Over the past few weeks, I’ve been prepping a big update of new client websites to add to our portfolio. As I went through the full list of sites we’ve launched in the past year or so, I realized a trend…100% of them have blogs. While not all of those clients are blogging consistently, their website data indicates increases in website traffic, search rankings, social engagement and sales leads across the board. Fresh, high-quality content truly is a business asset, and those who continually build their content bank will see dividends.
A New Process, A New Template
When I think back upon that same group of clients, I’m also reminded of the education that was required to help them learn how to blog effectively. Some picked it up naturally. Others needed significant coaching. All of them needed to figure out their own process for regular blog post ideation, planning and production. To continue supporting them, and perhaps you, I’ve created a new template that is designed to help you create thoughtful, purposeful content that is of value to your customers and ideally formated for effectiveness.
Website Content Template Components
Pre-writing questions: The best blog posts are those that address a specific question or problem, and they do it by telling a story. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and help them relate to the situation. Do your best to narrow down your response to three main points, but try not to completely solve the problem within your post. Provoke further action and find ways to tie your discussion back to your products or services. Provide clear direction on what the reader should do next. Are there specific, target keywords that relate to your post topic? Try to work them in as you write.
Typical Blog Post Structure and Formatting Guidelines
After years of experimenting, most of us bloggers have the best practices of blog writing nailed down, and I feel like this template covers the bases. Here are a few key elements:
- Post Headline: As with most media, the headline can make or break your post. But specific to web content, it’s important to remember the SEO aspects. Try to integrate a major keyword/phrase into your headline and surround it with an <h1> tag to get the most Google juice possible.
- Opening Story: The more often you can open with a story that sets up the topic, the better. If no story, give the reader some context by identifying the question or problem you’re trying to solve, and tying that problem to a specific audience. Readers should understand the “who”, “what” and “why it matters” after reading this opener.
- Blog Post Image: I’ve always had an interest in neuropsychology, and I couldn’t help but devour Susan Weinschenk’s book, Neuro Web Design back in 2009. Throughout the book she talks about how we subconsciously process everything we see on a website, but she summarizes that “stories and pictures are the most powerful ways to get and hold our attention and persuade us to take action.” Let’s also not forget about Google. Optimizing your image’s file name and alt tag with a keyword/phrase provides the context Google needs and validates the relevance of your blog post content.
- Sub-Headlines: Realize that most people who land on your blog post aren’t going to just start reading from the top. Most are going to do an initial skim. If your post just looks like a huge blog of text, they’ll likely bounce. Using the previously mentioned format of three main points, start each section with a large, bold subhead that summarizes each main point. The idea being that if someone only reads the headline, subheads and call-to-action, they will still get value out of your article.
- Bulleted and numbered lists: I love bulleted lists, and evidently you do too since you’re still reading this! Lists make content much easier to digest. Even the slightest indention and bullet will draw the reader’s eye. Oh, and Google likes these too.
- Calls to action: Despite the intelligence level of your blog readers, people don’t want to have to think when they are browsing websites. Obvious, command-oriented calls to action are key to communicating what you want a reader to do next. And don’t be scared to make the call to action a BIG BUTTON. Bigger is better, but don’t make it look like a banner.
Finally, the template includes a checklist of items and reminders you can use to ensure your blog post is good to go. Of these items, I think the most important one is to just get another set of eyeballs on it. If you’re writing the post, you’re now too close to it and no longer qualified to edit it.
If you start using this template, realize that not every blog post has to follow this exact format. Feel free to vary the structure and formatting of your posts. Also note that the majority of your blog visitors will always be first-time visitors. Don’t worry about covering the same or similar topics repeatedly.