How to Write Effective Blog Posts
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There is a right and wrong way to write effective blog posts. I’m going to share a formula with you now. However, within the confines of that formula, you have one overarching obligation: You must be an interesting writer.
Your purpose is not just to offer information. You must also engage your readers. That means you want to grab their attention, keep them reading through your entire post, and then motivate them to respond in a positive way to your call-to-action.
Be sure to read my Bonus Content about researching and writing posts in the Plan Step 4 Bonus Content.
Everyone is a writer. I know that for sure because everyone is a storyteller. You started telling your parents about the things you did or thought from the time you could first talk, and you’re still doing that in conversations today.
However, when you went to school your teachers ruined everything. Rather than allowing your stories to flow directly from your brain to your vocal cords, they insisted that you write the words on paper in a certain way following pesky rules of grammar. Your teacher usually judged your work by how closely you followed the rules, not by the amazing ideas you shared. The rules and criticism probably stunted your creativity. That’s what happened to most of us.
As you know, I have been mentoring writers for decades, and I always encourage them to relax when it comes to grammar rules. That applies to all types of writing whether it is an email, a blog post, or a novel. You want to “speak your mind” in the most primal way, allowing the words to flow in an uninhibited way. Only after you have it all on the page do you go back and refine what you have written.
Words on a page are like clay in the hands of a potter. You need the lump of clay (your first unabashed draft) first, and only after that do you shape it. Many writers want to edit as they write, but that’s a rookie mistake. Writers always get the best results when they quickly write what is at the top of their mind, then revise it later. Writing style and voice emerge in the process of revision.
It’s not my purpose to teach you how to write here. You already know how to write a sentence and a paragraph, and I offer research and writing techniques in the Bonus Content for this Step. However, a blog post has a particular pattern, and you want your sentences and paragraphs to fall within that pattern. Why? Because readers have expectations, and you want your writing to be reader-centric. You want to present your ideas in a structured way.
The Blog Post Pattern
Each blog post follows the same pattern. When you follow it, your posts will be more exciting and helpful to your readers. You’ll also find you can write them faster when you follow this blueprint.
Headline writing is a special skill, but one you can master. Write a headline for your blog post that is short, to the point and catchy. Never try to explain the content of your post in your headline. A headline is just a hook.
What kind of headlines do people click on when they see them in search results? There has been lots of research in this area. Whenever possible, use these words as part of your headline:
- How to
- Numbers (like “5 Ways to …”)
Need some help coming up with a headline that will attract reader attention? There are free services that help spark ideas. For example, I went to this site and input this keyword phrase which was the topic of my post: “Make money blogging.”
It generated 300 different possible titles I could use. Imagine that! Some are good, and some are not so good. Each may need a little tweaking, but each is an attractive option to consider. Here are the top 10 I liked best out of the 300 offered:
1. 15 Unheard Ways To Achieve Greater MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
2. How To MAKE MONEY BLOGGING Without Leaving Your House
3. Guaranteed No Stress ways MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
4. 5 Rules Not To Follow to MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
5. At Last, The Secret Path To MAKE MONEY BLOGGING Is Revealed
6. MAKE MONEY BLOGGING Shortcuts – The Easy Way
7. Don’t Just Sit There! Start to MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
8. Apply These 5 Secret Techniques To MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
9. Cracking The MAKE MONEY BLOGGING Code
10. A Surprising Tool To Help You MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
You the how important a blog title can be? You want to hook readers immediately.
There is a critical caveat about selecting blog post titles. That is, you must deliver on your title. If you don’t deliver, then your title becomes nothing more than “Click-bait” and people hate these kinds of titles and posts. They will abandon your site if they see you’re baiting them.
An example? Your title might be: “Kim Kardashian and I Blog Together.” When people read your post, they discover that you write blog posts while the Kardashian show is on TV. Cute or deceptive? Most people will think this title is nothing more than misleading click-bait. Don’t do that sort of thing because it will kill your blog.
Once I have an idea for a blog post, I generally give it a generic working title. But I almost never use that title in the final post. Selecting the ideal title takes some research and some thought, so I want to consider my options. The title generator gets me thinking in the right direction.
2 Your Introduction
Once you hook a reader with your title, you need to set the hook in the mouth of the reader so you can reel them in. You do that with your introduction.
Open with a shocking statement relevant to your post content. Is your post on a health topic? Start with this introduction if it’s relevant:
“Did you know that your body is home to trillions of microorganisms? That they outnumber human cells 10 to 1? That a 200-pound person can have up to 6 pounds of bacteria as part of their body weight?”
That is an introduction that will keep people reading. It is short and shocking, and you can transition them into the meat of your article. The point is, a brief, shocking statement like this, adapted from a U.S. government health website, keeps people reading.
Alternately, you can start with a short, relevant story. This may come from your own experience or something you read or heard.
The main issue is that you want to condense the story so it is shorter. You tell just a bit to whet the appetite of the reader. You fill out the details later in your post. But you need to keep it short at the start.
Here’s an example of an introduction for a post of teenage dating:
“He left me on the bed in tears. I thought he loved me, but at that moment I was completely confused. I hope you can learn from my story.”
Yikes, that introduction will keep anyone reading. But don’t tell the full story at the start. Tease a little. Make a helpful point and get back to the details later.
If you don’t have a good title, people will not stop to read your post. But if you don’t have an excellent introduction, they’ll scan when you wrote, but will not be drawn into what you have to say.
Start with a question or a quotation. This is kind of the lazy person’s way to set the hook, but it still works. Use it sparingly. Again, the question must be relevant to the topic of your post.
The same applies when you start with a quotation, such as these examples:
“Do you still beat your wife?” That’s one question you can never answer correctly. If yes, you’re a wife-beater. If no, you’re a former wife-beater.
Abraham Lincoln understood marriage. He said, “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
By the way, a joke can also be an occasional good introduction. It’s often risky to use them, however. People seemed to have lost their sense of humor during the Obama administration, and now people take offense at the most innocent things.
You can keep people reading when you have a good, short introduction that is relevant to the topic of your post.
Factoids (small facts) help draw readers into your content. present an interesting, small fact on the topic of your post to arouse interest in it.
See “How to Enrich Blog Posts with Research” in the Bonus Content sidebar. It includes details about how to quickly find interesting stories and facts.
For example, if your blog is about gardening and your post is on roses, you might tell your readers the Juliet rose is valued at $5 million. That factoid garners interest and enables you to talk about how much you value roses.
As in all your writing, your research must be relevant to the point you’re making in your post. I keep repeating the point about relevancy, but many people include completely irrelevant information in a post. They see the connection, but readers don’t see it.
When you do a little research, you’ll probably find other interesting tidbits. Sprinkle them throughout your post.
3 Transitional Sentence
Many writers don’t appreciate the value of a transitional sentence. In film and music, this is called a “segue.” It is defined as “a transition from one role, state, or condition to another.”
You want to write a great transitional sentence or short paragraph between your introduction and your practical points.
Your title and introduction put your reader in a particular state of mind, and you want to continue to keep them in your world. A transitional sentence can do that, even if your introduction is not directly related to the practical points you want to make.
Let’s say you are writing a post about herbal tea. Your post structure might look something like this:
The Secret Healing Power of Herbal Tea
Would you chew on a teabag to improve your health? That’s how people consumed tea in ancient times. Tea was like a chaw of tobacco It wasn’t until tea leaves accidentally blew boiling water during the reign of Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung (2700 B.C.) that it became a desirable drink.
There’s no need to have a chaw of Chamomile today. Various kinds of tea can bring healing without the need for a spittoon. It’s just as powerful as a beverage, and these brewed leaves can bring you health.
Practical Point 1
Ginger Reduces Inflammation (300 words)
Practical Point 2
Hibiscus Can Lower Blood Pressure (300 words)
Practical Point 3
Rooibos relieves acne and eczema (300 words)
Tea and sympathy are always good. But brewed herbal tea can be far more powerful health ally. Various kinds of teas can help you feel better, and overall can improve your immune system. This is the best brand of tea. Buy them now. [Link to your Affiliate Offer].
See how the transitional sentence moves the reader from the introductory “hook” into the heart of your post?
4 Headings and Sub-Headings (Practical Points)
This is the meat of your post. So far, you have been hooking readers and setting the hook. This is where you reel them in.
I’m going to switch metaphors here. But I want to make the point that people are reading your blog because they want a solution to a particular problem. If you are not providing solutions to problems, then you have missed the entire point of blogging.
You offer solutions by way of these practical points. These solutions are the reason why you get and keep blog visitors.
When you are writing a post, you generally want to make one big point that is supported by 3-5 sub-points which are sub-headings. You maintain the flow from the introduction through each of your practical points.
Your points are the heart of your article. It’s where you convey your key ideas.
Identify each practical point with a heading. They are concise sentences or sentence fragments that are a preview of coming attractions of the following section.
Headings serve a dual purpose. They help clarify your points and provide an incentive for readers to keep on reading.
Notice that in all the articles I write, I have a centered Heading 2, and a Heading 3 sub-heading that is off to the right. My Heading 3 is bold, italic, and in a smaller font as a sub-subheading. This helps make articles reader-friendly.
A quick word about Heading 1, 2, 3, and 4. These are HTML headings and are easy to add in WordPress. You select the text to make a heading, and then you choose the heading number. Not only do headings help readers, but they also improve your SEO, especially when you include keyword phrases in them. I discuss the relevance of all this in Plan Steps 3 and 5, and mention it here in a slightly different but relevant context. Headings can be automated in WordPress, just like Styles in Microsoft Word.
Best practice is to write no more than about 300 words under each heading. That should be your goal even though it’s not always possible.
5 Your Conclusion
Summarize what you have said. You don’t repeat it, you glean and restate the main points you want people to remember.
The best conclusions have what is known as a “Call-to-Action.” That’s where you tell your readers what you expect them to do to make use of the ideas you shared in the post.
You want to trigger action based on the solution you offer in your practical point headings. You may ask someone to do something, talk to someone, help someone, even buy a product or service you’re offering.
If we are offering solutions of any kind to our readers, then there is always a Call-to-Action involved.
So, here’s what I want you do right now. I want you to write a 500-word post. Stop now and do it. Every writer must overcome inertia. That is the greatest challenge. The dictionary definition identifies the problem precisely. Inertia is “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.”
Thinking about writing is not writing. Staring at a computer screen is not writing. You must start tapping the keys. The words that appear may not say what you mean, but once you have words down, you can revise them. That is the redemptive aspect of writing. You can always change and improve what you have written.
Wait, did it cross your mind to stop reading and start writing? I hope so. That was my Call-to-Action. It works, doesn’t it?
Post Word Count
How long should each post be? As I tell would-be bloggers, the old 500-word standard no longer applies. The minimum to satisfy both readers and the Google SEO algorithm is about 1,500 words.
There is nothing wrong with 2,500-word blog posts, and you should write as many of them as possible. They add depth to your topic.
You need at least a few 3,500-word articles which are called “Cornerstone posts.” If you are starting your blog with 12-15 posts, at least one should be 3,500 words, 2-3 at 2,500 words, and the rest at the 1,500-word level. Maintain those relative numbers as you add more posts over time.
Cornerstone posts define your blog topic and your thoughts about it. They are long and informative by nature and cover everything you think is important on your blog topic or a particular aspect of it. They are the posts that help you dominate your blogging niche.
Beyond the focus they offer your readers about your blog, Cornerstone posts also help your SEO rankings. There are many posts on competing topics, and you may not get much Google ranking love.
However, a long, high quality, information-rich Cornerstone post will put you near the top. That post will be laced with internal links, and so your visitors will have the opportunity to see your other posts. I provide the inside story about internal links in Step 5 Bonus Content, “How to Do Link-Building.”
Let’s say you have promised your readership a post every Monday and Thursday (for example). But it’s late Sunday night and you are sitting in the glow of your computer screen. You aren’t typing. You are staring at your blank screen as if in a trance.
What’s happening here? Writer’s block? No. You are the victim of poor planning. You failed to schedule your post content and your writing sessions.
Scheduling your work may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference in your state of mind and your effectiveness. You will write better posts when you are not constantly under the gun.
You can solve this problem by doing three things:
- Keep a running list of future blog topics
- Protect your writing time
- Schedule your posts for automated release
This plan eliminates the desperation that many bloggers feel as a result of poor planning.
Some writers sit down to write and hope an idea will suddenly pop into their mind. These kinds of writers are called “pansters” because they are “writing by the seat of their pants.”
This term was first used at the dawn of the aviation era. The first pilots had no experience or ability (no one did), so they tried to learn and survive through intuition. That was called “flying by the seat of your pants.”
Many writers see the ability to do this as a virtue, but I see it as a vice. Writers are far more productive when they plan their work, usually with an outline, and then allow their intuition kick in after you have established your main ideas.
So, I strongly recommend that you work following a plan you create for yourself. That starts with gathering ideas for blog posts well in advance of sitting down to write. There are lots of ways to do that, from always having a pen and writing pad handy to using computer tools.
Capture ideas when you come across them or when they come to mind. I have several blogs and I have ideas for posts that stretch 6-8 months into the future.
I’m never at a loss about what to write on these various blogs. Besides writing down the idea, I also do a tentative 3-5 point outline. Each point is made up of just a few words, sometimes a whole sentence. It adds substance to the idea so I don’t forget what I had in mind when I wrote it
As you can guess, having plenty of ideas allows me to do the needed research and write well in advance of your self-imposed publication dates. I don’t worry about staring at a blank computer screen at the last minute. I keep my writing process on a schedule.
The WordPress “Schedule” Feature
One of the things that makes WordPress a superior blogging platform is its ease of use. I provide details about why it is the best way to blog in Step 3 Bonus Content.
One of its many features is a scheduling function. You can input your post and then schedule it for a future date and time.
For example, I write posts in advance and drip feed them. I add them after I write and edit each post. I check my calendar and pick a future date. I set it and forget it. The post appears automatically at the scheduled time without further intervention from me.
At the moment, I have five weeks of articles and four weeks of videos scheduled on my various platforms. I just keep writing posts and scheduling them. I have no “midnight stress” trying to write and publish a post at the last minute. Also, it is comforting having posts scheduled in case I get sick or want to go on a trip.
Writing a well-organized, informative post is important, to say the least. Yet, at the same time, you need to vary the kind of posts you offer. There are many different types of posts you can offer your readers to add variety, and I offer some ideas in this Bonus Content post.
Time and Tools
You add quality to your posts when you set aside time to write and use the right tools to create them. This is a big topic on its own, so I offer advice in this Bonus Content, Writing Tools for Blogging Success. One reason that time and tools is important is that you need to be a productive writer. That means you need to harness your time. The best way to do that is by finding a place to write that is as distraction-free as possible and using the right tools to get the job done.
I believe that writing speed and high-quality work go hand-in-hand when you plan well. I have even written a book on this topic called, Write Fast, Write Well: Velocity Writing Techniques and Tools. It is aimed at book authors but all the principles apply to bloggers.
Step 4 Action Plan
You can write powerful posts by following these principles:
- Use a title that stops searchers in their tracks
- Write an introduction that draws people into the post
- Use transitional sentence or short paragraph
- Employ headers, sub-headers and other visual signals like bullet points
- Use short sentences and paragraphs
- A Call-to-Action that motivates people to act on what they learned from your post.
If you expect to gain attention from Google’s algorithm, posts should be between 1,500 and 2,500 words. There should be at least a few 3,500 “cornerstone” posts.
Planning is wonderful. When you plan, you don’t need to always be in a tizzy to fulfill your commitment to yourself and your blog audience by being late.
Sadly, the stress of writing a blog post at the last-minute becomes an addiction to some bloggers. They need to get that rush of adrenalin to trigger writing action. As with any addiction, pain and panic increases which the pleasure of sharing through your writing decreases. Last-minute blog post writing is a fast-track to failure. If you did not read it, please see “The Key to Perpetual Motivation” in Step 1 Bonus Content.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” That truth of that statement has been shaped on the anvil of human experience. Scheduling your entire blog work-flow can have a positive impact and your blogging success and other aspects of your life.
Do you have a QUESTION about Plan Step 4? Ask it HERE