As we bring a new agency and a new blog into the world, I thought it would be interesting to look at how to write the perfect blog post. Writing for the web in general and writing blogs in particular takes a great deal of thought.
Back in 1997, Jakob Nielsen ran some seminal research looking at how we read online. It found that most of us don’t read, we scan.
This means that, when writing blog posts, you need to think very carefully about structure and formatting to ensure readers (or scanners) pick up the most important points.
Here are ten tips to help you write better blog posts:
1. Keep everything short
Whether this is sentences or paragraphs or the whole post itself! We’re all busy people. So, unless what you’ve got to say is insanely gripping (it probably won’t be) say it and then stop. No rambling.
Look at the BBC website – this is one of the major UK online media sites where content is written specifically for the web.
The paragraphs are incredibly short – often just a sentence long.
This is because (remember what I said about Nielsen), we scan the start of paragraphs when reading online, but often won’t read to the end of them.
If your paragraphs are longer, make sure they only contain one idea per paragraph and that the idea is firmly stated towards the start of the paragraph.
2. Make your last point, first
Many of us will have been taught that, when writing, you should carefully set out your arguments before then making an informed conclusion.
Online, the reverse is often more effective.
Make your main point first and then explain why you think it’s the case.
3. Think carefully about the title
Titles or headlines play an even more important role in blog posts than they do elsewhere.
With the rise of social media, they are often used as the only reference to your post when it is shared on sites like Facebook or Twitter.
So, while the title needs to be provocative and intriguing, it still needs to be clear enough to give the potential reader a good idea of what the post/article will cover.
And don’t make it too long, otherwise it won’t do well in the re-tweet stakes.
4. Don’t forget SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an increasingly important marketing discipline for all marketers.
While you should never write a blog post purely with SEO in mind (unless you really don’t want or don’t think anyone will ever read it or see it), you need to keep it at the back of your mind.
Include those all-important keywords where you can and especially in the title. Using bold and/or internal links will help too.
Finally, make sure you use proper HTML heading tags and format your post effectively.
5. Use numbered lists and bullets
If you read a number of blogs, you’ll be familiar with lists and bullet points.
Again, because we like to scan, paragraph breaks, lists and bullets make this easier.
It also helps give you structure and stops you waffling.
6. Use emphasis/bold
Using bold text is another way to ensure that, if you do have a long paragraph or block of text, certain phrases stand out and aren’t skimmed.
It can be useful if you have no choice but to make a really important point at the end of a paragraph or sentence.
7. Use links
Much like bold or emphasis, it has been shown that our eyes are often drawn towards hyperlinks.
Not only does this break up the text, it demonstrates credibility by showing you have done some homework and are adding extra value by linking to other sources.
This will also encourage other bloggers to return the favour and link back to you.
8. Use headings and sub-headings
Headings and sub-headings are other stylistic features that ‘scanners’ love.
Again, look at the BBC website – it almost has a formula (and probably literally does) for where a subhead should come.
If you’re reading a page and start to get a bit bored, you’ll probably drop down to the next subhead.
They act as anchor points, helping you navigate your way through the blog post.
9. Make use of pictures
Pictures don’t speak a thousand words, but they do make a post look more appealing and accessible even if at a relatively subconscious level.
So try and include a photo wherever possible. It doesn’t have to take time, effort or money to locate a suitable one either.
Flickr, for example, has a vast array of ‘creative commons’ images you can use to insert into blog posts. Just make sure you credit the author at the end.
10. Format your post properly
When you’ve written that killer post, found the right image and drafted a winning title, you’ll probably want to upload your post to your blog.
At this stage, you need to make sure you format everything correctly. This means making sure your headings and subheads have the proper HTML code applied.
You will also want to add tags to your post and even categorise it so that anyone searching on your site, or even through a search engine, can find it easily.