Blog Guidelines And Templates

The Most Basic Blog Post Structure

Every blog post has four key elements:

The title: grabs attention and makes a promise (which needs to be fulfilled by the end of your post).

The introduction: hooks the reader, draws them in, and sets up the post.

The main body: works through a logical sequence of points, holding the reader’s attention.

The conclusion: ends the post decisively and calls the reader to take action.

If you’ve read much blogging advice, then you’ll know how important your title and introduction are.

You may struggle when it comes to crafting the main body of your post, and if you’re like a lot of bloggers, you probably leave off the conclusion entirely.

Types of strongly structured posts to try out:

1. The List Post

Example: Ten Biggest Business Mistakes That Every Entrepreneur Should Avoid

We’re sure you have read plenty of list posts. They are popular with bloggers and readers alike.

List posts are easy to plan and structure, and your readers find them valuable even if only a couple of points apply to them.

List posts can be short or long, and normally consist of numbered subheadings with anything from a couple of sentences to several paragraphs expanding on each one.

When writing list posts, you want to be careful with…

#1: Structuring the individual list items. In the example post, linked above, the author first explains the mistake then explains what to do instead, for each mistake on the list.

You can go even further with a structure like this and add in extra subheadings.

#2: Adding a call to action. Too many list posts simply end, abruptly, with the final item. Instead, end with something that briefly sums up the post. A simple sentence or a small conclusion is fine plus a call to action.

Sample conclusion and call to action for a blog post:

These are just some of the top business mistakes I see new entrepreneurs make. Have you made any of these business mistakes? Got a mistake that you see others making that I didn’t list? Share them in the comments below.

2. The Round-up Post

Example: 10 Things Exceptionally Productive Entrepreneurs Do Every Day

This is a variation on the list post, and not only an easy way to structure a post but also an easy way to come up with some great content. A round-up post brings together experts in your niche to share their thoughts on a particular question or topic.

If you have just a few experts on board, it makes sense to ask them each several questions in order to provide enough content.

Round-up posts can also be used for links to great blog posts – perhaps with some thoughts from you about each post, and/or a quote from the post. You can do this for other people’s great content or for content on your own blog – e.g. a “Best of Best WordPress tutorials of 2014 on WPBeginner”.

When writing a round-up post, be careful with…

#1: Putting the experts in a logical order. Many bloggers do this alphabetically by surname to avoid suggesting that one expert is “better” than another. Others will put responses in the order in which they arrived (i.e. the first person to email you back goes first in the post).

#2: Editing the responses that you get. You may find that some experts provide a sentence or two and others write whole paragraphs. Sometimes, a hastily written email from a busy expert will contain typos. It’s fine to fix minor mistakes, and most people will be happy for you to cut their response down a bit if it’s too long.

3. The Review or Recommendation Post

Example: MaxCDN Review

This type of post doesn’t normally follow a list format, but it still has a structure. Typically, a review or recommendation post begins by introducing and briefly explaining the product or service and ends with a verdict on whether or not it’s a good purchase.

A review will normally give some points both for and against, while coming down on one side or the other. A recommendation may be more straightforward – and often shorter.

It might make sense to recommend five or ten products or services in a single list post whereas with a review, it’s harder to do this (though you could compare two or three competing products).

When writing a review or recommendation post, be careful with…

#1: Making it clear how to actually get the product. If the whole point of reviewing/recommending is so you can use an affiliate link, include the link in key places in your post (otherwise people may just Google the name of the product) rather than just having it once. Put it in the introduction and conclusion at the very least, and if you’re using an image of the product, use that as a link too.

#2: Separating your review into clear points. In the example above, I use an infographic to explain the importance of the CDN and then summarize the benefits in a bullet-list.

More examples of different review post structures:

23 Top Tools for WordPress Developers

Switching Away from Disqus Review – Increased Comments by 304%

4. How-To Post

Example: How to Create a Sitemap in WordPress

A how-to post is fairly easy to write and structure especially when you put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

Jot down step by step instructions in an ordered list format. Once you have that, you can expand each instruction into its own section with more details or simply use your ordered list format.

When writing a how-to post, be careful with…

#1: Making sure that you and the reader start at the same point. For example, in the article above, the author makes a point to explain what is a XML sitemap before they started the how-to process.

#2: You have clear instructions about the process. If you skip steps, then it will leave the reader extremely frustrated.

Getting structure right isn’t particularly tricky, but it does take some thought. What will you be doing differently when you plan and structure your next post? Let us know in the comments below.

Anatomy Of A Blog

5 Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb – AVOID AT ALL COSTS!

One thing blogging and good copywriting share is a conversational style, and that means it’s fine to fracture the occasional rule of proper grammar in order to communicate effectively. Both bloggers and copywriters routinely end sentences with prepositions, dangle a modifier in a purely technical sense, or make liberal use of the ellipsis when an EM dash is the correct choice—all in order to write in the way people actually speak.

But there are other mistakes that can detract from your credibility. While we all hope what we have to say is more important than some silly grammatical error, the truth is some people will not subscribe or link to your blog if you make dumb mistakes when you write, and buying from you will be out of the question.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when blogging and writing web copy.

1. Your vs. You’re

This one drives us insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day we have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it’s taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

SEO Checklist

Guidelines to follow:

Passive voice: which is more than the recommended maximum of 10%. Try to use their active counterparts.

Sentence length: which is more than the recommended maximum of 25%. Try to shorten the sentences.

Flesch Reading Ease: The copy scores 57.1 in the test, which is considered fairly difficult to read. Try to make shorter sentences to improve readability.

Internal links: No internal links appear in this page, make sure to add some!

Keyphrase in introduction: Your keyphrase or its synonyms do not appear in the first paragraph. Make sure the topic is clear immediately.

Keyphrase density: The focus keyphrase was found 1 time. That’s less than the recommended minimum of 2 times for a text of this length. Focus on your keyphrase!

Keyphrase in subheading: Use more keyphrases or synonyms in your higher-level subheadings!

Keyphrase in title: The exact match of the keyphrase appears in the SEO title, but not at the beginning. Try to move it to the beginning.

14 Point Checklist Before Publishing

1. Do You Have a Catchy Title?

If you don’t have a catchy title, then chances are that your blog post will not be read or shared by many. Just like you would ignore a book with a bad cover, people ignore blog posts with bad titles. Yup we’re shallow.

Before you publish your blog post, make sure that your headline is catchy. The best way to find out is to run your headline through EMV headline analyzer to find the emotional marketing value of your headline.

You can also use Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule which also gives tips on how to improve your headline.

2. Make Sure Your SEO Title is Under 60 Characters

Usually your blog post title and SEO title is the same, so you need to make sure that it is less than 60 characters long. Why? If it’s not, then Google and other search engines will cut it off. That’s why I always try to make my SEO titles the right length. In some cases, my SEO title and blog post title may be a little different to meet the character limit.

If you’re not using Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, then I highly recommend that you do so because it has a preview area that shows you how your title will be displayed in Google.

3. Do you have a Meta Description?

Meta description is the short description that search engines and social networks display below your post title. If you don’t write a custom meta description, then search engines simply grab the first few sentences and cut it off which doesn’t look very good.

That’s why you should write a custom meta description that’s under 160 characters long.

4. Is your Focus Keyword in Title, Description, and Post Content?

Whenever you are writing an article, it should have a central theme also known as focus keyword. You need to make sure that your title, meta description, and your post content includes the focus keyword that you are trying to rank for. (ideal placement 1st line and last line).

For example: the focus keyword of this article would be blog post checklist.

You could manually read your article, use Ctrl + F to find how many times you mentioned the focus keyword, or you could use Yoast SEO plugin which automatically tells you all this.

5. Do you have related keyword variations in your article?

Often beginners make the mistake of keyword stuffing their article. Don’t do that! Instead what you should do is write in natural language and make sure that you add related keyword variations in your article. To do this, you need to Google your main keyword, scroll down and look at searches related to … section.

This is one of the ninja blog tactics in most SEO’s on-page blog post checklist.

6. Are you interlinking your blog posts?

Interlinking is great for both SEO because it helps with increasing pageviews and reducing bounce rate. In every post you write, you should try to interlink at least 1 – 2 of your previous articles. This is hard at first, but becomes easier as you write more content on your site.

7. Make sure all external links open in a new window

Having external links that helps your user learn more about the topic is great and helpful. However if that comes at an expense of the user leaving your site by clicking on that link, now that sucks. To prevent that from happening, you should always open all external links in a new window.

This will reduce bounce rate from your own site when linking to external resources.

8. Add proper image credits and sources

Not caring much for image credits and sources is bad. Adding any image by doing an image search on Google and without giving the relevant credits is wrong.

DON’T DO THAT! —- You’ll regret it later.

You should make sure that you have added proper credits and sources for your images.

We personally use Shutterstock for a lot of our images. It is honestly one of the best investments you can make for your blog. Here are few other royalty free image resources that are completely free.

9. Do your images have alt tags?

Make sure that all the images that you add have proper alt tags. This helps with accessibility and image SEO. I won’t write too much about this.

10. Check post thumbnail for proper social media dimensions

First, make sure that your post has a thumbnail. Second, make sure that it is the right dimension for Facebook, Google+, Twitter Cards, etc.

Since each network has different image sizes, I find that if you’re over 500px by 300px – you’re good to go. If your theme has a smaller thumbnail size, then you can upload a separate thumbnail image for Facebook, Twitter, etc by using Yoast SEO plugin’s social setting.

11. Do you have proper sections (h2, h3, lists, formatting?)

You need to make sure that your blog post is easy to read. Headings (h2, h3 tags), lists, bold, italicize, short paragraphs, and other formatting can help with the overall reading experience.

Make sure that your article is easy to read.

12. Check for call-to-actions

Does your post have a call-to-action?

Usually at the end of the blog post, you should ask your readers to comment on your blog post, purchase your product, follow you on social media, etc. Our favorite call-to-action these days is a content upgrade which you can see in this post as well. Here’s some numbers on how this helps increase conversions by 845%. Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure it is there!

13. Add categories and tags

It sucks when you publish a post and completely forget to set a category. In which case it shows as uncategorized. That’s why it’s always recommended that you add your post to a category and add relevant tags.

14. Preview and Test

Last thing before you publish, you should preview the post to see how it looks on your website. Click through the links to see they all work and make sure all images and formatting are good.

Once you do that, go ahead and publish.

Grammar Resources

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