How do you write a blog post that will actually work? A blog post that your readers will love and want to share? A blog post that will perform well in search engines? Discover the 10 essential elements of a successful blog post…
A really great blog post should sound natural and be engaging. It should grab your readers from the start. Make them want to read more. Make them want to share it everywhere and join your mailing list. AND be optimised for SEO, so people can find it in the first place. But how do you do that?
It sounds complicated doesn’t it? I believe there are 10 essential elements to a successful blog post and they are all pretty easy to do:
1. An engaging and keyword rich title
I go on about titles a lot, but they are super important. You need to make your title engaging for your audience – it’s got to grab their attention and make them read on. AND it’s got to feature your chosen keyword phrase (see my post on SEO tips for more info on keywords).
Sounds daunting? But actually, it’s easier than you think. I believe that they key to a good title is having a good idea in the first place. What do your audience really want to read about? What keywords and topics do well with them? What are people asking you for more of?
By focusing on your audience and writing a post they want to read, writing an engaging title will be easy. Just keep it simple. If the topic is engaging, you don’t need to get all fancy and clickbaity with your title. Your audience will already be engaged.
And, of course, do make sure it contains your keyword/keywords!
2. A clear and attention grabbing first paragraph
Your first paragraph needs to have 3 elements:
- your keyword phrase, which essentially just means repeating your title again, ideally in a fairly natural way
- a brief summary of your blog post – you want people to see at a glance if this post is something they want to carry on reading
- some kind of hook – basically answer the question that your reader has: ‘what’s in it for me?’
You can see my first paragraph has all of these elements. I repeat my keyword phrase ‘essential elements of a successful blog post’, I very briefly summarise what this post is about AND crucially I make it clear to you my audience that there is some real value for you: you are going to find out how to write a blog post your audience will love and will perform well in search engines – that’s a pretty strong hook!
Another thing you should try to do if at all possible (because it will cut down massively on your workload) is try to make your first paragraph something you can copy and paste into social media.
You can see above that I could very easily take that whole first paragraph and copy it into Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and it would work pretty well. OK it’s not perfect, and if I have more time I will tweak it to make it more chatty and ‘social’, but if I am in a hurry, I have something I can just copy and paste that will work just fine.
3. Content your readers actually want to read
This is the key to a successful blog post. Always keep your readers in mind when you write. What do THEY want out of the post? Do they want your whole life story or a load of random waffle or a detailed description (they actually might, depending on who your readers are! I don’t know your readers, but you do – get to know what they want.) Or do they want you to get straight to the point and write what they need to know? Or perhaps both – a short intro to personalise the subject and then get down to business.
And the same goes for length. What sort of blog posts do your readers engage with? Do they like short and to the point or longer and more in-depth.
Not sure what your audience like? Look at your most popular blog posts: both the ones that get the most views and the ones that get the most shares. Look too at the blog posts that get the most comments. What do they all have in common?
If you are just starting out, write a variety of posts and see which do the best. Or check out other bloggers in your niche – what are they doing?
Finally ensure that you drop your keywords in a few times throughout your content. But keep it natural! And add in a few extra keywords too. So for example, in this post I use the phrase ‘essential elements of a successful blog post’ a few times, but I also use phrases like ‘how to write a blog post’, ‘key to a successful blog post’ and ‘optimise your blog post for SEO’.
This depends a little on your niche – some niches lend themselves more to sub-headings than others. But try to include sub-headings as often as you can. And try to make sure at least one heading has your keyword(s) in it – this will help optimise your blog post for SEO.
Sub-headings are great for your readers as it makes your blog more readable: they help break up the text into bitesize chunks, they help readers see at a glance what your blog post is about, and they help your readers locate the things they are actually interested in.
So for example with this post, many of you will skim over the bits you already know / are already doing, using the sub-headings to guide you. But then you might get to a sub-heading which covers a topic you didn’t know about and stop to read that section in depth.
And a blog post which is more readable and gives your readers a better ‘user experience’ and uses good keywords in the headings…will naturally do better on search engines! So it’s win-win for everyone 😀
5. Great Images
Another key element of a successful blog post is images! Make sure your content contains a selection of photos and or graphics. This is especially important if you have a food blog, a craft blog, a DIY blog or any other kind of blog where images can convey so much more than words.
Images make it easier for your audience to understand what you are talking about and breaks up the text so it’s easier to read.
If your topic doesn’t lend itself to photos, then consider including an infographic or a screen grab which might illustrate clearly what you are writing about. You can create really great graphics quickly and easily using Canva or PicMonkey*.
And make sure your images are optimised for SEO AND Pinterest. When you load them up ensure you give the image a title containing your keywords and an alt description which is a longer description with more keywords, suitable for Pinterest.
But don’t go mad (I am sometimes guilty of this). Don’t stuff your blog post with so many images it becomes boring or slows your site down (both are bad for SEO and your readers).
6. At least one pinnable image
Ensure at least one of your images is suitable for Pinterest (vertical, ideally 600 x 900, ideally with text). That way, when you and your audience pin that image, it will have a good chance of performing well on Pinterest and so boost your page views.
I like to go one step further and actually suggest to my audience that they might like to pin the image by saying something like “pin 10 essential elements of a successful blog post for later” – not only does this make it much more likely that my pinnable image will get pinned, but it is also a very easy way of getting my keyword phrase into a heading (see above for more on headings).
7. A clear call to action
Don’t just write a blog post and leave it at that. What do you want your audience to do next? Give them at least one suggestion about what they could do next…it could be related posts or categories, it could be to sign up for your newsletter, it could be follow you on social media, it could be download the worksheet, it could be write a comment. Whatever you want them to do, don’t assume they’ll do it – suggest it.
Of course, not everyone will do what you want them to. But it will be a lot more people than if you don’t include a clear call to action!
Giving a clear call to action keeps people on your site (or social media channels, or newsletter) and so increases engagement and pageviews…which in turn is great for SEO!!
8. Internal links (and external ones too!)
Never, ever write a blog post that has no internal links. You are wasting a massive opportunity! Think about it. If your readers click on a link on your blog post and then go on to read just one more blog posts, you are doubling your page views!
But keep it relevant and natural. Internal links should ideally link to more information on the same topic or explain something in more depth, or they should give extra information you think the reader might be interested in, for example, your category page for the topic or a post which shows what to do next.
But don’t go overboard and hyperlink everything or it will drive your readers mad. Do it naturally and be sparing. What will be most helpful? Put yourself in your readers shoes…what would I want to read about next? What would I like more information on?
A good example of this can be found in point number 1 in this blog post, where I have linked to more information about keywords. I recognise that to get the most out of this post you need to have a basic understanding of SEO and keywords, and so I link to a post where you can get that information right at the start.
There are also be times when it is appropriate to use external links. Perhaps another site has more information about this topic. Perhaps you want to show where you have found your information. Perhaps you want to share where your audience can buy a particular product you reference in your post. By sharing relevant external links, you make your post more helpful to your readers and it also adds credibility and authority to your posts – and both readers and search engines like this!
9. Highly visible sharing buttons
Make sure you make it super easy to share your post. You want readers not only to enjoy and engage with your posts but also share them with their friends, so you increase your audience and your page views (not to mention your social media followers).
So make sure that firstly you actually have sharing buttons, secondly, they are the right ones…where would you like your audience to share your content? (Don’t include 17 different sharing options!!) Thirdly, make sure they actually work – test them!! And finally make sure they are highly visible. Either at the side, or top AND bottom, and even better if you can have floating buttons so your audience are constantly reminded to share your content. (Though make sure these are not too annoying, or it will put readers off!)
You can even make sharing your posts a call to action…’Like what you have read? Please share it with your friends!’
There are lots of great sharing button plugins out there, but my favourite is Social Warfare*. They have a great free version, which is easy to use, and a really good value paid for version that has a few more bells and whistles.
10. A lively comments section
OK, so in these days of social media, getting people to comment on your blog post is a little harder, but if you write engaging content and share it well, people will comment. One little trick which helps is to actually ask a question. Like with this post I could ask
“What do you think? Have I covered every element of a successful blog post? What would you add?”
This instantly gives people something to reply to – and permission to disagree with me and/or point out something I have forgotten. It also ensures that some of the comments are going to be a little more interesting than “great post” (but please, if you just want to write “great post”, go ahead! I never mind being told that!!), which gives me something to engage with.
And for goodness sake, when someone writes a comment: REPLY!! Even if it’s just “Thanks, John – that’s good to hear”. Your audience want to engage with you, but they won’t do it if you don’t reply. If on the other hand you are lovely and helpful/kind/chatty, when you reply, that will encourage more comments and interaction and trust among your readers.
Bonus for recipe bloggers – a recipe card
And a little extra for all you food bloggers out there. Make sure you include a recipe card. Not only is really helpful for readers (especially if it’s easily printable) but it is also essential for SEO. There are lots of great recipe card plugins about, but the one I would recommend is WP Recipe Maker*. (You can see WP Recipe Maker in action on my other blog, Easy Peasy Foodie).
A recipe card plugin not only produces an attractive recipe card for your reader, but it also provides Google with lots of important data about your recipe, that Google will use in its search results. For example: a photo of the recipe, the star rating, the cooking time and the calorie count. This information will not only boost your search engine ranking, but it will also increase your click-throughs from Google (especially if it’s an attractive dish, with a 5 star rating, that can be made in under half an hour, and only contains 300 calories 😉 )
So, hopefully you can see that creating a successful post is not hard – it’s just a matter of following a simple formula and making sure you put your reader first – think about what they want to read about and how to make it easier and more enjoyable for them. And remember that what makes for a great post from a reader point of view, will also be a great post from an SEO point of view.
Following my own advice…
So now I must follow my own advice and first of all give you a question to answer in the comments:
“Do you agree with me? What have I missed? Let me know in the comments below!”
And then give you a couple of calls to action…
Want to read more on this topic? You might be interested in the following posts…
- 12 things you MUST do before you hit publish on your blog post
- How to create 52 blog posts in less than 2 hours
- How to use cornerstone content to increase blog traffic
Don’t miss a thing!
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!