tell me what you think”)
- Helping the reader get good results (“take five minutes today to follow these simple action steps”)
So — it’s your turn! Are you following all the above steps when you write your posts? If not, which one could you focus on during the next week or two?
Let us know in the comments…
Web Marketing Tips says
With this kind of title, I am sure people will visit or come once at least.
Sydney @ Social Dynamics says
I’ve been trying to write better, but one of my crippling disability is that I suck at building structure. I do a spectacular lead, but it all falls flat when it comes to the body.
some people start their blog for their readers some people start their blog with SEO purpose.
i wonder which is more effective?
Ali Luke says
@Jamie – Great point about linking to old posts: the editing stage is a good time to work those in.
@Karens28 – Thanks! 🙂
I couldn’t agree with you more. Keeping the audience you’re writing for in mind is key. I recently subscribed to your daily tips and look forward to receiving them each day. They are helping me stay focused and motivated. Thank you.
Jamie Northrup says
I recently changed my blogging habits to involve more review of my posts before publishing, some up to 24-48 hours if it’s a really long not time dependent post.
I also try to take the time to make sure I can link to at least one or two old post within the new one.
Ali Luke says
@Andrew — I agree! Few people can create a well-structured post by simply sitting down and typing away — it’s important for bloggers to get into the habit of spending a few minutes planning out each post before they begin.
@prasad — Thanks, glad you enjoyed this! Yep, editing is definitely important: it’s so easy to make a spelling mistake or mistype something when you’re writing fast.
@Mindaugus — You’re welcome, glad this helped!
I really need to improve my posts, so that was really helpful. Thanks a lot mate.
I have some mistakes in writing blog posts i’m quick to publish posts without taking time to edit them.simple and sweet post.thanks Ali.
J.K. Riki says
Im curious at how well the “please tweet” call to action actually works. Do you have any tips on phrasing? Every time I post such things, I have never gotten it to succeed.
Josie Herbert says
This is the best advice I’ve seen on blog structure and your tips on focusing on the reader and allowing time for editing are invaluable. Thank you Ali
Andrew Groat says
Far too many bloggers out there are not thinking before they write. Purpose and structure are such a big part of blogging yet they are all too often left to the wayside.