Anatomy of a perfectly valuable blog post

I recently read an article that examined the makeup of a "perfect blog post". It was a pretty fascinating read with some advice that is good, some that is debatable, and some that amused me (1,500 words!?). 

However, as we like to do around here, I thought it needed to be simplified. You could overthink how to assemble a blog post for hours every time you write one. That's the nature of creating content sometimes. It's just not very realistic for busy small business owners. Perfection isn't the goal - useful, valuable, helpful are. Read on to find out our simple formula for writing a blog post - along with some useful search engine optimization (SEO) tips!


1) Start with a headline that grabs attention

A great blog headline should convey what the post is actually about. The trend toward using clickbait headlines (ahem, Upworthy and all the copycats) leads to disappointment and often makes my eyes hurt from all the rolling. Set realistic expectations, then deliver. 

Quick SEO tip: The first three words of your headline, along with the last three, are important to search engines...choose wisely. Search engine results pages show about 55 characters of the headline, so keep it concise.

2) Reel your readers in to the first paragraph

Your audience has given you the benefit of the doubt and clicked through - they're looking at your first couple paragraphs. What are you going to stay to draw them in and keep them around until the last word? One approach is to tell them what they'll get by reading - like I did with this blog post. Or perhaps you have a story that you can share that adds relevance to the topic - like I did in my last blog post

Quick SEO tip: Many bloggers have SEO plugins that help with optimizing individual blog post's meta data for search. It's a good idea to have a tool like that for your site. If you don't, you can still benefit by crafting the headline as described above and using keywords in the first 150-160 characters of your post - that's usually the part that is automatically pulled into search results. 

3) A picture is worth a thousand words

Based on the perfect blog post I mentioned earlier, if you throw in a picture, you just need to write 500 words. Totally doable! 

People like pictures. They like relevant pictures and eye-catching images. I recently found some really cool new image tools that I'll write about another day, but for now just remember to include at least one image in your blog posts. This makes it possible to pin your posts to Pinterest, gives a nice thumbnail preview for Facebook and Google+, and it breaks up the page so it's more readable.

Quick SEO tip: Images give your post the possibility of showing up in search results for web and images. This possibility increases when you use descriptive filenames and alt tags. For example, when I uploaded the image for this post, I had saved the file as "anatomy-blog-post.png", not "IMG 2835.jpg". My filename is far more likely to be picked up by search engines. You can learn more about how to optimize your images by checking out page 18 of the SEO Starter Guide.

4) Make your post scannable.

Short paragraphs, lists - bullets or numbered lists - headings, and pictures break up your post and make it easy to read and comprehend. They add structure and organize the overall content to communicate with your audience more effectively.

Quick SEO tip: Consider your post an outline and use headings to create the structure of your outline. You can do this with h1, h2, h3 tags. All the headings in this post are h2. If I was making a subpoint to one of these headings, I might use h3. Two levels for a blog post is plenty. Beware of coding errors that put all of your post text into a heading tag (h1, h2, h3). Search engines like heading tags to be used only for headings.

5)  Link to other sources

Three reasons. It shows that you:

  1. Stay up on what other experts are saying.
  2. You know what you're talking about.
  3. You don't live in a bubble.

Quick SEO tip: The SEO advantage on this one goes to the link-ee...not the link-er. However, it's good karma points for you! The more great content you build on your site, the more others will link back to you from theirs. 

6) Conclusion: Reiterate the most important Points

People need important information repeated. It's how we learn quickly. So, always remember to repeat your key points or takeaways at the end. This one is all for your readers, not the search engines.

7) Ask your audience to do something

You've just shared your expertise with your readers. What do you want them to do in return for your genius? Ask for a comment that is relevant to your post. (Please avoid asking, "What do you think?") Create a call to action that allows for meaningful interaction with your audience. Maybe you've got a great new free offer they'd be interested in receiving. If it's relevant to the topic, pitch it to them. Ask a simple question that is easy to answer. Or invite them to share the post with their audience. Speaking of doing something...

Your turn now; we want to learn from you, too! What blogging tip that has helped you most?