I wrote my first blog post in 1997 and I haven’t stopped since. In the intervening years, I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading and experimenting to improve my blogging skills.
What makes a top-performing blog post? Good writing will take you far, and if it’s really great writing it may take you very far, but even the best writing needs to be seen and read and the way you put a blog post together can sometimes be just as important as what you have to say.
Anybody who studies what makes writing good will tell you that structure is important and that certain types of writing need to follow a pattern or structure to be successful. Blogging is no different. Let’s take a look at the most important elements of a winning blog post.
A Top-Performing Blog Post Should Have Clear Sub-Headers
It’s important to arrange your information in a clear, linear way that leads readers from point A to point B. Figure out what points you have to make and then help your readers pinpoint exactly what those points are using a section subheader. This sends a clear verbal signal so the reader can quickly understand and locate the information you have to offer.
A sub-header should use h1 or h2 header tags, not just to visually set it apart from your body text (bold or italics would also do that) but to signal to search engines that there is a hierarchy of ideas on your page. If you can include a relevant keyword in your subheader naturally, all the better.
A Successful Blog Post Should Be Visual
We all know what a picture is worth, so let’s move on from that old cliche. We are keyed to look at pictures first, especially if they contain other human beings. It tells us what to expect and even gives us clues about how something should make us feel. Putting a strong image front and center in your blog post gives it powerful context and attraction for your readers. Adding more, as long as they fit the context of your blog post, can be even better.
The same things that make images great for blogging makes them great for social media sharing. By using at least one powerful image in your blog post you also create a promotional tool. Using an image in a social media post is known to increase the effectiveness of social promotion. Unless you just want fewer people to read your blog (and if that’s the case, perhaps this blog post is not for you), an image is key.
Hint: Make sure you add alt tags to all images so that in addition to sending helpful clues to people, your image or images also send helpful clues to search engines.
A Great Blog Post Is Useful and Readable
Make sure that you are providing information in your blog posts that readers really want. Clear content is great, but even if you’re a Pulitzer prize winner you need to write something authoritative, related to your expertise, and relevant to an audience.
Choose topics that answer questions your audience members are asking, or are likely to ask based on what you know about them.
Check carefully for grammar errors; you may think they don’t matter but they send subtle signals about your reliability as a source of information. Cite sources if you need to, or find simple, subtle ways to make sure that the audience knows why you’re an expert. Did you notice that the first thing I said is that I’ve been writing blogs for nearly 20 years? It’s true. It’s also an important piece of reputation-building for me to do if I want you to listen to my advice.
A Really Great Blog Post is Actionable
By the end, you should have something to offer beyond “thanks for reading this.” What call-to-action can you offer your readers? If someone enjoyed what you have to say, offer them an opportunity to hear even more with a big signpost pointing them in the right direction. It could be another blog post, it could be a download of an eBook or white paper, it could even be a request for a demo or a consultation if it’s appropriate to what you had to say.
Remember that your call-to-action should be relevant to both the content of your blog post and the buyer’s journey stage of the reader. Don’t offer a demo on a blog post targeted toward Awareness-stage readers, and you aren’t likely to see many conversions if you’re promoting Awareness-stage content on a Decision-stage blog post. Use your head and your knowledge of your audience here.
Top Performance Needs SEO to Help It Along
Don't misunderstand me here; SEO is a tool, not an end in itself. Keywords can help you get insight into what and how you should write but if you aren't offering something that readers want, the best SEO in the world is not going to take you as far as you can go. Make sure that you select and include relevant keywords. Link to other relevant blog posts or pages on your site.
Do you notice how many times I'm saying words like "relevant"? It's because that should be your guiding star; random keywords, links, pictures, or anything else are going to limit you. Relevant ones will help you. Be a human being and give your audience what they want.
Don’t Forget a Conclusion Where You Sum Everything Up
Some people like to skip to the end. Some people just forget what you said at the beginning and need you to remind them. Even for the people in between, we know that if you want someone to remember the information you’re trying to teach them, it’s good to revisit it at the end, summarize it, and remind them of the most important things you wanted to say.
So, What is the Anatomy of a Top-Performing Blog Post?
- Clear sub-headers that act as informational guideposts
- At Least One Image to Send Visual Cues to Readers
- Useful, Readable Content (Try Breaking Things Into Bullets!)
- A Concluding Summary to Remind People What You Wanted them to Take Away
- Relevant, context-based SEO
- A Call-to-Action that Invites Readers to Engage Further With Your Content
- A Closing Question to Encourage Discussion and Comments
What else would you add? Share your best blogging tips and tricks with us in the comments below!