You might think that the most important part of writing a good blog post is the writing (it is essential), but there are actually some hurdles that readers need to clear before they even read the first word. Blog structure is about keeping up appearances, both for individual posts and across your entire website, so that people don’t abandon your site when they see a poorly structured post. No matter how much blog promotion you've done, bad structure could ruin the user experience.
Readers usually want to scan things they read online; it’s just the reality of how people consume information. People do read badly structured writing, but usually only if they have to. And online, there are too many other choices available for you to neglect the structure of your own writing or guest writers’.
Hurdles Between Readers And Your Content:
Often, how you present your content is just as important as what the actual content is. When someone arrives at your website or blog, they’re taking in the whole website first, and then digesting the individual sections. So you have a few seconds where your web design and post structure can turn them off and make them leave your site without reading word one.
So, even if you get someone to your page with good content and SEO best practices, your lack of structure might be driving them away. When readers see writing that is sectioned, well organized and easy to skim (like, for instance, this keyword research post by Preston Van Dyke), they’ll stay on the page longer and be more likely to click internal and external links.
Blog Post Structure That Engages Readers:
Even if you don’t choose a specific blog post format, you should know the general topic you want to address, with at least one specific question or idea to focus on. People fall back on top-10 lists or FAQ formats because they’re easy, ready-made structures to build upon. But without flow and overall story-arc, aside from the format, all you have is a skeleton of a post with no meat on the bones.
When people read something you've written, they almost subconsciously feel that you’re building up to something, and that the arc of the piece you’re writing is drawing toward some conclusion. And when they sense that underlying structure, they want to stick with you until the end. You don’t need a pre-set framework when you have an idea around which to build a flowing structure. Let’s look at how to do that.
The basic three elements of a post seem simple, but you’d be surprised how often introduction, body and conclusion are ignored:
This is your setup. You want to lay out the general idea that you’ll be addressing throughout the rest of your post. Intros can be hard to do when you’re not exactly sure where you’re going. It’s always smart to rewrite your introduction after you've finished the wrapping things up. You don’t have to give away your conclusion, but you should at least point the reader in the direction where you’re heading.
Here, you’ll really start to dig into the meat of your topic. There’s no set structure, here, but you have to make it scannable. Large blocks of unbroken text are like Brussels sprouts; nobody really wants to eat them.
Scannable blog posts break up the body with keyword rich subheadings, illustrative lists, bolded intro phrases or numbered steps that guide the reader through the content. These are the visual anchors that people use to navigate your post and which hook people into staying on the page.
A short note about images: Think about the difference between pictures you’ll see in newspapers and magazines that are associated with a story, and then think about what commercial pages and advertisements look like. Real, relevant photos might not look as polished as stock photos, but they’re always a sign that the blog owner cares more about crafting a relevant experience for their audience, and I’m more inclined to read their stuff if I think I’m getting good content instead of an ad.
The conclusion to just about any type of writing too often gets abused or neglected. It’s not a recap of what you just wrote — forget that high school essay junk. And too many posts just end when the writer ran out of things to say. They (maybe) slap a question on the end, meant to solicit comments, and pretend they've actually come to some type of resolution.
Conclusions should be just that, a conclusion you reach based on the thoughts you've been mulling over in the body of the post. There are several strategies for writing conclusions, each working for different ideas. Stop and think about what you wrote, give some closure to the topic by giving your considered opinion on the questions you've raised. Anyone who has read that far clearly considers you worth reading, and they’re waiting to hear your judgment on things.
Maintain Blog Structure Consistently:
The form and structure that content takes on your site or blog needs to be consistent in order to look professional. Regular readers are going to keep coming back because they like what you do. If you change it up too often, they’ll stop getting what they liked about your writing and your site in the first place. Find structures that work for the types of posts you like to write, and require guest writers to conform to that style, if only generally. It’ll do wonders for your bounce rates, and help you develop a loyal readership more quickly.
I hope you found these tips on how to write a scannable blog post useful. I'm curious to know what blog formats do you use? Are you a slave to structure, or do you keep things more free form for yourself and for guest bloggers?