Are you ever stuck for blogging inspiration? Perhaps you can turn out a great list post, but you feel like your readers are hungry for something different.
One of the best ways to come up with new ideas and structures for your blogging is to build on what others have done. This means looking closely at the structure of their post—the framework holding it up.
Image from Flickr by andresmh
I’ll take you through two in-depth examples, and then explain how you can easily create your own structures from the posts that you read.
Starting With the Basics: Blog Post Titles
You may well have come across the “borrowing” principle before: a lot of bloggers and copywriters advise basing your titles on tried and tested ones.
I’ll run through a couple of quick examples of how you can grab a blog title and adapt it to suit your own niche.
can be adapted to…
7 Landing Page Must-Dos That Win EVERY Time
7 Household Products that Win EVERY Time
can be adapted to…
The Business Owner’s Guide to Dealing with Late-Paying Clients
The Single Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Tantrums
(If you want more examples, take a look at Attention Grabbing Titles.)
As you can see, you keep some basic elements, and switch around the rest of the title to suit you.
It’s just the same process when you break down a blog post—and here’s how it looks.
Worked Example #1
Writing a Guarantee That Converts (Christina Gillick)
Note: I recommend you read or at least skim Christina’s post at this point, so you can understand how I break it down below.
Every blog post can be divided into three key parts:
- Main body
Unless the post is very short, the main body can be broken down further, into sections: Subheadings are a great clue to where these start and end. It’s often possible to break down the introduction too, and for very in-depth posts, you might find that the conclusion involves several elements.
Christina’s post breaks down like this:
- Starts with a bold statement: “Regardless of what many businesses believe, a guarantee is more than a promise to return the prospect’s money.”
- Explains the importance of the right guarantee.
- Gives an example of a good guarantee.
- “What Can You Guarantee?” (First subheading)
- “Writing a Guarantee”
#1: Statement of belief in product.
#2: Long trial period.
#3: Remedy if customer is unhappy.
#4: Key elements: honesty and transparency.
Example of what NOT to do.
- “Can’t a Guarantee Put My Company at Risk?” (This is the readers’ most likely objection.)
Conclusion: Call to action asking for comments.
If this looks rather like a post outline… that’s because it is! By switching around some of the words (as we did for borrowed post titles), you could turn it into an outline for one of your own posts.
Of course, structure isn’t the only thing you might decide to use. Something that struck me about this post is that the topic covered is a fairly narrow one: writing a guarantee—which means Christina has room to cover it in lots of detail, giving examples and templates along the way.
Bonus Tip: If you chose to write a post based on this example, you don’t have to use every single element. Depending on your topic, you might not need a “combating the likely objection” section, for instance, or you might decide to start with a question rather than a provocative statement.
Worked Example #2
Run A Better Guest Blogging Campaign: 7 Things NOT to Do (Sharon Hurley Hall)
This post has quite a conventional structure (it’s essentially a list). It has some interesting features, though, that mean it’s useful to dig a little deeper.
Introduction: Starts with a question: Is guest blogging still a good marketing tactic?
Main body: Seven-point structure. Each section follows this format:
- Number and subheading.
- Explanation of the common mistake.
- “The Fix” (bold subheading) then what to do differently.
Conclusion: Call to action asking readers to comment.
Each subsection of this post is structured in the same way, offering consistency and making it easy to read. (Using a focused structure like this might initially seem limiting, but it actually makes writing a post far easier.)
The “mistake…fix it” format is a great one to use. No one likes making mistakes, and readers may worry that they’re getting things wrong without knowing it… but simply explaining the mistake isn’t enough. Letting readers know how to fix the problem is where the real value of this post comes in.
Bonus Tip: When you’re pulling a post apart, think about anything you might do differently or even improve on. I loved Sharon’s post, but the way she started the first two sections with eye-catching images made me think that it could be really effective to have an image for every section.
How to Dissect ANY Blog Post
Image from Flickr by oskay
You might like to use one of the above examples—but if not, how about taking apart one of your favorite blog posts?
Step #1: Choose a Well-Structured Post
Turn to the blogs you normally read, and select a recent post that’s got a great structure. Usually, a post is well-structured if:
- It holds your attention from start to end.
- The ordering of information seems logical.
- There are subheadings.
Make it easy: Use posts from well-respected blogs (like The Daily Egg, Copyblogger, or ProBlogger)—these normally have a very solid structure.
Step #2: Take the Post Apart
Once you’ve chosen a post, break it down into these major sections:
- Main Body
You may also want to note any key features (e.g. maybe the post begins with a question, or ends with a call to action).
Make it easy: Print the post out so you can circle different sections, underline parts of particular interest, and/or write notes in the margin.
Step #3: Break Down Each Section
Sometimes, you can’t break down the introduction and conclusion any further—but you can often identify key parts (e.g. the introduction will likely begin with a hook, add some explanation, then have a linking sentence or two to lead into the main body of the post).
Pay attention to how each section is structured. Look for sub-subheadings, or words in bold. If it’s a list post, you may well find that each section is structured in the same way; other posts will probably have different types of section to suit different purposes.
Make it easy: If you’re struggling to see the structure, try writing a brief summary of each section.
Step #4: Look at Other Elements of the Post
You’ll likely have noticed some of these things while reading the post, but now’s a great time to examine them in more depth. Think about:
The use of formatting features like bold text and bullet points. Sometimes, these will be used in a specific, systematic way (e.g. the first line of each subsection will be in bold and each subsection will end with two “learning point” bullets).
The writing style. Are there any features of this you could borrow? Perhaps the author makes use of quotes from others, bolstering their expertise, or maybe they’re great at giving brief explanations of technical terms.
Make it easy: Choose one particular aspect to focus on: maybe an area you’re trying to improve in your own writing (like “calls to action” or “transitions between sections”).
Remember: you don’t have to use everything all at once.
You might find that one idea is enough to enhance your next post—for instance, perhaps you love the way an author has introduced a post with a question and explicitly answered that question in the conclusion.
If you’ve never tried this before, give it a go for your next blog post… and let us know in the comments how you get on!