If you were to go skydiving and bet your life on a folded-up pile of nylon, you would first go over a checklist and make sure everything is just right with your gear.
The same principle applies to your blog content, if you don’t want it to crash and burn when it hits the internet. The following are eight critical elements that should be included in your blog posts:
1. Magnetic headline
If you’ve ever met with investors and made an elevator pitch—a quick two-minute presentation about your business—you know that the goal isn’t to get funding right then and there, but to deliver enough information so that the investors will want to hear more.
It’s the same with a blog headline. It has to:
- Give some indication what your article is about, and
- Make the prospect want to at least check out your first paragraph.
In other words, it needs to be magnetic—it needs to pull people in.
Sometimes adding emotional words to the headline will give it the added magnetism required. In other cases, the information you’re offering will, on its own, be enough of a draw. However, even when you’re presenting great content, spice up your headline with a word or two that will grab readers and make it stand out. People are moved to act by their emotions.
2. Compelling lead
I want to be very clear about how I’m using the word “compelling” here. In news reporting, a lead should pull together the important points of the news story. But that’s not necessarily true in a blog. The first sentence or short paragraph of your blog must compel visitors to read your second paragraph—you want to draw your readers in. Don’t take forever to get to the point, and make sure there’s sufficient build up so that readers will want to know more about the information you’re presenting and appreciate it once they understand your ideas.
3. Useful subheads
Subheads serve three purposes:
- They break up the type to make the page more visually appealing,
- They help your reader navigate to important sections, and
- They boost search engine optimization (SEO).
Disclaimer: Regarding my third point, it used to be we insisted on using keywords in one or more subheads, but this doesn’t seem as important anymore. I will explain this more in the next section when I touch on keywords; however, using descriptive phrases that capture your key “ideas” in subheads will probably help your SEO.
The first two points are always important. A long page of continuous type turns away a lot of potential readers. We’ll come back to this in the section on graphics. Also, once readers finish your article, they may want to jump back and go over a point; subheads should help this.
4. Informative and engaging body
The body is the “meat and potatoes” of your blog post. It can be about anything—from new, incisive observations that will revolutionize the life or business of your reader, or a funny story about what happened to you on the way to work yesterday. If you’re establishing your authority, you’ll want to author one kind of post; if you’re trying to develop a personal relationship with your prospects, you’ll want to author a different kind of post. The question is, “What’s your goal today?”