Structure and Flow Guidelines for Blog Writing
Think about the reader
What audience are you writing this content for, and why should they care about your article? The best way to position yourself as an expert is by addressing common pain points and problem statements that your average reader faces.
For example, consider that you’re writing something directed at a B2C audience, and mainly mid-level Sales Reps. You’re expected to put yourself in the shoes of a mid-level Sales Rep and consider all the challenges they face on a day-today basis like prioritizing leads, getting a response from prospects, identifying/engaging with decision-makers in the company, managing multiple customer accounts, achieving bottom-line targets, etc.
You can also share some stats and real-life examples to make your case about how prevalent a certain problem is. For reference, this Hubspot article on Top Sales Challenges Facing Salespeople in 2020 is spot-on for relevant stats.
The end-goal is to avoid generic/vague subheadings and writing only actionable content.
Creating a brief outline of your article is the first step to ensuring that you are headed in the right direction when it comes to content structure and “flow”. Your outlines should cover the following points:
- Introduction: Number of paragraphs + general overview of the information you’d be sharing + references.
- All the subheadings: You must specify the number of paragraphs + general overview of the information you’d be sharing + references for each subheading.
- Conclusion: Number of paragraphs + general overview of the information you’d be sharing + references.
Remember, a person should be able to take a quick look at your outline and understand what your article will look like. Therefore, outlines are expected to be short, succinct, and skim-worthy.
You have the opportunity to go into more detail during a walk-through/discussion about the outline.
It goes without saying that your introduction is a sneak-peek into what the audience should expect from your article – which means, your opening paragraphs must be strong and encourage people to keep reading. You must establish context without giving too many details away – mostly because you will be covering the topic at-length later on. Including 1-2 stats from recent studies/research is recommended.
A good starting point is highlighting the current/past industry trends in the topic you’re writing about to further demonstrate why learning more about the topic in question is important in the first place.
On a similar note, your article should also end on a strong note, and give readers something to think about. An ideal conclusion summarises all the subheadings and presents the general crux of the content in 2-3 short paragraphs.
Lastly, you must read (and study!) introductions/conclusions of articles written on similar topics from reputable publications (Hubspot, Muse, SingleGrain, McKinsey & Co, Social Media Examiner, Neil Patel, for example) to structure your introduction/conclusion. Remember, only by reading good content can you write good content, so streamline your research to focus on content that you admire, and want to emulate.
Regardless of how good your content is, presentation plays a crucial role in how it will be received by the audience. Nobody likes reading walls of text, so it’s important that your article is divided into small paragraphs of 2-5 sentences each.
You should also use a minimum of 2-3 visual aid (infographics, videos, images, etc) to not only lend credibility to your content but also to make it more engaging. Try to include statistics + real-life examples whenever possible (I personally aim for at least 1-2 stats and/or examples for every sub-heading).
Brevity encourages readability, which means, avoiding long-winded sentences that don’t necessarily have a huge payoff in terms of actionable information. Hemingway Editor is a great tool to check your readability score and adjust your sentence structure.
Other miscellaneous guidelines:
- Show, don’t tell: One of the most common mistakes people make while writing is constantly telling the audience what they should do without showing them how to do it. Addressing the ‘how’ should always be a priority.
- Avoid fluff/filler content: Every sentence you write should add value to your article. We strongly encourage using stats and examples to back all your claims, because, we believe in creating actionable content. Readers should have clarity on the next steps once they’re done with your article.
- A good format to follow when you’re still learning is starting with a problem statement and then following up immediately with a solution. For example, Sales Reps usually have trouble prioritizing leads – write 1-2 short paragraphs on why this is a problem, and then the next 1-2 paragraphs cover the many ways Sales Reps can prioritize the leads.
- Streamline your talking points: Having strong, actionable, and engaging talking points is only the first lap of this race. It’s important that you present them in a cohesive manner. Often, writers jump from one talking point to another without spending time on connecting the dots – a flaw that becomes glaringly obvious to a reader. The best way to structure your talking points is by paying close attention to how more experienced writers do it.