In a recent podcast episode, I talked about how the structure of your blog (or any other main piece of content) is the most important part because this is going to help you do so much more with your blog. And then I realised I didn’t actually have a blog (or podcast episode) on how to structure your blog.
So here it is.
Or rather this is my method of writing a blog.
I’m going to make two assumptions here. Firstly, that you already know what it is you’re going to write about. Secondly, that you’ve written a blog (or maybe a few) before and you want to improve what you write.
If you want to start writing blogs from scratch or you don’t know what you want to write about, get in touch to find out about my Copy Clinic as this might help.
Right now those assumptions are out of the way, this is how I approach writing a blog.
Create the headings first
Let’s start by saying a heading is that line above. It separates the blocks of text into easy-to-read chunks. That main heading, right at the top of the page which reads, ‘how to structure your blog’, that’s known as an H1 heading. We won’t worry about this one right now. Mostly because it didn’t start life as those words in that order and I’ll come onto headlines later.
The ones I want you to focus on first are the ones within the body of the text. These are known as H2 headings. They are of secondary importance to the headline.
Why headings are important
Now you see that smaller heading above? That’s an H3. And, you’ve got it, it’s of tertiary importance. That’s working to break up what would otherwise be a long section of text because I have a lot to say about headings but I don’t want to move you onto the second step just yet.
If you want to be pernickety about it, H3 headings should really appear much lower down the page but for illustrative purposes, it’s here.
Well, you need to be able to tell your blog story within the headings. They should be the most salient points you want to make in your article so that should someone want to skim read your blog (and I promise you they will), they still get the gist of what you want to say.
There are other reasons why your headings are important but we’re focusing on the human reader in this blog and not SEO spiders. But tell your story in the headings and you can’t go far wrong.
The other upside is if you go off track with your blog purpose, your headings will keep you on track.
Write the introduction
Once you have the outline of what you want to say in place in terms of your headings, you’ll then want to write your introduction. This is the part of the process that I like to think of as ‘approaching it sideways’.
What I mean by this is that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the introduction should say. You really need to warm yourself up to it first. A bit like going to the gym. You warm up your muscles, get a bit of heat going before going in for the big moves.
It’s the same with writing because don’t forget your brain is a muscle too. It needs to warm up to the idea that you want to write something good.
Now your introduction needs to do two things: tell the reader what your blog is going to be about and; give them a reason to keep reading. Which is a big ask of a few sentences. But don’t worry, you can do it.
Just start writing. Type out all the rubbish that’s littering up your head around the subject and somewhere around paragraph three will be the actual introduction.
I do this all the time. It’s why no one sees my first drafts. I write my way into the blog – I approach it sideways, sneaking up on it like a crab. And while we’re at it, when it comes to editing, if you can delete the first and last paragraph of your work and it still makes sense – do it. But more on this later.
Fill out the body of the blog
Once you’ve got something that works as an introduction, next you want to fill out the body of your blog underneath your headings. Thankfully, you know what you’re going to write because you’ve planned your work. You’ve essentially tricked yourself into doing something you never did when writing an essay at school.
In each section of the blog, you want to get to your point. Explain it and then give your reader a reason to keep on reading. It needs to entertain. They should want to find out more.
Which is what this blog is doing if you’ve read to this sentence here. If in doubt, go back up this blog (or any other you’re reading) and see if you can pinpoint the parts that have kept you reading. Does it tell a story well where you want to know the ending? Has it hinted that there’s an answer to your question further down? Do you just want to know what the conclusion is?
Write the conclusion
Finally, you want to write your conclusion. What is the overall point you want to make from your article? What one takeaway do you want your reader to have?
In case you think this paragraph of my blog is my conclusion, then sorry. Skip to the end if you want. But writing the end of your blog is not the end of writing your blog.
You want to circle back to the beginning and make sure all the loose ends are tied up and that there are no further questions from the reader. Or if there are, that you have other content which answers it.
So now you know this isn’t the end of the blogging process, here’s what comes next.
Think about pictures and graphics
You’ve got your words on the page. You’ve broken them up with headers and you might even have put in some bullet points or a list to summarise what you are saying.
Don’t forget to think about how you’re going to illustrate your words. A page full of text is boring to the eye. People will start skim reading if they think it’s too much black and white. But before you go chucking in free stock images willy-nilly, consider the image adds anything to the content.
If you are adding an image or graphic, you need to know if it needs to be there in the first place. Does it add anything to the story? If it does, great it is good to go. Picture for picture’s sake – however pretty they may look – is not useful.
Most businesses have picture issues. Hiring a professional photographer costs money. There are limited images available under the Creative Commons and even fewer that are not overused.
Think about how you can create images that don’t look like they appear on several other websites. Your audience will notice if they’ve seen an image elsewhere.
Graphics are a great alternative to this. You can create your own in Canva or take the time to hire a designer or illustrator so you have some in your own brand and that tells your own message.
And when everyone else is using the same images, having commissioned your own will make your message stand out.
Add more colour
So far, you’ve likely researched and written your blog without speaking to another person. Before you move on to the next stage of blog writing, find out if there is anyone who can add a quote or a bit of colour to the article.
Is there an expert you can talk to? Are there are facts and stats online you can use? If you’ve made an argument about your industry, who makes the counter-argument? Is there anyone you can ask who can support what you say?
Having a source for your blog will add credibility to it and make it seem more valid. Less of you broadcasting to the world.
Although you might find yourself short on time for this part of the process. You may find people haven’t gotten back to you and you want to get on and hit publish. Do it. Hit the publish button. Add the quotes in later.
Call To Action
Next, you want to make sure you’ve told your readers what they need to do at the end of the blog (or throughout depending on how long it is). It’s good to only ask them to do one thing. It could be to get a lead magnet, sign up for your newsletter or give you a call.
Really, it depends on what you want them to buy as a result of reading your blog. Let’s not forget that while it’s fun to write blogs, their purpose is to sell your products and services.
Giving your readers a clear thing to do as a result of reading the blog will help them on their journey to buying.
Now, the fancy-schmancy marketing term for this is a Call to Action (CTA). You may know it as telling them to do something. Click this. Buy now. Subscribe.
You can test which words work better than others. But don’t forget to include one.
Think about the headline
The last bit of writing you need to do is to write the headline. Although it’s not the last thing you need to work on for your blog. I leave this until last because it is hands down the most important thing on your blog.
Your headline is the one thing that will entice your readers to click on the blog in the first place. It needs to do many things in a short space including:
- Give them a sense of need to know
- Catch their attention
- Make them think it has the answer
- Make them click
These are big asks from a few words. So you will want to test it and change it. And tweak it again. Often I write a blog with a holding headline and then go back and think, “does this really say what this blog is about?” Then I’ll change it.
Now you’ve got all the wordy bits and images out of the way, it’s not time to publish it. Sorry. What you’ve written is probably great but you want it to be brilliant. So you’re going to need to edit it.
Top tip: do not try edit your blog immediately after writing it.
Give it a day, if you can. Then come back with fresh eyes on what you have written. Or better yet, get someone else to edit it for you. They will see what you are too close to see.
If you do have someone else edit your work, be brave. They are making your words read better. Some people find this hard. And that’s okay. Writing can often feel very personal and it takes time and training to distance yourself from this.
If you do edit yourself, then make sure you sleep on it and edit some more.
And you’re almost at the finish line. You need to proofread next. This means checking for spelling errors and making sure it all makes sense. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Get someone to do it for you
- Read it out aloud
- Change the font and re-read it
If you’ve the time and budget, get someone else to do this for you. If not, reading it out aloud (or getting a friend to) and throw up a lot of what you’ll need to change. And don’t forget, the moment you press publish, is the moment you’ll see another mistake.
“It’s not just about typos, missing words and awkward autocorrects. There are so many other accidental issues that slip through and inadvertently have an impact on your readers. You might not notice them, but there are customers and clients out there who will.”
Lorraine Williams from Lighthouse Proofreading.
Hopefully, this has helped you understand how you can better structure and write your blogs. Do connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know how you get on. I’d love to read what you’ve written.