How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive Guide

How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive Guide

Today I’m going to show you how to write a blog post that gets:

Hundreds of comments.

Thousands of social shares.

And first page Google rankings.

Let’s dive right in.

How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive Guide

Chapter 1:Find a (Proven) Topic

Find a proven topic

Your blog post topic is HUGE.

Question is:

How do you find proven topics?

Use one of these 5 simple step-by-step strategies.

Udemy Courses

Udemy is a keyword research GOLDMINE.

Here’s why:

Udemy doesn’t just show you content that people are interested in.

Instead, you see content that people are paying for.

You can search for courses by category…

Udemy categories

…or by keyword.

Udemy search

Either way, you’ll find content that people are PAYING to access.

For example, let’s say you run a blog about graphic design.

Head over to the design category in Udemy….

Udemy design section

…and scroll down to their best-selling courses:

Udemy bestsellers

And within 5 seconds you have a list of proven topics:

  • 3D Modeling
  • Designing and coding WordPress themes
  • After Effects tutorial
  • How to use Adobe Illustrator

Very cool.

Amazon Table of Contents

First, search in Amazon for a keyword that describes your blog.

Amazon "SEO" search

Then, look for a book with lots of ratings.

(This shows you that people actually bought the book)

Amazon book rating

Finally, click “Look Inside” to see the table of contents.

Amazon "Look inside"

And just like with Udemy, you get a list of topics presented to you on a silver platter:

Amazon – Table of contents

Which leads us to…

Ahrefs “Top Pages”

Now it’s time to steal your competitor’s best topics.

First, grab a competitor and pop it into Ahrefs.com.

Ahrefs search

Then, hit “Top Content”.

Ahrefs top content

And you’ll see the exact content that’s worked best for that blog (in terms of social shares and backlinks):

Ahrefs – Content results

BuzzSumo’s “Evergreen Score”

You already know that BuzzSumo is a GREAT tool for finding content ideas.

(In fact, BuzzSumo is one of my favorite content marketing tools)

And they recently added a VERY cool feature that makes this tool even more useful:

“Evergreen Score”.

Here’s how it works:

First, type a keyword into BuzzSumo just like you normally would.

BuzzSumo – Search

By default, BuzzSumo shows you content that has lots of social shares.

BuzzSumo – Total engagement

But here’s the problem:

You can’t tell whether that content went viral for a day and quickly flamed out…

…or if it’s still racking up shares and links years later.

That’s where the Evergreen Score comes into play.

It shows you content that people share and link to MONTHS after it first went live:

BuzzSumo – Evergreen score

That way, you can publish content that brings you traffic for YEARS.

Conference Agendas

This is quickly becoming my FAVORITE ways to find killer topics.

First, head to a conference website in your niche.

Brighton SEO – Home

Go to the agenda page:

Brighton SEO – Menu

And you’ll see topics that people are (again) paying to learn more about:

Brighton SEO – Agenda

Pro Tip: Pop the conference agenda page into the Google Keyword Planner.

Put URL into GKP

Choose “This page only”:

Choose "This page only" in GKP

And you’ll get a list of targeted keyword ideas… straight from Google.

Google Keyword Planner (GKP) Results

Chapter 2:Blog Post Templates

Blog post templates

Now that you have a topic, it’s time to get started on your post.

And I have great news:

You don’t need to start from scratch, suffer from writer’s block, or stare at a blank white screen.

Instead, use one of the awesome blog post templates that I’m about to share with you.

#1: Expanded List Post

What It Is

A regular list post… but better.

List posts are a blogging mainstay. And for good reason: they’re a collection of bite sized tips that people can use to get a specific result. The issue is: traditional list posts usually leave out key details.

(Like how to put each tip into practice)

Regular list posts

But the Expanded List Post is completely different.

With the Expanded List Post, you give LOTS of detail about each item on your list.

Expanded list post

Why It Works

Normal lists posts make people do a ton of extra work.

For example, let’s say the first tip from a list post is: “Eat Eggs at Breakfast”

Well, that leaves out A LOT of important info, like:

  • What time should I eat?
  • How do I cook the eggs (hard boiled vs. scrambled)
  • What about organic and free-range eggs?
  • Can I eat anything with the eggs?

Well, the Expanded List Post answers all of those questions and more.

That way, your reader doesn’t have to fill in the blanks.


Real Life Example

A while back I published: “21 Actionable SEO Techniques That Work GREAT”.

SEO Techniques that work

And this Expanded List Post is one of the most successful pieces of content that I’ve ever published.

To date, my post has 13k social shares:

Social shares: 13448

1,118 comments:

Comment count: 1118

And backlinks from over 857 domains:

SEO Techniques – Referring Domains in Ahrefs

My secret?

Unlike most list posts, I gave people detailed steps for each and every tip:

Seed keywords – Steps

#2: The Branded Strategy Case Study

What It Is

Your Branded Strategy Post solves a problem that your target audience struggles with.

And when you give this solution a “branded” name? You’re instantly seen as an industry expert.

There’s only one catch:

You need to prove that it works.

Enter: The Branded Strategy Case Study.

The branded strategy case study

Why It Works

Your branded name gives people something tangible to link to.

It also helps establish you as an authority in your niche.

(If you created your own strategy, you MUST be an expert)


Real Life Example

A few years ago I was having a hard time building my email list.

And after trying a bunch of different strategies, I finally found something that worked:

Offering people VERY targeted lead magnets.

Targeted lead magnets

So I decided to write a blog post about my experience.

Boost Conversions post

And I made sure to give my new strategy a name:

The Content Upgrade.

This simple little case study has racked up 3.49k backlinks from 677 domains.

Backlinks to the Increase Conversions post

And most of these links are a direct result of my unique, branded name:

"Content upgrade" branded name

#3: Tools of the Trade

What It Is

A “Tools Of The Trade Post” is a list of tools that you recommend.

To be clear:

These tools DON’T have to be software.

A “tool” can be a morning routine, a foam roller or a B12 supplement.

As long as the tool helps your reader solve a problem, you’re good.

Tools of the trade

Why It Works

Strategies are hard.

Approaches are tricky.

But tools are EASY.

(In fact, the #1 question I get is: “Brian, what SEO tools do you recommend?”).

That said:

Finding the right tool can be REALLY hard.

That’s where your “Tools of the Trade” post comes in.

It’s a hand-picked list of the best tools… all in one place.


Real Life Example

Last year I published a blog post called: How to Learn SEO In Record Time.

Learn SEO 2019

It was a list of “tools” (resources) to help people learn SEO.

Learn SEO – List of tools

It didn’t go viral or anything. But it got over 1.6k shares:

Social shares: 1647

And it currently ranks in the top 5 for my target keyword:

Backlinko in "learn seo" SERPs

#4: The Ultimate Guide

What It Is

A complete resource that covers EVERYTHING.

The Ultimate Guide

Why It Works

Your guide gives someone everything they need to know about a topic… in one place.

So there’s no need for people to read 18 different posts.

Once they find your guide, they have everything they need to know.

It’s also great for getting backlinks.

That’s because bloggers will link to your guide when they write about your topic:

SEO Tribunal link

Real Life Example

The first guide I ever published at Backlinko was: “Link Building for SEO: The Definitive Guide”.

Link Building Guide

(Since then I’ve updated the guide at least 50 times)

Because my guide is SUPER thorough, other SEO and content marketing blogs were happy to link to it:

SEJ – Backlink to Backlinko

And share it on social media:

Sharing the post on Twitter

#5: The Complete List

What It Is

A Complete List is like an ultimate guide in list form.

So instead of a guide, you take every…

  • Tip
  • Item
  • Tool
  • Technique
  • Strategy
  • Example
  • Case study

…And put it in one place.

The complete list

Why It Works

First off, Complete Lists have a legit “WOW” factor.

(A list of 200+ anything is impressive)

Second, you’re curating scattered information on a single page.


Real Life Example

In 2015 I published “SEO Tools: The Complete List”.

SEO Tools: The Complete List

It’s a MASSIVE list of over 190 SEO tools.

(Yup, I personally tried each and every one of them)

But I didn’t just list a bunch of tools and call it a day.

I made sure to highlight my favorite tools:

Brian's favorite tools

And the post has been a traffic MAGNET for me.

In fact, 10,909 people visit that post every single month:

SEO Tools – Monthly visitors

Chapter 3:Create an Awesome Headline

Create an awesome headline

When it comes to writing a blog post, your headline can make or break your entire post.

So it’s important to nail this step.

And in this chapter I’m going to show you how to write amazing blog post headlines.

Start Your Headline With These Phrases

BuzzSumo recently analyzed 100 million headlines.

BuzzSumo headline analysis study

So, what did they find?

That headlines that start with these 20 phrases tend to get the most shares:

Top phrases starting headlines (measured by average Facebook engagement)

For example, this recent post from my blog started off with one of these tested phrases:

"15 best" in post title

12-18 Words

Let’s look at another interesting finding from that BuzzSumo study.

They discovered that the sweet spot for headline length is between 12-18 words.

BuzzSumo chart

(At least when it comes to social shares)

Add Brackets (And Parentheses)

This is one of my favorite headline hacks.

Why?

A study by OutBrain found that adding brackets to headlines can improve CTR up to 38%.

Brackets increase click through rate by 38%

And my real world experience backs this up.

6 of my top 10 most popular posts have brackets or parentheses in the title:

Bracket titles in the top 10

In B2B? Use These Proven Headline Phrases

If you’re in B2B (like me), you know that clickbait titles don’t work that well.

Fortunately, the BuzzSumo study I mentioned earlier also analyzed a subset of B2B post titles.

And they discovered that these 20 phrases work GREAT in B2B:

Top B2B headline phrases (measured by average LinkedIn shares)

Optimize for EMV

Every copywriter knows that emotional headlines get LOTS of clicks.

And now there’s data to back this up.

CoSchedule recently published a blog post headline study.

OkDork headlines

Specifically, they analyzed a million headlines for “EMV”.

(EMV=”Emotional Marketing Value”)

And they found a clear correlation between high EMV and social shares.

Average EMV score for headlines based on shares

You can measure your EMV score using this tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute:

Advanced Marketing Institute

Just pop your headline into the tool…

Enter headline text into tool

…and you’ll get your EMV score.

EMV score

I try to get my EMV score to at least 25%.

I even have a few headlines with an EMV score of 70%+.

EMV score of 71%

Chapter 4:Craft a Compelling Intro

Craft a compelling intro

Topic? Check.

Headline? Check.

Now it’s time to grab your reader’s attention.

How? Your blog post introduction.

4-7 Sentences

Let’s face it:

No one likes long blog post introductions, like this:

Post with a long intro

That’s why I limit my intros to 4-7 lines… MAX.

For example, my intro from this post is only 6 lines:

YouTube channel growth intro

In my experience, 4-7 sentences is more than enough to hook people…

…and get them excited for the content they’re about to read.

PPP Formula

The PPP Formula is KILLING it for me right now.

(The “PPP” stands for: Preview, Proof, Preview)

Here’s a visual of the formula:

The PPP formula

Now I’m going to break down each part of the PPP formula…

…and show you real-life examples of the formula in action.

First, you have the Preview.

This couldn’t be any more simple.

Just let your reader know EXACTLY what to expect.

That way, when someone lands on your post, they know they’re in the right place.

Here’s an example:

"Preview" stage, in the SEO Audit post

Next, it’s time for the Proof.

Here’s where you show people that you can deliver.

Specifically, you want to prove that you know your stuff.

You can show proof with:

  • Personal results
  • Years of experience
  • Number of clients
  • Credentials or certifications

Here’s an example:

SEO Audit – Process

Last up, we have the Preview… again.

The first preview was a high-level overview of your post.

The 2nd preview is a little bit different.

This preview is where you get specific about something from your post.

For example, in this intro, I preview the fact that the steps in the post aren’t super technical.

Emphasis of "Non-technical"

Transition

I like to end my intros with a transition sentence.

In my experience, this transition helps push people to read the next section.

Here’s an example:

"Let's dive right in" transition

Chapter 5:Write Your Post

Write your post

Now it’s time to show you how to write SUPER engaging content.

Specifically, I’m going to share 6 strategies that can make your blog posts 10x better.

Starting with…

Short Paragraphs

Want people to read your content? AVOID giant walls of text.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Wall of text

Instead, stick to paragraphs that are 1-2 sentences long.

Like this:

Short paragraphs

Why is this important?

Short paragraphs are easier to read.

(Especially on mobile devices)

Section Subheaders

I LOVE subheaders.

That’s because subheaders break your content up into easy-to-read chunks.

For example, my post “The Complete SEO Checklist” has A LOT of content.

Backlinko – SEO Checklist post

(In fact, that post is 4,328 words)

So I broke up the content into lots of little chunks. And added a list of bullet point links that take you to each section:

Table of contents

In fact, this single post has 9 subheaders.

Active Voice

If I could give people ONE writing tip for writing blog posts it would be:

Use the active voice!

Seriously.

The passive voice is just… lame.

On the flipside, the active voice is crisp and clear.

Use the active voice

15-17px Font

You might have noticed that Medium.com posts are REALLY easy to read.

Medium readability

How do they do it?

They use 21px font.

If you’re using anything less than 15px, you’re losing lots of readers.

That’s why we use 18px font here at Backlinko.

Backlinko font size

Write Like You Talk

This is the holy grail of great writing.

But it’s not easy.

(Especially if you took English classes in high school)

With that, here’s a tip:

Read your post out loud.

If it sounds weird, scrap that sentence.

This time, explain the same thing out loud.

You’ll probably find that the same sentence sounds A LOT better.

Lots of Visuals

Screenshots.

Charts.

Pictures.

Infographics.

Don’t be afraid to use a ton of visuals in every post.

For example, this post from my blog has 95 visuals:

SEO Audit post screenshots

Chapter 6:Add a Conclusion

Add a conclusion

Let’s cap things off with your conclusion.

And let me be clear about something:

Your conclusion is VERY important.

(Especially if you want lots of people to comment on your post)

Fortunately, I’ve developed a simple, 3-step formula for writing AWESOME conclusions.

It’s called “The TAC Formula”.

Here’s an overview of The TAC Formula:

The TAC formula

And now I’ll cover the detailed steps…

Start your conclusion off with the Transition.

Your transition is just like it sounds:

It transitions people from your blog content to the conclusion section.

Here’s an example:

"Now I'd like to hear from you" at the end of the post

Next, it’s time for the Ask.

Here’s where you ask your reader a VERY specific question.

In other words: don’t ask: “Let me know what you think”.

Instead, throw your reader a softball question that’s easy to answer.

For example:

Ask an easy question

Finally, end with a call to action.

You can ask your readers to comment…

Ask your readers to leave a comment

…or to share your content on social media.

Chapter 7:Optimize for SEO

Optimize for SEO

Next, optimize your post for SEO.

And the best way to do that?

Use the 5 on-page SEO strategies I’m
about to show you.

Short URLs

There’s no doubt about it:

When it comes to SEO, short URLs work best.

URL length – Line graph

There are two reasons that short URLs outperform long URLs.

First off, your URL helps Google understand your page’s topic.

In fact, Google officially recommends short, descriptive URLs.

URL best practices

Second, people use URLs to help them decide what to click on in the search results.

And if your URL is insanely long, people are less likely to click on it:

Short URL CTR

Speaking of…

Meta Description

Nope, search engines don’t use your meta description for SEO. That said: your meta description is a GREAT way to get more people to click on your result.

Specifically, you want your meta description to:

  • Include your target keyword (Google bolds keywords in the search results)
  • Use verbs, like “learn”, “find” and “buy”
  • Describe your content’s USP
  • Fit within the ~155 character limit

For example, you can see that my meta description from this post is designed to maximize clicks:

"SEO Tools" in post meta description in SERPs

Keyword In Title Tag

This couldn’t be any simpler.

Just include your exact keyword in your title tag.

For example, my target keyword for my post “27 Ways to Increase Website Traffic in 2018” is: “increase website traffic”.

So I included that keyword in my title tag:

"Increase Website Traffic" in title tag of post in SERPs

And WordPress page title:

"27 Ways to Increase Website Traffic in 2019" page title

Keyword In Intro

Make sure to use your keyword once in your blog post intro:

Keyword in intro

Internal Links

Internal linking might be the most underrated SEO strategy on the planet.

That said, internal linking isn’t complicated.

Whenever you publish a new post, add 2-5 links to older posts:

Link to high-priority pages often

You can also go back to older posts and link to your NEW post.

For example, when I published “The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research”, I linked out to related content…

Keyword Research Guide: Linking out to related content

…and added a handful of internal links to the new guide:

Keyword Research checklist

Bonus Chapter:Promote Your Content

Promote your content

When it comes to blogging, promoting your post is even MORE important than the content itself.

In other words:

You can’t just share your post on Twitter and call it a day.

That’s why I recommend promoting your content with these 4 tested strategies.

Facebook Retargeting

Yup, Facebook’s organic reach is at an all-time low.

Facebook's organic reach is at an all-time low

That said:

You can still get in front of your fans… with boosted posts.

(And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune)

In fact, I paid 56 cents per click on this boosted post:

Facebook boosted post

The secret?

Retargeting.

Here’s the exact process:

First, add Facebook’s ad pixel to your site.

Next, share your blog post on Facebook.

Share your post on Facebook

This will get you a handful of likes and comments… which pushes more people to engage with your post later on.

Now that you have some social proof, boost your post. And ONLY target people that visited your site in the last 30-60 days.

Facebook audience: ONLY target people that visited your site in the last 30-60 days

That’s all there is to it.

Email Newsletter

This is the ultimate content promotion superhack.

For example, I recently published this post on my blog:

SEO Audit checklist

And to get the word out, I tweeted the post…

SEO Audit tweet

…and sent a newsletter to my email subscribers.

Which do you think got more clicks?

The newsletter.

In fact, the newsletter got 12.7x more clicks than my Tweet.