Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

4 Essential Elements to Writing a Great Blog Post

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Writing for a blog is hard. At times, it can feel daunting. In fact, I struggled with coming up with words to write this morning. At times like this, a little structure can help.

Skeleton

Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over the past year or so, I’ve started studying prolific, influential bloggers, and I’ve realized something: They all have a system and structure for blogging.

While the structures vary, they all some kind of general form they follow. And you should, too, if you’re going to be prolific, if you’re words are going to leave a legacy.

So what is the skeleton of a great blog post? What do I use? Good question.

Depending on the focus of your blog and your particular voice, your approach may be different, but most powerful blog posts I’ve read have four important elements to them. They are:

1. An attention-grabbing headline

A good blog post is about one topic, one story, one idea. Not 57. Not 101. Just one.

Before you begin blogging, figure out what you want to write about. Choose a mock headline to give yourself some structure (you can always change it later), and start writing.

Good titles are interesting, descriptive, and engaging. It should read like a magazine headline or a TV newsflash, daring the reader to click the link. (If you need help, read this post: “5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines“.)

This is the first thing your readers see — and the only thing, if you don’t do it right. Take time crafting a great headline. This is the first step (and the last) before you hit “publish.”

2. A captivating lead paragraph

You know how much first impressions matter, right? So why aren’t you writing like it? Why are you wasting readers’ time with frivolous details and silly little anecdotes?

When it comes to the Internet — when people’s attention spans are even more limited than with print — your opening paragraph is crucial. Don’t blow it. Journalists know this. It’s ingrained in them. “Don’t bury the lede,” they say. If you don’t hook your readers immediately, you will lose them forever.

Start off with a quote, a question, or a bold, audacious statement. You only have one shot. Make it count.

3. Interesting supporting points

This is the body of the article. It’s the “meat” of the post — what will back up your main topic or argument.

Every story you tell or idea you share needs to have supporting rationale, something the readers can sink their teeth into. They don’t all need to neatly fit into a three-point argument or a seven-step process, but you can’t be all over the place.

Consider what you want to say and how you will back it up. A great way to organize is to make a list of bullet points. Then, write the body of the post using these as your main sections (if appropriate turn the points into subheads, like I did with this post).

If your blog post is a road, these points are the street signs leading your reader to the end.

4. A compelling call-to-action

If you’ve hooked your readers’ attention with a good title, drawn them in with an interesting lead paragraph, and then led them through with compelling points, now you need to wrap it up.

Don’t be vague. You don’t want your audience wondering why they bothered reading your post in the first place, do you? Give them something to take away.

Want your audience to reflect on a particular idea? To do something? Respond somehow? Whatever it is, be clear about it. It will not just happen. You will get what you ask for. This is the part of the post where you invite your readers to answer a question, leave a comment, or share your post. Make it clear and actionable.

Put it all together

When I write a blog post, I follow each of these four elements, treating them as steps. Here’s how I typically blog:

  1. Choose a topic and write a headline.
  2. Write the lead paragraph.
  3. List a few main points in the body.
  4. Write your call-to-action.
  5. Edit and revise. (At this point, I usually revise the headline.)
  6. Proofread.
  7. Publish (checking the headline one last time to make sure it still works).

Do this every time you publish, and you’ll struggle less with coming up with content. The structure may feel kind of stiff at first, but this is like any practice you do — eventually, it starts to feel normal.

It may not always be easy, but you’ll have a structure for when you get stuck. And you’ll always know how to begin.

What’s your process for writing blog posts? Share in the comments.

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://twitter.com/JMcCannWriter Jessica McCann

    This is a great snapshot of what makes a great blog post. Thanks for breaking it down so simply, and THANK YOU for including numbers 5 and 6. Editing and proofing are such important steps in the process.

    • Mary Parlange

      Amen, Jessica. Nothing sends me zooming away from a blog like misspelled words, grammatical mistakes and typos. It’s worth being anal about this part, IMHO.

  • Anthony V. Toscano

    Jeff, I like your list, although I don’t usually write what are these days considered Blog Posts. Instead, I post creative writing to my website. I’m old to your young, so I won’t be around to see if my predictions come true. But I believe the day is coming soon when readers will not pay for what other people write. With the dawn of the Web and Social Networks came the new realization that anyone with a keyboard and the desire to use it can claim to be a writer. But to your question, I’d add: 1. Turn off Twitter, Email, your Web Browser and the like while you’re writing. Turn them back on only when you’re ready to post what you wrote. and 2. Dress in your PJs, your robe, your underwear, or in nothing at all while you’re writing. Suits and neckties, belts and buckles, buttons and bras, choke creative juices.

    • Miranda Ochocki

      I like your first add Anthony! I found myself getting distracted by a “ding” or I go to simply look up a quote and find that it is 20 minutes later and I’m on Facebook or Twitter. I have now learned to save my “fact finding” for the first or last part of my writing time, but never while I am in the middle of writing. I lose focus and then begin to think my topic is silly or unimportant.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        that’s a great discipline, miranda.

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon

    Yes!  Thank you.  It’s coming off the printer right now.

  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    Great structure for any blog post. Thanks, Jeff. :)

  • marissa stanfield

    hey I am really loving your tips. Super helpful! I’m at http://www.mommysstrugglesandsnuggle.blogspot.com. I’ve been struggling with writing regularly and still being creative. So thanks for the tips.

  • http://www.madebydenise.net Denise Smedley

    This might be one of my favorite “how to” posts from you.

    Simple and practical.  Very nice.

  • http://twitter.com/hventura Henrique Ventura

    Very helpful for someone like me, who’s thinking about becoming a blog writer.
    And, you did follow thw rules you posted! ;)

  • Phillip Dickinson

    I found this very helpful.  Thanks.

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

    Jeff, 

    I notice that sometimes you (and other bloggers) put certain key sentences in bold or italics. In this post, you have a key idea in the opening few lines, and then your call to action is in bold. 

    That is a helpful tip also, as it helps “scanners.” 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Good, simple template to follow. I appreciate the structured information about structure. I’ll take this article out for a little spin on the information highway and see what she’ll do–i.e. apply it to my next post and see how this baby feels in the writing room.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for the great information. I’m going to tweak your suggestions and see how they can help improve my blogging skills.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, great post, great information. I have been blogging for about a 18 months with one entry per week. I have found it helpful to “build” a blog entry much like you describe. I found your steps familiar to me as I was reading through them even though I may do them in a different order. I just subscribed to your blog and look forward to keeping up…Kevin

    lessonsfrommatthew.com

    A blog about the special joys and sorrows of raising a special needs child/sibling with CHARGE Syndrome…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, kevin.

  • http://thecormierfamily.org/Jason/ Jason

    One thing I do is make sure to write about what I know.  I also try to find ways to write about things from a new perspective.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      both excellent.

      • http://thecormierfamily.org/Jason/ Jason

        Thanks

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  • Anonymous

    I’m still quite green as a blogger.  This was extremely helpful.  Thank you!  Having only been posting for a few weeks, with as many followers, there is much I need to improve.  On the upside, it’s too early for me to have developed any bad habits yet!!!

    One thing I do that I will probably keep doing is to publish my post after walking away from the finished product for a bit.  Almost so I can try to imagine I am the reader with fresh, unbiased eyes.  Like my iTunes shopping cart, I let it sit for 24 hours.  If it still seems like a good idea the next day, I go with it!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      glad it helped

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  • http://indonesiantraveladvisor.blogspot.com Klikharry

    it is very helpful, thank you so much

  • http://profiles.google.com/lialondon.g Lia London

    Why look! It’s the formula for the 5-paragraph essay we used to teach our high school students…. But on steroids!  :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • http://post404.com/ Randall Arnold

    Yup, it all makes perfect sense.  Thanks for the reminder.  ;)

  • Swanim4u

    i always used to think of start writing a blog but i had no clue where to start from. but reading your post, i came to know where i lacked. i love whatever you write. 

  • TJ

    I cite the sources in my blog posts but someone just told me I have to link to it. I don’t agree. what do you think?

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