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The Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post

Written by Published in Content
Article Cliff Notes

Writing stellar blogs is a process anyone can get better at.

Don’t half-ass your blog. Your readers will notice, then disappear.

Blogs must flow from start to finish to keep your reader hooked.

The purpose of your blog is to help your reader!

There’s no way to write a flawless blog post, but you can sure as hell write an effective one.

By effective I mean:

  • People click on your post;
  • People read your post;
  • People are positively affected by that post and respond—whether by sharing, liking, commenting, subscribing, or buying something.

You probably think that last bullet is the hardest part to pull off.

The truth is, the first 2 are way more difficult. That’s because once someone has invested time into clicking and reading your content, they’re more likely to move on to point 3.

But we have to get them there first, and the only way to do that is by publishing effective content.

And what does effective content look like? Let’s take a look.

1. A Gripping Headline

Every copywriter on the planet will tell you the same thing about headlines:

If the headline falls flat, you can bet most people aren’t going to stick around for the rest of your content.

“The purpose of a headline is to get the first sentence read.”

By hook or crook, your headline must persuade, convince, beg, or force the reader to keep going. If the headline falls flat, you can bet most people aren’t going to stick around for the rest of your content.

So much thought has been put into headline writing over the years that there are formulas for nailing absolute killers—meaning you don’t need to wait around for divine inspiration to zap some life into your content.

Some of those templates are:

Think of the headline as bait.

  • Direct headlines: Exactly what it sounds like, these get right to the point. Can be as simple as The Best Travel Destinations of 2016.
  • Indirect headlines: These are meant to pique curiosity. Some of these border on clickbait, so make sure your headline isn’t actually dishonest or your readers will leave with a negative impression.
  • Question headlines: Who Else Is Tired of Being Tired? Think that headline might appeal to a very specific segment of the population in a very powerful way?
  • How-To or Testimonial headlines: How many of your Google searches started with the words “how to…?” A lot, right? How To Tie A Tie or How I Went From Scrawny To Jacked are two good examples. Odds are if one person had a problem, tons of other people want to know the solution, too.
  • Command headlines: Don’t Book Another Plane Ticket Until You Read This Article. Well, OK then! I won’t. Issuing a command comes from a place of authority, and gives your entire piece of content an air of “this guy knows what he’s talking about.”

There are many more headline templates, but these should get you started.

Above all else, headlines have to appeal to self-interest (of the reader, not you). Make your readers want to read, and they will.

2. A Point

Why am I posting this?

Sounds stupid, right? Your company has a blog to nurture leads and generate brand awareness and all that jazz.

But how many blogs have you read—whether business or personal—that have so much to say yet nothing to say?

Nobody wants to read about what John Smith ate for breakfast on Wednesday unless there’s a hell of a good story involved. Likewise, your customers don’t care that you reduced your carbon emissions or that you exceeded your projected earnings in the third quarter…unless there’s something in it for them.

That “something” had better be information with a net benefit on their lives—a great story, a deal, something.

3. A Compelling Story

I mentioned stories a lot in the last point, but let’s go into more detail here.

Whatever your field is, you can make it interesting. I don’t care if you sell replacement vacuum hoses, there is a way to make your industry interesting to readers.

Let me reiterate—even blog readers in the most obscure, clinical, boring niches can appreciate a good story.

…even blog readers in the most obscure, clinical, boring niches can appreciate a good story.

Is your industry so dull it puts you to sleep sometimes? Work that into your blog. Write about how boring your business is. Write about how you fell asleep at your desk, and had a dream about some insane deal you’re about to talk about.

So no, you don’t have to channel Charles Dickens when you fire off a new blog post. But even a two-sentence anecdote that ties in to your main point will put you miles ahead of your competition.

4. Relevant Pictures

Here’s an example of a not-relevant picture…which oddly makes it relevant.

There’s a fine line to tread when it comes to picture use in blog posts.

On one hand, too many pictures can dilute the quality of your post. It says “I’m light on substance so here is another picture of a man wearing a suit while he talks on his phone.”

Use too few (or none at all) and you risk readers skipping over the important bits or clicking out altogether.

The main purpose of pictures is to provide organic breaks in your content, drive points home, and make people ‘get it’ – similar to other formatting tricks. Around here, we like to use humor memes like the one to the left. Sometimes…just for the hell of it.

Why? Simple. When a reader clicks on your post, scrolls down a bit to see how long it is…and keeps going…and sees a gigantic wall of text, they’re less inclined to continue.

When a reader clicks on your post, scrolls down a bit to see how long it is…and keeps going…and sees a gigantic wall of text, they’re less inclined to continue.

Pictures give the illusion that your content is shorter and easier to digest.

That said, your pictures need to be relevant—just like everything else in your post. Don’t get lazy and stuff your content with lame stock photos if you have a choice, either.

That “smiling 30-something guy in a suit” I mentioned earlier has probably been in a thousand posts already.

5. Readable Formatting

Right, so tying in to the point I made above about pictures and providing breaks in your content…

Even the most voracious readers are turned off by walls of text. Imagine reading a book without paragraphs or periods—that’s what it’s like to read a blog post without breaks.

Pictures are one way to do so. But your bag of tricks should also include:

  • Subheads: One of the most common ways to split up your post. If you’re beginning a new train of thought, plop down a subhead.
  • Bulleted Lists: Nothing screams “easy to read” like a good ol’ bulleted list. The main reason they’re so effective is that lists reduce the number of characters per line, which just looks easier on the eyes.
  • Bold, Italics and Underlines: Using too many of these in your post makes it look like sales copy, so only use them to highlight a point.
  • Blockquotes: It’s a lot easier to differentiate quotes from the rest of your text by using a blockquote instead of quotation marks. Not only is the quote highlighted, it also creates a nice page break for your readers.

There are plenty of more advanced formatting maneuvers you could use, but these are more than enough for most blogs.

6. A Call to Action

Great, so you made your point. Imagine your goal is to get readers mashing that “subscribe” button at the bottom of the page. Do you just leave it up to fate, hoping they see the button?

No.

When you order a cup of coffee, you know the liquid inside that cup is most likely very, very hot.

Yet just about every coffee cup lid in existence states “Caution, contents may be hot.”

Why? Is it because people are stupid or forgetful?

No. It’s about reinforcement.

That’s why your blog post MUST say something like: if you found this post useful, smash that ‘subscribe’ button below for more great content and access to my exclusive eBook on the best restaurants in NYC!

Your blog has to lay everything out for the reader, guiding them along the path from click to close as seamlessly as possible.

Want to create a discussion with your customers?

I’m curious what you all think. Let me know in the comments below!

Want people to call you for more information?

For more information, call 123 456 7890.

Your blog has to lay everything out for the reader, guiding them along the path from click to close as seamlessly as possible.

7. Organic Flow

And that’s where we are now—the bones of your blog post. This is the structure you’ll follow to funnel those hungry clicks from your amazing headline down to your expert call to action.

  • Headline: Gets the intro read;
  • Intro: Gets the body read;
  • Point 1, Point 2, Point X: All related to your topic. Make each point and discuss. Drive it home to the CTA;
  • Close and CTA: Click that button, call that number, share this post—tell your reader to do something.

As your headline jumps directly into your intro, you have to go through a delicate balancing act of building momentum without rambling.

Get to the point ASAP, but make it exciting. Build interest, set the stage for important points and don’t let your foot off the gas pedal.

Utilize examples, anecdotes, anything relevant that adds to your content and helps your reader.

For each point, use a subhead. Utilize examples, anecdotes, anything relevant that adds to your content and helps your reader. Transition into each subsequent point while holding on to your momentum—don’t include any topics as fluff or filler just to hit a certain word count, because your readers will be heading for the exits as soon as you stop being relevant.

Point, point, point, bam! Conclusion.

Tie it all together organically. Your CTA should almost read like an afterthought—you’ve just shoved a ton of value into your reader’s face, don’t give them a hard sell right at the end and throw that goodwill in the garbage.

Tying It All Together

We’ve gone over the key components of an effective blog post:

  • A Dominant Headline;
  • A Purpose;
  • An Entertaining Narrative or Anecdotes;
  • Interesting, Relevant Pictures;
  • Easy-to-Read Formatting;
  • A Persuasive Call to Action;
  • All Built on a Solid Framework (That Makes Sense to Your Reader).

Every post is going to be different, depending on your business goals, readers, and your industry. But these are key to just about every successful blog, from marketing companies to potpourri enthusiasts.

Of course, constantly coming up with fresh content that meets your business goals is time-consuming.

If you’ve decided that a company blog is essential to your business strategy—but don’t have the time to spare—it might be time to call in reinforcements.

About Nick Bandy

I'm Nick and I have a uncanny obsession with words. I live, breath, and even eat (alphabet cereal) words all day, everyday. You should definitely subscribe because we're going to put out some of the most insightful marketing content you'll ever come across.

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