What is the ideal checklist of a great blog post for your business?

How to… The Anatomy of writing the best blog post possible

Background

We all want to write good blog posts, and most of us fail to do so. The vast majority of what businesses publish on the Internet is crap. While it’s important to avoid publishing crap, most businesses fail.

The prior post (which is linked to below) describes the advantages I(in terms of content quality) of The Thought Leadership Format for blog posts and describes two storytelling devices which make it easier to create articles people remember.

How to write the best blog posts possible with storytelling

This post describes how to build such a post, in layers, section by section.

Building a Great Post, Layer by Layer

Layer 1: An answer or a main point

At the risk of overstating the obvious, every blog post needs to be about something. Unfortunately, a lot of blog posts really aren’t.

Every blog post should answer one question, or make important points. Shorter snippet posts should focus on answering one question, while longer pillar posts should focus on making points.

The key idea for this layer is that before you can write about anything, you need to have an idea (however well or loosely flushed out) of what you’re going to write about.

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Layer 2: Outline and Research

When you already know a lot about your topic, you next create an outline (think subheadings) which provides the structure of the post. It is the “skeleton” onto which you hang the rest of your writing.

You spend a lot of time on your website content because you hope that every visitor will read it all. The truth is that visitors scan pages and look for key points right away instead of reading it like a book or newspaper, therefore, the need of creating outlines.

But, when you know your topic well but still require some research, doing the research and creating the outline go hand in hand.

You should create an outline, but as you do research on the topic, allow yourself to update the outline as you learn more.

Layer 3: The opening section

We’ve all heard “You only have one chance to make a first impression”. Perhaps you’ve also heard that in an article or video you have 7 seconds to catch someone’s attention so they keep at it.

Because of this, you need a strong opening.

A strong opening section has the following characteristics:

  1. It gets straight to the point.
  2. If appropriate (this is a judgment call) it states in clear language that the reader is “doing it” wrong.
  3. It ends in a bit of a cliffhanger that implies a promise of learning more by reading the rest.

Point number 3 above is critical. When you state (or imply) that something useful will be learned, people will tend to keep at it..

Below is a TEDx talk about the value of telling people what they know (or what they do) is wrong. While it’s focused on teaching science through video, the underlying idea is what’s important here.

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Layer 4: Fill in the sections

This is the meat of it. By having done your research, noted appropriate references, and created your outline, you now need “merely” fill in the content. You’ve already established the flow (using the outline) and ideally ensured the various sections tie together using the “but / therefore” rule described in the prior post.

As you fill in the content, be sure you substantiate factual statements (92% of this, 4 out of 5 that, etc) with external links to reputable web pages that support your statements.

Layer 5: Conclusion

If the post is making a point, here is where you summarize the point being made. If the blog post is answering a question, here is where you summarize the answer (and maybe why it matters) in a very concise way.

Layer 6: SEO Formatting

The SEO formatting is not for the benefit of people per se, but when you want people to find your posts and your website via organic search, you must attend to both the SEO setup of your website and the SEO formatting of every post (and page) on your website.

Some of what follows below is boring and bit technical, but it’s important to good SEO.

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Words Appearing no More Than Once

In the description of titles and alt text, I state below that no word should appear more than once. The reason is when a word appears in a blog post title, an image title, or the image alt text, the word is associated with the post or image. As titles and alt text can only be so long, when you use any word more than once, you surrender space in which you could have used another word. When you use a greater variety of words, your blog post and/or image will match a greater variety of search terms, thereby increasing its appearance in Search Engine Result Pages.

For this reason, the title of an image and the alt text of an image should (ideally) contain different words. Each one provides opportunities to match keyword phrases and by using different words in the image title and the image alt text you increase the numbers of search words and combinations of search phrases the image matches.

The Blog Post Itself

Title

The title of the blog post should:

  1. Be between 55 and 70 characters long.
  2. Get a good score from the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer (70 or better).
  3. Contain words and phrases people are likely to search for.
  4. Contain each word no more than once.
  5. Be part of the URL of the web page (look at the URL of this blog post)
    1. Use a dash as the word separator within the URL.

Internal Links

An internal link is a link from a web page on your site to another web page on your site. Ideally, your snippet posts link to your pillar posts thereby creating a good internal link structure to your website.

External Links

External links are similar to citations in academic papers. In fact the original PageRank algorithm that made Google be a better search engine was modeled over the way academic papers cite each other.

You should use external links to substantiate claims you make in your post. You want to link to website that have authority. One tool you can use to determine the authority of websites is the MozBar extension for the Chrome browser.

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Images within the Blog Post

Titles

Titles for images provide SEO benefit and should follow the same rules as titles for blog posts.

Caption

Image captions provide zero SEO benefit and exist for the benefit of the reader. They should be 3 or 4 words which provide a very brief summary of the image.

Alt Text

The alt text is what is displayed instead of the image when some technical issues prevent the issue from loading. The alt text does provide SEO benefits and should (like titles) include words and phrases people are likely to search for with each word appearing no more than once.

Description

The image description exists solely for SEO purposes. The image description should be 100 to 200 words and describe the point of the image being selected, more so than the image itself. While sometimes those are one and the same, sometimes they’re not.

In Closing

This post describes three main ideas:

  • Following a structured methodology to creating content helps you create higher-quality content.
  • The Thought Leadership format is ONE way to provide what I’ll call “link worthy” posts that your crowd will find interesting and useful.
  • While it’s important to publish quality content, and The Thought Leadership Format is a format for creating high-quality content, you must also pay attention to the SEO formatting of what you publish.

The main point to that last item is that before you get the attention of people performing Internet searches, you must FIRST get the attention of the search engine robots.

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