Once you have nailed down a content strategy for your blog, there is still the matter of what your blog will look like once you start posting content. Publishing on the web carries with it a lot of caveats. Not only do you have to be helpful to your audience, you also have to publish content in ways that make it easy to digest, effective at conveying its message and leverages the platform on which it is published. The following are elements that make a good blog post.
If you do nothing else, headings are the one element you should not leave out. There are a number of other things that make your blog posts easier to read1 and scan but without headings the whole thing is hard to sift through.
Your headings should be:
• Descriptive of the content underneath them
• Above each new section or topic area of content
• Encased in header (<h1></h1>) tags2
• Contain target keywords where applicable
Headings serve two main purposes. They help readers scan through content more easily to find what it is they are looking for (which reduces anxiety and increases the chances your post will be read) and they are beneficial for SEO. Search engines crawl the text in header tags to determine what the content underneath the heading is about. Human visitors on a web page do exactly the same thing.
You will notice that I often use a lot of imagery in my posts and that is by design. Images help break up text and enhance the text content. They also make the piece look more engaging and easier to read overall.
For example if you are writing a post that contains statistics or information of that nature, it may help to include a graph or some visual representation of the concepts you are explaining. If you are describing a process such as how to fill out a form then having screen shots enhances those descriptions as well.
You can also use images as another way to convey meaning. Perhaps a paragraph in your post describes something that really needs to visual aid. You can still use an image to convey the same concept in a different way. For instance having a quote from the text of your blog post always looks good as an image and for emphasis.
Another reason images are great is that it gives you more opportunity to optimize a page for search. You have to be clever here and not stuff keywords into alt attributes or use illogical naming conventions for files. If done right though, the presence of optimized images3 can increase the likelihood that you will rank for target keyword phrases.
I mentioned anxiety before and a company called Wider Funnel has done some research on user behavior on web pages. Their LIFT analysis4 shows that by reducing user anxiety on a web page can help increase conversions.
While you might not be aiming to make a blog post the start of a conversion funnel, you can still increase the chances that someone will read it if you make smaller blocks of text. Large continuous blocks of text make people not want to read through a blog post.
This one is sort of voluntary because not all blogs are trying to get people to buy things or become lead. Even if that is the purpose of the blog, not all posts will be designed to do that. Sometimes you may just have posts to talk about things your practice is doing or how you are involved in the community.
When there is a goal of generating a lead or making a sale, a call to action is a must. Your CTA should be at the end of your post and it should impel visitors to take action. Naturally your CTA should be related to your practice area and also the topic of the post.
For example if you are a criminal defense attorney writing a blog post on what to expect when charged with a DUI, you might have a call to action at the end of your post that says “Have you recently been charged with a DUI? Call Attorney Joe for a no obligation consultation today!”. Maybe yours will not be that cheesy but you get the idea.
You should always take advantage of internal linking in your blog posts5. Be careful how many exact match keyword anchors you make to a specific page on your site but where contextually applicable, link to other resources that your visitors would find useful.
After you write every post, try and find at least two instances where you can link back to other blog posts or pages on your site. If you write a post that you think will be particularly popular, link it back to posts that are older and you want more attention for.
Do not be afraid to use references in your posts whenever stating facts or statistics. People like to see differing viewpoints and when you can bolster your argument with supporting documents, it makes you look that much better to your readers.
You may not always use every best practice (nor will it always be appropriate) for every post. Do keep in mind though that the format of your content plays a large role in whether or not people read it. Sometimes even small changes can make big differences in conversion rates, readership or people that subscribe to your blog.