Recently thought leader Michael Hyatt had two guest posters on his blog; both had some interesting perspectives that serve as great instruction [or gentle reminders for seasoned bloggers] on structure in a blog post. The first is from Philip Rothschild who says:
I do, in fact, use a blog post template. I don’t follow it slavishly, but I always start with it. It includes all the elements that I have learned make for an effective post. It also helps me write faster, because it provides me with a track to run on.
My blog post template consists of five components:
- Lead Paragraph. This is key. If you take too long on the wind-up, you will lose readers. You have to get into the premise of the post and make it relevant to your readers. After the title, this is the second most important component of your post.
- Relevant Image. I use images for the same reasons magazines do: I want to pull my readers into the post itself. Pictures do that. I get 90 percent of mine from iStockPhoto. (Click here for a 20% discount.) Occasionally, I use a screenshot or an embedded video or slideshow.
- Personal Experience. I always try to share my personal experience. Why? Because readers connect with stories. The more honest and transparent I can be, the better. In fact, my most popular posts generally come out of some failure on my part.
- Main Body. Everything to this point has been an introduction. I always try to make my main content scannable.I use bullets, numbered lists—and often both. This makes the content more accessible to readers and more sharable via Twitter and Facebook.
- Discussion Question. For the past few years, I have ended every post with a question. I don’t intend my posts to be a monologue. Instead, I want to start a conversation. As a result, I measure my effectiveness at this by how many comments I get.
I also follow a few overall rules when writing my posts:
- Make the posts short.This is my biggest personal challenge. I have a tendency to be too thorough. Consequently, I aim for 500 words. This usually means I have to write the post and then go back and tighten it up.
- Use short paragraphs.I try to stick to 3–4 sentences. If it’s more than this, the content looks too dense. Readers will give up and move on. (Notice how newspapers usually follow this rule.)
- Keep short sentences.As a general rule, I try avoid compound sentences. A period gives the reader a natural stop—and a sense of progress as they pass one milestone after another. To quote a common copywriting axion, short sentences make the copy read fast.
- Use simple words. I love language, so I am often tempted to use big words. However, I have learned to avoid this. My goal is to communicate, notto impress my readers with my vocabulary.
- Provide internal links. I can’t say everything in one post, so I link to other posts where I have developed a thought in more detail. This has the added vantage of increasing my pageviews and session times. I think it is also genuinely helpful to my readers.
While your template might be different, it is worth outlining and tweaking as you hone your writing skills. This will allow you to write faster and more effectively.
Blogger Ali Luke offers these insights on basic types of blog posts…
These are the three simple post structures you can use:
- The How-to Post.A how-to post aims to teach the reader something, by taking them through a step-by-step process. It’s usually structured with numbered, sequential steps. And, where appropriate, these steps might include a screenshot or photo to show the reader what to expect at each stage.If you’re writing a how-to post, the easiest way to begin is with a careful plan. Work out the necessary steps. You may find you need to break complicated procedures into several parts, or merge simple ones together. Get them into the best possible order.Once you’ve done that, your post will be straightforward to write—and straightforward for readers to follow.Variations:
- “How I ____ and How You Can Too”: Readers love to hear how you succeeded with something. This formula lets you explain your own steps and offer action points for them.
- “Why ___ Matters and How To Do It”: If you suspect your readers need to know the why before the how, spend the first third or half of your post explaining the why, then move on to practical steps.
- The List Post.A list post offers readers a selection of ideas, tips, suggestions, or resources. These are normally numbered. If you’ve been around the blogging world for long, you’ll have come across this type of post—probably many times.The key difference between a list post and a how-to post is that readers don’t need to follow the list from start to end: they can dip in and use those points that seem most applicable to their own situation.As with a how-to post, pre-planning is essential. Aim to come up with a couple more items than you need, and cut the weakest. Think about the order of your items, too: easiest to hardest works well, or you could alternate “do” and “don’t” tips.Variations:
- “The A–Z of ___”: You may well have seen this format used in magazines. An A–Z list post usually aims to produce a comprehensive overview of a particular topic, in bite-size chunks.
- “Roundup: ___”: This form of post gathers together resources (generally blog posts) on a particular topic, meaning each list item includes a link. You could also use this to list, say, the top 20 tweeters in your niche.
- The Review Post.Review posts offer an informed opinion about a particular product or service. These are a great way to serve your readers, who might be debating whether or not to purchase a particular item. They also help establish your own knowledge and expertise in your field.It’s up to you what exactly you include in your reviews, but one simple structure you can use is this:
- Overview—what’s included, how much it costs, and so on
- The good—mention the two or three aspects that were most enjoyable or useful to you
- The bad—write about what didn’t work so well – this adds credibility, especially if you’re an affiliate for the product / service
- Verdict—should your readers buy the product / service?
- “Product X vs Product Y”: Often, readers will be struggling to choose between two similar products or companies. A comparative review helps them make up their mind.
- “Top Ten Books On ___”: Similar to a roundup list post, but with added opinion, a “top ten” of books or other products in your niche offers readers bite-size reviews—and a resource to return to.
Of course, these aren’t the only structures you can use. But they do give you a great basis to build on. And they help ensure that your reader gets real value from your writing.
If you’ve had success with one of the above post structures, or if you’ve got a favorite structure of your own, let us know in the comments.
To Ali’s list I would add a 4th type of blog post which I call a ‘curative’ or curation post. That’s the type of post you see here! I could have just tweeted this two links or emailed them to a few friends, but I took a little extra time to glue the relevant parts of the two posts together and when I’m done, I’ll share this post with a couple of hundred people I work with but it will also be posted here on the blog for anyone who might find nature Google search or be searching for something specific on my site. While some people may frown on the concept of curation, curators provide a valuable service to the original writer, to their readers and to themselves when their curation truly adds value. As an added bonus, here’s a link to a recent post that shows my curation workflow…
I invite you to interact with me through the comment form or the connect menu option above — I’d be happy to talk with you about how I use all of these tactics for effective blogging…