13 Must-Have Elements of an Outstanding Blog Post
One in five bloggers report that their blog delivers strong marketing results – 22%.
That’s it – and that percentage has steadily declined over the past three years.
That can’t be true, can it?
Why do the vast majority of blogs fail to deliver good marketing results?
My theory is that there is a lot of overly generalized advice in the content marketing industry:
“Write for users, not for Google.”
“Google rewards high quality content.”
“It’s a matter of search intent.”
Ok, but what is high quality content?
The bar is high. This article will help you get your content the respect it deserves by breaking down 13 essential elements of an outstanding blog post.
1. Compelling topic
Your audience should care about the topic.
If you’re not quite sure what topics your audience is interested in, there are a few places to start.
Find which pages support your business goals in Google Analytics.
Ask your sales teams what questions potential customers ask most frequently.
Or look directly at your site search to see what products or services people are looking for.
Engage with members of your audience on social media related to your industry.
These are all great places to find content topics that your audience is very interested in.
2. Search friendly URL
Google recommends keeping the URL structure simple and short whenever possible.
Don’t use long ID numbers in your URLs or time-specific elements such as date and year. URLs that are too complex can cause problems for crawlers and are not useful for humans.
For example, this:
Can become this:
Be descriptive with your URL so that someone who sees the link knows exactly what to expect when they click on it.
3. Include an author
Author introduction gives a blog post more credibility, context, and authenticity.
Link the author’s name to a profile page (with a photo) where readers can explore other articles by the author and feel like they’re reading something from a real person.
This will encourage your readers to engage with your brand on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
4. Table of Contents
Using a table of contents at the top of posts organizes your content, making it easier for users and bots to navigate.
Anchor links in a table of contents help your readers quickly get to the information that matters most to them.
Search engines love a table of contents! It’s not guaranteed, but they’re often pulled from Google search and shown as sitelinks.
5. Powerful headline
A powerful headline attracts your audience to your blog and increases your post page views.
Without an eye-catching headline, a good blog post gets lost in the vast sea that is the internet.
Spend time crafting the perfect catchy headline to draw readers in and make them want to read your article.
SEJ provides 12 tips for turning an average headline into an outstanding, click-catching headline.
6. Interesting Presentation
While a good title draws clicks to your site, it’s the introduction that turns a site visitor into a reader.
For an introduction to resonate, readers need to understand what you’re talking about and care about what you have to say.
You don’t need to give them the answer to their question yet, just enough information to give them a reason to care.
SEJ offers seven ways to write blog intros that your readers and Google will love.
7. Compelling subtitles
Headings and subheadings highlight the main points of the topic, making the article easier to read and guiding the reader through the content.
Using keywords in subheadings helps search engines identify the content and quickly tells the reader the main points of the article.
This doesn’t mean you have to force keywords into subtitles. Keywords should make sense and sound natural.
Subtitles should be formatted with the title tag hierarchy. This means that you use smaller and smaller title formats.
For most articles, you only need to use H2s, but if you need to separate an H2 with a lot of content, you can use an H3.
Make sure you’re using header tags correctly, as recommended in this SEJ article on SEO best practices.
I frequently hear studies claiming that between 1,500 and 3,000 words is the ideal content length for articles.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter.
Length will vary depending on content style, topic and audience.
A good blog is as long as it should be and as long as your audience will read.
Use page depth (scroll) tracking in Google Analytics (or Hotjar) to see how well users are reading your blog posts.
Try hiding a subsection response in an accordion that users can interact with, you can tag this event to see if you keep users engaged that far into the article or not.
9. Attractive visuals
We respond to and process visual data much better than text.
And not just a little – 60,000 times faster.
The way the human brain processes complex information is what makes visualization so important.
Using tables or graphs to explain complex data is much easier than going through a large amount of text.
Just make sure to optimize your images for search. SEJ shares 12 important SEO tips you need to know.
By the end of your article, your reader may have forgotten some of the points you made earlier in the article.
A good blog post will summarize the main takeaways from the article and guide your reader on what to do next.
The point is not to reiterate your points, but to help your audience draw actionable conclusions from your blog post.
Decide what action you want your blog reader to take. Maybe you want them to sign up for emails, follow social media, or check out a product or service you offer.
The point here is to inspire your reader to take the desired action.
11. Useful links
Without links, the Internet would be an organized mess of pages. It would be really hard to navigate (find what we were looking for.)
A good blog post makes navigation intuitive for users and easy for search engines to crawl.
Internal links help connect related topics for search engines and provide additional research that may be of interest to the reader.
John Mueller explained in an SEO After Hours video:
“…internal links are extremely critical for SEO.
I think it’s one of the most important things you can do on a website to guide Google and lead visitors to the pages you think are important.
External links are best used to cite sources and act as an endorsement for high quality content.
Schema markup is an essential part of a good blog post because it helps search engines identify your page as a blog post instead of product pages, system pages, or other content.
There are a few types of schema markup that apply to blog posts, articles, and news.
There’s also FAQ, How-To, Breadcrumbs, Speakable, and more.
13. Suggest Related Blog Posts
At this point, you have a well-structured blog post that includes the technical aspects of page ranking and engaging copy that entertains and informs the reader until the end.
Now you want to improve the likelihood of your readers staying on your site and ideally converting in the end.
At the end of your blog post, post a few blog posts (maximum three) related to the same group of topics.
The 13 elements in this article help users care about your blog post and help search engines better understand how the topic relates to your website as a whole.
Besides these technical elements, there is a strong argument for style, delivery and prose.
To keep learning, browse Search Engine Journal contributors and editors. Select five writers you like to read and follow their content to study what makes them great.
Feature image: Lyubov Levitskaya/Shutterstock