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How to structure your blog post so people will actually read it

Nov 10, 2017

How to structure your blog post so people will actually read it

People don’t really read things.

They skim.

So the way you structure your blog post can change the level of engagement you receive.

In my experience, accountants are far more likely to spend twenty minutes trying to decide whether the word “the” needs to be included in a website header image. Or debate amongst eight partners whether the word “enthusiastic” is, indeed, the appropriate one to use.

When it comes to blog posts, it’s wise to remember this difference between accountants and, well, everyone else in the world besides solicitors and English professors.

You can spend fourteen weeks on a blog post which you’ve agonised over, and it can be completely ignored or lost if it hasn’t been structured for the average reader.

They’ll skim it, and if they can’t get to the point quickly, they’ll move on.

Here are a few ways you can structure your (presumably excellent) blog post so it has more chance of being read:

Title the blog post from the reader’s perspective, not yours

Writing an article titled “The critical elements of MTD for small business owners” may feel really relevant in your own mind, but it could be lost on the reader who is skimming things in their social media accounts. Ask yourself:

  • Am I using abbreviations that are more interesting to accountants than to business owners (or your reader, whoever that is)? MTD and GDPR may be thrown about constantly at accounting conferences, but it’s less likely that they are as fascinating to your reader in the first instance – even if they do know what it means.
  • Am I using terminology that is better understood by accountants? Blog posts about debtors, accounts payable, accrued income, and other topics may be absolutely relevant to your reader – and even something you discuss often with clients. But how do they think about it? What terminology would they use? What does it matter to them and their business?
  • Does the blog post title address the heart of what’s covered? You may think you’re writing about cash flow, but really the key point is about profits. Or customer service. Or taking payments. Review what you’ve written and ask yourself what one thing you want them to take away from the article – and title the post accordingly.

Get to the point straight away.

With every marketing tip that I write (including this one), I dash off the content for it, and by the time I get to the end, I’ve deleted the first paragraph or two because it’s rambling and is not getting to the point quick enough.

Accountants often share with me a blog post they have written, and ask for my input before posting it. Many times the content is excellent, but it can take 4-6 paragraphs to get to the heart of what was really being said.

Think of your blog post rather like a website page.

You know how visitors spend less than a second on a page before deciding whether to leave, or continue reading?

It’s similar for a blog post they’ve clicked on. If the title has captured their interest, you’ve got to keep that interest, fast. Don’t lose them with a bunch of history or stories about why you decided to write this article, and things that seem irrelevant until it all comes together in the very last paragraph (which they never get to because they don’t read the whole thing).

Structure the post with headers that cover the key points.

For the reader who doesn’t actually read the whole article at first, they’ll skim it for the key points. If your headers are vague or don’t continue to capture interest, they’ll leave.

Have headers throughout the post. This will break up the content so they can skim for what is of most interest to them.

Keep paragraphs short. 2-3 sentences at the most.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to reduce the size of my paragraphs when writing blog posts.

You can see an example of an older blog post from several years ago here. You’ll notice I had paragraphs with 6, 7, 8 sentences.

I’ve changed that now.

This helps the reader grasp key points faster, and it’s simply easier on the eyes. We’re not writing a thesis or a dissertation (and in my opinion those would be more effective if they used this short-paragraph rule as well!).

Get the thing posted and shared.

Whatever you do, don’t let all these suggestions hold you back from publishing. The best blog post is one that is relevant, helpful, and interesting to your reader.

Even if the post isn’t perfect, get it out there. You can always fix it later.

I know for an absolute fact that some of you are literally counting sentences in this post to ensure that every single paragraph has 3 or fewer sentences in it. I’ll save you the time. There’s one that has four, and this one here has six. See? It’s not perfect. But it’s out there.