social media how toAre your blog posts just “okay”? Want to make them great? If so, keep reading.

A great blog post respects the needs of three distinct entities. It educates and informs your audience (your subscribers and visitors), optimizes for the search engines and sufficiently energizes you so that you do a good job creating it.

Every blog post should address the following five components to ensure it hits the mark for your audience, the search engines and you.

#1: Has an Engaging Title

The title is arguably the most important element of any post. Engaging titles that spark curiosity are more likely to be clicked. When this is combined with strategic keywords that affirm the topic of the post, you have a winner.

Tim Ferris recently wrote a post on the art and science of headlines to increase the click-through rate. The idea is simply to generate curiosity, such as Why Are You Single? Perhaps It’s the Choice Effect. You’re wondering what the Choice Effect is all about, aren’t you?

Many of us don’t have Tim’s fan base, so we need to develop a catchy title that also includes keywords that will get indexed by Google. Brian Clark with Copyblogger does an excellent job of this. One of his generally accepted SEO copywriting tips is to place these keywords near the front of the title.

You should occasionally test your titles to determine what resonates most with your audience. I’ve personally found that titles that respond to a specific need, such as How Often Should I Blog?, will result in higher traffic with my targeted readers than those that are deep and thought-provoking.

#2: Offers Easy to Consume Content

When you organize your content so that it’s easily consumed, you tap into a secret of blogging. The more readily your content is assimilated in the minds of your readers, the more favorably it’s received—and remembered.

Here are some ways to accomplish this.

  • Blog for Your Audience: As you develop your blogging style, always consider the needs of your audience. My audience is the same as that of Social Media Examiner—business professionals and marketers. They expect me to get to the point quickly and avoid technical jargon.
  • Learn to Write in AP Style: If you scan any news source, you’ll notice the paragraphs are short—only a few sentences. This is one of the hallmarks of Associated Press (AP) style of writing, which many journalists consider to be the standard. These guidelines will give your posts a professional appearance and make them easier to consume.
  • Use Subheadings: This helps both you and the reader. I tend to write my first draft quickly for flow and readability. Then I go back and organize with subheadings, while also reorganizing and eliminating entire paragraphs so that my readers don’t have to.
  • Create Lists: Lists are the ultimate organizing tool, which is why they’re frequently retweeted—thereby attracting valuable links back to your blog.
  • Use Italics and Bold Text for Emphasis: If someone reads your blog post word for word, it’s usually after skimming it first. Help readers do both by emphasizing key points with italics, bold text and, with care, all caps.

#3: Mixes Content Types

Delivering great content requires a mix of qualities that keeps your readers coming back for more. The key isn’t always the quality of the message, but how it’s delivered. Improve how you do this by employing these 5 practices.

  • Offer Your Opinions: If you’re an expert in your field, then your opinion is relevant. Who do you respect more, the waiter who says everything on the menu is excellent, or the one who looks you in the eye and recommends her favorites (or suggests avoiding some dishes)?
  • Use Multimedia: Make it a point to use images, screenshots and video to communicate your message with more punch.

These contextual forms of communication enhance your message while also breaking up the text to improve the appearance of your post.

  • Link to Your Research: Data has greater credibility when it comes from a reputable source, such as the Pew Research Center. A link to that source raises your credibility by showing you’ve done your homework.

pew research
Data from respected sources such as the Pew Research Center will validate your perspective.

  • Provide Practical Examples: Examples of situations where you’ve had direct experience are powerful, although it’s important to provide details such as names and places to validate that credibility. Just be sure you get the proper permissions first.
  • Take Out the Trash: Make the effort to edit out anything that doesn’t support your title or enhance your post. Include details to create a mental picture, but leave out anything else that detracts from your story.

#4: Is Search Engine Optimized

Learning search engine optimization (SEO) is a necessary aspect of blogging if you expect to build a sustainable reader base. While SEO can get complicated, you can be very effective by simply tuning into your audience and writing for them. Trust your gut and write for people and SEO will take care of itself.

These are the key elements of SEO that deserve your attention.

  • Excerpts: The excerpt of your post is the brief description included with the return of search results. A well-chosen description encourages click-throughs. If you don’t build an excerpt, the first couple of sentences of your post will be used as a default. Get in the habit of summarizing your post in the first couple of sentences.
  • Keywords: Learn the common words and phrases being used by your audience. For example, do they use the term entrepreneur or small business? It’s a distinction that has to be made so that you can be found when they’re searching for your expertise.
  • Links: The SEO pros universally agree that inbound links to your blog are vital for achieving a high ranking. How do you get these links? The most reliable way is to write amazing content that people want to link to.

One tip is to link to the keywords (known as anchor text) in your post that are aligned with the words you expect to be used by someone searching for your expertise. The classic mistake is linking to click here instead of more relevant keywords such as small business marketing, or whatever relates to your expertise.

Additionally, you naturally want to link back to your previous posts to encourage your readers to hang around longer. This increases the likelihood they’ll respond to a call to action, such as subscribing to your blog or newsletter.

  • Tags: Tags are handled differently in every blogging platform. Just be sure to use tags that are relevant to the post you’re creating, as well as the audience you’re blogging for. Darren Rowse of Problogger suggests no more than a dozen tags for each post to avoid undermining their effectiveness through dilution.
  • Categories: Categories obviously help your blog visitors go deeper into the subject matter or topic that interests them most. Google also indexes your categories for the same reason, so choose your categories carefully. You’ll note the categories here at Social Media Examiner were intentionally limited to just eight to be relevant now and in the future.

#5: Encourages Interaction and Action

While blogging is indeed a platform for broadcasting, the ultimate objective is to encourage engagement and interaction, namely in the form of comments. Just as an engaged audience gives a speaker feedback on his live presentation, the comments to your blog will do the same.

You can and should learn from every single visitor to your blog by responding and seeking to better understand his/her point of view. The reason for this is that every commenter represents the perspective of many others. The more you learn, the easier it is to focus your efforts on what’s most relevant to your audience.

Why else do you want comments? Because comments are social proof that your blog is a happening place. And this encourages more traffic and subscribers to your blog.

To encourage more comments, you may not only have to remind your audience to do so, but show them as well. Write a post on commenting and use your blog as an example.

Show your readers exactly how to comment, and even go a step further to describe how to share your post by retweeting or using the Facebook Like button.

As you begin to engage your audience, you’ll want to move them closer to helping you accomplish your blogging objectives. For example, you may ultimately want to sell your ebooks. A preliminary step toward that is to encourage more subscribers to your list. Then when the time is right you can reach out to your list to provide higher-value content that monetizes your blogging efforts.

There is no such thing as a perfect blog post. However, if you follow these recommendations, you’ll be sure to enhance your blog for you and your audience, as well as the search engines that work on everyone’s behalf.

What do you think? What else makes for a great blog post? Leave your comments in the box below.

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  • Great information Thanks

  • drburt

    I wish I could add something. You have covered pretty much everything. Great Post.

  • Nice piece Jeff….in addition to writing in AP style, I would encourage bloggers to check their spelling and grammar. I will scream the next time I see “ridiculous” spelled “rediculous,” or seeing “their,” when it should be “there.” But that’s another topic in itself!

  • You know its weird: the rule (or previous rule) of blogging was to keep posts as short as possible…and I did that earlier on.But now my average posts are 700 words with a boatload of links and I get WAY more feedback.

    For instance, I wrote a guest post for under30ceo entitled “The 5 Mind-Blowlingly Simple Strategies Any Startup Can Learn from Lady Gaga” This post is at least 1300 words and 20 links.

    And yet its been shared on FB 155 and tweeted 122 times. Granted that’s nowhere near the traction social media examiner gets but it does go to show the old rules of blogging can be bent. And I’m glad your post outlined the new rules Jeff:)

  • I prefer to the point / short posts (and videos) but we are all different, right?

    I’ve tried using enticing headings recently and it does work.

    Great post – simply cannot think of anything to add!


  • Daniel – Absolutely. I should have mentioned that bloggers should take the time to slowly The Elements of Style – and always have a copy nearby. 🙂


  • Andrew – I encourage everyone to use the style that is appropriate for their audience. For CEO’s a shorter style may be just right. My small business audience tends to prefer a more descriptive, how-to approach.

    Glad to hear you are experimenting. I tried a suggestive two-word title recently on my blog and was pleasantly surprised with the results. 🙂


  • Maria Mckenzie

    Great post! Very helpful information!

  • Lavada Lindsey

    Great info. Thanks so much.

  • does anyone use the Yahoo Style Guide rather than AP?

  • titles AND attractive images are great pieces to blog posts.

  • Mr. Tunes – Good question. There are a number of style guides – including Yahoo and Chicago. I’ve elected to use the AP Guide because I also write for some more traditional print publications and that is what they use.

    Also, the AP Guide is available as an iPhone app, which is very handy!


  • You answered two questions and I have one more. Thanks! I was not sure how the excerpts were used by search engines, nor what is the best thing to put there. You answered my question! Also, I didn’t realize that categories were used by search engines.

    Do you know of any tips and tricks to format images in a WordPress blog? This is a point of frustration.


  • Carrie Myhre

    Great post – this site has quickly become my favorite blogging site – always extremely relevant and helpful! Keep up the good work!

  • Loved #4, especially because many people take SEO so seriously they start writing for search engines rather than *people*. While some basic SEO rules like the ones you mention are surely important, one shouldn’t forget that search engines like Google are ultimately meant to *mimic* the behaviors of real people, therefore writing for people is the ultimate goal you should go for.

  • Randy Kemp

    I really learned a lot today from these 5 points. Now I have to look closer at popular blogs I follow, to see if they use these steps.

  • Thanks for the great info. As someone who is just entering the blogging world, I appreciate the tips and will start to integrate them into future posts.

  • Jeff,

    Hard to add to what you have here. So rather than going that route, I’ll say that the most important thing on your list is #1. We bloggers have 1/2 a second to grab the readers attention. So we better be writing fantastic titles. Content is obviously very important too (we want readers to come back), but if we don’t draw their eye with an awesome title what good is quality content? Quality content with a terrible title = a blog only your mom will read. Thanks Jeff.

  • Jeff,
    Theh only problem with covering the bases as well as you have here, is it limits what your readers can add by way of comments… (that’s meant to be a compliment, by the way!). Love the list but especially like the notation to write for our audience. Sometimes, with so much emphasis on SEO, it’s easy to forget we should be blogging for our readers and not just for the search engines…….

    To your continued success,

  • Allan Blair Beaton

    The concept of writing for the people is the fundamental reason that I started my blog a few months ago. I like to ask lots of questions whilst forming my own opinions to try and engage any potential readership.

    Thanks for the tips….


  • I’m going to share this post with new bloggers and with contributors to my blog.

  • Mike – It seems that we have to keep trying new methods if we expect to be relevant. 🙂


  • Robin – Ha ha, you had me going there! Thanks for clarifying.

    All the best 🙂


  • Grabiele – Exactly. Thanks for pointing that out. And the better Google and the other search engines get, the more human SEO will become.


  • Outstanding post!

    I’m posting this to my FB business page Thank you!

    Encouraging comments is by far, IMO a huge challenge. I like your idea of ‘showing people what to do’…how to comment. Can’t get any clearer than that.

    I also find that if I comment regularly on other people’s blogs, as a courtesy they do the same on my own. Now I am not sure if that is because my content is compelling or if they are doing me a favor, but it happens. And often one comment begets others so I’m grateful to those who stop by my blog and share a few words.

    Janine Gregor
    Virtual Assistant

  • Healthdesigner

    What a great article. I always learn so much at Social Media Examiner. Thanks!

  • Jeff,

    Thank you so much for integrating so many useful tips for blogging in one post. I am a blog starter and I find this post very helpful. “#2 Offer easy to consume content” is my favorite. I think it is important for starters to practice and find their own writing styles on blog. Though I only wrote a few posts, I found it different when writing on blogs (compared with normal essay writing). Blog is more brief, concise, and informational.

    Thanks again for providing such great guidelines.

    Lexie – Zi Liang

  • deb1221

    Hi Jeff,

    Ditto everything said already. Excellent post. In particular, I love your point that blog post should “sufficiently energize you so that you do a good job creating it.” Blogging can be incredibly exhilarating. I think it’s fair to say that you were energized creating this one.

    The only thing I’d add here is that I’ve read over the years to actually not use italics on the web for emphasis that it’s not good for readability and web usability. Unless using the title of a book I generally try to stay away from italics.

    Thoughts about that? e.g. good opportunity for comments 🙂

  • Great post, I’m still learning the ins and outs of blogging, so this is very helpful for me:)

  • Great stuff, Jeff.

    I agree with your advice to use multimedia to punch up the message.

    I personally dislike blogs that only have their content in a video or just in a podcast. I might not have the time to watch a video and just want to skim the text for my answer.

    Digging it.

  • Snglazov

    Thanks for always offering valuable information. I also think it is significant to add visuals that compliment the content & write to improve your writing skills.

  • Sujata

    Excellent post! You have explained the points very well, both with the help of text and visuals.

  • Ryan – Yes, I believe you need to serve up the content in as many formats as possible so that it can be consumed as one desires. When I focused more on videoblogging, the video always accompanied text. In fact, I wrote the text first and then shot the video for those that like video. I also assumed that some people may be multi-tasking and only listen to the video.


  • Debbie – Interesting insight. I have only recently started to use italics in the way I did here. Yet, I can see your point.

    Based upon your comment and others, we are already considering a follow up to this post that will address how some rules may be changing, what is appropriate or not, and how to make those determinations.

    Thanks for the question – and the positive comments!


  • Thank you for all the helpful information. I enjoy blogging, but also enjoy responding to the comments which, thankfully, have generally been positive to my posts.

  • Paris – Just keep doing what you do well! I promise you will discover most of those comments will be positive. 🙂


  • Thierry Poupard

    Excellent! Thanks a lot Jef. I’ll try to apply this!

  • Great post. Lots of useful tips and all.
    I especially liked the #2 – on how to write, short paragraphs and subheading. It’s something I’ve been experimenting with myself. I find it a lot easier to read articles this way so it’s definitely something I’m going to work on perfecting.

  • Blogging is such a powerful tool for businesses. It’s great for engaging with their customers, and also great for its SEO value

  • This is great advice, as I have visited many blogs that would get a failing grade from what you’ve written above. More bloggers need to keep their reader in mind when they write. I like the bite-sized paragraphs, as well as mixing up the media presented.

  • Tola, Mike, and others – Yep, those short paragraphs sure make the content look more appealing … bite-sized paragraphs as Mike puts it. Another tip is to have a one-sentence paragraph for emphasis.


  • I have just started blogging and I will, from now on, make sure each blog conforms to your outline. I have made a check list from your article. I am trying to take dense scientific research and make it readable for the average reader. What about humor? How does this fit into writing about serious subjects?

  • Hmm this is pretty interesting.

  • Hi Jeff, This is great advice. One thing I picked up, in particular, is to try and mix it up to engage different parts of your audience. Short for leaders or CEOs and longer, more ‘how-to’ for smaller businesses. Thanks for that,

  • I read Gera from sweet foods blog this morning and whe was discussing to break the rules for better blogging effects. Your all tips are great and most effective, what about adding some rule breaking tips?

    I often work very less for excerept. I realize, this is most important to get click through. I must work better. You’ve pointed it out very correctly.

  • Great comments everyone. There will definitely be a follow-up post. And humor and breaking the rules as suggested by Tom and Suresh, respectively, are on the list to be discussed. 🙂


  • Excellent post, Jeff. Clear and succinct – just the way a good blog should be. I need to be better disciplined about writing excerpts, so thanks for the reminder.

    Ultimately, the foundation of any great blog is the content. You can have your site wired to the hilt for SEO optimization, titles, tags, etc., but the proof is in the pudding. You might get people to come to your site once or twice, but only great content will keep bringing them back.



  • Daniellepwright

    Consistency is key, but AP style is respected and considered standard.

  • Since I often use my blog as a soapbox, to talk about things that are bothering me, that I feel are important, or to brag on my son, I feel it odd to try to advertise my blog. However, I do want readers. But I really want them for a more noble reason than just “hits”. I really like the aspect of connecting with others who share common interests and goals as me. What I do try to do is make my content entertaining and visually appealing. I try and keep blog blog clutter free and with useful information. I hope I accomplish this and I hope to share my messages, in particular, ones pertaining to nursing, bullying in nursing, technology, and families with anyone who needs to know they aren’t alone in the things they face.Thats what I want out of my blog.
    The Nerdy Nurse

  • Great reminders about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes to add value to their time and your own.

  • Several people have asked me to include video of my how to on my blog, but I am uncomfortable with the prospect creating a video – But, there are several other multimedia techniques I can use to make my blog more interesting – than for the Ideas.

  • Yes good and clear. Will experiment with some of the ideas. Thanks

  • Great post Jeff. Really super stuff. It seems like this is the essential guide to every blogger and what every blogger needs to know

  • John – The excerpt takes a little more time but well worth it. I find writing it first, then the post, then going back and making the excerpt even better works well for me.


  • The Nerdy Nurse – Knowing your audience is essential. I recently spoke to 450 extended care professionals. The response to my presentation was excellent, however, only a handful of them were yet involved with social media. So, I imagine it will take some time to build your audience, but this also means you are in a great place to help them!


  • I think the variation of content point is especially important and one that I’ve been trying to focus on myself in recent weeks. Re. length, I like the concept of one longer ‘pillar’ post every week, with lots of links, practical advice, or perhaps a ‘how to’, surrounded by a number of shorter posts with useful takeaways but perhaps less supporting evidence (links, long descriptions etc).

    The type of media used is an interesting question as well. With so many free online tools to create galleries, videos, presentations, and much more, I certainly find it worth the time to play around with a new tool in the hope of creating some vibrant content.

    Still very much a work-in-progress with my Above The Static blog but the learning process is fun, especially with great posts like this. Thanks Jeff!

  • Very comprehensive advice, some of which I am doing, but plenty of scope to do more.

  • Great points. ‘Associated Press style’ was something very new for me.

  • outmaturity

    Really great points made and the comments have been very helpful too! Really liked the part about the Associated Press Style, that makes great sense!

    Thanks for sharing!


  • I really liked how you put SEO in plain English. I agree with you when it comes to writing to your audience and the SEO will take care of itself. I also appreciated your tip about linking to keywords instead of saying “click here.” That makes good sense! I can’t wait to apply a couple of your tips to my fitness blog 🙂

  • Great post Jeff. I’ll try to apply this!

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Bayoani2000

    Excellent Post. I really find this article interesting. The first tip is really what got my attention the most. As a beginner to the blogging world I realized that most blogs that interest me has a catchy and attention grabbing appeal.

  • Jeff you offer some great tips. I agree that your title should be engaging and the content should deliver.

  • Hi Jeff – great post, but I have one question – which maybe you have some insights on, and perhaps could warrant answering in a follow on post: How to get your audience to have a conversation not just with you, the blogger, but to start a discussion between themselves, both on and off your blog site? There is some magic involved that I cannot put my finger on – is it the post itself, or the nature of the audience, or just a random fluke when a post somehow ignites a firestorm of discussion amongst the audience? I’d love to hear what you (and your readers) think about this, and if it is somehow possible to capture that elusive firefly in a jar…

  • Salvatore – This is an excellent question. As you have surmised, this can depend upon the nature of the community. One suggestion is to mention the names of other commenters in your comments. This encourages interaction – especially if you compare and contrast their respective comments.

    So, what I am suggesting is you have to be a facilitator that encourages interaction.


  • brianrobinson1

    I liked this article and found it greatly helpful. Out of the five steps given to optimize your blog, I believe the most important two are as follows. One in my opinion would be Having a catchy title or heading. No one will click on the blog if it does not catch their attention. Two, would be optimizing your blog to rank high on search engines. The closer you are to that number one result the more people will link to your website.

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  • I appreciate you writing this article! There is a lot to take from the info you provided and I can really see the logic in the tips you suggest… and that’s why this article is great in itself. Tips 1 and 2 are very important because you first have to capture the reader and make them want to read the article from the title. Then 2 is great because a lot of times people scan read things and prefer concise or listed info. I definitely will share this post with others. Fantastic job!

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  •  Great post – this site has quickly become my favorite blogging site –
    always extremely relevant and helpful! Keep up the good work!/

  • Great post Jeff. I’ll try to apply this!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Bradley Speck

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