Blogging is one piece of the whole online marketing puzzle, but it’s an important one because it provides a number of benefits to your business:
- It keeps your website up-to-date with regular new content;
- It establishes you as an expert on (or at least someone who knows about) specific topic;
- It lives as shareable content that you can distribute on social media channels or package into other forms (courses, freebies, tidbits);
- It is the foundation of search engine optimization (SEO) when you utilize keywords effectively.
In a nutshell, if you enjoy writing articles you should be blogging for your business. I’ve written some posts before about blogging (why you need a business blog, a checklist for setting up one, and 70 ideas if you’re having writer’s block) and I’ve been blogging regularly for over a year. Sometimes it’s tough to stick to my schedule but I’m seeing results and getting feedback so I know it’s an important online marketing tool for my business.
Let’s look at the basics of a blog post and then to make sure that your blog has all the important key elements to make it as effective as possible.
Back to blog basics
A blog, a portmanteau coming from web and log, is a type of online journaling where the writer writes “posts” and visitors can browse and read them.
They are individual pieces of content, like a newspaper article, but can be shared on the internet as a link.
Posts live in a blog where they are displayed in a format where you can see them organized by date or category. That blog can be a established on a website of its own, or it can be one piece of a larger website.
Blog posts themselves can have many formats, but in general they are like a typical article: they provide information, maybe reference outside sources, include an image for clarification, and give you something to do once you’ve read it. This definition is important as we go forward because blogs can come in many formats, but there are some unwritten (and sometimes written) rules about how to create or write them.
The 5 blog post elements you don’t want to forget
In my blog checklist, I walk you through getting prepared to write a blog, but let’s quickly run through what a blog post must have:
- Text about a topic
That’s pretty much it! With so many blogs out there, you could even have a blog post that has only a title and an embedded video, but I don’t recommend it.
So, if you have nothing else but some text and a title, you’re on the way to writing a blog post. Congrats! But that’s not all that it needs if you actually want people to read it, share it, comment on it and for readers to find it useful. Let’s get to the list.
1. Beginning – middle – end / introduction – body – conclusion
If you remember from middle school when you learned how to write a summary or short article, it always had to have a beginning, a middle and an end. You introduced your topic, you gave supporting facts or told your opinion, and then you stated your conclusion. And these same elements still apply to the 21st century world wide web blog posts.
Your readers are human and humans like to know what to expect, and this is what they expect from a piece of content about a topic. Even if it’s short, don’t forget these three parts.
2. An image
An image is important for blog posts for a couple of reasons:
- It can help explain or support your topic.
- It can evoke emotions and make your reader more invested in your topic.
- It helps with previews on social media (like when you share it on Facebook or LinkedIn).
- It makes it more engaging and people are drawn to posts with images.
- It provides another chance to reinforce your keywords and therefore your SEO.
Your image doesn’t have to be a beautiful stock photo that perfectly describes your topic. But it also shouldn’t be a photo you found in a Google search with a watermark on it. You can use photos you’ve taken yourself or images that you’ve designed. For the less creative of us, here are some places you can find free or moderately priced images:
- Free images (to use without attributing the photographer): Pixabay, Pexels, Free Images, StockSnap.io
- Reasonably priced stock photos: Deposit Photos
- Simple photos + text overlay: Canva, Pablo
Your blog post image can be an image that supports your topic, it can also be a generic image with the title on top of it (like mine), it can be anything you like, but you really need to have one!
3. Subheaders, bullet points and lists
I have purposefully included many subheaders, sub-subheaders and bullet points in this article to make a point. The way we read content online is very different than how we read a print magazine or newspaper article. Our eyes follow an F pattern along the page with us skimming down the left and occasionally reading the title and subheaders. We also scanning for lists because usually they contain non-paragraph text which is easier for us to skim.
I know that this isn’t ideal for us blog post writers, but if you can include these type of formatting elements into your post it will improve your chances that someone will skim/scan/read your post rather than get bored or fed up with long blocks of paragraph text.
Here’s a test: the next time you read an article on the web, notice how you read it? Do you follow the F pattern? How is your eye and interest taken down the page. Maybe you read everything, but the chances are high that you also skim/scan/read.
So, do your future blog post readers a favor and include subheaders, bullet points and lists.
4. Links back to your own content
If you’re a regular blogger or writer of blog posts*, then you have probably written a few blog posts that live on your blog now. If so, you should be linking back to your old content when you write new content.
Check out the second paragraph at the top of this post. It was a non-subtle way of me to link back to my old blog posts about blogging. This is important because:
- It tells web crawlers how the posts and pages on your website are related to each other
- It helps your readers discover content they may not have read before
- It brings new visitors to old posts, which makes them active again
- It saves time so you don’t have to explain something which you’ve already written about again
This type of linking is called “backlinks” and is important for SEO. You can also link to outside content, like I did in my list of resources for images, and that’s helpful for giving legitimacy to your articles, but don’t forget your own content!
And a word of caution: do not link back to your article by linking with the words “click here”. It’s very bad writing-for-the-web practice that is very outdated. This gives readers no idea where that links heads, so either use the title of your post or the general topic or idea of the post (ex: A Social Media Network Comparison vs. a post I wrote comparing the social media networks.)
5. Meta data
This is a bit tricky because not all blogging platforms make it easy for you to write or update your own meta data about your posts. If you use WordPress, I recommend the plugin Yoast SEO to help you update the meta data, and Weebly also gives you the option to update it on your posts.
What is meta data you ask?
Meta data is information that tells or describes an information resource. It helps web crawlers and other internet programs to easily categorize, define and locate information on the web. What this means technically is that you need to tell the search engine crawlers what your content is about. You need to give your content a title and a short description.
Literally, this is the important that gets shown in search results.
That information I wrote myself. If I didn’t, the search engine crawlers would pull the information from somewhere else, like the first bit of text on your webpage. That means I can have control of the message that will appear in search results. This information also appears on social media previews, like on Facebook when I share my website there.
In WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin, you can decide the SEO title (it can be different than the actual post title) and the description. What Yoast does that’s really helpful is let you decide that information based on a keyword or keyword phrase which supports a SEO strategy. This is more complicated that I have time for in this post, but Yoast has good resources about content SEO or you can contact me and I’d be happy to explain.
What to take away from this, is that you have the control to decide the title and short summary of your own content. Don’t leave it up to the web crawlers to do it for you.
Control your blog post, control your message
When you write content on the web, you are the author and you should retain control of what it says and how it looks. Depending on where you are writing, whether you own that content or not is another discussion, but at least you want to present your content in the best light.
Including the above five elements will ensure that people will want to read your content, will be able to skim/scan/read it easily, and perhaps one day it’ll show up in search results (I make no guarantees that it ever will, but keep writing!)
The best way to get better at writing blog posts: write, write, write, write, write, write. And if you need help with the technical aspects (I’m really good at optimizing images and crafting meta data) I’m just a contact form away. 🙂
What’s one element that makes a great blog post? Let me know in the comments.
*I don’t consider myself a blogger, but I do write blog posts for my business, so that’s why I make the distinction.I won't forget these 5 blog posts elements in my next blog post Click To Tweet