Perfect blog posts are key to a successful content marketing strategy. The article below shares nine key ingredients in crafting blog posts that are sure to capture the attention of your readers. CK
Article written by Konrad Sanders originally appeared in Content Marketing Institute on November 12, 2020.
Does anything get the blood pumping like TV’s MasterChef final?
Three wannabe premium chefs are battling for the win.
The clock is ticking.
Who will win?
- Contestant A hasn’t read the overly complex recipe and thinks, “It can’t be that hard, can it?”
- Contestant B sticks to the most boring, well-trodden recipe to play it safe.
- Contestant C meticulously planned the meal, fine-tuning ingredients, tasting, and adjusting along the way.
The hosts are breathing down their necks, heckling their choices: Why are you chopping the chicken like that? Why are you foaming that brie? Why are you boiling that onion whole?
Arms are stirring, chopping, flailing. Steam is steaming and time is running out.
The winning meal must be so delicious, so tantalizing, so indulgent the judges would want to eat it every day for the rest of their lives.
How can you do that with your blog?
I’ve developed a step-by-step recipe MasterChef-style to create blog posts that will entice, seduce, grip, and convert your audience again and again.
Before I run through the juicy details, let’s start with the ingredients:
Got your blogging apron on? Let’s get cooking.
Arguably the most important part of your blog post, the headline reels in readers.
Think of it as the first presentation of your meal to the MasterChef judges.
Does the plate look appetizing? Or is it uninspired, something they’ve seen many times?
Put simply, the headline needs to be a showstopper.
Potential readers should think, “I can’t wait to consume that article.”
They should see value in what will be presented in the post. They need to see what’s in the article for them.
Luckily, you can use some simple, tried-and-tested formulas you can follow to create those tantalizing headlines:
Let’s look at a couple of these delicious headlines in action:
The Bearded Dudes’ Guide to Eating Without Getting Food in Your Beard uses the ultimate list/guide formula. It details a clear, actionable goal – eating without getting food in your beard. It also addresses a funny, but I would imagine common problem that the target audience could relate to.
How Growth Ramp Doubled a Startup’s Revenue in Six Months uses the how-to formula and is designed to grab attention. Six months, you say? I’ll be reading on to find out how.
Is Your Brand Tailoring Messages or Stalking Consumers? Gulp. This fearmongering headline definitely grabs attention. Instantly, the reader is worried that they could be seen as a stalker.
You also can see from these examples that headline types can overlap. The important thing is to pick a primary type based on your article’s content and purpose. Want to delve further into this? Here’s a handy article by CoSchedule.
Your readers have a short attention span.
They skim and lose interest. It’s the way we’re wired.
That’s why the first line or paragraph needs to hook their attention … and hold it.
Take a look at this blog post opening from my agency’s blog.
You’re engaged, right?
- Imagery – “Picturing your reader breaking into a smile” indicates your desired goal because, if your reader smiles, they must like the post.
- Second person – The use of you and your creates a conversation with the reader, encouraging a personal connection.
- Question – If you ask your readers a question, they can’t help but mentally answer it.
- Narrative – It kicks off with a story. Storytelling is one of the most potent tools you can use to grip readers (more on that next).
Here are some ways to create the perfect hook:
- Kick off with an interesting fact. It can be anything relatable to your post topic, but it should interest the reader. This HubSpot article does just that: “According to HubSpot research, Facebook is the top distribution channel for content, and provides the biggest ROI for marketers.”
The trick is to keep it short, punchy, and interesting. If you make it too obscure, you could end up losing your reader.
- Use an anecdote. Anecdotes are short, amusing, or interesting stories about a real incident or person. People can relate to or picture them.
This is an intro to a blog post by Copyblogger: “Ten years ago, a tattoo shop I went to subscribed my email address to their email newsletter.” Instantly you want to know what happened next.
- Ask a poignant/important question. Questions are a great tool for speaking directly to your reader. It gives you the chance to build a rapport and engage.
Here are three examples:
- “You want more free time, right?”
- “How do you like your eggs in the morning?”
- “Are you losing money through unproductivity?”
Questions turn the cogs in the reader’s brain. And they’ll keep reading to carry on the conversation.
Storytelling should be your best writing friend.
Masterful storytelling is a tale as old as time. It’s an ancient art form (with a little bit of science thrown into the mix). Think of it as the ingredient in your blog dish that doesn’t come in a raw form. Storytelling blitzes multiple components in a mortar and pestle for a game-changing desired result.
Let’s look at the spices.
Cast your mind to a ghost story that enthralled you as a child. The storyteller set the scene. They created the characters. They built a world of suspense.
That’s powerful stuff. And the most powerful thing is you still remember it.
Why? The suspense created a connection that resonated.
How do you do this?
Tease them early with what’s to come, such as:
- By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll be a [insert profession] expert.
- As you lap up every drop of this blog post, you’ll become more and more …
- The tips you’re about to read will drastically help you improve …
Weave them a suspenseful story. Look at this intro I wrote a while back:
Successful and suspenseful intros:
- Use something relatable and timely, like a current event or popular TV show, to make an impact with readers.
- Use dialogue to create interesting conversation, which also makes the text easy to scan.
- Use descriptive language.
- Build up the story so the reader can’t wait to hear what happens next.
When readers recognize the problem the story’s hero struggles with, they become eager to read further to see how the problem is solved.
Here’s a shining example from Enchanting Marketing:
What you can learn from this example:
- Connect your reader to the topic – “Imagine you haven’t cycled for years.”
- Detail the ultimate goal or hope – “But you want to get fit again …”
- Avoid the overly technical or sales.
As you can see, presenting a relatable story tells your readers that you understand them. And by showing that, you already demonstrated your post’s value.
Now get to the point. You worked the preamble, your readers are hooked, and you’re ready to reveal the point of your story.
Make sure the reveal is clearly linked. You’ve taken the time to build anticipation with a story, crafted an analogy, and truly hooked your readers in. The reveal has to make sense. It has to be worth it.
Here are some phrases to help you link the story/analogy to the reveal:
- This reminds me of …
- Which is exactly why your …
- Does this story also ring true for your …
Here is a reveal in action:
I built anticipation with a golden egg analogy, expanding the story until the reveal is introduced by “The point is, it got me thinking … Why do most blogs look like boring, identical everyday eggs?” It smoothly links the analogy and the revelation in one fell swoop.
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You’re at the meat of the post where you add actionable tips in a scannable way (like the ones you’re reading now).
Readers rarely consume every single word of your post. They are more likely to skim, skim, skim to get what they need quickly. Make that possible with your post.
Use bullet points for lists or points a la marketing guru Neil Patel:
Give a ton of actionable tips a la this example from Copyhackers:
These punchy and easy-to-follow tips are succinct, but they also are explained in further detail in the article. The readers can clearly see the value presented before they delve in.
It’s also helpful to punctuate each point with at least one example (as this post does). Your readers can easily see your tips in action, which helps the information sink in.
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Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool. If you drip in quotes from credible, relevant influencers and link to them, you can reach out and (hopefully) get them to share it. (I did it earlier by mentioning Neil Patel.)
This is a great article with influencer marketing tips and tricks from Sprout Social.
Some rules to remember:
- Cite influencer sources who are connected to your brand or industry.
- Don’t punch above your weight. You waste time and set unrealistic expectations when you target influencers who are unlikely to notice or care about your content.
- Be genuine. People contact influencers with requests a lot. Make sure you’re friendly, creative, and likeable.
Finally, don’t overdo it. You can pepper influencer input/links throughout, but don’t inundate the reader with them.
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You want to give your readers as much value as possible. A resource list is the perfect add-on to leave them satisfied.
Comb the web for the most informative and high-quality resources, including blog posts, videos, e-books, events, apps, etc. Doing that will help your readers see your blog as a fount of knowledge.
Here’s a resource list for you to understand how to structure winning blog posts:
- Blog post guide with free templates from HubSpot
- Handy video from marketing guru Neil Patel
- In-depth guide from Buffer
Now, the time has come to close the loop. You started the post with an open-ended story just waiting to be resolved. Your readers need to know how it ends.
Let’s look at how I did it with the Game of Thrones blog post:
A simple trick like ‘Oh, where was I?’ brought the opening story back so the loop could be closed.
Stories need resolution. Readers desire that perfect cadence – the nice sounding chord progression that feels final.
The story is over, but your work is not. Ask those readers who ate up the post to share your post and make a comment. You could try something like this: “Feeling clued up on blogging? How about you share the wisdom with your friends. They’ll thank you for it.”
And make sharing easy. Include social share buttons.
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And the winner is
Thought I’d leave you hanging about our MasterChef winner?
I wouldn’t do that, especially with everything I’ve just said.
Contestant C completely smashed it.
They didn’t wing it. They didn’t stick to the stuff that’s been done a million times. They carefully selected ingredients. They studied the recipe. They tasted as they went. They were the perfect mix of strategic and creative.
And now, you will be too.