The anatomy of a blog post
Last week the jrc.agency team ran a content and linkbuilding strategy workshop with one of our clients. They were a delight to work with as they were already doing so much right – they just wanted to take some time out to come up with some new ideas and polish their campaigns to ensure they were getting the most out of their content.
One of the things they asked about was how a blog should be structured. We asked what they were doing already and they gave us an instruction sheet called ‘Anatomy of a blog post’ – I love this! Every member of their team is given one of these sheets to inform their blog content writing. We reviewed the sheet and gave them some more detailed information, eg how Google analyses content to make ranking decisions.
I loved the simplicity of their ‘anatomy of a blog post’ sheet – and it made me realise I haven’t actually shared our blog post ticklist yet – so here it is! Our ‘Anatomy of a blog post’.
Before you even begin writing, there are a few things you should be clear about. Use these as headings in your editorial calendar:
(1) Purpose – why are you writing this post? Is it to promote an event, raise awareness of a product, position yourself as knowledgeable in a particular area? Whatever it is, keep this purpose in mind as you write.
(2) Audience – who are you writing this for? Keeping a target audience in mind will help you to tailor the content and tone of the blog post accordingly so it appeal directly to them. And be specific – don’t say ‘the general public’, say ‘young mums with kids under five (and even – ‘in Yorkshire’)
(3) Keywords – select three of four keywords to include, relating to your chosen topic. This is absolutely not about keyword stuffing! (Search engines are wise to that). It is about ensuring that people find you online for the right things. If you find you’re having to shoehorn keywords in, then either your blog topic or your keywords list needs revising.
Format and layout
(4) Title – should be short and engaging. Think of something that would engage a passive reader and make them want to click through. Include keywords. Questions and numbered lists work well. Research also shows that odd numbers are clicked more often than even numbers. Also negative phrases (eg ‘What everyone does wrong when writing a blog post’) are clicked more often than positive phrases.
(5) Word count – the ideal length of a blog post will vary depending on the audience, but for search engines you should be including at least a couple of posts per month of between 700-900 words, to give them some meaty content to get stuck into. Shorter posts are fine (and may be preferred by your readers), but add less SEO value. Giving readers a choice of quick reads and more detailed content will also appeal to a wider range of readers. For B2B or thought leadership blogs, you should be aiming for this range with every post to allow you to go into enough detail to be credible and develop an argument.
(6) Images – all blog posts should have some visual content, including at least one main image. For an average sized blog post as detailed above, aim for around three images, spread out to break up the text. For SEO, make sure you add metadata in your CMS (include a title) and also label the image for the reader is appropriate.
(7) Headers – In addition to the main title (header 1), you should also have a number of subheadings (header 2) to break up the text.
Your content should both meet your objectives (see point 1) and be engaging for your readers (see point 2). Choosing a suitable topic and title are very important. Once you have this nailed, the following format should be followed for the main content.
(8) Introductory paragraph – this should introduce the topic and set out what you plan to cover in the blog post. If a reader has to amble half way down to work out what you’re going to be talking about, they will lose interest. Respect their time – be clear from the outset.
(9) Main body – the main body of your blog post should develop your idea or give more detail on the subject. You might want to use a numbered list of bullet points to help with this, visually.
(10) Links – Search engines like to see a network of links, both from your site to other websites (giving readers access to additional useful information), and from other relevant and respected websites back to your site (showing your content is also useful and popular). In addition, adding internal links to other pages on your site will encourage readers to click through, read more, and spend more time on your site – and search engines also measure this. So pepper your blog posts with useful links, aiming for a ratio of around 3:7 internal:external. Backlinks from other sites should follow over time. (You can increase this with an effective blogger outreach campaign.)
(11) Questions – adding questions towards the bottom of the blog post will encourage readers to add comments and increase engagement.
(12) Call to action – what do you want the reader to do after reading your blog post? This realtes back to the purpose of your blog post (see point 1). A call to action is vital at the end of every blog post in order to covert an anonymous reader into an engaged reader – CTAs might be ‘subscribe to the blog’, ‘find out more about this product/service’, ‘tweet me with questions’ or ‘book onto our event’ – make sure your CTAs can be accessed with one click.
I also recommend this ebook by Victoria Tomlinson, Northern Lights PR: How to write a top ranked business blog (includes a chapter written by our Head of Marketing, Helen Robinson). It is packed with advice from experienced business bloggers and content marketing professionals.
How do you structure your blog posts? Do you agree with my advice? Want to challenge? Do share your comments in the box below!