Blog Post Style Guide
A blog post style guide will help you construct your posts efficiently and effectively. Put the keyword phrase as close to the beginning of the post as possible, as I did here. When the title, the meta description, and the beginning of the post all match, it helps the search engine user to know that they are in the right place. It’s also a sign that you’re trustworthy. Note that the title of this post is set to the H1 tag, is clear, and has keywords.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a document (in some cases, an entire brick of a book—I’m looking at you, Chicago Manual of Style) that outlines the parts of a written piece such as a book and how the text and other elements of that written piece should be handled. A style guide covers things like how paragraphs should be indented, whether the Oxford comma should be used, whether American or British spellings and phrasings should be used.
The Chicago Manual of Style is the bible for trade publications (books you’d see in a bookstore are called trade books). House style guides also exist. Different business owners want to do things their own way sometimes.
What does a blog post style guide contain?
A blog post style guide will contain information about things that are specific to blog posts, such as images, headings, and Alt tags. It will instruct the user in what to do with them.
The heading structure might look like this:
Call to Action/Conclusion
Use a high-resolution image (300DPI or higher) that you have permission to use. How do you know if you have permission to use it?
Did you take the photo or create the graphic yourself? If yes, you own the copyright and may use the image unless it contains locations that are protected or other people. In that case, be sure to get a signed photo release so you have legal permission to use the image.
If you didn’t take it or make it, did you purchase the rights to use it commercially? Some sources of photos you may purchase for use are StockUnlimited, iStockPhoto, etc. If you did purchase the right to use it commercially, then you may use it in your blog posts.
If no, and you think that the image you want to use is in the public domain, did you research that to be sure? If no, please find another image to use. Contrary to popular opinion and misinformation that is continually spread, just because it’s on the internet, that does not mean it is in the public domain.
Be sure you have permission. Lawsuits are no fun for anybody but the lawyers.
Putting Alt tags on images
Put Alt tags on all images. The purpose of Alt tags is to tell screen readers what to read aloud to the visually impaired. It needs to explain what the image is and why it’s there. If you can include the keyword, great, but don’t just slap your keyword into the Alt tag and call it good. That can get you sued. Putting Alt tags on images is the right thing to do. Remember, serve your readers.
A blog post style guide can also contain guidance that applies to all writing, of course:
- Have a purpose for the piece.
- Keep your audience in mind.
- Choose a structure that makes sense.
- Use examples when possible and humor when appropriate.
- Defend against the curse of knowledge. Ask a total beginner what is missing.
- Look up any words or phrases you’re not 100% sure of.
- Look up some you think you are 100% sure of. If you’re using comprised or begs the question, it’s probably wrong.
- Give credit where credit is due: Cite your sources (live do-follow links are appreciated).
- Read the piece aloud to catch errors.
- Let it rest before you publish it. Then check it once more.
Breaking up the text
Your style guide should also inform you that it’s best to have a heading or other division every few paragraphs in your blog post. Readers just cannot and will not cope with huge seas of text these days.
Make your post scannable. Most online readers don’t read every word anyway. They skim. Make it easy for them to do that. Use bullet points and other ways to break up the text to give the reader’s eyes some rest.
Keep paragraphs short.
Write and publish on a regular basis. This serves your readers, and the search engines like it. Create a content web whenever you can, and use my content clock method when it serves you. Creating a content web means connecting blog posts to each other in a logical way. You might link blog post #4 to blog post #9 and #9 to #5, and so on, in ways that make sense.
Ranking well on Google
Here are some tips for ranking well with search engines:
- Make titles and headlines transparent (clear, not clever).
- Deliver on the promise you make in your title.
- Write a post that is longer than 1,000 words (some people say 2,000 to 3,000 is better).
- Use at least one image in your blog post.
- Make sure that each image has an accurate title tag and Alt tag.
- Captions are optional. If you caption an image, be sure it delivers value. It doesn’t have to say what’s happening in the photo. It could instead illustrate something or make a point.
- Set a main keyword phrase.
- Use your main keyword in your title, some of your headings, and throughout your body text (paragraphs). Avoid using it too often (keyword stuffing). That will hurt your rankings. Worse, it will not serve your reader. Keyword stuffing looks like this: Here’s everything you need for keyword. Did you know same keyword can help you have a better life? Just get same keyword for your same keyword, and you can same keyword today! It sounds ridiculous because it is. No one should write like that. Fortunately, the owners of the search engines agree, and they now penalize content creators who engage in keyword stuffing. Just write in a clear way.
- Write your meta description carefully. Make it match the title and the first paragraph of your blog post. Help your reader know that they are in the right place.
Be sure that each post follows all of the current guidelines for SEO, but most of all, serve your reader well. If you do that, you’ll be fine.
A few more best practices for blogging
When you write your blog posts, be sure to deliver the information your reader needs. Perhaps it can’t all be delivered in one blog post. Maybe a series is needed. That’s okay. Just do one piece at a time, and link the posts to each other.
Please avoid “part one” type of language in your titles, though. Only use what someone would type into a search engine if they want to find information on whatever your blog post is about. Can you imagine someone typing into Google “[blog post topic] part two”? Of course not. So think like a search engine user would think.
Use plugins and other tools that serve you, and forget the rest, no matter how popular they may be.
Your own blog post style guide
You can create your own blog post style guide, or you may use this document, which is a style guide in and of itself. Scroll back through it to see it better.
- The title is in the correct format, set to H1, and is transparent and keyword rich.
- Headings are in H2 format and are also clear and contain accurate keywords.
- Heading style is consistent (all are phrases in Chicago down style or in title case without punctuation; or all headings are full sentences in sentence case with proper punctuation).
- Paragraphs are short. Sentence length varies to keep the reader’s interest.
- Images provide some visual relief, Alt tags, and useful information.
- Some information is delivered in bulleted lists.
At this point, my children would say, “Sneaky little hobbit.”
Make use of this however you’d like. For additional helpful information about writing nonfiction books and blog posts, sign up for my email list on the upper right side of the page.