You may have forgotten, but I originally included a section in the example outline for this post that dealt with optimizing blog posts for SEO. I fully intended to write this section, but when I looked at how my first draft was shaping up, I realized this was too substantial a topic to tackle in an already lengthy post. As a result, I made the decision to cut this section from the post altogether. I purposefully left the outline intact to demonstrate that you shouldn’t be afraid to make editorial decisions like this.
Writing an Effective Blog Post
Blogging, or writing short entries on a website, can allow you to offer opinions, share ideas, or do independent reporting, but most importantly, blogging can help writers have conversations with readers. What makes blogs so different from journalism, as the authors of The Elements of Blogging: Expanding the Conversation of Journalism suggest, is the discussion between writer and reader. Blogs can be a forum for writers to get feedback on half–formed ideas and emerging stances, and through comments, readers can talk with and back to writers and build communities. But what draws readers in? Read through the material below to learn how paying attention to a range of blog elements (including clear headlines, engaging pictures, and distinctive ledes) will help you build an audience.
In The Elements of Blogging, Mark Leccese and Jerry Lanson dissect blog posts in order to identify and examine their key parts. Below are some of the elements they highlight as well as some examples from local blogs.
A headline or title not only helps draw in readers’ attention with an interesting hook, but by containing keywords that Google and other search engines use, the right headline can bring anyone to your blog. As Leccese and Lanson note, search engines work by creating indexes of the words they find on the web. By using keywords in your headline, there is a greater chance that more browsers will find your blog. Headlines, however, are more than just keywords. They need to be short, 10 words or less, and intriguing.
Look at the headline on this article from University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Limnology’s blog.
Through this blog, the Center for Limnology communicates with university colleagues, Madison residents, and students about current fresh water research and reflections. In this post center staff member Adam Hinterthuer writes about the presence of an invasive species in Lake Mendota. The post’s clear, engaging title uses keywords so that this post appears in the first several search results for anyone looking for information about “zebra mussels” and “lake mendota.”
When possible, your headlines should be in the present tense, and you shouldn’t repeat the headline in the first lines of the post.
Table of Contents
Without a headline, they have no roadmap to follow. And so their post goes in multiple directions, leaving readers feeling dizzy, confused and disoriented.
If you want to write a great blog post full of clarity, conciseness, and conviction, spend some time crafting a blog title that sets a clear destination, lures readers in, and leaves them eager for your advice.
Your blog title will be your map, your writing navigation system, letting you know which literary roads to choose and which to avoid so that readers reach the intended destination as easily and efficiently as possible.
Headline Rule #1. Pick a Mouth-Watering Topic
Editor’s Note: Answering the “what keeps our readers up at night?” question is how posts like our recent Working From Home? 14 Sanity-Saving Tools (+ 35 Pro Tips) are born. More people are working remotely, but they’ve never done it before. We saw a pain point, so we addressed it.
Your headline should not promise them a trip to the moon and back — readers are way too swift for such shenanigans. Keep the benefit specific and narrow, and readers will feel compelled to click and get the solution to what’s bugging them.
This headline is so broad it’s unlikely to draw readers in. No one loses sleep over “wanting to create an amazing life.” They lose sleep over specific aspects of their lives that have left them unfulfilled.
Headline Rule #2. Steal from the Pros
Decades of copywriting and advertising research have revealed the types of headlines that have proven to be successful. The types of headlines that zap readers out of their info-overload comas and compel them to open. Why mess with that research?
Types of blog posts
In a how-to blog post, the blogger explains the steps the reader needs to take to complete a task. Recipe blog posts are a popular example of a how-to blog post.
Also known as a “listicle,” a portmanteau of list and article, a list-based blog post is one that’s organized as a list of related entries. This could be a list of products, historical events, quotes, images, or unusual and intriguing facts, the kind of listicle Cracked.com made famous. You’ll find list-based posts on lots of blogs, like BuzzFeed , Bored Panda , and right here on the Grammarly blog.
A news article blog post links to a trending news article and provides the blogger’s thoughts on that news article. It isn’t just a repost of the news article; it includes insights that build upon, speculate about, agree, or disagree with the information covered in the news article.
In this kind of post, the blogger introduces a person they’ve interviewed and provides some background information about the interviewee and their work. Following this is a transcript of the interview, sometimes interspersed with additional information written by the blogger. You can find interviews on many different blogs, such as Rotten Tomatoes’ blog .
In a review post, the blogger reviews a movie, video game, TV show, book, product . . . anything, really. What’s Good at Trader Joes? is a well-known example of a blog that focuses on product review posts. A review post can focus on one product or piece of media or it can be structured like a list-based post. You can find examples of the latter on 99designs , where they often review design software and website platforms.
A personal blog post, like a personal essay , is where the author discusses their personal experiences, thoughts, and/or opinions. Usually, you’ll find these kinds of posts on personal blogs rather than corporate or professional blogs. However, a blogger who usually publishes other kinds of blog posts might publish personal blog posts from time to time to build a more personal connection with readers.
Step 2: Narrow down the topics with the most potential
One way to do this is by using a combination of guesswork and free tools like Google Trends which shows you the relative popularity of any search queries you enter.
Let’s say you have three topics from the previous step: Overcooked, Overcooked 2 and Mario Kart. Enter all three terms in Google Trends and it’ll show you which topic is the most popular.
So while “Mario Kart” is clearly the winner here, it could, in reality, get four searches a month while the other terms get one. In which case, none of them would be considered to be popular at all.
Paste your topic or keyword into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scroll down to look at the SERP overview. From here, just check the column that tells you how much estimated monthly organic traffic the top-ranking pages have.
For reference’s sake, it can take us more than 20 hours to write a blog post at Ahrefs. If we’re only getting a handful of visits per month to that post, then it’s really not worth the effort involved.
So: weed out the topics with low traffic potential to save yourself the hassle and eventual disappointment. In this case, Mario Kart clearly has high traffic potential.
For example, if you’re selling graphic design software, a blog post about “how to make an infographic” makes perfect sense. Conversely, a post about “how to change a car tire”, no matter how much traffic potential it has, is unlikely to bring about results for your business.
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