Did you know that most people have a hard time writing a blog post? Especially small businesses who know that they need to keep posting regularly to keep their SEO up.
You know you have a thought to get across, a pain point to address, a solution to give your reader. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a template for this sort of thing?
I grappled with this for years as a manager for a daily magazine. We committed to publishing an article every day – which is actually a pretty Herculean task. After four years of skidding around, we finally got it figured out. I just wish I’d googled this article back then…
Anyway, a lot of our writers (myself included!) kept hitting this blank wall; how do I structure my article?
Dun dun dunnn….
There is actually an answer. It’s called the ‘anatomy of an effective blog post’. Michael Hyatt shared his simple rundown, which I’m taking apart right here and giving you more detail.
We’ll look at:
- A Compelling Title: Lead with the Bacon
- TL;DR. Your Lead Paragraphs
- Keep it Personal.
- Keep it Readable.
- The Last Word
- A Final CTA
Ready to get enabled?
1. Compelling Title: Lead with the Bacon
Way too often, your blog title is the last thing you think of. There’s actually an art to it that I’ve been studying for years – and still trying to nail down!
A headline carries a lot of weight; in under 60 characters, a headline needs to convince someone to pause whatever they’re doing, and read the article. So it has to do a couple of things;
- resonate with the reader
- ask a question
- hint at the answer
- make a promise
Pick 3 out of 4. Sometimes all of these at the same time. I’ve been managing magazines for different clients for years, and always searching for that elusive, ‘perfect’ headline.
Then I hit the jackpot when I found this fantastic little formula, thanks to 5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines,
Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
It’s exactly how popular headlines are created. For example;
- 5 Important Reasons Your Website Needs a Blog
- 17 Tips To Improve Your SEO
- Why Your Website Isn’t Converting (and What to Do about It)
Listicles are really popular these days, so make sure you let your readers know in the headline what they’re getting into.
Don’t craft clickbait. There’s nothing we all hate more than to be promised one thing, and not have it delivered.
2. TL; DR. Your Lead Paragraphs
Ok, so your lead paragraph/s are the first thing that folk will read. Kinda like this article. (Look at you making it this far!)
Those lead paragraphs have their own pints to hit; they have to start providing the tone of the article, value to the reader, and resonance with the issue.
Traditionally, newspaper articles have led with the TL;DR approach. This ‘too long; didn’t read’ attitude is for the readers on the train, or crammed for time, who want a little more detail, but not the whole shebang.
So that lead paragraph usually summarizes the details – best for a news article.
If you’re writing a value-based article, where you’re exploring a problem, and then breaking down the solution, that first paragraph has to connect with the reader quickly and concisely. Clearly state the problem, and make it relevant to them. And don’t take too long to do it.
It’s kinda like watching a movie; the first five minutes of that movie set the tone, and make you a promise about what the rest of the movie will be like. If you liked those first 5 minutes, you’ll stick around for more.
You don’t want a TLDR on your first couple of paragraphs.
3. Keep it Personal
Wherever possible, connect as a person. Show that a real person wrote the article, either via tone, or personal experience.
This is critical, especially if you’re a small business where your brand is key to keeping you top of mind. Coming across as faceless and corporate, or overly professional, doesn’t make for pleasant reading.
Find a way to resonate with the reader. Have you struggled with the same thing? What did you do to figure out an answer?
That’s what will always make the difference between a person writing an article, and a robot crunching words together. We love to read about people, and read things from other people.
4. Keep it Readable
The main body of your article is a whole discussion in itself, and there are so many things you could do, depending on your article.
A key point though is readability.
Do break up your paragaphs into smaller sentences. The easier text seems the read, the better. Studies show that most readers scan the page, looking for nouns and verbs at the beginnings of sentences and fading interest as the sentence progresses.
Important sentences, especially at the ends of sections, should be on their own.
Use ALL CAPS, bold and italics sparingly. Stick to your theme styling, if you have one. Remember that if everything is underlined, then nothing is.
If you’ve written a listicle, number your headlines so that the reader knows they’re making progress, and where they are.
WordPress Pro Tip: Check that the url slug has no numbers in it – in case your listicle is updated later with another item.
5. The Last Word
At the end of the article, it’s time for the conclusion. How do you write one?
It’s like the man said; first you tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then you tell it to them. Then you tell them what you told them.
I don’t remember what man. (If you do, let me know below. ;) )
Make it short, and summarize the article. This is the other bookend to your lead paragraph.
In the lead paragraph, you stated the problem, and promised the answer. Often, readers will skim and skip down to the end. In a couple of sentences, reiterate the answer.
Boom. Happy reader. They might even go back and reread for more detail.
6. A Final CTA.
After getting them in the door to listen to you, a good presentation offers coffee and donuts to get people talking. Or has some sort of signup on the way out. Or passes a hat.
That’s what the combox at the end of your article is about; inspiring people to dig deeper into the topic, ask their questions, and engage with you.
Engagement is everything. How do you encourage it?
End your article with a question, something more than just ‘what did you think’?
Try asking an open ended question, not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You want people to share what they think.
If you’ve run off a list, ask your readers to share their favorite, or perhaps one that you missed. If your article is authoritative on your topic, find a way to give them their answer, and then end by asking them what’s next. How do they implement it?
In a nutshell, your article needs to hit a couple of key points. You need a great headline that leads with a promise and resonates with the reader. Your lead paragraphs and ending paragraphs should have a TL;DR attitude, summarizing and bookending the value in the core of the article.
And with that core, it needs to be readable and scannable. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of paragraph breaks, because our eyes are trained to look for nouns and verbs. The more whitespace around them, the easier they will grab our attention. Big paragraph blocks aren’t easy to tackle.
Lastly, keep it personal, and end with with some kind of call to action, an invitation to engage with you in the combox, or take some sort of action.
If you’re a sucker for a great ending, here’s more detail over here at Hubspot’s
Did I miss anything?
Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.