3 Great Blog Post Structures You Can Use Today

This is a guest post by Ali Luke. She is a writer and blogger from the UK, and author of Publishing E-Books for Dummies. In partnership with Joe Williams of SEO Training, she runs day-long training courses on blogging and social media in London. You can read their blog and follow them on Twitter.

When I started out in blogging, I didn’t know how to put a blog post together. I started by simply typing out my thoughts. But it quickly became clear that, if I wanted readers, I needed a better plan.

Detail of an Engineering Blueprint - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AK2, Image #7206299

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AK2

However great a writer you are, your posts will only get read if they’re well structured. That doesn’t just mean having a gripping introduction (though that’s an important part of it). It also means getting the main body of your post right.

If you’ve not already read Michael’s post Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post, or if you need a refresher, read that before continuing. He has great tips about key components of your post, like the introduction and post image. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the main body of your post.

These are the three simple post structures you can use:

  1. The How-to Post. A how-to post aims to teach the reader something, by taking them through a step-by-step process. It’s usually structured with numbered, sequential steps. And, where appropriate, these steps might include a screenshot or photo to show the reader what to expect at each stage.

    If you’re writing a how-to post, the easiest way to begin is with a careful plan. Work out the necessary steps. You may find you need to break complicated procedures into several parts, or merge simple ones together. Get them into the best possible order.

    Once you’ve done that, your post will be straightforward to write—and straightforward for readers to follow.

    Variations:

    • “How I ____ and How You Can Too”: Readers love to hear how you succeeded with something. This formula lets you explain your own steps and offer action points for them.
    • “Why ___ Matters and How To Do It”: If you suspect your readers need to know the why before the how, spend the first third or half of your post explaining the why, then move on to practical steps.
  2. The List Post. A list post offers readers a selection of ideas, tips, suggestions, or resources. These are normally numbered. If you’ve been around the blogging world for long, you’ll have come across this type of post—probably many times.

    The key difference between a list post and a how-to post is that readers don’t need to follow the list from start to end: they can dip in and use those points that seem most applicable to their own situation.

    As with a how-to post, pre-planning is essential. Aim to come up with a couple more items than you need, and cut the weakest. Think about the order of your items, too: easiest to hardest works well, or you could alternate “do” and “don’t” tips.

    Variations:

    • “The A–Z of ___”: You may well have seen this format used in magazines. An A–Z list post usually aims to produce a comprehensive overview of a particular topic, in bite-size chunks.
    • “Roundup: ___”: This form of post gathers together resources (generally blog posts) on a particular topic, meaning each list item includes a link. You could also use this to list, say, the top 20 tweeters in your niche.
  3. The Review Post. Review posts offer an informed opinion about a particular product or service. These are a great way to serve your readers, who might be debating whether or not to purchase a particular item. They also help establish your own knowledge and expertise in your field.

    It’s up to you what exactly you include in your reviews, but one simple structure you can use is this:

    • Overview—what’s included, how much it costs, and so on
    • The good—mention the two or three aspects that were most enjoyable or useful to you
    • The bad—write about what didn’t work so well – this adds credibility, especially if you’re an affiliate for the product / service
    • Verdict—should your readers buy the product / service?

    Variations:

    • “Product X vs Product Y”: Often, readers will be struggling to choose between two similar products or companies. A comparative review helps them make up their mind.
    • “Top Ten Books On ___”: Similar to a roundup list post, but with added opinion, a “top ten” of books or other products in your niche offers readers bite-size reviews—and a resource to return to.

Of course, these aren’t the only structures you can use. But they do give you a great basis to build on. And they help ensure that your reader gets real value from your writing.

If you’ve had success with one of the above post structures, or if you’ve got a favorite structure of your own, let us know in the comments.

Question: How have you used these blog structures—or others—successfully? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • samarowais

    Great post Ali! 

    How-to posts are a personal favourite of mine. Unfortunately, they’re also the most abused blog post type you’ll ever come across. Not because they’re so common or have been done to death but because they’re rarely ever done right.

    So many people write vague how-to posts that don’t really show how to do stuff. Instead they tell you what you should do and leave it for the reader to figure out the actionable steps. 

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks so much, Samar! I think “how to” can get overdone in post titles — for me, a great how to post is one that (like you say) shows readers how to accomplish something.

      Another way to look at them is as “tutorials” — which hopefully helps bloggers get their head round giving actionable advice!

  • http://www.robertjacobs.org/ Robert Jacobs

    I guess I have been using some of these structures in my posts but not intentionally (which can be a problem). When I start a post, I structured in 3 components (intro, body, conclusions, question). This post will add to my tool belt. When I start a post I will be thinking about which of three structures Michael described and be intentional.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Robert, it’s interesting how some of the structures find their way into our writing without us even knowing about it, huh? I think there’s common themes and writing styles that naturally draw out a specific structure.

  • rabbimoffic

    Thank 

  • rabbimoffic

    Thank you for such helpful insights. Do you think the increasing use of mobile devices to read  changes the way we should think about post structure? 

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Good question … and my take is that great structure is great structure, whatever the device in question. On mobile devices, though, I suspect it’s even more crucial than ever to make sure that your post has a logical flow, with plenty of subheadings — as people can’t easily scan through the whole post like they can on a 17″ (or so) monitor.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    My most popular blog post by far was a “How To” post titled “How To Respond To The Election Results” – http://www.jonstolpe.com/2012/11/07/how-to-respond-to-the-election-results/ .  I wrote the post before the election and scheduled it to post the day after the election.  It was amazing to see the response and the traffic.  The success of this post definitely has me thinking that I should try more “How To” posts in the future.

    • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

       I loved this post Jon! i think what touched me the most was that you  wrote and scheduled it before the results came in. It wasn’t a specific response to specific results..maybe that’s why it spoke to so many.

      • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

         Thanks, Ngina.

  • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

    Very helpful post Ali.

    I have found that the list variation works the best for the readers of my blog. I got a lot of response out of a recent post I did about the top 10 books I want to read. I do a lot of book reviews, too, but I do not get as much interest from my readers in those. 

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks, Tessa. I think list posts are often appealing because even if only one or two items apply to a particular reader, they can still be extremely valuable.  Maybe you could follow yours up with another top ten (e.g. top ten books you read this year, or even the top ten suggestions from your blog’s readers…)

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Thanks Ali.  I’ve been studying blog writing and you’re right on these three ideas.  Other things I’ve discovered is that spinning personal stories within the post is important and keeping the posts short.  It’s quite the challenge to combine these elements to come up with short, personable posts that are aimed toward the readers’ needs.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Great tip, Dan — and in terms of balance, I really like the way Michael typically does this with his posts by having a short personal story at the start that leads into the body of the piece. (Of course there are other ways too, but that seems like a very effective method that any blogger could try.)

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Good to see you here, Ali. I’m a fan of the Rant.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks Jeff! I think rants can be great fun to read — powerful and compelling — though perhaps tougher to structure than some other types of posts. I’d love to hear any of your tips on that — do you find that the structure emerges naturally, or do you have to plan out the rant before writing it?

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great to see you on Michael’s blog, Ali. I love posts like this because they provide an easy to follow checklist when writing. I’ve used all three post types on my blog, but I’ve never broken them down like you have in your article today. What usually works for me is to read a new personal development book or article, and then provide a review post. From there, I’ll usually provide a few how-to posts to help readers understand the information and provide a new tool or worksheet for my audience. Once I’m done with that a review post can tie everything together.

    Three separate posts types, but they all tie together in one cohesive package built around a review post. This is also a great way to put together a book from blog posts. Give us the information, show us how to apply it, and give us a review when we are done. Repeat this for each chapter and soon you’ll have a book.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks John, it’s great to be here. :-) 

      Your posting sequence sounds great — a really good way to provide value for your readers, and to create links and coherence between your posts, providing structure on a blog-wide level. Sounds like it’s a good way to ward off writers’ block, too; I’m sure you’re never short of ideas!

  • J E Kraakevik

    I don’t really like these set structures and I don’t think this gives enough options for people to use. I would use some of them, but how often do you want to review a product on your blog? How many lists can you do?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think Ali was trying to give a comprehensive set of structures. These are just three you can add to your toolbox. What other types would you add?

      • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

        JE, Michael’s absolutely right. I didn’t intend to make it seem as if these are the *only* structures you can use — and there are plenty of wonderful blog posts out there that are structured differently.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       J.E. I would say use them as a part of your writing, not your complete writing. When you’ve come to a day and it’s hard to write, look over one of these post structures and see if it can get you out of the rut. It’s not about using them all of the time, just when you need them.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    What’s the link to that post?

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    A few suggestions for “how-to” post topics: 

    1. How to Write a How-To Post 
    2. How to Write a “How to Write a How-to Post” 
    3. How to Write a “How to Write a ‘How to Write a How-to Post'” 

    etc.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Getting kinda meta there, Cyberquill..!

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Using the Russian nesting dolls method, one never runs out of things to blog about.

        • Ramon Presson

          I know what Russian nesting dolls are and I’m intrigued by what you mean by it being a metaphor as a writing method. Please share. :-)

          • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

            In my comment on top, I gave a practical example of the method.

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    I am ever-so-slowly learning to write blog titles and posts for my readers rather than myself. I may love a clever turn-of-the-phrase, but my “unique” and “literary” titles never bring in the readers. 

    Adding “How to…” to the title makes me feel presumptuous. Adding a number feels arbitrary. But both increase traffic and engagement, so who am I to argue with what works?

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      This is one of the slightly frustrating things about titles — and I do sympathise!    The problem is, a lot of readers are in a hurry and the title needs to tell them what they can expect. The title is also given a fair bit of weight by search engines, so it’s useful to have keywords in there that tie in firmly with the topic of your post.

      You might find there’s some way you can combine a more literary approach, perhaps with a clever or intriguing phrase first, then a more clear and concrete one that has an obvious draw — a little like Johnny B. Truant did in his recent post on Copyblogger, “Dance Dance Revolution and One Big Reason Why Businesses Prosper Online.”

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    Wonderful post Ali.  I do list posts on my blog and they often get some of the highest pageviews. I’ve learned something new  –  Cut out the weakest steps/tips and start from easiest to hardest. That’s a golden nugget. Thank you.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks Ngina! I hope that nugget brings you even more pageviews for your list posts in future. :-)

  • Meggin

    I love the “tip” post and use it all the time.  I have a huge series of tips at http://www.TopTenProductivityTips.com and I love reading others’ tips, too.  

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Awesome! Looks good Meggin.

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    Great post, Ali. I was familiar with these but the variations were new, and super helpful. I took a minute to look over my analytics and found that two of my round-up posts were super popular . The best part is that they leveraged previous content, gathering hiking profiles that we had written in the past under a common topic. Not only did that save writing time, but it now drives folks further into our site.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks Aaron- – and that’s a great insight from the analytics. :-)

  • Jack Wellman

    Remarkable insight.  As a writer, we take on the “How To” issues like addictions to pornography and substance abuse since these are the greatest strongholds to overcome for a believer and this article has validated that we need to stay focused on these issues which even pastors, of which I am, assault the Christian more and more these days.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       I’m with you Jack. The how-tos can be powerful and moving. They give our readers answers to tough situations and the guidance can be life changing.

      • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

        Jack, thank you, I’m so grateful to have helped. As a Christian myself, I think that issues such as addiction are incredibly important ones to tackle in a sensitive, straightforward manner; a “how to” can be a very powerful way to help people see a path forward. 

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I love this Ali. I normally use the How-To and List structures for my posts but I’m starting to creep away from them into new territory because of a webinar Derek Halpern.

    They introduced me to the blog post structure of solve one problem. You start with the issue. Then why it’s important to solve it. Finally, you give one solution, not multiples. This draws the reader in and allows them to focus on one solution rather than trying to pick and choose or being overwhelmed by all the methods.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Joe, I think that’s a great structure — information overwhelm doesn’t help anyone. 

      I’ve found that “One Simple Way to…” can often be an effective form of “list” post — sometimes we just need one answer, not twenty!

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Thanks, Dan.  Great post!

  • Rocky

    Very helpful!
    I just wrote a “review” post this weekend and it didn’t occur to me to include “the bad” with “the good” in an effort to build credibility. This makes sense.

    I also read another post this weekend that was a little busy and detailed. The author could use your How-To post recommendations. I will be forwarding this.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks Rocky! Glad this was helpful — and I hope you get a chance to make a few tweaks to your review post (if you haven’t already). :-)

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ JD Meier

    Beautiful and to the point — these three structures are tried and true.

    I’m a fan of structured information.  I find that structure helps with creating, clarifying, and consuming information.

    I think in a world of information overload, structured information rises to the top.  The key though is to avoid letting structure get in the way.  When done well, it’s the unsung hero that quietly does its job.

    I try to blend a balance of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured information.  To guide me, I try to keep each post atomic so that it can provide an insight or an action that readers can use to improve personal effectiveness.

    When it comes to turning insight into action, aside from How Tos, I’m a fan of checklists.  My “leadership checklist” tends to float to the top of searches on a regular basis because it’s action-oriented and easy to use as a self-test of your leadership skills.

    I’ve avoided doing product reviews, but now I’m realizing that product reviews can be incredibly helpful to help readers find their way among the sea of choices.

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      JD, great tip on the checklists — that’s definitely a very handy format, and one I’ve seen a lot of bloggers use to great success. I like the sound of your atomic approach too, where each post does one thing and does it well.

  • http://www.borntwolead.com/ TJ Trent

    Ali,

    Thanks for the tips!  I am always eager to learn and grow.  The greatness of blogging os the community of bloggers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    These structures are great starting places, especially when stuck for an idea.  I like how practical they are…and give some additional insight beyond what is in the Platform book.  This one is going in Evernote…as I TRY to improve my blog writing.  Thanks! 

    • http://www.aliventures.com Ali Luke

      Thanks Tom, very glad to help! If you find that one of the structures sparks off a particular idea for you, do pop back and let us know. :-)

  • Rusha Sams

    Thanks for categorizing blog structures.  I mostly write reviews, but I forget to put in opinions — what’s great, what’s not.  You’re reminding me that people want to know both, not just why I like something!  http://ohtheplaceswesee.com

  • http://www.buildtracks.com/ Gregor – buildtracks.com

    I think list posts and how to posts are average at best. There are too many of them now – simply because they are easy to put together. In the same vain a review post is easy to write, but readers will come back if your reviews are insightful (likewise if a how to is useful).

    The key is to write quality content regardless of which structure you choose. If you write down quality “thoughts” then you’ll get quality traffic. And if you write a quality how to then it will get shared. For how to posts it’s important they haven’t been done before.

  • http://www.shalom-candles.co.uk Florence Ukpabi

    Thanks for this post

  • ChadMillerBlog

    Ali, I really appreciate how you’ve simplified these structures and provided examples.
    Of particular importance is your statement, “they do give you a great basis to build on.” I like to think of it this way:
    They’re incredible and proven recipes and like any good cook you should find a way to make them your own. In other words, my great-grandmother’s lasagna recipe is amazing, but it hasn’t stopped me from making it my own and enhancing the flavor.
    You’ve provide a great resource, Ali. Thank you.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    I have used all of these structures, and in my blog analytics I can tell you that the List structure has been the best for my blog.  I think you could write “3 Reasons for Lists” and the traffic will jump up.  It seems like any post title with a number in it gets traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/Lane_Errington Lane Errington

    Great post! I’m formulating the case for my organization to start blogging and this post will be very helpful.

  • http://www.leadingyourlife.net/ Jason Pulley

    Thanks for the good information. This will help my restructuring a great deal.

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  • http://www.crazymikesapps.com crazymikesapps

    Thank you Michael, 

    My wife and I have been blogging (app reviews) 1 year full-time, making videos on YouTube and have had some success, but we are not getting the traffic we are working so hard for, mainly in the blog. I am going to take your suggestion on both the “How To Post” and “Review Post” and what seems so easy in hindsight was oblivious to me. Mike

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  • http://www.moonfiller.com/ Taran

     Thanks for the tips!  I am always eager to learn and grow.  The greatness of blogging os the community of bloggers.

    Great post Ali.

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  • http://www.myaspergers.net/ steveborgman

    Ali, you are everywhere! It’s such an encouragement having a professional writer share her insights with us. I always enjoy your articles. Thanks much! I’ve saved these templates into my Evernote Blogging Templates notebook :)