Ever wondered what it takes to write a killer blog? That's the question I've been obsessing over for the past 6 months leading up to the launch of my website.
After dedicating days on end reading the world's most successful blogs, I created an 'Ultimate Checklist'. If you use this checklist before launching a blog it will help you optimize your content for readers, search engines and shareability.
Get the reader to click on your blog
There are varying opinions on how long you should spend on the headline of your blog. However, if you use the below suggestions you will significantly accelerate the time it takes you to create a compelling headline.
The headline for your blog should include at least two of these components;
- A Surprise Element
- A Question
- An element of curiosity
- A negative or positive statement
- How to
- Numbers or lists
- A personal reference, 'You'
- Concrete facts
Your headline should also be optimised for an SEO key word or phrase. (Picking your key word or phrase is another question all together, here's a great resource on everything to do with that thanks to Moz)
Below are three examples of engaging blog headlines that highlight some of these components.
Example 1 (Numbers/Lists, Positive, Personal):
Example 2 (Curiosity, Question):
Example 3 (How to, Keyword or Phrase):
Remember the objective of the headline is to draw the reader in, if they click on your blog the headline has done its job. But that is why it is paramount that the headline is not misleading, and the reader gets what they came for. Otherwise your chances of a share are diminished.
Get your reader to start reading the blog once they have clicked on it.
It is extremely rare that the most shareable blogs don't include at least one image in them. This is usually at the top of the post to catch the reader's attention. When choosing your image make sure it is;
- Eye-catching and unique.
- Gives credit to the creator of the image.
Here are some valuable resources if you are struggling to find that perfect image for your next blog;
- 'No Photoshop? No Problem: 10 Visual Content Tools For Beginners' - Blog post on HubSpot Inbound Hub
- '53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts' - Blog post on Buffer
Now we get into the content of your blog. This is where you boost your credibility and connect with the reader so they want to share it.
Objective: Give your reader the feeling that if they keep reading they will overcome a challenge of their own, OR be able to add value to someone else by sharing.
Towards the beginning of your blog it is essential to engage the reader and connect with them personally. The best way to do this is to;
- Highlight a pain point of the reader. What challenge will they be able to overcome by reading further?
In his book 'Likeable Social Media', Dave Kerpen discusses the value of Social Media as a tool in understanding what your customers (or in this case readers) care about. I've adapted his advice to suit a blogger. Use this process to actively listen to your potential readers and discover their pain points;
- Write down a list of five phrases people might use that would identify themselves as potential readers of your blog.
- Conduct Twitter and Facebook searches for each of these phrases.
- Develop a plan to formally or informally listen on a regular basis throughout the social web.
By listening, you will start to understand exactly what challenges your readers want to solve, then you can write about them.
- Introduce your 'Ace'. The topic or statement that you will anchor the rest of the blog around. (Hint: This will give you an idea of what keyword or phrase to optimise for search engines)
For example, the 'Ace' for this blog is;
'A checklist to optimize a blog for readers, search engines and shareability.'
You will notice that I introduced this in the beginning, my content throughout is dedicated to that statement and I will re-visit that point in the conclusion.
Give your reader no choice but to share your content
If your reader has made it is this far it's a great sign! There is now a significantly higher chance they are going to share your blog. Whilst all of us are busy, we are also keen to add value to others by sharing good content. Prepare the headline, image and hook to engage the reader and then concentrate on the body of the blog to make it shareable.
Use this as a checklist for the body of your blog;
- The content anchors back to your 'Ace', the overarching point of the blog.
- It's optimized for your SEO keyword or phrase, without over doing it. (Learn more about why 'Keyword stuffing' is detrimental in this article by Moz)
- Your sentences are short and easy for the reader to digest. Every word matters and you leave out the jargon. (Here is a great blog post on Convince & Convert that offers 'Six Steps To Turn Jargon-Monoxide Into Human Speak That Connects')
- Where possible you include sub-headings and dot points (This makes it easy for the reader to skim through and pick up the key points, even if they are super busy. Hint: Using your keyword in H1, H2 and H3 headings boosts your Google search ranking)
- You INFORM the reader, BEFORE promoting yourself.
- It is written to one person. People like to feel as if they are the only person in the room, and that you wrote the blog just for them!
- It doesn't over-explain topics. (If something needs too much extra explanation and you find yourself going off topic, link to another helpful blog article that targets that more specifically.)
- It contains helpful links where necessary. Help your readers find the information they need. They will repay the favour in the long term if you are generous enough.
Here are some more helpful SEO Resources that may help you optimize the body of your post;
- 'My 15 Favorite Free SEO tools' - Blog on LunaMetrics
- '10 Essential WordPress Plugins to Improve SEO & Usability' - Blog on Search Engine Watch
End with a bang! Make sure the reader wants to come back for more. And ask for something little in return.
If your reader has made it to the conclusion, and they are the type of person who likes to share content, they will. So that part of your job is done. You have written a compelling enough post for them to read the whole thing and want to share it. Now it is time to remind them of what you have just given them, and how helpful it has been.
Here is a checklist for what to include in your conclusion;
- Make sure the length of your post is appropriate to your audience.
- Offer something very clear your reader can put into action straight away. (You will see below I offer a suggestion for you to print off this blog and use it as a checklist next time you are writing)
- Re-emphasize the power of your 'Ace'. The key point the content of your blog has been anchored to.
- Create a call-to-action. (Get your reader to give something back to you. This may be in the form of a share, a comment, a download or a combination of things)
- Include social media sharing buttons to nudge them in the right direction.(This article from SmallBizTrends.com may be helpful if you are using WordPress: 'Top 10 Social Media Plugins for WordPress.')
- Link to other useful blog posts. (Use this opportunity to recommend other blogs to your reader) Note: This may be inappropriate if you are guest blogging
Next time you are writing a blog, print this post off and use it as a checklist. Even if you tick 80% of what I have mentioned you will be on your way to writing some great, extremely shareable content.
Of course this is not an exact science. I find I write my best blogs from scratch without the guidance of this structure. Once I have something written, a starting point, I will use this checklist to take me to the next level and remind me of what is important. You will find your own groove for writing and optimizing your posts but this is a great guide to help even a seasoned blogger create content that is optimized for readers, search engines and share-ability.
Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would add to the list. If you found this post helpful, share it with your network!