Straight after you decide on a topic for your blog post, the next lot of fear usually hits:
“But what do I actually say?”
Settling on a blog post topic is great, but if you don’t have a clear blog post structure, it’s likely your post will waffle and ramble without a point.
You won’t be focused on your subject or your reader, let alone on providing a solution to their problem. Result? Mass exit-ous from your site (<==yeah, that was bad – sorry.)
So that all sucks, right? Now I’ll add a little bit more pressure (because clearly you need more blog post anxiety.) Way back in 2012, SerpIQ did a study into the average ranking for keywords. They found that the top-ranking posts usually contained 2,000+ words.
So, not only do you have to think of a topic and decide what you’re going to say, but you’re going to have to talk about it for 2k words….luckily, you’ve got me to help you.
Pre-planning Step 1: Who are you writing for?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – knowing who you’re writing for is key for your content. When you sit down to structure a blog post, it’s no different.
Keep your ideal client at the front of your mind. You’ve already decided on a topic that will help solve one of their problems, but let’s briefly revisit last week’s post and remind ourselves of the types of blog post you can go for:
Let me count the ways
Why, What & How
Take their pain away
You can revisit last week’s post to download the infographic which gives you some ideas on what those blog post types look like in practice, e.g. personal story, a how-to guide, etc.
Pre-planning Step 2: How does it help?
Once you’ve decided on the topic and the type of post, you need to get more specific on how your blog post will actually help your readers. Let me guide you on things you should be thinking about.Ask yourself: Does my blog post solve a problem? Which problem, and how? What will readers be able to do after they read my post? Is there a resource they can take away to help them further after they've stopped reading? Click To Tweet
Pre-planning Step 3: Action?
For your part, you want to think about the call to action of the post. Ask yourself….
- Do I want them to download something?
- Click on a link?
- Sign up?
- Share the post?
And what does this action mean for your to-do list? Will you have to….
- Create a downloadable resource?
- Link it to an email list?
It’s really important to plan your blog post structure, not only because having one makes the post easier to write in the first place, but also because the plan can then form the process for all your future posts. You’ll have a tried and tested system, that is repeatable and reliable.
Blog post structure – The Headline
Using the post types from last week, your first step is coming up with a headline. The type of post will determine which type of headline you use, but no matter which one you go for, you need to ask the following questions:
- Is it clear? i.e. Will readers know exactly what they’re going to read?
- What will readers get from it? e.g. will they learn a new skill?
- Are you making them feel something (or reminding them of a feeling they have) e.g. fear, excitement.
Let me give you some examples, for different industries:
Food / Lifestyle / Exercise
“How to stop back pain when it’s abs day”
“3 makeup tricks to cover under eye shadows”
“Stop feeling embarrassed about your eating habits – 3 recipes for weekday lunches”
Creative / Design / Language
“How I design my Pinterest graphics – a step-by-step guide”
“5 ways your company is losing money through exports”
“10 things you need to know about GDPR (+ questions to ask your lawyer)”
Technical / Research / Legal
“Advanced research skills: How I read 5 books per week”
“Do you really need a lawyer?”
“How to write a user guide your customers will love”
These should give you an idea of how to show the benefit your readers will get, whilst also being specific and fostering an emotional connection. Try it out for your niche!
Blog post structure – The Intro
I like to start my posts in one of three ways:
- Tell a story
- Ask a question
- Share a statistic
But there’s one big caveat for all three of these approaches – relevance. Whatever story you choose to tell, it needs to be relevant to the rest of the post. For example, how you used to do something differently in the past, before you figured out a new, better way (that you’re sharing in the post, of course).
If you’re asking a question, that question needs to address the problem they’re facing (which your blog post will solve.)
If you’re sharing a statistic, that statistic should either show them something your readers will want to aspire to, e.g. “98.77% of readers are earning £1 million per month” (<== possibly made up) or it can introduce a concept that plays into their fears, e.g. “Half of UK start ups fail within 5 years” (<== sadly this stat isn’t fabricated.)
Blog post structure – Rest their eyes
Right after the intro, I think it’s a good idea to give your readers’ eyes a rest. This can be in the form of a graphic relating to the story, statistic or question you posed in the intro.
It could be a call to action to share on social media, perhaps with a click to tweet button, like this:Give your readers' eyes a rest after your intro. The white space in your blog post is almost as important as the content. Think of your readers' visual experience when they're on your page #blogging Click To Tweet
Blog post structure – Body work
Depending on the type of post you’re writing, you’ll be approaching the body of your blog post in slightly different ways, but the following holds true for all types:
Explain why you’re writing this post. Do you have experience in it? Was it a problem you also had?
Social share break
I think having a click to tweet focusing on the main problem/challenge/feeling your readers may have is a great idea here – it’s also a good way to draw others in from different social channels, because they’ll read it and think “Yes! I feel that! That’s me!”
Regardless of whether you’re producing a how-to guide for your readers, creating a list of the main points you want to cover is extremely helpful for your blog post structure. It keeps you on topic, and it guides them through a logical process, so they can help order their own thoughts on the subject.
If you’re summarising a piece of research, divide the topic into 2-5 main points.
If you’re writing a guide, a how-to post or a post to help your readers fix something, use a numbered list. It’s usually a good idea to have a blog post structure that’s in chronological order, so your readers can follow along.
If you’re sharing a personal story, take them through the problem you experienced, the point that made you take action to change the situation, the action you took (and the difficulties involved) + the result at the end.
Blog post structure – Rest their eyes (again)
Another image break here. This is the perfect time for a downloadable resource, infographic or even a link to an email sequence.
For example, if your blog post takes them through how to create something, you can include a downloadable resource. That resource will feature a summary of the points in your blog post, and offer them the chance to sign up to a short email sequence which holds their hand through the implementation of those steps.
Blog post structure – conclusion
Paragraph 1: I usually finish with an example of how the post could be applied to their own circumstances, i.e. they’ll see the benefit of the content.
Paragraph 2: Further reading or call to action for further help (like subscribing to a sequence to go deeper on the topic.) Or I’ll let them know how next week’s topic will further supplement their learning (this works because my content is planned and each month has a theme.)
Paragraph 3: I ask a question on how they currently deal with the problem, or if they have any tips on how they deal with it, and invite them to connect via email or in the comments.
Easy on the eye – tips & tricks
I said up-post that the visual experience of reading your post is almost as important as the content itself.
You can have an amazing topic that readers will really connect and identify with, but if it’s packaged up in a homogenous blob of text, with nothing to break it up, your readers will be calling “Migraine“, not “Me too!”
Here’s a quick checklist for your blog post:
- Images or infographic?
- Bullet point or numbered list?
- Headings & subheadings (useful for SEO too)
- Short, succinct paragraphs (3-4 sentences max)
- Bold text for important points
Summing up blog post structure
Today’s post took you through the practical steps to structuring blog posts that your readers will want to read. As ever, here’s a infographic-tastic recap on how we did that, for you to pin up beside your laptop:
As I talked about in last week’s post, blogging for your ideal clients is a powerful marketing tool, and it’s one that is underutilised. It’s also seldom done properly, whether that’s poor structure and readibility or inadequate length.
I’d encourage you to use this week’s post to help you figure out a blog post structure that works for you. Next week we’ll be looking at how to plan your content for the year. I’ll take you through my process step by step.