Anatomy of the Perfect Blog Post
Anatomy of the Perfect Blog Post
Updated Jun 29, 2022
Content marketers have many powerful forms of content available: video, audio, images and more. But understanding how to write the perfect blog post is still a priority for any brand content strategy.
Sure, we can be mesmerized by videos and addicted to our favorite podcasts, but blog posts are still an effective way for brands to communicate their ideas to their target audiences. And unlike content you post on social — LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. — you control the website hosting your blog posts and articles.
Are you giving your blog content structure the level of attention it deserves? Let’s walk through each of the key elements of the perfect blog post.
A Structure Built for Scannability
Reading content online is a different experience than traditional offline reading, as eye-tracking research shows that people scan websites and screens in certain patterns.
The most common pattern follows the shape of the letter “F”: Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. That’s the F’s top bar.
Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. That’s the F’s lower bar.
Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. That’s the F’s stem.
The 2020 update of eye-tracking research by Nielsen Norman Group found that one thing remains constant: People are far more likely to scan online copy than read it.
Maximizing the content in prime locations of the F pattern allows you to highlight your most important ideas for readers and improve readability.
What does that mean for the way you write your blog posts?
- Craft a lede that grabs attention. The first line of your blog post determines whether readers will keep reading.
- Start each paragraph with your big idea. The first lines of text receive more attention than subsequent lines of text on the same page.
- Place meaningful, high-impact words early in your sentences. The first few words receive the most attention.
Other Common Reading Patterns
The “F” pattern isn’t the only way we consume content online. Other common patterns, depending on our goals, can make posts easier to read.
- Layer Cake: Scan headings and subheadings, and skip the body copy.
- Spotted: Skip over most of the text while looking for specifics, such as links, distinctive word shapes or numbers.
- Marking: Keep the eyes focused in one place as the mouse scrolls or finger swipes the page. Common on mobile.
- Bypassing: Skip the first words of the line when multiple lines within a list have the same beginning.
- Commitment: Read everything on the page in the order presented.
Meaningful Headlines and Subheadings
When we visit an online article, the first thing we do is read the headline. A good headline immediately makes clear what you want readers to take away from the article — and why they should want to keep reading it.
Headings and subheadings are the bones of your post. They provide the structure and organization for your content and help guide readers through the F pattern. When they scan your content, they’ll quickly find what they are looking for and be motivated to continue reading. A good headline and subheading structure also serves as an organizing guide for your writers, freeing them up to focus on the best and most helpful writing they can create.
Headlines and subheadings are also important places to apply your keyword research for search engine optimization (SEO). You want headlines that make people curious for more, of course, and you also want to help your blog post or article rank for your target keyword or keyword phrase. Use your target keywords in your H1 heading and include other related keywords in at least one subheading.
Here are some quick tips for structuring a perfect blog post using strong headlines and subheads:
- Headlines should generally be 50-60 characters long.
- Your main keyword or phrase should be in your heading and at least one subheading.
- Headlines and subheadings should begin with compelling, high-information words, not words like “the” or “very.”
- Subheadings at the same level (H2, H3, etc.) should have parallel structure. For example, each H2 subheading starts with a verb (or doesn’t).
- Headlines and subheadings should be large enough to read and register as more important than the body text.
Body Copy That Delivers on the Promise of Your Headline
For a long time, writers were taught to keep blog posts short and sweet. That often meant sticking to a 500-word maximum for many types of blog posts.
These days, 300 words is generally your minimum to rank in search. Beyond that, you have a great deal of flexibility on how long your content should be. Feel free to publish content that runs up to 2,500 words if the topic is worth it.
Get to the Point
Whatever the length of your blog post, you want to create a blog content structure that’s organized and helps the reader follow along. A great blog post starts with your very first paragraph, which should include the most important point of the article — ideally in the first sentence. You want to grab readers’ attention, explain your purpose and fulfill the promise of your headline as quickly as possible.
The same rule applies to subsequent subheadings. Include the most critical supporting point in the first paragraph under each subhead to introduce and bolster the subheading above it.
To help the post’s SEO, use your target keyword or phrase in the first paragraph of the introduction, and subsequently at least once per 300 words of text. Supporting keywords are also important to include where relevant, but don’t force it. Readability is essential.
Add Value With Lists and Links
Help your readers identify the essential ideas by bolding key words and phrases. Consider organizing important concepts, tips or steps in a list using bullets or numbers. Numbers indicate ordered steps, while bullets simply indicate a list without specific ranking. Using each list type for its intended purpose is a powerful way to help your readers understand the information and its context.
The rules of good writing always apply. Spelling and grammar are prerequisites. Use active voice, strong verbs and unique adjectives. Write for your audience and in your brand’s voice. Be sparse with your use of jargon.
And know when to break the rules of writing for effect.
Outbound and internal links are a great way to direct readers to authoritative and helpful sources. Make sure these links are clearly recognizable in formatting and use meaningful words in the call to action (CTA).
Tell your audience what’s on the other side of the links — what is the topic of the link? Will they be able to read a report or be asked to sign up for a webinar? A clear CTA also improves accessibility for people who use screen-to-text software to hear text read aloud.
Add Visuals for Engagement
Images are essential for visual effect and additional engagement, both on the blog post itself and in search engines and social sharing. For many potential readers, the featured image is what they see first, even before the headline, especially on social media.
Within the blog post itself, images break up the content and provide additional context by giving readers a visual representation of your topic. As important as the text is, a perfect blog post is a combination of several components, including the ideas, words, formatting and images.
Metadata That Makes Sense
Metadata takes many forms in blog posts, but these are the three key things to remember:
- Include the primary keyword or phrase in the post’s URL, SEO title and meta description.
- Don’t overuse keywords, as Google will penalize the use of “keyword stuffing.”
- Add “alt” text to explain images that don’t load or to help people with blindness or low vision.
Once you understand the anatomy of a blog post, you can create content that attracts readers, delivers value and plays well with search engines. Apply these four elements of blog content structure to make the perfect blog post people want to read and won’t forget.
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