There are a ton of blog posts about…well, blog posts. What’s the perfect length, the ideal structure, and the must have elements?

Based on our experience and the insight garnered from many of those other posts, here’s our list (bearing in mind some industry-specific caveats):

Audience

Who are you writing for? Define in general and specifically for each post. Use the personas you’ve developed (need help, Mike King did a great post on Moz), let one of them (one of your target audience members that is) read it if you can.

Here’s a sample of the four potential audiences for a health insurance provider client:

  1. Members/Subscribers/Current Customers
    • What do they care about?
    • They can be your biggest advocates
  2. Potential Members/General Public
    • Educate, inform, enlighten
  3. Brokers/Re-sellers
    • Help them do their jobs
  4. Media/Influencers
    • Be a resource
    • Create a link opportunity

Headline

Length

Headlines should be one to two lines (lines as in the width of a page, not lines as in full sentences), the beginning and the end are most important as readers absorb the first three and last three words of headlines. Here are some other quick tips:

  1. About 55 characters are ideal for SEO; otherwise it will get truncated (…)
  2. If you use WordPress use Yoast SEO Plugin

Strategies

What should the headline focus on? Here are some ideas for a destination wedding planning client:

  1. Ask or answer a question – “What Do You Need to Know About Destination Weddings?”
  2. How to – “How to Negotiate a Room Block”
  3. Use numbers – “5 Tips for Finding a Florist in Cabo”
  4. Reference your audience – “Brides to be need to know…”
  5. Surprise – “What If Nobody Comes to Your Wedding?”
  6. News – “Tsunami Wedding! How to Prepare for the Unexpected”

Formula: Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise = Ultimate Headline

Hookcaptain_hook

  1. Tell a story – the headline will get their attention, a story will make a reader continue
    • Personal anecdotes are appreciated
    • Can be personal about someone else (politician, celebrity, influencer)

Layout

Image placement
  1. Place image at top (we prefer top right along the first paragraph if there is a lot of copy in the opening) to make the initial paragraph seem shorter.
  2. And/or, use a larger font for opening paragraph so it is easier to read.
  3. Multiple images are good to break up content and provide alternatives for social sharing
Short paragraphs are best
  1. One idea or thought per paragraph
  2. Not “text book” or AP Style writing; readers expect to be able to scan and digest quickly online

Use subheads

  1. Break up content using subheads; people scan while reading on the internet
    • Use header tags (H1 for Title/Headline; H2’s and H3’s for subheads)
  2. These can also provide readers an easily sharable call out to use while sharing socially (see Share-ability below)

Want more details? Listen to the PR Talk episode about this post

Infrastructure

Call to action
Social share buttons
  1. Only use/show the most relevant ones (e.g. just because you could have a button to easily share on MySpace, you don’t need it and it is just confusing/overwhelming)
  2. Have an obvious “tweetable” quote
    • Can even call out “Tweet this quote” or use plugin (see Share-ability below)
Images (see Layout above)
Simple, sharable, searchable URLs
  1. Short with keywords from headline/title
Bio – have a short bio of the author; people like to know who is “talking” to them
  1. Some recommend using the sidebar, but at the bottom is fine too (with headshot)
  2. A short summary bio that links to a full bio works well
Newsletter Signup Form

Email newsletter signup form should be in sidebar or some like to have it permanently across the top (moves down with you as you read)

Sidebar, preferably on the right. Potential items include:
  1. Recent Posts
  2. Top Posts
  3. Blog Categories
  4. Author bio
  5. Email newsletter sign-up
  6. Social Media profile links
  7. Offer (white paper, case study)
  8. Quick value prop
  9. Contact form
  10. Quick “About Us”
  11. Tags 

Timing

Day of the week?
  1. Experiment to start, then follow the data
  2. Social media stats can provide initial insight (i.e. when your followers are engaged on Facebook)
Time of the day?
  1. Experiment to start, then follow the data
  2. Social media stats can provide initial insight (i.e. when your followers are engaged on Facebook)
Post posting and social promotion
  1. Schedule social promotions – at least three

i.      At time of post

ii.      X hours later (e.g. six hours after initial publishing, or the next day)

iii.      X days later (e.g. if you typically post in Tuesday, promote again on Friday or the following week)

Share-ability

Be sure to have easily shareable elements in your posts

  1. A “tweetable” quote
  2. Pull out quotes to break-up content and provide easy to share tidbits, like this from Buffer
  3. Can be integrated into blog

A tweetable quote can be a key element of a good blog post

Click to Tweet

  1. Images that will encourage sharing and reading 

Length

Not too short; but not too long (which of course is a relative thing).

Ideal blog posts are 1,000 to 1,500 words
  1. Under 500 is too short
  2. Longer posts (long form content) is not bad, but need you need to break it up as it can be intimidating. Social sharing starts to go down after about 1,500 words
Should take about 7 minutes to read

Links

http://blog.bufferapp.com/perfect-blog-post-research-data

http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/content-marketing-seo/anatomy-perfect-blog-post/

http://www.quicksprout.com/2014/07/07/11-essential-elements-of-a-perfect-blog-design-a-data-driven-answer/

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Mike Rosenberg
CEO at Veracity
Mike Rosenberg is CEO at Veracity. He brings experience and passion from two distinct, yet similar, career paths in sports business marketing and online marketing. Mike shares his marketing expertise as an Advisory Board Member and Past President of SEMpdx, a professional business organization for the digital marketing industry.