Blogging

Create a structure for your blog posts

Do your blog posts have a Corporate Design?
Do you follow a checklist when finalizing an article before publishing?

Create specific article style rules

In addition to 7 Easy Tips To Maximize Your Blog Posts by Ryan and several other articles on pperformancing.com and the Internet about creating a good blog post I would like to add some advice for fresh bloggers.

Beside having an easy to understand template design (Header, navigation, content, footer, sidebar) you should also optimize the outline of your articles.

Create an outline checklist if you think you have a well written and well designed article.

Basic structure

Having no structure simply looks amateurish!

  1. Title
  2. First paragraph
  3. Headline 1
  4. Paragraph 1
  5. (…)
  6. Additional information

This example looks pretty boring but many bloggers will already forget to have an introducing first paragraph and the additional information. The typical article structure seen on simple blogs is in many cases:

  1. Title
    • Two or three sentences
    • A blockquote
    • A link out

Those elements are wildly mixed in order from article to article. Additionally wildly spread ads and sidebar elements confuse the reader focus. This way a regular follower will have an uncomfortable feeling because every article looks different.

Easy enhancements

  1. Title
  2. Sub title
  3. First introducing paragraph and the important first sentence
  4. Headline 1
  5. Paragraph 1
  6. Sub headline 1
  7. Paragraph 2
  8. (…)
  9. Additional information

Adding a sub title adds an eye catcher and draws the reader into the article. The sub title can include a personal comment to give the rough direction.

The first sentence following the sub title should be fact rich like a one sentence abstract of the following. Do not emphasize on personal expressions like “Yesterday I thought I should write this article but my mother in law ordered me to her house to paint the wall. In the evening bla bla bla…”

Sub headlines offer orientation points in your text. Reading text online which has no orientation marks will make the reader exit the article before the end because scrolling and keeping the focus at the same time is difficult.

The title, the sub title and the first sentence are the most important article entries which will motivate the reader to read on!

Content elements

Also the order and existence of content elements for certain types of articles is important. Checklist examples:

  • Easy example: Writing book reviews should be accompanied by i.e. Amazon ads on top and/or bottom.
  • More advanced: If writing a restaurant tip an embedded map is a good enhancement. Before publishing the article make sure that the map is embedded.
  • More advanced: If you are embedding videos make sure that you have some surrounding content and not only “Heh, heh, how funny. Watch this:”. Add some comment quotes below the video. Add the video info quote above the video. Add links to the publisher or quote interesting comment snippets from some other blog.
  • Very advanced: Switch subject in the article. Let’s say you want to transport some very dry information about election computers and their risks. How about tying in some death valley hot juicy content before that death valley dry information part? Here my example: Texas Legislation. Taking the funny & fitting story of the video made it possible to come to the main content later. It’s kind of a camouflage or better mimicry technique to draw readers attention.
  • Very easy but very often forgotten: Add a links and bookmarks section at the end of an article. Advanced: Fill that paragraph from your i.e. del.icio.us RSS feed (on my to-do list since, well, long).

To-Do – Your content structure

The above examples are only scratching the surface. Develop your own design rules for different article types. Reviews, personal notes, link lists and articles in general will all need their own set of rules. The rules should be in form of a ordered checklist. The checklist will make sure that you do some quality control before publishing.

  • Develop your own structure
  • Make it a corporate blog design rule
  • Write it down as a checklist
  • Before publishing the article: Double check the content elements
  • Before publishing the article: Lean back and ask yourself “Can I add something else?”

If you love word processing then create forms in your preferred software.

In my blogging experience it was very helpful for creating content rich articles to develop such checklists. My first articles were a mess and badly structured. After starting to write into my outlines and doing content element checks I knew that my articles are OK even if I have a bad day.

Author: markusm

10 thoughts on “Create a structure for your blog posts

  1. How deep you go into that template thing is of course your choice. For writing longer pieces of text a good word processor can be a help in many ways compared to typing into a web form. I am using OpenOffice for heavy word processing, a simple text editor for backup reasons and a nice HTML editor.

    But as I am pretty HTML savvy and my Firefox and System is equipped with great extra writing and research add-ons I normally don’t need to switch to a word processor too often anymore. The reason is simple: Blog posts normally don’t exceed one or two print pages and they are written in one session. If I would write a series of articles I still would prefer Open Office to have all content in one document.

    I choose the word ‘outline’ instead of ‘template’ because ready made outline structures will help to assure your output quality for certain article types via a kind of checklist you have to fulfill. If you look at my blog on performancing.com you might note that I use a kind of pretty constant article structure (which by now is in my head).

  2. So it sounds like it would be easier to have some templates for different kinds of writing in a word processing program. Then on any given day choose the right one and complete the post. And then copy/paste it into the blog??

  3. > “… a well-structured article gets more links.”

    Don’t forget: Reader loyalty will increase! Look at newspapers and how careful they follow their design rules.

  4. @David: Thanks for your feedback. Let me see a result!

    @dfischer: OK

    If you’ve ever wondered the best way to create static websites with Ruby, I have your answer! The best part about the answer, is that it involves HAML and Sass. Here’s a brief tutorial on how to use StaticMatic…

    Ask a question! Don’t wonder. What is the question?
    What do you think is the best way…

    Shorten the abstract and put the important part to the 1st place!
    How-To use StaticMatic. My answer involves …

    The horizontal line distract me! Looks like a finish.

    Structure: Use headlines to divide Download, Installation, …
    Ah, I see you are using dividers “Getting started” IN the sidebar.
    Bad design. I simply didn’t see them as headlines.
    Like ad blindness there is also a sidebar blindness when reading content!!!
    For a better reading flow align content vertically. Don’t make the eyes jump. Your site is no free jazz graphic page. Follow the more boring rules of typography.

    This must be big on top!
    “edit: part 2 is now available to read”
    Offering a series is the best you can do for readership!

    In general I would recommend for a step by step article to strip out personal comments. Be sharp! Lean back and reduce text to a minimum necessary for understanding single steps.

    Btw: Your blog article is no article. It is a list! Think about it.

    That was it in short. I hope it helps the p.com way 🙂

  5. This is a very good idea.

    For a lot of my posts I tend to work out the best structure at the time but this can be time consuming and also opens the risk of missing key bits.

    I am going to sit down and work out the best structure for me to give a consistency to my articles. It should both save me time and benefit my readers.

    Thanks for the tips!

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