Ali is our Head of Content and Blogging Trainer. She is author of 'Publishing E-Books For Dummies' (Wiley, 2012).
Once you’ve mastered a few basic types of blog posts, it’s easy to get stuck producing the same type of content day after day and week after week.
It’s a great idea to occasionally throw in something a bit different.
Here are eight fantastic structures you can use to craft attention-grabbing blog posts (and to stand out from fellow bloggers in your field). Why not pick one to try this week?
Structure #1: “How I … and how you can too”
Although this format might sound similar to a “how to” post, it won’t necessarily result in a step-by-step guide. Rather than giving instructions, you’re giving your personal experience – and readers will often be fascinated to read exactly how you accomplished something that they’re keen to try.
Tip: Make sure you put plenty of weight on the “how you can too” side of this post, even if you don’t include that wording in the title. Give your readers specific action points (or advice on what not to do!)
- How I Got Published on Forbes.com – and How You Can Too, Kelly Watson, Men with Pens
- Cutting Down on Splurges: How I Did It – And You Can Too, Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar
- How I Leveraged LinkedIn to Create a 7-Figure Business In Three Years, Lewis Howes, Forbes.com
Structure #2: “What is …?”
Whatever your businesses is, there’s a good chance that newcomers will have some basic questions that they want answered, or specialist terms that they want defined. By answering these, you can pick up on search engine traffic and give your readers the basics that they need in order to get more from your blog (and buy from your business).
Tip: This type of post needn’t be long – in fact, it will probably be more effective if you keep it quite concise and straightforward. If you feel that readers will benefit from extra information, consider writing follow-up posts and linking to them.
- What is a Blog?, Daniel Scocco, Daily Blog Tips
- What is RSS?, Darren Rowse, Problogger
- What is a Good Credit Score Rating?, Pinyo Bhulipongsanon, Moolanomy
Structure #3: “Ask the reader: …”
This type of post hardly needs any structure at all: it’s just an introduction, with the main body of the post in the comments. You post a topic for conversation or debate and encourage readers to leave their responses. As well as being great for building your community, this is a good way to find out more about your readers – helping you craft great posts (and offers) in the future.
Tip: Although this might sound like an easy option if you don’t have time to write, you will need to put aside time to read and reply to lots of comments…
- Ask the Reader: What Major New Feature or Change Would You Add to WordPress?, Tom Ewer, ManageWP
- Ask The Reader: What Is Your Bounce Rate?, Daniel Scocco, Daily Blog Tips
- [ask the reader] how can you make the most of your time on earth?, Mary Jaksch, Goodlife Zen
Structure #4: What not to do
This type of post can follow a conventional structure (a list post often works well) – but it has a crucial twist. Instead of giving “do this” advice, you’re writing a post that points out mistakes or tells people what not to do. It’s a tongue-in-cheek way to make readers think – and it can give you a great angle on a done-to-death topic.
Tip: If you’re giving “anti-advice”, like in the example from Dumb Little Man below, make the humour very clear – without tone of voice and body language clues, readers may be confused.
- 10 Ways to Hurt Your Blog’s Brand by Commenting on Other Blogs, Darren Rowse, ProBlogger
- Ten Ways to Make Yourself (And Everyone Around You) Miserable, Ali Luke, Dumb Little Man
- Five Easy Ways to Fail, Joel Spolsky, Inc.com
Structure #5: “The … checklist”
Readers like posts that they can use – and structuring your post as a checklist makes it very easy for them to take action on your great advice. A checklist should help them out with a specific task, and could cover anything from “essentials for starting university” to “optimising a web page”.
Tip: If you can manage it in your blog software, put little tick boxes alongside each item on the checklist – it’s a small thing, but it does help make it look like more than just another list post.
- Checklist: 12 Things You Must do After Writing a New Blog Post [with Infographic], Oli Gardner, Unbounce
- Using Twitter: A Really Simple Daily Checklist, Tim Tyrell-Smith, Tim’s Strategy
- Deployment SEO Strategy and Checklist, Geoff Kenyon, SEOMoz
Structure #6: Case study
A case study is a little like a “how I…” post – but it normally focuses on a business rather than an individual, and it probably won’t be about your business. You might choose to write about a prominent company in your industry, or you could write about one of your clients (with a particular eye to how your company has helped them).
Tip: Go into detail where it’s needed, but try not to get bogged down in too much information at the expense of giving the reader actionable ideas. You may want to have a section at the end of your case study to show what they might be able to apply to their own life / business.
- How an Alaskan Mom Brings Millions to Her Carpentry Blog, Casey Hibbard, Social Media Examiner
- Case Study: Social Media Campaigns Outperform Banner Ads for Driving Quality Web Traffic, Jim Tobin, Ignite Social Media
- How we made $1 million for SEOmoz – with one landing page and a few emails, Conversion Rate Experts
Structure #7: X experts answer…
This is sometimes called a “one question interview” format: you round up a bunch of experts in your field, and ask them to respond to one question (or several quick questions). You then collate these responses into a single post, offering a great range of viewpoints on that particular issue. If you’re new to blogging, or if you’re very busy, you could use existing material (e.g. quotes) on a topic.
Tip: Make sure you allow plenty of time for busy experts to get back to you – and approach, ideally, twice as many people as you need; not all will respond.
- Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work, Daniel Scocco, Daily Blog Tips
- 21 Business Blogging Tips From the Pros, Cindy King, Social Media Examiner
- The Most Creative Link Building Post Ever, Jon Cooper, Point Blank SEO
Structure #8: “30 days to…”
This type of post can be very popular with readers: it acts like a mini online course to help them achieve something sizeable (going well beyond the scope of a typical “how-to” post). It can range from a single post with a timetable of actions to a month-long series.
Tip: You don’t have to use 30 days – 31, 7, 14, or 365 (!) are all other good options.
- 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, Darren Rowse, ProBlogger
- 30 Days to Become a Freelancer, Skellie, Skelliewag
- How to Write a High-Quality eBook in 30 Days, Ali Luke, Copyblogger
Which of these structures will you be trying out this week? (Or have you come up with a whole new idea for a great blog post structure?) Let us know in the comments!