Whatever your reasons for blogging, your blog will consist of posts: individual pieces of content, like articles in a magazine.
Your posts might be long, short, or a mixture. They might be part of an ongoing series, or they might be complete in themselves.
All of them need to have a structure. In fact, all of them will have a structure … it just might not be the structure you want.
If you don’t plan ahead, it’s easy to end up with a mess – a rambling, unfocused piece of content that isn’t really of any interest to your readers.
Here’s how to get it right:
The Basics of Blog Post Structure
Like every piece of writing, a blog post needs a beginning, middle and end:
- The introduction (hooks the reader, sets up what’s to come)
- The main body (where you deliver the content of your post)
- The conclusion (where you sum up and/or encourage the reader to take action)
The introduction has two jobs: it needs to grab the reader’s attention, and keep them reading.
You might begin with a question, a short and interesting anecdote, a quote, or a provocative statement.
Note: You can absolutely start your post in media res, if that suits your style and topic – but, structurally, you’ll probably want this to be an anecdotal opening that you then pull back from.
The main body:
The main body of your post is where structure often falls down a bit. In, say, a 1,000 word post, your introduction will probably be 200 words at most, and your conclusion perhaps 100 – that leaves 700 words in the middle.
To help you out, I’ve given you templates to use for the most common types of post, below.
This is one area where a lot of bloggers trip up – they leave off their post’s conclusion altogether, and just stop as soon as they’ve delivered the main content. For readers, this feels weirdly abrupt; for the blogger, this is a wasted opportunity.
Use the conclusion to briefly sum up your post, if you feel you need to (unless it’s a very long blog post, you probably don’t) and to encourage your reader to take action. You might invite them to leave a comment, share your post, or even buy one of your products or books.
Here are six structures that you can use for the main body of your post:
#1: The Essay-Style Post
If you enjoy blogging about your writing life (or even your life in general), or if you’re writing in-depth, thoughtful content, then this is the structure for you.
The “essay-style” post or “personal essay” is a first-person account of a particular topic. It should start with a gripping introduction – this may mean beginning in media res then going back in the narrative – and it should follow a logical sequence, paragraph by paragraph.
You could sequence your ideas by:
- First to last (e.g. you’re writing about a day out).
- Most important, then adding details (the “inverted pyramid” structure of news reports)
- Theme – this may involve splitting your post into subsections with subheadings
The Snowboard, The Subdural Hematoma, and The Secret of Life, Brian Clark, Copyblogger
Watch Out for … Rambling
These posts are really easy to get off-track with. It’s tempting not to create a plan before you begin (because the content is probably all in your head) – and it’s very easy to end up meandering off the point, or going on and on.
Think about your reader. Are you giving too much detail? Are your paragraphs and sentences fairly short, and easy to engage with on a monitor / device?
#2: The List Post
If you’ve spent more than two minutes in the blogging world, you’ll have come across list posts (“5 Ways to …” “10 Tips From…”). In fact, you’re currently reading one. 😉
They’re easy to plan and write – and easy to read. They’ve got a strong built-in structure, and plenty of appeal for readers who want to pick up some quick tips rather than wade through lots of in-depth thinking.
List posts are different from “how to” posts (see #3) because the items in them are separate (and sometimes mutually exclusive), rather than building step-by-step on one another. So, a list post might be “5 Places to Host Your Blog” and a how-to post might be “5 Steps to Setting Up a WordPress Blog”.
Think about what order you want to put your ideas in. For instance:
- Alphabetical (I’d only go for this if the list was a glossary, or if none of the others made more sense)
- From easiest to hardest (more encouraging to readers than vice-versa!)
- From earliest to last (works if your tips relate to different times of the day, or different stages in an academic year, or even a whole career)
- From first to last, or last to first (if you’re writing a “top ten” post)
It’s nice, though not essential, to structure each list item in the same way. In this post, you’ll see I’ve got a “Watch out for” tip at the end of each of the five sections.
29 Free Writing Contests: Legitimate Competitions With Cash Prizes, Kelly Gurnett, The Write Life
Watch Out For … Rushing
Because the list structure is so easy to work with, it’s tempting to scribble down your list as quickly as possible – especially if ideas come into your head easily. This can lead to a bit of a “meh” post.
I like to come up with more items than I need (e.g. if I’ve got a working title like “7 Habits of Serious Writers”, I’ll come up with 9 ideas). That way, I can cut the weaker ones.
#3: The How-to Post
Whatever you write about, chances are there’s room for showing people how to do something, whether that’s “how to plan your novel” or “how to grow tomatoes”. Step-by-step guides or tutorials are valuable to readers and – if you offer products or services through your blog – can help to establish your credibility.
Normally, “how to” posts begin with Step #1 and work from there. Some will be more of a collection of ideas – I’d treat those as a list post.
It’s helpful to briefly sum up at the end: let readers know what they should have achieved (and, if appropriate, give them a screenshot or photo of the finished thing).
As with list posts, it’s helpful to have a consistent structure for the steps themselves. You may well find that some are quick and straightforward, though, and that others are more involved – so go with what works here.
How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish, Joe Bunting, The Write Practice
Watch Out For … Too Much or Too Little Information
I’ve come across “how to” guides that were hard for me to follow because they assumed I had prior knowledge … and ones that went into too much detail about every little thing.
Try to get a sense of what your audience already knows (or doesn’t). For instance, if you’re giving advice on website building to writers, simply saying “Step #1: Register a domain name” won’t be enough. You could probably write a whole “how to” just on coming up with a good name, checking whether it’s available, and choosing a company to register it through.
#4: The Promotional Post
If you’ve come across blogging in a business context, or if someone’s suggested it to you as a good marketing tool for your books, then this might be the type of post you normally write.
Promotional posts are ones that tell readers about a product (probably a book) or a service you offer.
They’re important, because people won’t necessarily click on a sidebar link or notice that page “My Books” linked to in your navigation bar at the top of your blog.
Promotional posts will probably be structured as advertising copy, with a brief introduction to your book and perhaps a bit about you, then further information (such as quotes from reviewers) and at least one link to buy it – most people will put a link near the top, for keen readers, and another at the bottom, for those who’ve read on for more information.
Not all promotional posts will be selling something. You could have a post promoting a free ebook or ecourse that you’re using as an incentive to get readers to give you their email address.
Publication Day: The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide Launch Special, Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer
Watch out for: Overdoing it
There’s a fine line between promoting enough and promoting too much. You want your blog to offer value to readers – if it comes across as a series of adverts, they’re going to tune out.
I’d suggest that, normally, no more than one in ten of your posts should be a promotional one. You can throw in other promotions, of course – for instance, if you write a list post, it might be relevant to link some of the items to some of your products or services. With a how-to, you might tell people that they can find out more from your book, or even hire you to do it for them.
#5: The Interview Post
Interview posts are good fun to put together, and they can be a way to establish yourself in the blogging world and get linked to some big names.
Normally, to construct an interview post, you think of someone you want to interview, come up with a list of questions (about 8 – 10), and email them. Hopefully, your interviewee will be keen to participate.
As with a list post, try to have a logical sequence to your questions – for instance, start off with some general ones, then move on to different aspects of your interviewee’s writing, work, or life.
To structure the post, you can put an introduction to the person and their work at the start, and round off with a question to readers, or an invitation for them to leave a comment.
Another spin on this is to interview multiple people, often asking them the same question – this is sometimes called a “one-question interview” or an “expert round-up”.
Interview with author K.M. Weiland and giveaway of STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL, Bridgid Gallagher, YA Buccaneers
Watch out for: Boring Questions
I’ve been interviewed by quite a few bloggers over the years, and I always appreciate it when people ask interesting questions! Try to go beyond obvious ones (e.g. “what are you writing at the moment?” or “when did you start writing?”) and see if you can come up with something more unusual.
It’s a good idea to do a bit of research on your interviewee and put any basics into your introduction (the About page on their blog is a good place to begin, and any previous interviews they’ve done).
#6: The Review Post
This type of post reviews one or more books, products or services. You’re not purely promoting them (if you are, treat this as a promotional post) – you’re giving your honest opinion and mentioning any drawbacks.
This is the template I normally use for my reviews: feel free to adopt it or tweak it as you see fit!
- Overview (what is this – a book, a course, a service?)
- Price (it’s helpful to readers to have this up-front)
- What’s included (I leave this out if it’s obvious)
- Good points (I normally have two or three of these, with subheadings for each)
- Bad points (even if I loved the product, I point out any negatives – it helps make the review look honest)
- Verdict (do I recommend buying it, and who’s it most suited for?)
If you regularly do reviews, you might find it helpful to always use the same template – it’s quicker for you and it’s reassuringly consistent for readers.
A slightly more complicated structure is to compare two products (e.g. two non-fiction books on the same topic). You can either do this as a side-by-side comparison, giving an overview of each, then the price of each, and so on – or you can essentially do it as two review posts put together, with an overall verdict at the end.
[Book Review] Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt, Ali Luke, Daily Blog Tips
Watch Out For … Being Too Positive
If you’re reviewing products with an eye towards getting affiliate income from sales, then it’s easy to tip over into being a bit too positive about them. Keep in mind that if someone buys a book or product or service on your glowing recommendation and hates it, they’re going to think worse of you.
Be honest about any problems or drawbacks. Keep an eye on comments on the review, too: if someone raises an issue you weren’t aware of, check it out.
However you structure your post, it’s worth spending a few minutes editing it to make sure it’s easy to read. Sometimes, just adding in a couple of subheadings, moving a paragraph or putting some key lines in bold can really help make your structure clear to readers.