Do you remember when most blogs were like online diaries, sharing personal stories and opinions?
Blogging has certainly come a long way over the years, and today, it serves as an effective way for countless businesses to establish their authority in their field. Valuable content has a remarkable ability to grow a support base and draw in new clientele, particularly because supporters share that content with their friends, family, and colleagues.
In that sense, great content amplifies the “word of mouth” factor, as supporters are tacitly conveying their approval for the company that created the content they’re sharing.
How can you make sure you’re providing top quality blog posts to your readers? By providing nicely formatted, valuable content.
Here, we’ll outline the key tips for creating great blog posts and compare them to good and bad blog examples.
Let’s start with the aesthetics of the blog post. Poorly formatted content is:
- Written in Blocks of Text: These lengthy passages are intimidating and time-consuming to read.
- Image-less: The post has no images to break up the content and add an extra dimension to the piece.
Has this image from the Digital Marketing Institute convinced you to use more visuals?
Readers tend to scan quickly through content, picking out bits of useful information—43% of people admit they only skim blog posts, Hubspot reports. Thus, writers must present information in a highly scannable format. To maintain consistency, use a formula that helps you produce good-looking content every time you write a blog post.
Use the following components of a visually compelling blog post to produce stellar content every time.
7 key formatting elements
1. Headings: Headings are the easiest way to break up your content. Use different heading sizes to structure your post, making it even more scannable.
2. Lists: Lists separate content into easily scannable parts, making listicles the most popular format for business blogs. Use bullet points or numbered lists when appropriate.
3. Short Paragraphs: Break up content into easily digestible parts by keeping paragraphs short. Aim for two to four lines of text. Including some single-sentence paragraphs will make your post even more scannable!
4. Visuals: Articles with visuals get 94% more views than those without images. Why? Images not only break up content; they also add dimension to blog posts. Use video, infographics, graphs, and even memes to catch readers’ attention.
Pro Tip: Choose your images strategically. Use relevant images that resonate with readers and help build a personal connection. For example, photos of real employees at your company doing their jobs come across as more authentic than many stock photos, enhancing your credibility with the reader.
5. Image Captions: Use captions to grab the attention of your readers.
Pro Tip: Ask a question, use statistics, or write a joke for a captivating image caption.
6. Color: Use color to your advantage, highlighting important information in a colored text box.
7. Bold Text: Bolded words catch the eye and let readers know they should be paying attention.
See how we use headings, lists, short paragraphs, images, color, and bold text to make this blog post scannable and attractive:
The substance of your blog post needs to deliver a high level of value to your audience. It has to explain something they didn’t understand, provide fresh insights, or give them direction in their work.
What are the elements of epic content—the type of post that readers will share with friends, family, and colleagues, urging them to read it? Epic content has all of the following qualities:
Now, we’ll delve into each of these qualities, explaining how to infuse each of your epic blog posts with all of these elements.
Expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (or EAT) should be top content marketing goals for any organization. For starters, your EAT helps to establish your credibility as a thought leader in your industry. It allows you to build brand recognition and give your readers confidence in the information you provide them. Without these three pillars, your content strategy may not reach its fullest potential.
Google’s recent Medic update is showing that it favors content from organizations that have established EAT. Though the update has notably impacted companies in the medical, health, and financial verticals, it can also affect organizations in other industries. Google doesn’t want to serve up just any content that follows good SEO practices; rather, it’s becoming ever-so-careful in recommending sites that are high in content quality and originality.
To EAT your way to the top of the rankings, avoid these three things:
- Quote Overload: An excessive amount of quotes lowers the writer’s credibility, as it seems that others can say things better than the writer can.
- Obvious Statements: Writing the sentence “marketing is good for business” in an article titled “Why You Need Marketing for Your Business” adds no value.
- Points Copied From Other Sites: Blog writers sometimes use the same points that more reputable brands have written about in an article on the same topic. The next time you Google the “Top 10” of something, click on the first three articles and see how much overlap exists.
You’ve probably seen examples of bad blogs that just regurgitate the exact same ideas of more popular sites. Avoid doing that through using the following tips to ensure originality.
10 tips for creating original content:
1. Brainstorm Ideas: Ask your friends, family, or colleagues to help you brainstorm six great topic ideas—or use the Content Pros idea generator for inspiration.
2. Bring a Personal Touch: Opening your blog post with a personal anecdote brings in your perspective in a way that is guaranteed not to be found anywhere else on the Internet.
3. Conduct an Interview: Try polling a group of relevant influencers with a question. Use their answers throughout your blog post. For example, in an article titled “How to Get Started Food Blogging,” one writer sent influencers an email with the question, “What were your biggest challenges with starting a food blog?” The answers informed an article about the most common problems food bloggers face, delivering fresh insights on the topic.
4. Share Success Stories: Write a step-by-step guide on how you achieved a goal or milestone.
5. Tell Failure Stories: Write a blog post on your failures and what you learned from them.
6. Make Comparisons: Compare two different types of products, services, staff positions, or concepts that your reader may be debating between. Explain which one would best serve the reader or which situations each works best in. Don’t be afraid to also reflect on your own business practices or products now and then to emphasize your strengths.
7. Produce Case Studies: Interview your customers to gain in-depth knowledge about how they’ve benefitted from your product or service. Write a post that shares their journey to success with readers, peppering it with informative quotes. Just be sure to include useful takeaways for the reader and not only talk about your business—this isn’t a testimonial.
8. Analyze Research: Use sources that readers wouldn’t normally encounter in their daily lives. Interpret research findings in clear language, and synthesize what different studies have found. Your analysis of others’ research can provide valuable industry insights. You could also conduct your own research with a customer survey.
9. Write Reviews: Choose a product or service related to what you do (though obviously not produced by a competitor) and tell readers what you like and dislike about it.
10. Create Guides: Check out our step-by-step guide to upgrading older content as an example.
Pro Tip: There is a difference between unoriginal content and curated content. Content curation is the process of sorting through large amounts of content to gather information on a particular topic and draw conclusions from it. You can use those sources to back up your argument or use them as examples to highlight a particular point you’re making.
“Done well, content curation positions you as the go-to tastemaker in your niche,” says the Content Marketing Institute. “Content curation fills your editorial calendar with high-quality content, extends the life of your existing content, strengthens your social media participation, supports long-term distribution through search, and supplements your content with your commentary and contextual positioning of other people’s content.”
We also encourage writing case studies about how your products and services have played a role in your customers’ success. This content is guaranteed not to exist anywhere on the Internet already, it provides fresh, valuable insights on what you can do for your clientele, and it greatly bolsters credibility, since they’re learning about the experiences of their peers.
Your article needs to speak to the questions, concerns, and interests of your audience. It should give them insight on a topic they care about. Here are a few tools that let you know if readers are finding your content relevant:
- Comments: Note whether your audience is engaging with the article by commenting on it.
- Click-Throughs: If people found your content useful, they’ll likely visit another page on your site.
- Shares: If you notice that people are visiting your blog but are not sharing or liking your article, it’s likely that they didn’t find the information relevant to themselves or their colleagues. If they’re reposting, you can be sure they found it valuable.
5 tips for creating relevant content:
1. Create Customer Personas: Check out Hubspot’s template for creating customer personas:
2. Hop on Trends: Put your own unique spin on trending topics.
Pro Tip: Tools like Feedly, Google Trends, and Buzzsumo can help you find trending and engaging topics for free. You can also peruse the Quora and Reddit platforms to learn what questions people are asking in niche areas. Be the first to write a credible, in-depth response in the form of a blog post (and link to it there!).
3. Talk to Customers: Why not go right to the source and ask your customers what they would like to read? On Twitter, host a chat or ask your followers what they would like you to write about next. Get the ideas flowing by asking questions like, “What confuses you about [add subject area]?” or “What are your professional learning goals for this year?”
4. Produce Evergreen Content: While not all content needs to stay relevant forever, it helps to make sure at least some of your content will remain “evergreen,” or relevant over time. Such posts can continue gaining traction long after you’ve published them.
5. Create a content calendar to plan how you’ll deliver relevant content throughout the year. Be proactive and organized in predicting what will be at the forefront of your audience’s mind during particular months and seasons.
Pro Tip: Use Instagram or Facebook Stories to highlight timely info that generates interest in your brand. A full 56% of people use the Stories feature on Instagram, Facebook, or WhatsApp, and 57% feel it gives them a sense of being part of a broader community. Use it regularly, making attention-grabbing posts like a funny image or behind-the-scenes peek at your company to drive traffic toward a blog post. Brands from National Geographic to Minimalist Baker use Instagram Stories to build traction and engage their audience.
Any comparative of good and bad blog posts will show that good ones are useful. Good blog posts are educational tools that answer questions and solve problems. Strive to anticipate your audience’s questions and concerns so you’ll already have an answer prepared. Then, create materials that are truly useful because they clearly present a solution or an answer.
You might have a wealth of knowledge on a topic, but you need to be able to share it in a clear, easy-to-understand way for readers to benefit from it.
Common pitfalls that make content useless:
- Disorganized Thoughts: A post that lacks structure will be difficult to follow.
- Rambling: Rambling on and on is a sure way to lose your readers before they’ve gotten through the introduction. Be succinct. Pro Tip: If you haven’t already, read the classic book “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. to learn tactics for expressing yourself succinctly.
- Keyword Stuffing: Wording a sentence awkwardly just to squeeze in an unwieldy keyword phrase will distract a reader from your key take away.
- Poor Grammar: Poor use of language makes a post difficult to read and looks extremely unprofessional. Leverage tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway to help proofread your own work and then have an editor review as well, if possible.
Create useful content with these 3 tips:
1. Understand What Readers Want: Analyze which of your blog posts have done well in the past to learn what your readers find most useful. Which page of your website has received the most visits? Which article has garnered the most clicks, shares, likes, and comments?
Pro Tip: Use a tool like Google Analytics to determine your most popular posts.
2. Comment Sections: Comments are extremely useful for finding common questions, feedback, and concerns from your readers. Use them to shape your future content!
3. Search Engine Optimization: Even the most educational blog posts are useless without SEO. If readers can’t find your article, then how can it be useful for them?
Pro Tip: Familiarize yourself with the factors Google uses to rank blog posts.
Blog posts that convert readers into customers are actionable. Readers confront a huge volume of information every day—make your posts stand out by leaving your audience with a clear call to action that they’re excited to take.
Unactionable content lacks these 3 things:
- Direction: If the post doesn’t prompt readers to take a specific action by the end, it’s not an actionable post.
- Comments: Specifically check any positive feedback you receive in your comment section, social media post, or by email. Prompt people to let you know how they’ve benefitted from your post!
- Click-Throughs: If your call to action asked them to visit another page, like one with a video tutorial, track the click-through rate to see if they’re responding.
Actionable content has these 5 elements:
1. Examples: Examples are highly visual and make it easier for your audience to imagine themselves putting a concept into action.
2. Visuals: When reading an article, people are 65% more likely to remember the information three days later if the post contains strong visuals. With instructional posts, visuals are especially important. Hubspot explains, “People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.”
3. A Call to Action: CTAs are powerful motivators. They urge readers to perform a particular action, rather than leaving them wondering what to do with the information they’ve just learned.
4. Social Share Buttons: Prompt readers to easily share your content on their social media channels with highly visible share buttons.
5. A Way to Continue the Conversation: Let readers ask for clarification on any points they don’t understand via the comments or ask them to send additional tips of their own through a virtual idea box. Be sure to follow up!
Engaging content draws audiences to read it all the way through. We’ve all seen bad blog examples that don’t say anything interesting enough to draw us to read beyond the first paragraph or two.
How to identify non-engaging content:
- Readers never make it to the call-to-action. Drilling down into your Google Analytics, you can see the average time on page for each of your blog posts. If they spend more minutes reading and engaging with your post, they’re more likely to make it to your CTA.
- The conversation doesn’t continue through comments, email, or social media messages.
- The post gains minimal likes, shares, and click-throughs.
6 tips for writing engaging content:
1. Write a Killer Title:
With over two million blog posts written and published each day, your headline is crucial for catching the reader’s attention. Consider these two headlines:
“8 Ways You Can Make the Most Out of a Good Blog Post: More Tips and Tricks From Content Pros”
“8 Methods for Writing Actionable Blog Posts”
Headline one is lengthy, unclear, and irrelevant, whereas headline two is concise, clear, and relevant, and it uses exciting language that sparks the reader’s curiosity. Plus, readers are attracted to shorter titles, with 6-13 words being the sweet spot.
2. Write an Attention-Grabbing Intro:
Writing the introduction is often the hardest part of the blog post because it has to resonate powerfully with the reader.
To write a compelling intro, start your blog post with:
Questions: “Have you ever wondered what tricks successful blog writers use to generate ideas?”
Quotes: Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Statistics: According to OptinMonster, “B2B marketers who have blogs get 67% more leads than those who don’t.”
Stories: “The first time I ever wrote a blog post, it was a disaster. A concerned customer emailed with some sage advice, bluntly stating that the post made me sound like a fifth-grader delivering a book report. But that’s because I didn’t know the following eight tips and tricks.”
Pro Tip: Your conclusion should also aim to resonate strongly with the reader. Try ending with motivational words that help deliver your call to action, like a thought-provoking question or a powerful quote.
3. Maintain a Strong Voice:
Effective blog writers use a particular voice and tone that best fits their brand, target audience, and buyer funnel. For example, they might aim to sound light-hearted and funny, authoritative and witty, or polished and professional. Know how you want your voice to sound before you begin writing, work to hone it as you go, and keep it consistent!
4. Use Popular Culture:
Celebrity names, TV shows, movie titles, authors, and comic book characters are an entertaining and easy way to grab attention. For example, the title “What Kim Kardashian Can Teach You About Social Media” and the Ernest Hemingway quote I used above serve as great examples of embedding pop culture within an article.
5. Focus on Flow:
When a blog post has “flow,” it seamlessly moves from one topic to the next. The writer has nailed the transitions, creating a logical progression of ideas.
Pro Tip: You can determine if your blog post has flow by reading it aloud, asking a colleague for feedback, or even using the Hemingway App to highlight areas for improvement!
6. Create Depth:
According to SEMrush, the majority of content is 900 – 1,200 words long, but posts over 3,000 words receive at least three times more traffic, shares, and backlinks.
Pulling all of these elements together, Matthew Barby writes great examples of blog posts that are well over 1,000 words and engaging. Matthew’s blog post has a catchy headline and introduction as well as strong flow, and it even quotes relevant celebrities.
Nothing is more important in writing than honesty. Being honest by using your own words and citing all sources properly will demonstrate your integrity. Google will lower the rankings of a post if it uses improper sourcing, other writers will opt not to link to it, and readers will take note. When it comes to truly bad blogs, examples of sites that use others’ ideas without crediting them are some of the worst.
4 tips for writing honest content:
1. Paraphrasing: If another article contains information that is perfect for your blog post, put it into your own words.
Pro Tip: If you use more than three words in a row that are not your own, you generally need to use quotation marks. If you use more than two words in a row, you may need to use quotation marks if the phrase is not super common.
2. Quoting: Quote sentences and paragraphs exactly as they appear. Don’t manipulate an author’s point by leaving out a portion of the sentence. For example, quoting only the first part of this sentence would be misleading: “The teachers were satisfied with their new contract, the school district reported, but a survey showed that 75% wished it featured better benefits.”
3. Citing Text: Citing, which means identifying your source, is essential to avoiding plagiarism. APA and MLA are examples of different citation formats you can use. In a blog post, you can opt to cite sources by embedding a link in the sentence, identifying the author and publication, or a combination of the two.
4. Citing Images: There are many ways to properly cite images. You can:
- Copy and paste the image’s link below or above your image.
- Embed a hyperlink on your image.
- Embed a hyperlink in the caption.
Pro Tip: Great content embraces outside experts. They build credibility and boost engagement. Just be sure to source and quote the ideas you use correctly!
Bonus Element: Edit and Proofread
Great content is edited and proofread for quality. That’s why we’ve created a checklist to help you organize and manage your editing (and proofreading) so you can create powerful content that has a lasting impact. Check out The Ultimate Editing and Proofreading Checklist for Epic Content to help you produce top-quality content every time.
Try following this guide while writing a blog post for your brand. Ask a colleague to assess your use of the key elements covered in this article. Remember, epic blog posts take time and practice. Once you find a formula that works, stick with it!