Q: Why does writing a blog differ from making sausages?
A: Because, unlike sausages, your blog won’t be anywhere near as enjoyable if you don’t pay attention to the process or what goes into it.
Blogging is one of the most effective and powerful ways to reach out to prospective customers and get people talking about your brand, but only if it’s done well. And that means the process and the ingredients are incredibly important. In fact, underestimating how you create blogs and the essential elements that go into them will have an effect not unlike realising how sausages are made or what goes into them. Your readers may quickly lose their appetite for your words.
Keeping our readers engaged is something we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about. And we believe you should too. To help you understand both the process and the parts, we’ve created this guide which outlines the essential aspects of a share-worthy blog post and how to put them all together.
Seeing that on average only 20% of people actually make it past the headline, the need for an attention-grabbing headline that makes people take notice and want to read more is essential. While much of the research behind this is quite recent, newspapers, magazines and other publications have long made headlines the most important elements on the page for this precise reason — compelling headlines capture readers’ attention and entice them to read the article.
That means an excellent opportunity exists for you to create headlines that resonate with your audience and make them want to find out more. Writing compelling headlines is an art, but there’s also a science to it in that there are formulas involved, not to mention lots of testing. As with so many things in digital marketing, opinions differ as to how to write the perfect headline — there were 3.6 million results for ‘how to write a great headline’ on a Google search — though there are certain things that most bloggers and marketers can agree on, such as:
- Headline length
The headline should fit entirely on a search results page without being reduced and ending in an ellipse. That means the ideal blog headline is around 55-60 characters or less, though not too much less. Research by Hubspot shows that 8-12-word headlines are the most shared on Twitter and headlines which are “between 12 and 14 words are liked most often on Facebook.”
- Brainstorming and testing
Few successful bloggers write a perfect headline on the first attempt. Most writers create a number of headlines — often 20-30 — before deciding on a winner. And the most successful writers don’t stop there, they choose their top 2-3 and then test them to see which deliver the best results. Testing headlines is essential if you’re to understand what your readers respond to.
- First three and last three
The first three words and the last three words in the headline are the most absorbed by readers, which doesn’t mean you should only write six-word headlines. However, focusing on the first three and last three words — and placing your most powerful, emotive and unusual words in those spaces — will make your headlines infinitely more appealing.
Additionally, some of the most successful blog posts are those that feature the right keywords in the headline. Conducting keyword research using a tool, like Keyword Planner, and using the most suitable keywords in your headline, will help your blogs perform better in search engine results pages (SERPs) and get your posts greater exposure.
The importance of meta descriptions should never be underestimated, and not only when writing blog posts. A meta description tells readers (and search engines) what your article is about and, therefore, plays an important role in enticing people to click on the link to your article. As with your headlines, you don’t want your meta descriptions truncated or abbreviated with ellipsis, so keep them under 160 characters, with 155 a good length to aim for.
Now that you’ve got readers on to your blog page with a killer headline and meta description that accurately sums up what your blog is about, you may think you’re out of the woods and that readers will dutifully read your post from top to bottom. That simply isn’t so. Sure, you’ve done a great job getting them this far, but now you need to draw them in with an introduction that resonates with your audience and compels them to continue reading.
Clickbait is a big no-no, but there are other ways to hook readers, draw them in and further their interest in what you have to say. Naturally, there are many differing opinions on how to go about this but there are several points that few successful bloggers and writers would dispute, like:
- Grab the reader’s attention right from the get-go
- Clearly state what the blog post is about
- Explain how the post will solve the reader’s problem
Using storytelling has been found to significantly boost blog readership — by as much as 300% — and encourages readers to spend more time reading posts. Anecdotes, quotes from famous people and personal experiences, when delivered in the right way, have all been found to hook readers and continue their interest in reading further. According to a study by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, “57% of what makes content compelling is storytelling.”
Images and visual elements
A featured image (the image at the top of the post) is an absolute must-have when creating compelling blog posts, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that any old image will do. Not only should the featured image be aesthetically appealing, but it should also incite an interest in readers, sum up or reflect what the post is about, and be of a good quality. People remember images more easily than text, so by choosing the right image, your post will be all the more memorable.
Adding visual elements throughout the main body of the blog post at regular intervals — roughly every 350 words — improves readability and scannability, both of which are immensely important for compelling readers to take note of your message, and encouraging sharing.
According to Buffer — the Buffer Social blog has a monthly readership of 1.5 million — placing an image in the right-hand corner of of blog posts shortens the width of the first few lines, resulting in fewer characters per line which “helps people make snap decisions about text faster and easier”. That’s an interesting point, one which will further help you write killer introductions.
And don’t forget to provide a link giving credit for the image source.
As mentioned above, placing images throughout the main body helps to break up the text and improves both readability and scannability, as do subheaders. Subheaders should also be used to guide readers by providing an introduction to the following paragraphs and informing them what the subsequent passage will discuss.
Using subheaders is also beneficial for SEO, and while they’re not a major ranking factor, as they’re important to readers and improve the user experience, Google encourages their use. According to a Yoast blog post, “… if readers use headings to figure out what a text is about, Google will too.” Including your main keywords in your subheaders is a good habit to get into.
Now we get to the meat of the article, the main text (the body), where readers will derive the most value from your blog post. Hubspot has found that the ideal length of a blog post is 2,100 words, and Moz, Neil Patel and other reputable sources all advocate similar word counts. The downside of this, however, is that blogs over 1,000 words can be difficult to read, especially if you’re blogging about a subject that isn’t deserving of a massive word count. What’s more, it can also prove difficult for many writers to maintain momentum and keep readers interested.
Super-short blogs (under 300 words) will not get you the exposure you want as they won’t even be picked up by search engines. However, even if your blogs are a good length — 1,000 to 2,000 words — they must be well-written and include visual elements and subheaders that aid both readability and scannability, otherwise they still won’t rank well in Google. As the Big G prioritises the user experience when ranking webpages, if the article structure and readability aren’t there, don’t expect to see your blogs making their way onto the top spots on SERPs.
Conclusion and call to action
A lengthy conclusion that goes through each point you’ve made isn’t necessary and could have the effect of discouraging readers from reaching the call to action, preventing them from responding to it. When the reader reaches the conclusion of your blog, it should be apparent, so briefly recap the main points to ensure the reader feels they’ve learned something by spending their time reading your words and absorbing the points you’ve made throughout your blog post.
The conclusion should lead seamlessly into the call to action, which doesn’t necessarily need to be an offer, for example, to download a case study or go to your site and make a purchase. It could be a few meaningful words of advice that resonates with the reader and leaves them on a high note, positioning your brand in a favourable light and encouraging them to share your post.
How do you go about creating successful blog posts? What process and ingredients do you use? If you’re yet to create a blog page and start uploading blogs on a regular basis, that’s something our SEO Brisbane team can help you with. To get in touch, fill out our online contact form or give us a call on (07) 3216 1151.