Mention the term “blog,” and what might come to mind are personal musings on everything from fashion to relationships. But blogging has also become a crucial marketing and retention strategy for brands. After all, it’s an effective way to build trust, become a thought leader, and provide additional value to your customers through a how-to post or listicle.
According to Ahrefs, more than 600 million blogs are online, and 77 percent of all internet users read blog posts. That’s why you should try a variety of blog formats to keep readers engaged and coming back for more. But the format you choose depends on the type of content you’re working with and your target audience.
When and why blog? A brief history
Before delving into the many blog formats, let’s take a look at how far the blog has come from its humble beginnings. Blogging dates back close to three decades, with the first “official” blog post published in 1994. The writer was Justin Hall, and the first post was on Links.net. The topic consisted of five lines about HTML examples Justin noticed on the fledgling internet. Blogs sure have come a long way since then.
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Others followed in Justin’s footsteps, posting their observations online about all sorts of things. These observations were given a name — weblog — by Jorn Barger in 1997. Two years later, Peter Morholz shortened “weblog” to “blog.”
Google eventually launched AdSense, which matched ads to blog content and turned blogging into a potential business. Now bloggers and influencers from all walks of life share their musings and knowledge online through blogs. Some still as a hobby, while others have turned blogging into their full-time careers.
What are the best blog formats to increase engagement?
Different blog formats work for different types of content and different audiences. You can test a variety of blog formats with your audience to see which ones work best. It’s a good idea to keep a few formats on hand to mix things up and keep your content interesting and engaging.
1. “How do I do this?” post
This is the type of post that really made blogging take off by helping readers learn how to do something. This “how-to” post format is great for an SEO boost because it helps readers find the answers and help they’re searching for online. The “how-to” post can teach anything from how to use your products to how to take better photos.
A key to making this type of post work is to see what else is online on the subject and make your post better in some way. This could be through sharing your personal experience learning how to do something, or by looking at what is missing in the other posts and making yours more thorough. Think about the problem your reader needs to solve and how you can teach them to solve that problem.
When to use: Consider using the how-to post if:
- You have something you’ve learned that you can teach or want to explain your products/services to your audience.
- You want to show your expertise to your audience.
2. “What is it all about” post
You can use the “what” post to explain something about your field or industry. This type of post is great for readers who are new to a topic. Maybe you’re a hairdresser, and you want to explain what a hair process like balayage is all about to your potential customers.
Or perhaps you’re a dog groomer and want to explain why it’s important to keep a dog’s nails trimmed regularly. This type of post is great for setting yourself up as an industry expert. If you have a paid offer on the topic, even better. You can teach something and then direct readers to your offer or service to help them go deeper.
When to use: Consider using the “what” post if:
- You want to show yourself as an industry expert.
- You have a related offer or service to sell that gives more value.
3. “Why you should care” post
Unlike the “what” post, the “why” post is used to explain the reasoning behind a topic or technique. An artist, for example, could share why they paint like they do instead of the what or how. This could also be an opportunity to go against a trend. If there is a popular opinion, you could explain why you do the opposite. You could explain why you are not into the “hustle” culture and instead work from a place of peace. Or why you would rather eat carbs than go keto, for example.
You could use a resource like AnswerThePublic.com to see what questions are being asked online around your topic. If you put your topic into the search query, you can see data on what people are asking. This works for How and What posts also. Here are the results for “blog.”
At least a basic understanding of SEO is important here to get your content seen when readers are searching for the answer to “why?” on search engines like Google and Yahoo, so make sure you are optimizing your posts.
When to use: Consider using the why post if:
- You have a technique or reason that goes against what others are saying.
- You want to show how you do things differently or think differently to inspire.
4. List post (listicle)
If you spend any time on the internet, you’ll likely see the following headlines:
- “10 best ways . . .”
- “5 reasons why . . .”
- “15 of some of the best . . .”
In case you’re wondering, these headlines mean you’re about to read a listicle, which is a series of items presented as a list. There is a lot of psychology behind why listicles work, but it really comes down to two things:
- They tap into our ever-dwindling attention span by providing short, concise information.
- They categorize information, making it easier to read and digest.
Sites like Buzzfeed have become popular by using lists to share pop culture posts. But almost any topic can lend itself well to a list post. Tasty is a good food blog example that often uses the list post format.
For the small business industry, you could share a post about the top 25 books for small business owners or five ways your product solves your customers’ problems. If you blog about gardening, you could share the 10 best plants to get into the ground for autumn. You get the idea.
Some of these types of posts are just clickbait. But the list post can be a valuable and high-quality format and are popular with readers because they are so shareable.
When to use: Consider using the list post if:
- You have many topics and an overarching theme.
- You want to produce an easy-to-read blog post with multiple ideas.
When you put your list post together, use an eye-catching headline, a catchy intro paragraph, and a conclusion that ties everything up. While this is a clickable and engaging post type, not all content can automatically be adapted to list formats, nor should it be. Forcing information into lists ensures your piece will be awkward and hard to read, so choose your topics carefully.
5. Curated or user-generated post
Are you running out of ideas for content but need to fill your weekly blog quota? Consider a curated content post. Curated content consists of stories or information from other websites that you pick up, rework, and share with others.
If another website or social media post says something you want your audience to know about, simply curate it. This is not the type of post you want to create every time, but it can be beneficial when you’re short on time or need a traffic boost.
Promoting other people’s content to create a roundup-type post can give your readers a lot of valuable information without you having to write it yourself. If you message each creator of the content, they may be willing to share and link back to you, which can get your content in front of a new audience.
You can also use user-generated content for this type of post. To curate content, you take the idea or topic and write a short snippet about it, then link back to the original post, article, or video.
When to use: Use curated posts when:
- You want to share an already published/produced thought or idea with your audience.
- There are gaps in your content calendar that need to be filled.
Remember to be very careful when it comes to curating content. You are, in a sense, “borrowing” that information, and you want to be respectful of the work of others. As such, it’s important to summarize the content, clearly source where it came from, and always provide a link back to the original website or social media platform.
6. Question and answer post
Are there questions you get asked over and over again about your industry, services, or products? The Q&A post is a great opportunity to gather the most asked questions in your industry or on your website and create an informative post to answer them. This shows your readers and customers that you’re paying attention and care.
You can gather questions from comments, social media, and even email replies. Having a blog post like this on your site also gives you a resource to share instead of replying over and over again.
When to use: Consider using the Q&A post if:
- You get asked the same questions repeatedly.
- You want a reference to give potential customers answers to the most common questions.
7. Let’s compare two or more things post
The comparison post helps your readers have all the information they need for their buying decisions. Technology blogs that compare specs are a good example of these types of posts. They can help readers decide between two cameras, computers, printers, etc.
Other industries can also use this type of blog post format. You could compare courses you’ve taken, for example, if you have a business blog. You can also create a comparison post to compare your own services or resources to help readers decide where to start or which path is right for them.
When to use: Consider using the comparison post if:
- You know about multiple products or services to help others know what to purchase.
- You want to help potential buyers know which resource you have that best fits their current situation or needs.
Don’t forget you can download our ‘Top Blog Formats to Increase Engagement: Ideation Guide’ and jump-start your content creation strategy!
8. Newsworthy feature story
Think about how the news shares human interest stories. This type of post can help your business show off its human side and connect you with readers. This post type can also be used to share more journalistic, well-researched posts that delve deeper into topics of your industry. You can thoroughly research a topic or give commentary on new research that has been published in your field.
When to use: Consider using the feature story post if:
- You have deep knowledge about a topic in your industry you can share with a journalistic style.
- You want to comment on recent data that is relevant to your readers.
9. Just-for-fun post
Sometimes you just need a touch of fun in between all the other types of blog posts. Something more personal. A behind-the-scenes real-life look, perhaps. This can lighten things up and help your audience see the real you. Authenticity and connection are keys to building a community as you blog. The just-for-fun post could be just what your blog needs to create those connections.
Some ideas for “just-for-fun” posts:
- Behind the scenes of your workspace.
- Show off your pets or kids.
- Tell a story about how you got into your current industry.
- Share about your hobby.
When to use: Just-for-fun posts are a great idea:
- When you feel the need for a greater connection with your audience.
- You feel burned out and just want to create something fun.
10. Collaborative interview post
The interview post is a great way to build your audience. You can interview an influencer in an area your audience has an interest in that complements your content. It’s a win-win, as your guest will likely share with their audience too, which can give you more reach.
It gives you both content to share and can enhance the quality of what you have available on your blog. A small business blog, for example, could interview a tax expert to help other small business owners learn how to properly do their bookkeeping. A cooking blog could bring on their food photographer for a post to show a behind-the-scenes look at their food shoot.
When to use: Interview posts are a great idea when:
- You have an expert who could help you share something that complements your content.
- You want to increase your audience and get greater reach.
11. Infographic breakdown post
Infographics are visual representations of knowledge to present complex information quickly and easily. Effective infographics can include everything from colorful graphs and well-categorized tables to highly organized material. Infographics arrange a lot of information into easily digestible formats. Another huge benefit of infographics is that they can solidify your visual brand in the minds of your audience through the use of corporate colors and fonts.
These images are highly shareable on visual platforms like Pinterest. Readers who like your visuals can pick them up and copy them to various social media platforms with a link back to your original website or source, which can increase your traffic.
When to use: Use infographics in the following circumstances:
- You have a lot of data you want to present in a clear, visual way.
- You want to highlight your brand as an industry expert.
- You want readers to quickly understand information.
A few things to be aware of: While there are many “easy” infographic platforms online, developing quality infographics is an art form. As such, they should be created by those who understand the concepts of brand standards and visual placements. Otherwise, you could end up with a cluttered visual that is hard to read and defeats the purpose.
Also, when your whole post is an image, there are some SEO challenges. The search engines cannot crawl the text. Make sure to use a relevant alt tag on your image and good image SEO practices.
12. Newsjacking post
A newsjacking post lets you take current events and hot topics and share them with your audience. As you share this information, you add your observations. The concept of newsjacking was introduced in 2011 by marketer David Meerman Scott in his book, which is appropriately titled: ‘Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.’
Scott’s idea was that marketers who can accurately pinpoint a story just before journalists show interest in it can work that information into their blogs. The result is that the marketers are at the forefront of a particular trend, audiences flock to the social media sites or websites to read it and journalists pick it up.
When used correctly, sharing news stories can be a highly important strategy to aid in brand awareness. It also demonstrates to your audience that you’re at the forefront of current events. Forbes and Entrepreneur are sites that often share posts around news stories.
But a word of warning: These types of post formats can be outdated quickly, so this is probably not a strategy you want to use for all your posts unless you have a news-sharing site. The content could also get quite controversial, so make sure what you share is in line with your brand image.
When to use: Newsjacking can be highly successful in the following situations:
- Immediately after an interesting piece of news breaks.
- Right before a current event becomes a “hot topic.”
- When used with your observations and/or knowledge about a topic.
13. “Create a SlideShare” post
SlideShare posts are more time-consuming to create and require some design skills but can be highly shareable and great for growing traffic. If your design skills are not up to it, you can always hire a freelance designer to help.
For this post, you create a slide deck of information. You’ll want to make sure the writing, data, and design all flow together from page to page. Like with infographics, this post format works well to break down complex information by sharing it little by little with each page.
When to use: SlideShare posts are great if:
- You have a lot of information to share and want to make it less complex.
- You want a post that is visual and great for sharing on social media.
14. “Show your thought leadership” post
Thought leadership blogs demonstrate a writer’s reliable knowledge and abilities in a particular field or area of business. These posts offer information and insights on trends that are important to readers. This means the author needs to be up to date on what’s going on in a particular industry in order to discuss issues intelligently and with clarity. Thought leadership blog posts are generally long-form and are ideal for showing industry expertise.
This is the kind of content that works on professional platforms like LinkedIn. When a reader is finished reading a thought leadership blog post, they have a clearer understanding of a topic or trend. Thought leadership content also builds an audience’s trust when it comes to an author’s opinions and observations.
Examples of bloggers who write thought leadership-type posts are Michael Hyatt and Marie Forleo.
When to use: Thought leadership blogs are useful when you want to:
- Demonstrate your expertise in a field or industry.
- Build trust between the audience and yourself as the writer.
Thought leadership blogs can take longer to create than regular blog posts due to the high quality needed. They should also be presented in a less casual, more formal style. This requires walking the line between “interesting read” and “in-depth expertise.”
What format is best for my blog?
We’ve come a long way from Justin Hall’s “Welcome to My First Attempt at Hypertext” musings back in the mid-1990s. As content creators, we’re fortunate that today’s blogs come in a variety of formats and flavors, which can add color and interest to any content calendar.
But the best format for you depends on the content you write about and your audience. Different types of blogs lend themselves well to different formats, but it’s good to mix things up. The key is to know your blog’s purpose and to study how your audience consumes content and what they want to learn to direct your content strategy.
Whatever blog format you choose, remember to focus on your audience and they’ll want to visit your blog again and again.
If you don’t have time to devote to blogging for your business, ClearVoice can help. Talk to a Content Specialist now.