I'm often asked my thoughts on what I feel makes a great blog post - my answer normally resolves around it being helpful, inspiring, opinionated, clever, funny etc etc etc. The actual content and what you write about is one thing, but you need to have the bones of a blog post to apply the meat to. This blog post identifies five key components your blog posts should always have. The earth-shattering content is up to you...
1 - Imagery
Imagery can be used to illustrate your point, catch the eye or just make people feel something. It's also a key factor in breaking up your posts and moving them away from screeds of text. You must also think about how imagery within your blog out with your actual blog post - when you add a blog post to social networks such as LinkedIn or G+, it will pull an image through alongside a snippet - you want this to stand out. The image at the top of this post will be the one I choose for this purpose as it rams home the subject of the post. Don't overdo it on the imagery front - too many will make your post hard to digest and can be a pain in the butt for those reading your posts on a mobile device.
Top tip - Use Flickr Creative Commons to source great imagery that you can use for free. There are various levels of attribution required, so make sure you follow the rules and be nice. Try to add appropriate and attractive text to your images, a great free online tool for doing this is PicMonkey.
2 - Style
You need to establish a style for your writing that is consistent across your posts. If people had to describe my writing style, they may use words such as casual, friendly and at times a little bit cheeky. I've not really strived to write like this, it just kind of works for me, and I've had some nice compliments about it over the years, so I maintain it. Your style and tone should be suitable for your audience and if you are a business, brand etc, consistent with your other communications, think about what you want to convey - a style that coveys authority will differ to one that shows creativity for example.
Top tip - Read copybloggerfor an abundance of articles that will help you hone your writing skills and increase the impact of your writing.
3 - Formatting
This is simple stuff, but many people forget to add basic formatting to their blog posts. Use sub-headings to break the post up into logical sections - the majority of people scan a blog post, and sub-headings are like a marker for the eye. In this post, my headings are very obviously attributed to the copy that follows, but you can also use them to get a key point across, or to pull out a key phrase from the following copy. Always look to make life easy for your readers.
4 - Links
No, not from an SEO point of view, in fact, I'd urge you not to get too caught-up in thinking about SEO when writing - create stuff that the people that matter to your business etc want to read, and the SEO benefits will follow. There are still key things to do to ensure that your blog content has the opportunity to rank for search, and this post from Yoast covers those well, especially if you use Wordpress. The reason I mention links here is that they are a great way of helping your reader out! You can use them to further explain a point you've made, add someone else's opinion to the mix, clear up a piece of jargon or simply just offer more content related to your subject. Again, don't overdo it, and make sure you've read the content you link people to and that it's from an authoritative source.
Top tip - Make sure when adding links to your blog posts, you set them to open in a new window/tab once clicked - this makes sure people aren't leaving your blog post in order to see the content you're linking to.
5 - Calls to action
With my marketing hat on, I'd always suggest you have a low level of CTAs within your blog content that aim to drive people to take a relevant action, such as filling in a contact form, visiting other relevant areas of your site or even making a purchase. While this is a good idea when carried out in a very controlled fashion (never make the CTAs the crux of your blog post), the key CTA I suggest you implement is a simple question at the end of your blog post. It's always nice to try and spark some conversation, or perhaps get feedback on your post within the comments section and I've found that asking people to do so tends to work. Sometimes us humans need direction!
There you folks, five points for crafting blog posts that you should bear in mind. Have you recently started blogging? How are finding it?
Pic credits - Cat is creative commons via http://www.flickr.com/photos/_tar0_/ and keys is creative commons via http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennuja/ text added to both by post author.