Written by Kayle Larkin –
One in five bloggers reports their blog delivers strong marketing results – 22%.
That’s it – and this percentage has been steadily declining over the past three years.
That can’t be true, can it?
Why are the vast majority of blogs not delivering strong marketing results?
My theory is that there is a lot of overly generalized advice in the content marketing industry:
“Write for users, not Google.”
“Google rewards high-quality content.”
“It’s about search intent.”
Okay, but what is high-quality content?
The bar is high. This article will help you get your content the respect it richly deserves by breaking down 13 essential elements of an exceptional blog post.
1. Compelling Topic
Your audience has to care about the topic.
If you’re not entirely sure what topics your audience cares about, there are a few places to start.
Find which pages support your business objectives in Google Analytics.
Ask your sales teams what questions potential customers are asking most frequently.
Or, look directly at your on-site search to see what products or services people are looking for.
Interact with members of your audience within social media channels that are related to your industry.
These are all great places to source content topics that are of great interest to your audience.
2. Search-Friendly URL
Google recommends keeping a simple, short URL structure whenever possible.
Do not use long ID numbers in your URLs or time-specific elements such as date and year. Overly complex URLs can cause problems for crawlers and are not helpful to humans.
For instance, this:
Can become this:
Be descriptive with your URL so that someone who sees the link will know exactly what to expect when they click on it.
3. Include An Author
Showcasing the author gives a blog article 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.
Doing so will encourage your readers to engage with your brand on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
4. Table Of Contents
Using a table of contents at the top of posts organizes your content making it easy for users and bots to navigate.
Anchor links in a table of contents help your readers quickly get to the information they are most interested in.
Search engines love a table of contents! It’s not guaranteed, but they are often pulled into Google search and displayed as sitelinks.
5. Powerful Headline
A powerful headline attracts your audience to your blog and gets your post page views.
Without a headline that attracts eyes, a good blog post is lost among the vast sea that is the internet.
Spend time crafting the perfect catchy title to reel in readers and make them want to read your article.
SEJ provides 12 tips to turn an average headline into one that is exceptional and entices clicks.
6. Interesting Introduction
While a good headline attracts clicks to your site, it is 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 provides seven ways to write blog introductions your readers and Google will love.
7. Compelling Subheadings
Headlines and subheadings highlight the main elements of the topic making the article easy to scan and leading the reader through the content.
Using keywords in subheadings helps search engines identify the content and quickly tells the reader the main points within the article.
This does not mean you should force keywords into subheadings. Keywords need to make sense and sound natural.
Subheadings should be formatted with the title tag hierarchy. This means that you use progressively smaller heading 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 properly as recommended in this SEJ article on SEO best practices.
I frequently hear studies claiming anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 words is the ideal content length for articles.
Truth is, it doesn’t matter.
Length will vary by content style, topic, and audience.
A good blog is as long as it needs to be and as long as your audience will read.
Use page depth (scroll) tracking in Google Analytics (or Hotjar) to see how far users are reading your blog articles.
Try hiding a subsection answer within an accordion for users to interact with, you can tag this event to see if you’re keeping users engaged that far into the article or not.
9. Appealing Visuals
We respond to and process visual data far better than text.
And not just a little bit – 60,000 times faster.
How the human brain processes complex information is what makes visualization so important.
Using charts or graphs to explain complex data is much easier than trudging through a large amount of text.
Just be sure to optimize your images for search. SEJ shares 12 important image SEO tips you need to know.
By the end of your article, your reader may have forgotten a few of the points you made earlier in the piece.
A good blog post will summarize the key 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 email, follow on social, or check out a product or service you offer.
The point here is to inspire your reader to take your desired action.
11. Useful Links
Without links, the internet would be an organized mess of pages. It would be really difficult 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 further research that may interest the reader.
John Mueller explained in an SEO After Hours video:
“…internal linking is super critical for SEO.
I think it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that 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 element 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 is 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 ranking a page and an engaging copy that entertains and informs the reader through to the end.
Now, you want to improve the likelihood that your readers will stay on your site and ideally convert at the end.
At the end of your blog post, display a few (three max) blog articles that are related to the same topic cluster.
The 13 elements in this article help users care about your blog article and help search engines better understand how the topic relates to your website as a whole.
Aside from these technical elements, there is a strong argument for style, delivery, and prose.
To continue learning, browse Search Engine Journal’s contributors and on-staff writers. Select five writers you enjoy reading and follow their content to study what makes them great.
Featured Image: Lyubov Levitskaya/Shutterstock