A couple of years ago, I calculated that I’d racked up about four and a half thousand blog posts across all my personal and professional projects. Yes, I’ve been doing this a while.
I won’t say there’s a set formula (if there is, I break it regularly), but there are definitely good practices.
The golden rule of presentations is a good place to start:
tell them what you’re going to say, say it, tell them what you just said.
A blog post isn’t the same beast as a presentation, but you can think about producing it in the same way.
Give it a good title that says what it’s about:
- Keep it simple
- Keep it relevant
- Keep it short.
- It doesn’t have to be clever, but it should include as many of your post’s keywords as will fit naturally without violating the above three points.
Give it a good introduction of no more than two short paragraphs that sit naturally above your Read More tag.
- Always allow for a Read More tag so that readers can tell what the post is about when it comes up on a search page. Your opening paragraphs need to get that across.
Make sure your intro paragraphs are a good lead-in to the body of the post, expanding on (but not repeating) your title.
Keep your body text paragraphs short. It’s a blog post to be read on screen; it’s not a newspaper, periodical or academic article. Unless you’re expressly producing long-form content, keep your body paragraphs tight and snappy.
Break up content into sections with sub-headings:
- You can use your heading 2, 3 and 4 paragraph styles
- If it’s a longer post in sections, use these section sub-headings as anchor tags to build your table of contents at the top of the post.
Keep your sentences short, snappy and simple. Online posts are not the place for Thackeray-style rhetorical constructions with lots of sub-clauses (unless your blog is about literary styles!)
Simplify your body content using lists and bullet points where it makes sense and cuts down on long paragraphs and long sentences (again, unless you are producing a more formal, literary blog)
Wrap up with a paragraph or two in conclusion; tell them what you just said, complete the argument, present the verdict.
Finish with a call to action or invitation to engage with your content
- This is important is you’re looking to sell product or build your audience
A good random example of a well-constructed blog post is Sarah Petersen’s argument against blog advertising on Smartblogger.
Most of the search engines are now indexing for mobile content first.
One of the aims behind my short-form rules above is to ensure you produce attractive, legible content that is readable on small screen devices, especially smart phones. A dense wall of text does not work. Preview your post for mobile and re-edit if it gives you a headache.
Do not over-decorate
Some web-authors will advise that you take important words and CAPITALIZE, underline, bolden or italicize them.
Or at least, choose wisely. Do one thing, not all of them, to emphasise only if you really need to. Do it sparingly. Decide what an ‘important’ word is. Don’t forget that underlining is commonly the visual cue for an embedded link in the text – your blog template might use bold without underlining for links instead. Don’t confuse your reader with false cues. On mobile, with short line-wraps, too much decoration is less clear, not more.
Break, break, break down
Harking back to long-form or short-form content, take a look at the length of your post and decide if it merits breaking down into two or more posts or a whole series of articles. Internet readers on the whole go for short reads but will come back for more if your content is engaging. And multiple posts encourages multiple hits on your blog which is more traffic. And as if we planned it this way…
Next time we’ll look at artwork to accompany blog posts: yes, you need some! RC