When marketers come up with a compelling idea or story to make into a blog post, it’s equally important that they take the time to structure the post in a way that lets their idea breathe, or else it’ll only ever be that — a good idea. The right blog structure encourages readers to click into the page and stay on the page, ultimately helping them build a rapport with your organization.
Whether you’re shooting for SEO or readability, there’s a lot more that goes into structuring blog posts than you might think. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when designing your blog structure:
Blog Post Structure and SEO
When it comes to writing for SEO, blog structure matters. A lot. So many writers think of a good idea and immediately put pen to paper (or, fingers to keyboard) and just let the words take them away, making adjustments later on as they see fit. While that approach can work for certain pieces of content, it’s not likely to give marketers the optimal structure needed to rank for SEO. That’s the case even if they pack the article with all sorts of related keywords and phrases.
That’s because for search engines like Google are no longer just ranking for keywords and metadata. Far too many marketers have tried the old keyword-stuffing strategy as a way to rank, but Google learned that adjusting its algorithm to rank content based on how well it actually satisfied search intent — by including content depth as a ranking factor — better quality content would end up on its first two pages.
In short, avoid diving right into the piece and writing from your stream of consciousness. Take the time to research the topic, look at what other articles on the first and second pages of Google are doing, and write a detailed outline that includes relevant subtopics that each address different aspects of the main topic.
All told, your metadata is only around 50 words combined, but those might be the most important 50 words on your page. We mentioned that Google doesn’t only use metadata to rank pages anymore, but it’s still an important part of SEO performance. That’s because search engines use the metadata to learn what the page is actually about, giving it outsized influence when it comes to ranking.
Titles: H1 and Title Tag
Titles need to be concise and compelling, while at the same time signaling that the page answers critical user search queries. According to Moz, they should be no more than 60 characters so Google doesn’t cut them short on the search results page. Sound like a lot? You also need to include your primary keyword in the title so Google knows exactly how to index your page.
If you have a killer idea for a title but it’s just a tad too long for SEO, don’t sweat. The title tag is more important to Google for indexing content, meaning you can put your concise, technical information in the title tag, while flexing your creativity a little more in the H1.
Your meta description is another key part of your article structure. Although Google has previously said that meta descriptions aren’t technically a factor in its search algorithm, they’re still an important piece of your blog because they’re often what readers use to decide whether or not they want to click into your page.
So don’t skip the meta description. Like the title, it should be succinct — around 155 characters max — and contain enough information to satisfy search intent and give readers a sense of the content of the piece. It’s also important to include the primary keyword(s) in the meta description as this will help clue the target audience into the main topic of the content itself.
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Blog Post Structure and Readability
Search engine optimization is crucial when it comes to generating engagement with your blog posts, but remember that computers are the ones determining search ranking — it’s actual humans that are doing the clicking and reading. Focusing too much on structuring your blog posts for SEO might get your page ranked, but it won’t necessarily get readers engaged long enough to click and read to the end (and share it with their friends on social media).
Structuring blog posts for readability is a little different than SEO. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Start With a Strong Introduction
It all starts with writing a short but relevant introduction. Introductions need to be compelling enough to grab readers’ attention and pull them in. Kick it off with a powerful quote, a relatable pop culture reference or maybe just state the problem you want to solve in plain terms.
However you start, don’t take too long to get to the point. Readers have literally millions of other pieces of content they can choose from, so take advantage when you’ve captured a valuable few seconds of their precious attention. If you’re unable to demonstrate to them why they should continue reading in those initial first few seconds, they’re going to click out and go elsewhere.
Use Short Paragraphs
We all remember when our high school English teachers taught us that good writing should be structured into five logical paragraphs, each with its own designated purpose. That might work for research papers, but it’s the wrong approach when it comes to writing a good blog post.
Each of your paragraphs should be broken down into small, digestible chunks, no more than four or five sentences each (some bloggers recommend an absolute max of three sentences). Using smaller paragraphs makes the blog seem less daunting for readers, encouraging them to read longer. They’re also more mobile-friendly, as smaller paragraphs take up less screen space on a mobile device, making it easier for readers to hold their place.
Include Lots of Headings and Subheadings
There are a few simple truths to keep in mind when blog writing. One of them is that many of your readers are only looking for one or two pieces of critical information, and they don’t want (and don’t intend) to read the entire article from beginning to end. Headings and subheadings help identify where key information lives on the post, allowing readers to more quickly scan the piece and find the information they’re looking for.
But even for those that do intend to read the entire piece, a big slab of text can feel overwhelming and uninviting. Headings and subheadings break the text into more manageable chunks, giving readers the sense that there are clean breaks where they can give their eyes a short rest.
Types of Content and Blog Post Structure
So far we’ve only talked about structure for standard blog posts, but there are a number of different types of posts that each have their own unique structures. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Interviews: While we generally recommend using material gathered from an interview as the basis for a more fleshed-out story, sometimes an interviewee is so compelling with so much to say that publishing the interview in full is actually the way to go. Structuring these pieces should follow a standard Q&A format — alternating text between the interviewer’s questions and the interviewee’s responses.
- Listicles: Buzzfeed championed the listicle, but most other companies and sites have since jumped on the bandwagon. Listicles are highly engaging, making them very shareable and more likely to reach a large audience on social media. The typical listicle format is fairly simple: an introduction followed by a series of short, numbered paragraphs for each of the list items.
- Case studies: While not exactly blog posts, case studies are some of the most effective ways to demonstrate your brand’s impact using real-world examples. Most case studies follow a standard problem-solution-results format: Start by presenting the subject’s problem, how your business helped them and what the results were.
- Checklists: Checklists are a bit different than other blogs because they promise to show readers the exact steps they need to take to accomplish a goal. While lots of checklists relate to lifestyle goals and DIY projects (like The Spruce’s many home-maintenance checklists), there are also some for more sophisticated topics, like cybersecurity checklists.
- Narratives: This type isn’t as common in the B2B marketing world, but they do have an important place in a dynamic content marketing strategy. For example, lots of brands choose to showcase new hires, telling their story to demonstrate the human side of their business. While many of the above structure tips still apply, narratives are meant to feel like a single, cohesive story, so avoid overusing bullets, lists and subheadings.
Blog Post Multimedia
You’ve followed all the above guidelines and it still feels like something’s missing. Despite your best efforts to break up the text and use short paragraphs, you can’t help but feel like your blog article still looks like a big wall of text. Congratulations, because that means you can now move beyond writing and really push your blog content over the edge with multimedia.
It’s not much of a secret: People are visual learners. Numerous studies over the years show that people are better able to learn and retain information when presenting to them in the form of visual elements. For that reason, marketers have increasingly integrated multimedia into their blog content, hoping to drive more traffic, encourage greater engagement and ultimately create more meaningful value for their readers.
Here are some of the multimedia forms you should think about exploring:
- Imagery: One of the easiest ways to add multimedia to your blogs is to find a few arresting photographs that accurately capture whatever it is you’re writing about. Images can go a long way toward bringing your story to life and making the reader feel truly engaged.
- Illustration: Similar to images, illustrations are a good way to add life to your blog posts. They stand out, however, in that they use more shapes, cartoons, colors and designs that really give your blogs a creative and fun edge. Illustrations don’t work for every blog topic, but for those that do, they can really set your piece apart.
- Video: Videos do a lot of the storytelling for you. If you can’t find the right video online, creating one yourself is a great way to add a customized piece of video content to support your blog. With the right script, speaker and use of graphics, videos will enhance your story and encourage the target audience to stay engaged with your page.
- Audio: Audio is fast becoming the way of the future when it comes to reading, and a few savvy marketers are beginning to incorporate the audio technology into their blogs. Creating an audio version of your blog posts makes it that much easier for readers to consume your content while doing other things.
- Interactive content: Embedding interactive content (think polls, quizzes and interactive maps) within your blogs is one of the most effective ways to boost engagement with your piece. Interactive content can help provide additional information while at the same time making readers feel like a part of the experience.
A poorly structured blog post can really detract from an otherwise great piece of content. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that a great idea will overcome poor delivery. Delivery and presentation are hallmarks of a great blog, so take the time to structure all your posts properly to ensure you’re getting the most engagement on every post.
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