Architecture aims at Eternity. – Christopher Wren
My definition of a successful blog post is one that brings you traffic and subscribers for a decade.
Sure, one that gets tweeted and shared is fun but its not the ultimate.
Imagine being able to craft timeless blog posts that not only have the initial bursts of success but then go on to benefit your business for years to come.
In this article I’m going to show you the perfect architecture for crafting a blog post that is not only successful but timeless.
Why architecture and not formula or method?
I have to confess, I spent a long time thinking about the third word in the title of this post.
Formula and method are probably more catchy and vibrant. They are buzz words in the blogosphere.
But they didn’t quite capture the meaning behind this post. And that’s because the act of creating a timeless blog post is not a formula because it won’t always be correct.
Architecture, to me, is more flexible. A great architect will always get a building up and make sure it is safe but they won’t always produce something that everyone loves.
That is a bit what blogging is like. There is no real formula that gets it right every time. But there is some sort of architecture that you can work on, develop and occasionally build something that lasts for a thousand years.
If I had a formula that worked every time I would give it to you. What I do have is an architecture – building blocks, materials and know-how – that you can use to produce something with all the right parts and hope that the critics write nice things.
The architecture of a timeless blog post
Consider these as pillars that will hold your content up to the world.
1. Include a personal back story
All of my most successful posts have had a personal story injected into the subject matter.
There are a few reasons why this works well:
- People become loyal
The first reason is that people become loyal to the author without realizing. A personal story opens it up to the realm of emotions.
- It is engaging
Stories have been told by humans since the beginning of time. We respond to them and we are sucked in by them.
- It begs to be shared
Stories are the kinds of things people will share with their friends. As already mentioned, we’ve been doing this forever.
Inject a personal back story into all of your posts no matter what the subject matter. Even if it is just a few lines about what you went through when deciding on a word in a title people will be more responsive.
The more honest, open and detailed the story is the more you will find people want to read and share and bookmark your piece.
An example of a story:
One of the all time greatest posts in blogging history by my friend James Chartrand – a woman.
2. Write with consistent and stylized paragraphs, dot points and images
What I’m about to tell you is no joke. When I write a blog post I have the preview open in another tab and every few lines I refresh it and make sure the post “looks right”.
Seems anal I know but I have found it to be super important.
People are lazy. They like to scan.
People are also in desperate need of security and predictability. They like to know what is coming next and how to prepare themselves.
All of my blog posts look pretty similar. It doesn’t matter whether it is on Blog Tyrant, Problogger or Copyblogger. I try to keep them consistently formatted.
Now, this holds true of your look and feel as a blog and the look and feel of each individual post. Some things to consider:
- Make your spacing beautiful
Make sure your letter spacing is generous enough. You want a lot of white space to frame your words. Brian Gardener talks about this perfectly.
- Use bold to start each list point
Notice how my list points aren’t just regular text? I use bold first to really show you the point quickly and then expand underneath.
- Choose the right images and space them well
Images should be used to enhance content and generate emotions about points you are making. This is especially true of blog images. Put them underneath main headers only and use them to draw the eye down.
- Make sure your theme isn’t letting you down
I’ve talked about this before on my post on increasing conversions but sometimes your theme and style can impact your trust. Make sure your colors in particular are sending the right messages.
Make your content readable. How obvious does that sound?
And over time you should also try to develop your own style of writing. Make spaces and paragraphs and lists looks the same in whatever you do. Your readers will appreciate it.
An example of consistent styling:
Glen from Viper Chill always writes the same way; deliriously long content with the same formatting.
3. Link generously and in bulk
A lot of bloggers are afraid to add links to their post thinking that they will lose readers.
And you especially won’t if you add a target=”blank” code to your link code so that the link opens in a new window.
I have said it before but linking out to other blogs associates you with those blogs. People will remember that they first heard about such and such from your site. It builds your brand without costing you anything but a few clicks. Make sure you link a lot when relevant.
The second part to this is to link in bulk and that means having a resources section at the end of some posts. This is great for your blog’s SEO as well as making you appear like you have put in a lot of work to craft a super amazing post chock full of resources and help.
Remember, a real leader gains power by giving power to others. Link out and watch yourself appear and actually become more influential.
Example of good linking:
One of my old favorite blogs (no longer active) called Skelliewag had a hugely popular post called 25 Paths to an Insanely Popular Blog which is the perfect amount of big backlinking and generous writing.
4. Solve a problem or make problems known
It is uncanny to see how many of the most timeless blog posts solve a problem that is both universal and painful.
Every niche has problems. And quite often you will find that the people blogging and working in that niche aren’t aware of what problem is out there.
Your blog posts should always aim to help enrich some one else’s life. If it wasn’t for Darren Rowse’s 2004 series on making money with Adsense I would never have become a blogger. I wouldn’t be working from home and you wouldn’t be reading my drivel.
But in all seriousness, this series was all about helping people make a few extra bucks from Google ads. Darren always used to make his big posts about helping people in some way.
Example of making a problem known:
Brian Clark’s post called Is Commenting on Blogs a Smart Traffic Strategy? which totally freaked out a lot of bloggers who were, at the time, mindlessly commenting.
5. Develop titles that get attention and hold attention
Without a good title the rest is useless. Many of you will disagree with me but I think it is the title that gets attention initially but then also holds attention throughout the post.
Have you ever read through an ordinary article because the title seemed so promising? I know I have.
All of the great posts that were successful and timeless had amazing titles that drew you in and pushed you down until you found something else in the article that was useful, touching or fascinating.
- Titles should be Google ads
Remember that Google only allows 70 characters in the search result listings. Think of your titles as ads for future searchers and keep them under this amount. Use a plugin to help you.
- Pose questions
Some of the best titles are in question format. Its gets people curious and often helps you to get more comments.
- They should cause fear or sensed value
Humans respond to fear a lot more than they do anything else. For example, we’ll respond to a title about the threat of missing out on something more than we will about the promise of gaining something. That being said, a post title that promises something new and valuable (like 140…) will do extremely well if the list matches the promise.
- They should be super specific
Some of my best posts have had super specific titles: How I Sold a Blog for $20,000 in 8 Months (beats How to Sell a Blog), How I got 11,908 Visitors in My Blog’s Third Week (beats How to Get More Traffic), etc.
Sometimes I will revise a title 10 or 15 times before I publish a blog post. And I still don’t get them right.
That being said, I truly believe that if you can write amazing blog post titles you are more than 50% of the way to becoming a successful blogger.
Example of good titles:
I almost didn’t want to give this to you because it is so darn good. But I’m a giver. Here is John Morrow’s free report called Headline Hacks. This PDF is a permanent feature on my desktop now.
What else is there?
Of course this list is not extensive. There are lots of other strategies and pillars out there that can help you write successful and timeless content.
These five do, however, work really well for me when combined all into one post. Hopefully they will do the same for you.
I’d really like to hear your comments about any other absolute pillars of a timeless post’s architecture. Is there anything that you do every single time that you just don’t think could be omitted?
photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) OFF
33 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
Love this one bud, last part really resonated with me as I’ve always felt my headlines were a little weak, I downloaded Jon’s PDF back when he released but never really gave it a good look, time to fix that now.
I literally have a glance at it before writing most posts now.
I don’t always end up using them because sometimes, if done all on the same blog, it can feel a bit gimmicky but they are otherwise the best headlines I’ve ever seen.
Very thought-provoking post! I’m glad to see someone else who agrees with my reasoning on #3. It seems to me that if I want to be as useful as possible to my readers (and I do), then it makes sense to link frequently to useful posts, sites, or resources, especially while my own blog is still in its early stages. I often include resource sections in my posts. I figure an audience that is happier overall with my content is a small price to pay for the possibility of losing a few readers to other sites.
Absolutely. Linking out has so many benefits.
I also believe in making posts personal. There is nothing like writing posts that include your stories. It always give a personal feel to the readers but it is our duty to not make them up but be sure that what we are sharing is true
Totally agree Tushar. Thanks for commenting.
I’m just commenting because I used to live in Jordan and as soon as that picture of Jerash came up in my reader, I was awash in memories. Thanks for that.
Wow, what’s it like there?
Hah you said anal.
Great post Tyrant. I smiled when you said that you checked if it “looked right” every time. I do that too.
I especially like that you believe putting lots of links on your post is a good thing. The target=”_blank” code is super nice for this. Your readers won’t think that you’re a selfish bastard.
Brilliant Josh! Ha ha.
There is so much here that never even occurred to me; like using bold to start each of my list points. Why didn’t I ever think of that? I will definitely have to read this post again and probably use it as a reference post when I’m crafting mine. Thank you.
Thanks Sharon. Glad you liked it.
“Use bold to start each list point
Notice how my list points aren’t just regular text? I use bold first to really show you the point quickly and then expand underneath.”
I need to do that as well. It looks great and makes scanning easier. In fact, I might go modify my theme css a bit to get some spacing between points.
A question…how do get the break after the first line of a bullet point without it creating another bullet point?
I could take the time to tweak it in my HTML view but any tricks to using the WP text editor?
You just go down on to the next line, if that’s what you mean:
< u l >
< l i > Bold text
Start of regular text. l i >
< / u l >
That what you’re after?
Mine then automatically makes it a new bullet point when I do it in the Editor tab. I’ll just tweak it in the HTML tab of the editor. Thanks.
Yeah I never use editor cos it often does that.
Thank you – what a useful list-reminder. Even with all the writing I do I forget this or that point that you encourage and give examples of. I’ve printed this post to be a checklist to go over before hitting “send,” to my editor – nice job – tim
Wow, thanks a lot Tim. Glad you liked it.
Excellent post, thank you.
The only thing I see missing – which you actually did in this post! – is to end the post with a call to action!
Steven that is so true. I always do that and totally hadn’t realized it.
Architecture, that’s a great choice for a word.
For the content, I like to approach it like I’m writing a comprehensive guide, not a quick blog post. I think to myself, “I’m going to share everything I know about this.”
I did that with a post about web hosting for a travel bloggers’ group on Facebook. I still refer members to that article when they complain about GoDaddy or whoever, and want to switch hosts.
The other thing I like to do is #3. I link to the best articles, tutorials, and resources I can find. At first, I was worried that it was a sign of ignorance, that I have to refer users to other people. Actually, this often makes me appear more knowledgeable, not less. Readers will see you as being plugged-in to your industry and respect you as a content curator.
Like you did with “Headline Hacks,” the best test of a link is if the quality is so good you’re afraid to share it.
That’s how I feel about Shoemoney’s site. If you look in the right sidebar, there’s a section called “Guides & Walkthroughs.” The videos in there are pure gold. Every time I watch one of them, I feel like I’ve hit the Internet marketing jackpot.
Do you feel like Shoemoney has been declining a little lately?
I actually haven’t been following Shoemoney’s site for that long. So I can’t really compare to his previous work.
You’re actually the reason I got into Shoemoney and John Chow, because you’ve mentioned him in the past. Your post “The 3 Reasons Why Darren Rowse, Jeremy Schoemaker & Brian Clark are Rich” put them on my radar. I subscribed to some of their e-mail lists way later, when I got more comfortable with doing that. (Incidentally, that was the blog post that first taught me the power of the e-mail list. The whole story with John Chow and Google was eye-opening.)
Shoemoney strikes me as the most “CEO-like” of the bloggers I follow, if that makes sense. Even though all of those guys have large-scale enterprises. Especially Brian Clark, he’s even gone into WordPress hosting!
I think it’s because Shoemoney was into affiliate marketing and other things first, and did blogging later on. The rest of them were all bloggers from the start. Shoemoney looks more comfortable with videos than blogging.
He’s a pretty nice guy I’ve heard.
I feel like his blog was a lot better five years ago. More detailed ideas as opposed to Playboy mansion photos.
What I have found is that my most popular posts are not the ones that are very complicated or in depth subject matter.
I find that people who read my blog are looking for simple…
If you consider that I am a subject matter expert, doing this professionally for 15 years, I no longer realize how much I know. Concepts that seem stunningly childlike and beginner oriented are gobbled up like delicious chocolate and my brainy intelligent posts languish unread and not understood.
So KISS. 🙂
I totally agree with this.
I wrote about it recently but can’t remember where; 95% of people who come to a blog are newbies.
Brilliant comment by the way!
I definitely agree that being personal in your blog posts is a good idea. That humanizes the content a lot more. People feel they know you a bit.
Of course some people might not like the character that comes through. But then a lot of them do, and those are the people who will keep returning.
Exactly. And if they don’t like the character that comes through you don’t really want them around anyway.
Excellent stuff, as always.
These are really great and simple ways to create timeless blog posts. Just downloaded the John’s Headline Hacks report, going to read that now. Thanks for sharing this great stuff, dude :).
Hope you enjoy the report. Its amazing.
It is a great challenge to write a blog post that lasts a decade! Nevertheless, it can be done. I agree that using a proven plan, this is possible but I also believe that we can achieve this in another way.
The world is full of problems that needs to be solved so taking the time to solve a timeless problem on your blog will also make your post timeless.
Great post you have here!
Thanks heaps Martin.