How To Build A Perfect Blog Post

Perfect_OpI’m a formula person. Creating a standardized process that takes the speculation and confusion out of repetitive tasks works well for me. I also apply this theory to writing blog posts. Why? Because I’ve found if I build every post according to a sensible, pre-established format based on best practices, it cuts down on writing time and takes the guesswork out of the project.

A “perfect blog post formula” will keep you from re-inventing the wheel each time, too. Let’s break down the anatomy of the ideal post layout.

Grab attention with your headline

I recently wrote a post about headlines and How To Write A Click-Worthy Blog Title. The gist of it is, punch up your titles through the use of strong words and phrases, add a number, keep headlines short and riveting, and give a nod to SEO through the use of keywords where possible. Tell people how you’re going to solve a problem your target reader has been grappling with. Then, in your content, deliver the goods. And fiction authors, don’t tell me you can’t do this because your readership is different. I’ll address this issue farther on, so bear with me.

Open with a bang

You only have a certain amount of time to convince your reader that your article is worthwhile. To do that, you’ll need to make your opening paragraph a doozy. Draw them in with your headline, keep them riveted to the page with your opening graph, and …

Use a great image at the top

Research shows that if you include an image top right, it effectively shortens the opening graph (which drives the eye onward) and illustrates the point of the article. I’ve also written in the past about the proper use of copyrighted images and how to avoid getting in trouble. Need a refresher? Blog Image Sources That Won’t Get You Sued.

MorgueFile_OpYou’ll also want to learn about uploading images that are the proper size and dimensions, or cropping them in your WordPress media library to the correct size. Scan this post for more info: Are You Sizing Images Correctly? As for free image sites, is my current favorite.

Break up the text with subheads

In the past I used bolded subheads the same size as the content font to break paragraphs into manageable sections. But as you can see, I’ve shifted subheads to a larger font and now I use WordPress’s “Headline 3.” I like the additional white space these larger subheads add to each post. More white space = an easier, less overwhelming read. Whichever you choose, be sure to use bolded subheads to chunk down your posts.

Use short paragraphs

Just as with contemporary novels, shorter graphs in blog posts help move the reader onward. Long paragraphs are daunting. They discourage readers. People quit and move on to content that is visually less dense. But when you reduce your graphs they appear more reader-friendly and manageable, and that encourages the reader to stay with you. says more about short graphs here.

Content is still king

Although you may be tweaking the post format, your content must still deliver as promised. Let’s face it, a blog is about content. Period. And not just a bunch of meaningless words – what you write about on your blog should reflect your website’s goals and intentions. Why’d you start the blog? Where do you want it to go? What’s your mission? The majority of your content should reflect the answers to these questions. Bottom line, what you write about must add value in some way to your target reader.

And fiction authors, now I’m (finally) going to address the question I posed for you earlier: People who read your books are drawn to your stories in part because they include certain non-fiction elements. You can blog about these subjects. For instance, say your main character is a Francophile like Patricia Sand’s protagonist. You write about France, right? It’s simple and brilliant, and you can do this, too. Have trouble coming up with post ideas? Check out 101 Fabulous Blog Topic Ideas.

Post length

Every blogger I’ve coached has inquired about blog post length. What’s the perfect word count for a blog post? The answer really has to do with substance. Your posts should be as long as the number of words it takes to get your point across clearly and succinctly without a lot of fluff.

Experts say that Google prefers longer posts. Per uber blogger Neil Patel, “Longer posts usually perform better on every level. Evidence suggests that the more content your page has, the better chance it has of a top position in Google results. Per Patel, word counts higher than 2450 words get the best results. Neil goes on to say that longer posts get shared more often, adding, “… posts that are more than 1,500 words receive 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than the articles with fewer than 1,500 words.”

Per online tool Buffer, research shows the ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, or 1,600 words. But keep in mind that rules were made to be broken and there is always an exception, namely well-known blogger Seth Godin, whose posts are famously short – and they work!

Just an FYI, I shoot for a minimum of 1000 words for each post. This post is about 1340. I missed Neil’s goal by less than 200 words. Gah.

Include internal and external links

Experts say that blogging best practices dictate the inclusion of links in every post. That means links to past posts on your own blog, as well as links to other blog posts, preferably high-traffic blogs with good social authority. These internal and eternal links impress Google, and add value for readers who want to research the subject in greater depth. Obviously, they work best when they refer to the subject you’re blogging about.

Ask a question at the end

It’s smart bloggery to ask a question at the end of every post. Questions plus a “call to action” (see below) to reply to your question can help increase comments and stimulate reader engagement. And that’s what you want, right? Blogs are about creating a community of readers, regardless of the subject of the blog. Here is my question for this post:

Readers, do you use a standard format when you write your posts? Do you have a word length goal, include an image every time, ask a question of your readers, and include a call to action to subscribe? Please leave a comment and share!

Include a call to action

A call to action, a.k.a. CTA, is a request for readers to do something, usually subscribe to your blog. IMHO, every post should include such an invitation. It’s one of the most direct, best ways to build your email list. I use a text-based CTA to invite visitors to subscribe to my blog. I prefer it to a plugin based CTA, but what you choose is up to you. Mine appears below. And FYI, I keep my call to action in a separate Word doc and copy and paste at the end of every post.

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss my weekly posts! Your email address will NOT be sold, shared, abused, or rented – that’s a promise. If you’re not already, please follow @mollygreene on Twitter! And last but not least, this original content by Molly Greene is copyright protected. Mwah! Thank you so much!

Additional Resources:
The Perfect Blog Post [Infographic]
The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post: The Data on Headlines, Length, Images and More


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34 Responses to How To Build A Perfect Blog Post

  1. Anne R. Allen September 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Thanks so much for including Neil Patel’s advice on wordcount. I still see people telling new bloggers to blog 300-word posts. The little short ones may have been a good idea when people were blogging every day and mostly showing images of products. But now there’s Tumblr and Pinterest for that stuff. A blog needs strong verbal content.

    My most popular posts are 2000+ words long. Always. People spend an average of 11 minutes on the blog. If they trust you, they’ll stick around.

    And subheaders are SO important. They draw the eye through, plus properly formatted subheaders attract search engines.

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      Thanks Anne! I was actually surprised to read that posts > 2450 words got more “juice.” I don’t think I could do that week after week – mine are typically 1200 words or so. And I agree – it works for Seth Godin, but 200 – 300 word posts just don’t cut it for the rest of us. And as for posting every day – yikes! Today’s subscribers would probably run for the hills. Things change!

    • Ruth Harris September 23, 2014 at 5:21 am #

      Molly, thank you for such useful info. I didn’t realize that *internal* links mattered so much and will include them in future.

      Thanks, too, for pointing out that short and long each have their place. Long word count. Short paragraphs.

      Makes sense now that you point it out: the variation gives an organic rhythm that draws in the reader + works against “reading fatigue.” Also adds to “skimability.”

      Outstanding post.

      As usual.

      Note short paras. 😉

      • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 7:41 am #

        Ruth, you said it so much better than I did! Yes, Google likes internal links and readers stay on the blog longer when you offer them additional info. Win-win!

  2. Jim September 22, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Hi Molly, good blog as usual, but I’m not sure of the word count in your FYI – doesn’t seem to add up?
    Just an FYI, I shoot for 1000 words for each post. This post is about 1340. I missed Neil’s goal by a mere 200 words. Gah.

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Thanks, Jim – I meant “I shoot for a minimum of 1000 …”

  3. John Chapman September 22, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    Spot on Molly. The only improvement I could suggest would be a suitable graphic and border for the ‘Call To Action’. I use them on my blog and they are hard to ignore.

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

      Thanks, John – I don’t know how to add a border & graphic to a text CTA, I’ll have to look into it!

  4. Anna Celeste Burke September 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Thanks Molly for this post…I was just about to wrestle with my post to shorten it! I’ll see if I can make better use of subheadings, too. Cheers!

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

      My pleasure, Anna. I was surprised myself about the stats regarding post length!

  5. Ilenya Marrin September 22, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Thank you, Molly, for this article. As a newbie to blogging, I got some practical answers that will help me get off on the right track! I appreciate your clarity. You do deliver content!

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      Thank you so much, Ilenya!

  6. Julie Musil September 22, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Content is definitely king. Long posts that have lots of great info in them will hold my attention until the end. Like Anne Allen’s posts–always useful!

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

      I agree, Julie, I love Anne’s blog – as for longer posts in general, I bookmark and save them for a time when I can really focus.

  7. A.K. Andrew September 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Thanks for these rest tips Molly. It took me a while to fully realise the importance of a good headline, but now I spend much more time with them. I also use a headline tool which calculates the emotional impact of the headline you choose . Even changing a word or two really has a different impact.(

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks, A.K., for the resource – every little bit helps!

  8. Elizabeth Ducie September 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Great post Molly. I use a formula re the type of topic (on a monthly cycle) and monitor which type of post gets the most hits. Interviews seem to do much better than book reviews for example, so I’m thinking of dropping the latter.

    I don’t put as much effort as I should into my header and don’t use subheads at all, so that’s something for me to think about.

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 7:34 am #

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I find that my popular posts are impossible to predict BEFORE I publish them, and what people find interesting has changed over the years, just as my readership has probably changed. Personal essays still seem to get the most comments, but blogging posts like this one are a close second. And titles can make all the difference!

  9. MM Jaye September 22, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    Great article and right on time! I was asked to guest post on a super blog, and these tips come in handy 😉

    What I’ve noticed works for author-bloggers is the addition of a news-line re their book under the article: i.e. So-and-so is on sale for 99c. Go get your copy!

    If the writing and content of the article are solid, it’s more likely that the reader will click on the prompt there rather than on a sidebar notice. I’ve noticed that myself: trying not to get bogged down with extra into, when I read an article, I develop “sidebar blindness” and just focus on the center of the screen.

    However, I’m not sure if that would work on top of having a CTA…

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Maria, that’s a great idea – I will pay attention to adding book sale info at the end of my articles. Russell Blake does it, I’ve noticed. And yes, I think a text-based CTA at the end of a good article is more compelling to readers. I should have noted that I actually have 3 CTAs on my blog – header, sidebar, end of article. Thanks so much and I’m looking forward to your guest post 🙂

  10. Dannie Hill September 23, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    I am so surprised that such long post get more attention from readers. Most advice I see says to keep a post under 500 words. To be honest, when I see a long post– not your’s– I skim, skip to the bottom, tweet and move on. It has to be a very good subject and post to keep my attention.

    I’m being honest when I say ‘not your’s’ because you give out good information to help us. Not just to blow your own horn. Thanks, Molly

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 7:38 am #

      Thank you so much, Dannie! I’m with you, I have trouble with long posts and usually have to save them all for a day when all I plan to do is catch up on blog reading. But as for shorter posts, < 300 words is an "old" rule, back when bloggers posted 3 times a week. Nowadays readers are inundated with info and frequent short posts make them (and Google) crazy - too much stuff in inboxes, not enough content to make the search engines happy.

  11. John Chapman September 23, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    Dannie – that’s the whole point of adding the subtitles. People do tend to skim and as they find an interesting headline or picture they stop to read in more depth. It’s an ‘Associated Press’ technique and as in newspapers, it works in blogging.

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      EXACTLY – thanks, John!

    • Dannie Hill September 23, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

      Well said, John. I’ve been blogging for a while and still have so much to learn.

  12. Susan Sage September 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    My worst problem is figuring out what to add for the CTA…

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      “Did you like this post? Subscribe to my blog!”

    • John Chapman September 24, 2014 at 5:00 am #

      Just think what you want the reader to do next and ask that. Simple. As to how to add it – check my blog.

  13. Shirley Ford September 24, 2014 at 1:14 am #

    Thanks again Molly for a great blog. I only seem to put book reviews on my blog at the moment. I can’t seem to get my head around blogging anything else. Must try harder! The words that haunt me from school days!

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      My pleasure, Shirley – consider pulling a non-fiction element from your books and blogging about that part of the time! And personal essays are good, too.

  14. Judith Cranswick September 24, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    Great post. I have a new website so this post is excellent timing for me.

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Great, Judith – best of luck with your new blog and I’m so happy if this helps!

  15. Belinda Pollard September 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Molly, thanks for the tips. I also have found that my longer posts get more traffic, more discussion, more shares, and continue to get traffic long-term. At least 1600 words and up to 2500. The shorter ones tend to cause a brief social media blip, and then disappear into the void.

    But I definitely only post weekly, and indeed, it’s been about 3 or 4 weeks since my last “weekly” post. 😉

    • Molly Greene September 28, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Belinda! That’s what Anne says, too, but my experience with popular posts has been the opposite: One of my all-time most visited posts only has 500+ words!