How to write a blog post that people will read

You’re a blogger.

Okay, okay, you’re not a blogger, but you’re thinking about becoming one?

You’ve heard of a blog and somehow ended up here?

Whatever. You’re here to read and learn and that’s all that really matters. We’re grateful for it.

If you run a business, blogging is a brilliant way to get your name out there. Apparently, by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without even bothering to talk to a human being. They’ll read your words and make a decision based on how appealing they are. If you’re a blogger, this is a good thing, because prioritising a company blog makes you 13X more likely to enjoy positive Return on Investment (ROI). You’ll also get 97% more links to your website.

There is no set formula for successful blogging; a lot depends on the style, skill and tone of voice of the writer. There are, however, a few essential elements that can help you craft a post that appeals to readers.

Let’s go through these elements now, from top to bottom in the order that they are seen on screen…

THE HEADLINE

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy

Headlines are the single most important aspect of a successful blog. 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will bother to continue on down the page after doing so. A good headline is one that is relevant and doesn’t attempt to trick or confuse. For example, if you run a music website, it’s no good gallivanting around telling people in your headline that you’ve snared ‘An Exclusive Interview with Paul McCartney’ when that interview is actually with part-time Paul McCartney impersonator Keith, the full-time owner of Keith’s Dodgy DVDs stall down the local market. A good, clickable headline no doubt, but one that’s deceiving the reader and isn’t exactly relevant.

Your headline is your first impression and when it comes to making it a good one, the odds are very much against you.

There’s a good post by Brian Clark over at Copyblogger on How to Write Headlines That Work that’s well worth reading, but the best advice is to find out which headlines perform best and copy the formula.

BuzzSumo is a wonderful little tool that can help you do this. All you need to do is enter your blog topic (e.g digital marketing) in the search bar and click Go! You’ll be then shown a list of the most shared content, which can be filtered by type to suit your preferences. If an article has a lot of shares it’s because people have read it and liked it. And if they’ve read it at all, it’s because the headline was good enough to lure them in.

Length of your headline is also important. We lazy humans usually can’t be bothered to read the full headline, absorbing only the first three and last three words. Based on this, the optimal length of a headline is six words. Of course, this isn’t always possible, which means – as KISSmetrics says – you need to make every word count, especially the first and last three.

IMAGE

Before you set about reaffirming the reader’s decision to read beyond the headline, you’ve got to chuck in some visual appeal above the fold. As a thumbnail, a cover image is what catches the eye of the reader, often before they’ve read the headline. An eye-catching image in keeping with the theme of the post instantly makes your content more attractive.

Take a look at any popular blog and you’ll see how the vast majority of them opt for a header image. Here’s how The Next Web does it:

There are plenty of useful visual resources out there to help you achieve the ideal image for your content. Here’s a post we wrote on how and where to get free images for your content that you might find helpful.

CONTENT – THE FIRST PARAGRAPH

“It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.” – The Bee Gees

Congratulations, your headline has been deemed good enough to warrant a read of the first sentence!

Now you’ve got to get them to stick around.

This is where you need to craft a hook, something that convinces the reader to stay on the page for just a little bit longer. An often used method is to tell a story – everybody loves a good yarn. Perhaps an easier way to real a reader in, though, is with a question. Curiosity wins every time. Ask a question and people will be compelled to seek out the answer. Before they know it, they’ve finished reading the blog post.

Whatever that first sentence is, make it captivating enough to compel the reader to read the next one.

When crafting content you should always do so naturally – i.e. don’t attempt to shoehorn keywords. Have half-a-dozen keywords in mind and try to include them throughout your blog post if possible, but – to quote the magical words of Kellee Patterson – if it don’t fit, don’t force it.

SUBHEADING

Here’s the thing, endless blocks of text are horrible. Reading words on a screen is considerably more fatiguing than read from paper, where long passages of text are absolutely fine. If a reader, tempted to inspect your post further, sees 1,000 words of text formatted like this:

Image credit: http://dalicetrost.com

They’re going to disappear quicker than Road Runner at the scene of a coyote accident.

That’s what subheadings are for. They break up text nicely to improve the user experience. According to Buffer (and science), the ideal length of a blog post is 1,600 words. This many words need subheadings to provide a welcome rest point between paragraphs.

Subheadings also serve the habits of the typical internet reader. Not everyone is going to read your blog post from first word to last. You shouldn’t be offended by this, it’s just the way is – we’re all a bunch of skimmers, dipping in and out of articles as we see fit and picking out the parts that catch our attention. Subheadings help cater to this style of reading, giving readers a jist of the content and the key points of the paragraph to follow.

MORE CONTENT

Our first subheading leads into the second chunk of content. By this stage in the post you should be well into the subject matter – providing some juicy text and quenching the reader’s thirst for knowledge.

Blog posts are informal and conversational, so leave any corporate stuff at the door. Informal doesn’t mean unprofessional though, so don’t let grammar and punctuation slide. Have your posts proofread whenever possible and always make sure they are readable. Unless your reader-base is so targeted that they’re likely to thoroughly understand the inner workings of your industry, stay clear of jargon.

A general rule of thumb is that content should be easy for a 12 to 15 year old to understand. A good way to check if this is the case is with The Readability Test Tool. Simply copy-and-paste the URL of your web page and the tool will tell you how clever you’re trying to be.

When crafting content, short, manageable sentences work best, likewise with paragraphs. You should also consider layout of the post visually, including lists, bullet points, images and embeds generously. Both of these appeal to the skim reader in us.

ANOTHER SUBHEADING

We’ve already covered the need for subheadings, but it’s probably worth mentioning what type of subheading this actually is. Like our first subheading, the heading above is a H2 (H = Heading). This falls below a H1, which would be the title of the article and is more prominent in size and weight than a H3. If you’re going to be using a heading within a heading – for example a list below a H2 – make these H3s.

MORE CONTENT (WITH MORE IMAGES)

You know the drill by now: content, headings, images, repeat. Follow this method until it’s time to wind-up. It’s worth saying at this point that, while the best performing blog posts tend to be over 1,000 words, there is no rule which states your posts have to be of a certain length. If you’ve said everything you need to say in 300 words that’s fine – don’t attempt to fluff up the post for the purposes of word count.

When you’re pretty much all worded out – all aspects of the topic are covered and you’ve concluded with some key takeaways, the last essential element of a decent blog post is upon you…

THE CALL TO ACTION

You’ve given your readers a lot by this stage – they’re a lot more knowledgeable now than they were when they first stumbled across your killer headline. Now it’s time to receive. You want readers to engage further and this is likely to require a request.

Whatever it is that you’d like the reader to do – call you, like your Facebook page, sign up to your newsletter, leave a comment below – tell them. People will only do what you ask of them if you ask it of them.

Which reminds me…if you ever need help with blogging or any other aspect of digital marketing, don’t hesitate to give Pea Soup a call. We also have a Facebook page that you might like, and you know we also appreciate any comments left below!

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