When it comes to marketing online, you’ve probably already heard that “content marketing” is one of the best ways to spread the world about your site and position yourself as an industry expert. But content marketing is not the same as churning out blog posts day after day. 

There’s more to a great blog post than just words on a screen. What follows is my list of essential ingredients for a successful blog post. If you’ve been focusing on just publishing words each day, step back, consider this list, and find out how your blog might improve. 

1. The article needs a point 
I’m surprised at how many blog articles have nothing to say. Well, maybe they have plenty of things to say, but they don’t have a point. An article is supposed to communicate a point.

When your article has a point, it gives readers something memorable to latch onto. They are more compelled to share it, comment on it, and engage with it. An article with a point is an article that accomplishes a mission and is therefore successful. 

There’s another benefit to having a point: Using specific keywords. As part of a content marketing effort, you probably went through the exercise of planning the keywords to target, and creating content that would advance those keywords. Now, you can implement those keywords by writing an article with a succinct point.

Related: 6 Ways to Turn Your Blog Into a Money Maker

2. Images
You won’t see an article on my blog without an image. It just doesn’t happen. I know that content is the most important thing for search engines and crawlers, but I’m not writing great stuff so crawlers can read it. I’m writing content so you can read it. And I know that you want pictures.

Your goal isn’t just to add eye candy, though that’s probably a good thing. Your goal is to add strategic images that help your readers, and enhance your content. 

3. Structure
This is one of the most-overlooked aspects of an article. In order to communicate a concept, you need to organize your thoughts. Otherwise, you’re going to have a scattered assembly of sentences and statements. That accomplishes nothing.

When you have a structure, it will be reflected in the layout of the article. An article will have headings, subheadings, paragraph breaks, and maybe a bullet point or two. All of these features provide flow for the reader, and make it easy to skim and digest content.

Here’s the model you should follow:

  • Introduction: Set the stage for your discussion.
  • Make your point. Explain it. 
  • Make your next point. Explain it. 
  • Do this for as many points as you have.
  • Conclusion: Wrap up the article with a call to action. 

That’s the general idea. However, it needs some specificity depending on the type of article you’re creating. In my Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, I discuss 12 structures to help you have an organized approach to virtually any type of content. 

4. Unique content
First, you need to have something unique to say, from a thematic perspective. In other words, you don’t simply want to make the same point that everyone else is making. You need to have a unique angle, approach, or spin. 

Second, you need unique content. You hopefully wouldn’t copy and paste content from another site onto your own. But you may be tempted to do a link roundup or “best of the web,” in which you curate a list of articles that you’ve found to be interesting. 

I think this is a fine idea, and it can certainly help you to establish thought leadership and gain readership. However, because of the risk of duplicate content, I’d suggest doing this infrequently. Unique content is more likely to be linked and shared. People are going to go to your content because it’s one of a kind.

Related: Beyond Blogging: 101 Different Types of Web Content 

5. Substantial length
Ah, the perennial question: How long should my blog post be? 

The short and easy answer is, as long as it takes to say what you need to say. But -- and this is a significant “but” -- longer is better. 

My research, experience, and data all point to long-form content performing better in social sharing, search indexing, organic traffic, and conversions. If you’re regularly creating content that is in the 1,000- to 1,500-word range, you’re doing well. If most of your articles are about 200 to 300 words then you could probably beef up a bit. 

6. Internal linking
An internal linking strategy -- for which you link to other, related posts within your own site -- and can serve to enhance and deepen the overall value of a website. It isn’t complicated. Here are the basic points:

  • Create enough content throughout the site. You’re going to need stuff to link to.
  • Create text links with diluted anchors. No optimized anchors allowed. In other words, the text of the links (the part people click on) shouldn’t contain keywords.  
  • Link internally to “deep pages.” The deeper the link is within your site, the better. A good example of this is linking to pages that are not your home page, or any other major page on your website.
  • Use links that the reader will be interested in. You want them to engage with your content and site.
  • Link to relevant data on your site. Topical relevance between the pages will bolster the authority of both pages. 
  • Use enough internal links to make it worthwhile. I’d suggest anywhere from 3 to 10 internal links per post.

7.  Attention to proper spelling and grammar
When I first drafted this article, I wrote this point as “Make your article grammatically impeccable.” And then I changed it. It needs to be proofread and copyedited...at least.

Let me share a thought or two about mistakes. To err is human. Mistakes happen. Now and then, a typo will slip through. Work to avoid it, but be prepared to accept it. Being human has its drawbacks. 

Here’s a helpful approach to proofreading and copyediting your articles: 

  • Just write the article. Don’t nitpick, parse, check thesaurus, or fix your spelling. Simply put the content on the page -- structured, organized, but not proofed. 
  • Wait a few hours. A day is even better. You’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes when you go in for the copyedit phase. 
  • Copyedit the article. Here’s where you give the article a renovation. You may change entire paragraphs, elide sections, alter wording, and adjust your approach. Your goal is to make the copy read well. 
  • Proofread the article. Examine every comma, apostrophe, capital letter, and spelling issue. This is where you make sure your article will pass muster in a college-level composition course. When you’re done, proofread it again.

Related: 22 Ways to Ramp Up Your Content-Marketing Strategy

8. A call to action 
The call to action is the magic ingredient that makes a blog post worth it all. You have all this wonderful long content with an amazing point, a beautiful structure, internal links, great images, and flawless style and grammar. Now what? 

Every post needs a call to action. The reader is ready to respond, to do, to click, to engage. What do you want them to do? Whether it’s capturing an email address, visiting another page, purchasing a product, or downloading an ebook, you need to have an explicit call to action for each article, every time.

Call to actions are the key to bringing in more conversions. Truly effective calls to action begin and end with strong, compelling copy. 

So, write your copy, but don’t stop there. Write your call to action as well.

I could have ended this list by telling you “Write a conclusion.” Of course you need a conclusion. Any article needs to have a clear ending. But somewhere in that ending needs to be an appeal -- the reader should be invited to take the next step or do the next logical thing. 

If you scroll to the end of this post, you’ll see an example of my call to action. It’s at the end of every article. 

Conclusion: Churning out content on a blog is not the path to success. Carefully consider your strategy in light of these eight points. If you have an approach that follows this methodology, then you’ll start to see significantly higher success rates with your content marketing.

What other must-have blog tips would you suggest?

Related: 5 Content Pieces You Can Create in 5 Minutes Or Less