An Introduction to the Basic Elements of a Blog

Blogging is a unique writing genre. It is far different than any academic writing that you have done in the past and it has limited connections to typical nonfiction writing. For those that enjoy non-fiction or creative writing, blogging does not align with your typical style either. The uniqueness of the blog makes it a difficult genre to begin writing in. If you are interested in writing a blog of your own, there are a handful of things you must understand. By no means will this cover the entire genre of blogs. Rather, this will serve as a simple introduction to the basic elements of a blog.

How Blogs Connect to SEO

The term “SEO” is likely new for anyone that has not blogged or written for the web. SEO is short for search engine optimization. Basically, SEO is the tool that orders search results on search engines like Google. These results are determined by an algorithm and are based on the content of your blog.

For example, below you can find the search results that appear when you google, “What are the best SEO practices?” The search results that appear first have the best SEO (these are the first results that appear after ads).

Google search results when “What are the best SEO practices?” is searched via screenshot taken on Windows

Why does SEO matter? If your blog has poor SEO users will not be able to find it. It does not matter how good your content is if nobody can read it.

It was important to lead off with SEO as the certain elements that appear later in this post will discuss ways to improve SEO. Now that you understand the importance of SEO we can move on.

The Style of Blogs

Possibly the biggest difference between blogs and other writing genres is the style. Blogs are far more conversational, simple, and direct than other genres. This style can be achieved through high readability and proper tone. Word choice also plays an important role in style by assisting in readability and tone.

Readability

Readability is how easy it is for a reader to understand the content of a blog. A high readability score means it is easy for users to read and understand the blog’s message while a low readability scores mean the opposite.

Readability is determined by a variety of factors. A text with high readability has simple word choice, active voice, short paragraphs, and more.

How do I Know if My Blog has a High Readability Score?

Determining the readability score of your blog is easier than you think. There are a handful of services that provide readability services.

The Hemingway Editor is a popular online editing tool that can help improve readability. The Hemingway editor provides a readability score and highlights areas of the text that can be improved. After you make edits, your text should see an improved readability score.

Yoast SEO is another popular tool that provides a readability evaluation. Yoast SEO scores different elements of your work on a red, orange, and green scale. If your content is in green, the readability score is high.

Tone

The tone of your blog plays a crucial role in your blog’s style. The majority of blogs have a far more personable style. The relationship between the author and the reader is much closer than in most genres. In Letting Go of the Words, author Janice Reddish gave insight on how to accomplish that relationship. Firstly, authors should directly speak to the audience by using the word “you”. To further the relationship, the words “I” and “We” should also be used.

Blogs should have a variety of tones. Most blogs are personable, but that does not cover the full extent of a writer’s tone or style. The other styles that you use in a blog should be specific to that blog. If your blog is meant to be humorous, your tone and style should reflect that. If your blog is supposed to be educational, your tone should reflect that. You have to determine your purpose before you can determine your tone or style.

Word Choice

Word choice plays a role in a blog’s style, readability, and tone. These traits all connect and work together. With that being said, word choice deserves its own spot in this section as it is crucial to a blog.

Your blog has a tone and voice. The word you use should reflect that tone and voice. Every word choice that you make in a blog affects the entire style of the blog while affecting the readability and tone. For example, if you frequently use the word “your”, your blog will seem more personable. If you are using simple vocabulary, you will also seem more personable. On the other hand, if you are using complex vocabulary your readability will be damaged and your tone will shift.

Thankfully, there are tools on the internet that help if you find yourself struggling to break free of complex words or phrases. Simple Words and Phrases can help provide simple alternatives to commonly used phrases that are too complex.

Here are a handful of examples of words with their simpler replacement (via Simple Words and Phrases):

  • accompany- go with
  • discontinue- drop/stop
  • evident- clear
  • inception- start
  • in the event of- if
  • represents- is

How Headings Improve Blogs

Headings are not unique to blogs. Plenty of other writing genres use both; however, blogs depend on these elements. Headings serve several purposes in a blog and it is important to understand those if you want to have effective headings.

Headings Provide Structure

Headings provide structure to blogs. I will not go into too much detail here as this is a common concept. Headings are used in a variety of genres to add structure to text. In that way, blogs are similar to other genres. In a simplistic overview, users can scan the headings of a text to direct them to the content they are looking for. From a design perspective, headings also break up text and make the information more appealing. Imagine if this blog did not have headings and was just a page full of paragraphs. You would have probably stopped reading by now.

Headings Should Be User-Friendly

Headings should focus on the user. Your headings should work to help the user navigate and understand the content. This can be done through descriptive headings that are focused on verbs. These types of headings help the reader understand the content that will appear in the paragraph and have them prepared to continue reading. At times questions can be useful too. Questions allow users to scan a blog for a question that they have on a topic. At the same time, do not use questions too often as they are not always descriptive of the next paragraph.

Aside from content, headings should add to the design of your content. Once again, Letting Go of the Words displayed strong ground rules for the design of headings. Headings should be distinguishable from the text, the heading levels should be clear, and you should not use too many heading levels. For example, here are the levels of headings in this post.

Levels of heading from this blog via screenshot taken on Windows

As you can see, each heading has a different font size and color. This helps distinguish the heading from each other and the text.

Clear heading allows for the headings to work properly. If headings are unclear it will confuse the audience and make the blog harder to follow.

Headings Improve SEO

Headings play a large role in SEO. The better your headings are the better your SEO. As algorithms look to determine the content of your blog, the headings will play a large role. If your headings contain keyphrases, the algorithm will be able to detect the focus content of your content more effectively. This boosts your SEO. At the end of the day, if your headings effectively inform the audience of the blog’s content and keep the audience on your page, the SEO will yield high results.

Blogs Need Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are a must-have in any blog. In blogs, hyperlinks can be used to direct the audience to another webpage. This is how blogs cite their sources. Blogs do not have a work cited page, instead, you can click on a link in the text and go to the page that the author got their information from. This type of sourcing is unique to blogs. Citations are the most important way that hyperlinks are used in blogs, but they can also be used to share more information with the audience, along with other things. When using blogs, there are several rules to remember.

Provide Context in Hyperlinks

When including a hyperlink in a blog it is important to provide context. When a reader sees a hyperlink they should know what the hyperlink will take them to and why they should click it. This responsibility falls on the author when they are inserting a hyperlink into a blog. If a hyperlink does not include the proper context, the reader will not click it.

Punctuation in Hyperlinks

As far as the display goes, there are a few details to remember when you insert a hyperlink. First, hyperlinks should not include punctuation. For example, if your hyperlink goes to the last word in a sentence, do not link the period. Similarly, your link should not include italics or quotation marks, even if it would otherwise be necessary. For example:

DO: Here is an example of what to do.

DON’T: Here is an example of what not to do.

DO: I suggest you read To Kill a Mockingbird.

DON’T: I suggest you read “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

These are small details that should be taken into consideration when including a hyperlink in your blog.

Blogs Contain Much More

This is not the complete story of blogs. This is only an introduction to the small details of blogging. This should help you understand the basics, but you have not learned everything. This did not cover any backend coding information like HTML or CSS. It did not cover the title or visual design either. Regardless, this should have helped you prepare yourself to write your first blog.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Hi James! Kudos to you for being brave enough to be the first blogger of the semester. 🙂 I appreciate that you used clear headers along with additional subheaders to break up the content throughout your blog. With this being such a large topic that covers a lot (being a whole introduction to blogging), that makes it much easier to follow along. I liked how you touched on SEO as a very fundamental part of blogging. I do weekly blog writing at my internship, and one thing we highly emphasize is SEO. I have never heard of YoastSEO so I’ll have to add it to my list of tools to check out! Good job on being conversational throughout your blog, too. I feel like that can be hard to master because in academia, we’re always encouraged to use a more professional voice and style.

  2. Hello James. What a wonderful first blog post! I thought that you were extremely informative and helpful. I am sure we will all be looking back at this post when we create our blogs. You touched on readability which is so important in web writing. Complex sentences and phrases can increase your website’s bounce rate, which is why creators need to keep readability and usability in mind. Your section on hyperlinks is very helpful! I did not know the punctuation rule, and I am grateful I do now. Great post!

  3. Hi James. This is such a great blog, and such a helpful topic for all of us posting blogs after you. I will definitely be going back to your blog when I write mine. The Hemingway Editor sounds like a really cool readability tool that I’m looking forward to utilizing. I found that throughout reading your blog, I noticed you incorporating the very tools of blogs you talked about, which goes to show how important and helpful they are. I didn’t know about hyperlinks in blogs, or the rules surrounding them, so that was very informational. I am curious how exactly do these tools and elements improve a blog’s SEO? I’d love to learn more. Thank you for the information provided, this was an awesome blog post!

  4. Hi James, thanks for the informative post! You gave a very detailed but unexhaustive rundown on the basic elements of a blog. Something that I thought was interesting was your description of the blog writing style! It’s surprisingly similar to journalistic writing and I imagine the reason behind that is that both have a similar goal of communicating with a wide audience. The highlight of your post for me was the resources you put in the blog. While the information will be helpful, I did not know about these resources until now. Once again, thank you for the post.

  5. This was a really informative post. You clearly put the time and thought in to researching what makes up a blog. I think that the section on what to do and what not to do under the hyperlink section was a good choice. It’s very easy to read due to the format, and gives a clear idea to whoever is reading it of what they would need to do. It doesn’t get much easier to understand than “don’t do this”.

  6. Hi James! Wow was this helpful! I love the format of your blog. I found it very clear and easy to follow. I especially appreciated your first section on SEO. I have trouble myself with SEO and I thought it was great that not only did you explain really well the function of SEO, but you also indirectly left us 5 article names via picture about ways to improve our SEO. Great job!

  7. Hi James, really cool first blog post! I know several of our other classmates have said this, but I’ll definitely be looking back on your post as inspiration when making mine. Everything about it is so clean and well set-up, with a particularly great usage of headings and subheadings. It’s also real easy to understand, utilizing simpler language to convey bigger ideas with ease. Word choice as a whole is pretty much the highlight of this post for me, as are the hyperlinks (I seriously didn’t know you’re supposed to leave the period off from the hyperlink). Again, this is a really great first post! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi, James! This is a very informative and descriptive article about blogging and SEO practices! You were very thorough in your explanation without going overboard, and your points were made clear and easy to understand. I am currently taking an internship that revolves around SEO practices, and your explanation sums it up super well. Even though I’m learning a lot about this stuff inside and outside of class, I did not know that hyperlinks can’t be italicized! (I’ll need to remember that when I revise my guest blog, whoops.) I do kind of disagree that blogging is out of line with creative writing, because a lot of creative writers actually end up being content writers for the web! As a creative writer myself, I’m starting to feel like it’s my true calling. Other than that, everything looks great! As others have stated, I believe this would be a great model blog for other students to take as a good example when writing their own blogs!

  9. Hi James,
    I appreciate the readability of this blog. Although there is a decent amount of information, it reads smoothly and keeps the reader engaged. I thought it was especially useful that you pointed out the importance of headings and used your own writing as an example, stating that if headings were not present the reader would likely not have continued reading. I also found the photo included from our reading valuable in the discussion of headings.
    The area I have struggled with in blogging is citing sources (from research, not direct ideas or quotes), because the format is so much different than an academic essay. It seems most bloggers do not cite these resources even though many blogs are research based. So I found this handy article on all types of citing in blogs which helped me understand a little better:
    https://problogger.com/use-external-links-to-boost-your-credibility/

  10. Hi James! You went above and beyond in your blog post. Not only did you go first, but I feel like the actual content of your blog is teaching the rest of us how to write and arrange our blog posts. Your comments about the hyperlinks were really interesting, but I feel like it explains a lot. I’ve always wondered why some hyperlinks do not contain any punctuation and it always bothered me! Little did I know that no punctuation is correct punctuation.

  11. Hi James!! I want to first start off by thanking you for linking some very helpful resources. I’ll definitely be using the Hemingway Editor, not only for future blogs but all future writing. I tend to over complicate sentences, so that will be the perfect tool for me! Your blog’s structure is really well thought out and I love how detailed each section is. I thought is was very interesting that less complicated wording and punctuation is actually more effective. Overall, very informative and will definitely be coming back when I need to write my post!

  12. Hello James,
    Great job writing the first post, I didn’t realize it wasn’t written by the teacher until seeing the comments. Your writing reads very professional and the descriptions are on-point. I learned a lot from this post and it was a good introduction for blogging for me. I’m supposed to write a blog for my internship, so this is perfect to help me utilize all the tools and options blogs can contain. The SEO was a new topic for me as well, I am not entirely sure how to implement it yet, but I’m eager to learn. Good job!!

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