how to structure a blog post

At Simple Machines Marketing, we adhere to Hubspot’s inbound marketing methodology: we believe that by creating great content, you can attract new prospects, and through the smart usage of CTAs, forms, and content downloads, move these prospects through the buyer’s journey to eventually become regular customers. 

I mention this because as a content marketer, I see plenty of blogs that take these inbound fundamentals and multiply them by 1,000, assuming that “more” equates to “better.” In reality, blogs that do this usually end up with information so buried under pop-ups and content offers that the actual blog post – the reason you’re on the page to begin with – becomes practically unreadable. 

Today, we’re going to discuss how to structure a blog post so you provide valuable information to your readers, while also subtly encouraging them to continue their path down the buyer’s journey.

So. Many. Pop-ups.

To paint an example of how overloading your blog post with CTA’s and pop-ups can negatively impact a reader, here’s a recent experience I had on a marketing blog that seemed to have no idea they were actively ruining the reading experience for a viewer. 

I stumbled across this particular blog (which shall go unnamed) after a brief search for a technical issue I was having. After clicking on the link to the blog, seeing as it looked like a fairly informative post, I must have spent somewhere around one second on the page before a newsletter signup form popped up on the screen, begging me to subscribe. Which, fine, that’s slightly annoying, but I get it. So I scroll down a paragraph, only for a pop-up to slide out of from the right-hand corner with a cutesy picture of the author and text encouraging me to subscribe… again.

A little further down, I start to notice countless blog links have been forced into the text of the blog post I’m trying to read, many of which are only slightly related to the topic at hand. Huge infographics and buttons broke up the text at multiple points, encouraging me to download their content offer which, side note, kind of looked like it was containing the exact same information I was currently reading(?). In frustration, I closed the blog window and tried to find the information I was looking for elsewhere. In retrospect, I’m not even sure exactly what they were selling to me. My life has enough pop-ups as it is, thank you very much. 

Now, this is admittedly an extreme example of marketing tactics taken too far. But this is what happens when tactics and nifty technology (look at the pretty pop-ups!) are thrown in just because you can. Small business owners coming across a blog like this, owned by what appears to be a marketing “expert,” may be given a false impression that this is the correct way to structure each individual blog post and your overall navigation.

To be clear, I’m not disparaging all of the tactics the aforementioned blog used, just the manner in which they were employed. Each has its own unique purpose, but only when they add value to the reader. Here’s how you can focus on this value and cut out the excess.

Essentials for Your Reader 

When making a plan for what your readers need and don’t need to intuitively navigate your blog, start by keeping it simple. Imagine that you’re a prospect who happens to have a specific need your business fulfills. If you visit the blog and learn some valuable information, what else would you expect to see that would make further explanation of your information easy?

These items should help get you started.

Newsletter Signup 

Encouraging readers to sign up for your regular newsletter is a great way to keep your readers engaged, but where should you place the newsletter signup forms? Wherever your readers can easily access it without impeding their ability to read your blog post.

Let’s use the blog you’re reading right now as an example. You’ll notice if you scroll up on this page, in the upper right hand corner is a static newsletter sign up form. This is a good, standard place to put this form. Your readers will expect it and know where to find it. 

Furthermore, as you scroll through this article, a newsletter pop-up form will appear from the left hand corner (if you’re at this point already, it probably already has). These pop-ups exist to grab your readers while they’re devouring your content and, if done properly, enhance their experience rather than detract. Our pop-up only takes up a slight portion of the window and does not drastically impair the viewer’s ability to continue reading or make them lose their place. This is much more intuitive and user friendly than a full screen pop-up (many of which feature hard-to-find close buttons – yuck). Also worth noting is Google announced last year that they’ll be penalizing webpages with pop-ups like this by lowering their rankings in search results. If you make your content hard to access, basically, then Google will decide that your stuff probably isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Finally, the footer of every page on our website also has a newsletter signup, which is used on the blog as well. These are prominent, but not too much so as to distract.

Suggested Posts and Internal Links 

At the bottom of every blog post, you can include a few links to articles which your reader might also find interesting. There’s likely a function in your blog platform of choice to have these automatically included based off of the keywords or tags you set up for your particular post. Again, this is a non-intrusive way readers can continue going through your content that’s relevant to their needs

Internal links within blogs are also a great way to smoothly direct your readers to more relevant information, when handled tastefully. Let’s get a little meta with this example.

Since we’re discussing how to structure blogs in this particular post, it would make sense for me to add in links to relevant articles that readers might find useful. Looking through our archive of blog posts, I see we already have an existing blog post on how to brainstorm blog topics – something readers (like you!) who are first getting started with a blog might find helpful and which naturally slides in as a next step you’d take in building out your content strategy. 

Be careful to not overdue it like with the blog example I used earlier, however. If you have one or two posts that are really relevant for your reader, include them, but don’t force information in just because you can.   

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Buttons

Social media likely plays a huge part in your blog promotion, so it makes sense to make it easy for your audience to share information they found particularly useful. Add buttons for all major social media platforms and any other website your audience might be active on at the end of every post.

You can even add a plugin to your site which makes it possible to highlight and share specific text on various social media platforms in a manner similar to the blogging platform Medium. Rather than just clicking the Twitter or Facebook button and sharing the link to the article, this functionality allows your readers to drag their mouse across a sentence, highlight it, then share that direct quote on their social media pages while also linking to the article. One particular plugin can be found here, but there are plenty of options available from your provider of choice.

CTAs for Content Downloads (When Appropriate) 

Content offers play a key part in inbound marketing, as they allow you to obtain more info about a potential prospect by having them complete a form prior to downloading a valuable piece of content. Usually, these content downloads are offered through blogs via CTAs – whether they be colorful buttons or linked images – which take viewers to a landing page where they then input the information you’re requesting into a form, generally beginning with name and email address. 

It sounds simple enough, but as explained above, if you are just throwing unrelated content offers into blog posts, it’ll be clear to your viewer that you’re just trying to get their information however possible. It’s true: to get something (contact information) you have to give something (valuable content), but you also have to make sure that what you’re giving makes sense in the context it’s being offered. 

Getting contact information is great, but no one is going to give it to you unless your content shows you have the expertise and understanding worthy of it.

Smart Forms

Lastly, whenever possible, try to personalize any forms you have on your blog pages to each visitor. If you’re using marketing automation and you happen to have a form on each of your blog posts, for example, you should use a smart form to obtain new pieces of information about each customer based on how they’ve interacted with your content in the past.

Let’s say a customer has accessed your blog several times and downloaded a content offer or subscribed to your monthly newsletter. With a smart form, you can control what information they input every time they fill out a new form. The first time they see a form, they’ll put in information like name and email address. They second time they come across a form on your site, they might instead be asked to enter items like job title, number of employees and so on. Instead of asking for all of it from the get-go and potentially alienating your audience, you’ll slowly guide them through so that both parties are receiving valuable information.  

Remember, the key is to structure your blog posts so that they provide targeted information to your readers, encouraging them to further explore your organization and progress along the buyer’s journey – without hitting them over the head with needless options and pop-ups.