Anyone can write a blog post.
Writing a winning blog post — one that captures attention, draws readers in past the first few lines, keeps them engaged to the end, and sees them follow through on your call-to-action — that’s a little more difficult.
We’ve taken the guess work out of writing a winning blog post. Use this 12-point blog post checklist and win every time.
(Note: We’ve turned this entire blog post into an easy-to-read checklist. Click here to download it now.)
1) A headline that captures attention
According to Brian Clarke from Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people on average will read the headline copy of your post, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
So if writing headlines is so important, what’s the best way to write them? The quick answer: STEAL.
Really smart people have mapped out the path to consistently great headlines, and they call them “headline formulas.” These proven formulas can be found all over the internet, and they’re begging you to steal them.
Here are a few to get you started:
- 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work from CopyBlogger
- Steal These 15 Proven Headline Formulas For Your Next Landing Page Or Blog Post from CrazyEgg
- 13 Types of Blog Headlines That Will Get You More Traffic from HubSpot
If these frameworks aren’t enough, check out this tactic from Bryan Harris at Videofruit. It’s a technique that allows you to piggyback off the most popular headlines from sites like BuzzFeed & Huffington Post.
2) A short first paragraph that holds the reader’s attention
It’s not enough to get your reader past the headline: you have to hook them into reading the good stuff.
Ask a question, share an interesting fact, set up the problem that your audience is facing and how you will solve it.
Your first paragraph is a gateway, so usher your reader through it.
Need to see this in action? Check out these posts for inspiration:
- How Celebrities Market Themselves: Inside Jordin Sparks’ Rebranding Campaign by HubSpot
- Do These 7 Tragic Mistakes on Your ‘About’ Page Chase Customers Away? by Copy Hackers
- A Simple Content Marketing Strategy for Creative Folks by CopyBlogger
3) 3 sentences or less in each paragraph
Let’s face it — most of us don’t have big attention spans.
Writing shorter paragraphs will help break up your content and make it easier to digest for your readers. Three sentences is a good ceiling.
Trinity Digital Marketing reports that over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices.
Longer paragraphs, especially when viewed on a mobile device, make the post look bulkier. People won’t want to read them.
Shorter, properly spaced paragraphs might have the exact same amount of words, but they look much easier to read.
4) 1-3 images throughout the post (but not too many stock images)
Images break up your content, explain your point, and keep your readers engaged.
1-3 images throughout your post will make a huge difference. But make sure you don’t use too many stock images—it makes you look lazy, and it makes your blog look impersonal.
There are a number of tools and sites you can use to create your own, unique images:
- Pablo by Buffer is a great tool to create beautiful images for your posts in under 30 seconds.
- Canva goes one step further and gives you full design capabilities online without expensive software or any graphic design skills.
- Stock Up allows you to search 21 high-quality, free stock photo websites in one place. You’re sure to find an image you want and save time in the process.
The best part? Tools like Canva and Pablo allow you to create images that include your logo. Custom, branded images in under 10 minutes— who wouldn’t want that?
If you don’t have time to mess with a “do it yourself” tool, check out Kapa99. They offer 2 custom design jobs a day for $200/mo. It’s an insanely good deal, and their work is phenomenal.
5) Data-backed statistic that links to a credible resource
Think of this as a credibility builder for your own blog.
If you share data-backed (not just made up) statistics and link them to a credible resource, people will trust what you say more. Look back at point #1 — we shared a statistic from Copyblogger, one of the leading resources for content development.
Take this link away, and the section loses authority.
6) A specific keyword that the post is focused on
Search engines love keywords, so take advantage. Tailor your blog posts around specific keywords, and they’ll get more visibility.
Use Google Keyword Planner to figure out the keywords that will work for your niche. You can also use this tool to see the competition for each keyword. By checking out the competition, you can target keywords that you have legitimate shot at ranking for.
7) Links to other relevant pages on your website
Think of each post as a gateway to more content on your site.
Including links to other relevant pages on your website not only gives readers more of what they’re looking for, it keeps them on your site and builds your reputation as the place to get the information they need.
8) Links to reputable industry resources
Keeping readers on your site is great, but don’t forget to also point your readers to helpful resources on other sites.
You won’t be an expert on every aspect of your industry. But by sharing links to others who offer resources you don’t, you’ll still establish yourself as a trusted blog to follow.
And for websites, trust is the principal builder of reputation.
9) “Click to Tweet” links throughout the post to encourage sharing
Make it easy for your readers to share your content by including simple “Click to Tweet” links in the post.
Let’s be honest…people are lazy (me included). I won’t share someone’s blog post unless:
a) I think it’s incredible
b) it takes me less than 10 seconds to share it
10) Content Upgrades
It’s hard to convince your readers to give you their email address, especially if the only thing you’re offering them is “weekly updates” of your blog posts.
But when you offer them a downloadable resource (content upgrade), and that resource is directly related to the article they’re reading…your chances of converting that reader into an email subscriber skyrocket.
When done right, content upgrades can increase your conversions by more than 529%.
Here’s a phenomenal article from Bryan Harris that shares 11 types of content upgrades you could offer to your readers.
So what’s the content upgrade for this post? We summarized the content from this blog post, and turned it into a checklist. Click here to download it now.
11) Call to action at the end of the post
Every post should include some kind of call-to-action at the end — the next step you want your reader to take.
It might be as simple as downloading the content upgrade, signing up for a free trial, or subscribing to your email list.
Always give a call-to-action. It helps the reader know what to do with the content they just consumed.
12) Share your content via social media
You could nail the first 11 points, but if you fail to distribute your content, your post will fall short of it’s full potential.
Here’s an article from Buffer that shares 11 effective content distribution strategies. It recommends spending only half your time writing the content, with the other half spent promoting it.
Don’t be afraid to promote your content more than once on social media. If you don’t believe us, here’s an in-depth post that proves our point.
Download our 12-Point Blog Checklist
This is a lot of information, and we don’t expect you to remember it all.
Download our 12-point blog checklist. Keep the checklist on your desktop (or print it off), and refer to it every time you write a blog post.
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts a top-ranked podcast according to Forbes: B2B Growth. When James isn’t interviewing the smartest minds in B2B marketing, he’s drinking Cherry Coke Zero, eating Swedish Fish, and hanging out with the most incredible woman on the planet (who he somehow talked into marrying him).