It seems like a lot of people don’t realize this, but how you structure your blog posts really matters.
Just having a huge post with tons of good content is really not enough anymore. Also, a huge chunk of text is not going to be the optimal way to engage users and it isn’t the optimal way to do well in search engines.
In this post, I’m going to write first about how to structure your blog posts to engage users, and secondly about how to structure your blog posts to do well in the search engines and bring in more traffic.
Formatting Posts to Engage Users
Write a compelling and/or descriptive headline that includes keywords
If you want users to find and click on your post in the first place, you need a good post title. A lot of sites are now going with click-bait type titles, the ones that are so compelling people click just to find out what the article is about. While that is a good way to get clicks, it doesn’t help in search engines unless it includes your keywords and/or keyphrase. It also could harm your authority.
As search engines consider permalink length, and in WordPress your title dictates your permalink, you might want to keep the title to around 5 words or so.
Use large, high quality images
If your post shows an image at the top, it needs to be large and high quality. When users visit your post, not all of them will read the whole thing. In fact, under 25% will likely make it to the end. However, just about 100% of people will see that huge image. Use that knowledge to your advantage by displaying something that will either draw users in or explain what your post is about.
Images are also a great way to show what you are talking about, for instance, if you mention a website, maybe an image of that website would be a good idea. Another thing you could do is create infographics that show the information you are writing about. Infographics not only are an easy way to take in information that also draws the eye, they also get shared a lot and can help you get backlinks and views to your blog or website.
The first sentence is also important
Your first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the post. Much like the image point above, a lot more people are reading that first sentence than are making it to the end of the post. You are probably getting around 75% or more of your readers to read your first sentence. Only 25% of those readers will read the whole post. I think the first sentence should focus on drawing people in. Copyblogger has a good article about first sentences which you can read here.
A lot of people “reading” your post are really just skimming it quickly, looking for a section on specific information they want to read about. Help those people out by breaking up your post into different sections that have headings that tell what the section is about. This also is good for search engines, which I’ll write about later in this post.
Use lists or bullet points
Much like the last point about headings, using lists and bullet points helps to format the post into a way that makes it easier for people to read and also helps skimmers out.
Write a tl;dr or summary
When people land on your page, their first thought is something like “is this the information I was looking for?” or maybe “does this post look like something I want to read?” Skimming your post might be difficult if it is long and has a lot of headings. Why not make it easy for people and include a summary at the top (or at the bottom) instead? This method has become common practice on reddit where it is called a tl;dr (too long, didn’t read). I’ve seen a lot of sites that now write summaries, like the Daily Mail.
Use call to actions
Want people to do something on your page? Tell them that or make it really clear what you want them to do. This greatly helps with conversions. For instance, if you want people to subscribe, then put a subscribe box on the page and tell people that you want them to subscribe. If you want them to leave a comment, maybe ask some questions of users and then end with “leave a comment below.”
If you mention something in a post that people might not be clear about, link to it. For instance, in this post I linked out to websites that I mentioned. If you mention something in popular culture, like that Adele Skyfall official music video, link to that so people can easily go see it if they don’t know what you’re talking about. This just makes life easier for users and it also makes your site look natural in Google and search engines.
Give people options at the end of your post
When people reach the end of your post, you are at risk of having them leave your site and never return. They need to have options on what to do next to prevent that from happening. A subscribe form is a great idea, or you could have comments, or social media sharing buttons, and related or popular posts listed. Using all of those things could really help to boost your engagement, your page views, and retain users.
Formatting Posts for Search Engines
On to how to structure your blog posts for search engines.
Hit on researched keywords
This is pretty much a no brainer. If you want your post to be found for a certain keyword, you need to include that keyword in your post. Using it a lot (too much, aka keyword stuffing) could hurt you, so you’ll want to use WordPress SEO by Yoast to help you get the balance of your post just right. If you want to take it a step further, you might consider researching your keywords to find specific keywords or phrases related to your topic that are less competitive yet still bring in a lot of traffic. For instance, “travel” would be a very difficult keyword to compete for. It brings in millions of hits, but you’ll never get near the first page in Google for it. However, “travelling to Lutsen, MN” might be a good keyphrase for your post if there was a decent number of searches per month (use Google’s keyword tool to figure that out) and it isn’t competitive.
Use SEO metadata
You can write a meta description for your post to help you do better in search engines. I like to use WordPress SEO by Yoast for this (I mentioned it in the point above). Your title, meta description, and page content should all hit on your keyword or phrase.
Add sharing buttons
If people can easily share your content, they are more likely to do so. After all, they need to merely click a button instead of opening a new window, copy and pasting your link, and hitting send. Social shares are becoming more and more important in SEO, so this is something every blog should have.
Optimize For Speed
Search engines consider how fast your site is when ranking it, so you’ll want to be fast. Try to keep the page simple and not memory intensive, use a cache plugin, use a content delivery network, and smush images.
Responsive or mobile design
Google’s April 21st update for mobile design has made it so that being mobile friendly is now a factor in where you show up in search engine result pages. As such, you’ll want to be mobile friendly. You can read more about that here.
Links matter to search engines and help build both your page and domain authority. Be sure to try to build links naturally, aka don’t just randomly link stuff and don’t build tons of links that all have the same anchor text. I think you should link to anything you mention to help users and keep your link profile looking natural. I also would try to mention your own content a few times in each post and link to that as well.
Try to get your keyword into your URL or web page address. For instance if you had a travel article about 21 amazing travel tips for people going to southeast asia, you would want the url to be example.com/21-amazing-travel-tips-for-people-going-to-southeast-asia instead of example.com/21-amazing-tips as the latter includes the words travel tips and southeast asia which could be your keywords. There are other ways to do this, like if the category was already in the url, just make sure the keywords are in there somewhere and don’t just use numbers like the WordPress default.
Use schema and/or google structured data
Schema is a way to tell search engines what your content means, as opposed to just what it says. Instead of just being a post of content with keywords, you can label your content as being related to a topic, like restaurants, movies, web design, local business, there are hundreds of different types. Schema was created by a team of people from search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo so that those search engines could better understand people’s content and index it better. Google has a useful tool to add schema to your posts, which you can read about on KissMetrics here.
Add ALT tags
What’s an ALT tag? That is when you have an image and you include a tag inside of it that can say anything you want. Ideally, it would hit on your keywords and tell what the image is about. This is not only good for SEO, but can help you get traffic if people end up sharing your image online, or if they just happen on your image in the image search results.
How to structure your blog posts
When it comes to “how to structure your blog posts,” there really is a lot to consider! The two main things we have discussed are making the post easily readable for the users and easily readable for search engines. Both of those have a lot of parts, but I find that once you get things figured out and fall into a blogging routine, these really are manageable things that you kind of stop thinking about all together.