Many people underestimate how important structure is when it comes to creating your own content.
This includes a blog post, videos, news article, podcast, video games, book, movies…just about any form of content on any platform.
Think of a content structure like a skeleton; without it, your content would collapse into one big messy blob.
Do you remember back in school when the teacher says that there should always be a start, middle and an end?
It’s kind of true really:
- the introduction is there to help set the scene
- if the middle is detailed, it will need to be broken down into sub-headings for a clearer structure
- your end/conclusion should always have a call-to-action i.e. a direction of what your readers should do next, such as share the post, leave a comment, subscribe to newsletter, download, etc.
This “Classic Structure” (well that’s what I’m calling it) is the one that we are all familiar with.
It sounds quite basic and possibly too broad.
And maybe it’s outdated too.
But this structure is actually the backbone for the rest of the structures below.
So let’s get deeper from the Classic Structure and onto other structures that you may not have thought of.
The Classic Structure x10
This is the next level up from your old school days of the “start, middle and end”.
As you can see in the image, the main difference is the body, where it is much more detailed but also structured and necessary for many posts.
And this is where it is important to provide a further structure within the body with the help of subheadings, shorter paragraphs, bullet points, etc.
If relevant, having expert opinions from leading authorities in your industry will add further credibility to your post.
But you could argue that this is similar to the News.
This is perhaps one of the most common and simplest templates to use.
Possibly because journalists have been following this format for centuries (don’t take my word for it though. If you are a budding journalist, you can follow the Inverted Pyramid structure).
The above structure is a more simple version to follow that we can all use.
Notice how important having ‘quotes’ and ‘expert opinions’ is in this template.
In a world where anyone can make news and post it online, having a source of the news is crucial to add further credibility to the story.
On top of that, quotes from different sources are also useful additions as it can provide a different angle and further elaboration to the story.
One of the most popular forms of content is when you compare one topic to another.
And that’s because people crave for it.
This could work for pretty much any topic.
A gamer would probably want to know whether to buy a PlayStation or Xbox.
A budding artist might want to understand the difference between watercolour and oil painting
A person on a diet might want to learn the nutritional benefits of kale and spinach.
Whatever it is, there is something for everyone.
If you enjoy listening or reading interviews, you will most likely notice a typical pattern in the middle.
- Question > Answer > Question > Answer
This structure is still valid and can work for many people.
But I prefer to go to another level by continuing the conversation around a particular topic and providing your own inputs.
Notice the difference between the two different templates:
- Interview 1: Question > Answer > Question > Answer > Question > Answer
- Interview 2: Question > Answer > Elaborate > Question > Answer > Question > Answer > Elaborate
Not every single question requires further clarification. Sometimes, you just want to move on to the next question without providing your own input.
And that is fine
But if there are opportunities to provide your own input or it requires further clarifications from either parties, this could be a great opportunity for you to take advantage of.
- The Seth Godin Interview
- How to turn failure into success (Tim Ferris interviews a host of people on this podcast)
The famous “Buzzfeed-style” articles are perhaps overused. But it still attracts attention and people still craves for it.
If you search the word “listicle” on Google at the time of writing, it will bring up 1.4 million results.
One of the main reason is that they are good for user experience as it is easy to consume these form of content by scanning through them.
So anyone and any industry can use a ‘Listicle’ article.
But the easy option is to create low-quality content, make it a click-bait and create a list out of them.
And that is not what you should do.
They still need to be really good, well-structured and with “non-clickbaity” headline.
It is said that more and more customers search for reviews before making a purchase online, with one survey claims that 90% of buying customers are influenced by online reviews.
It’s not a surprise that searching for “[product] reviews” is also one of the most common search queries on Google.
In fact, a recent survey by BrightLocal shows that:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
It can also have an impact on local SEO.
And this is where you can take advantage of that.
So look at your industry and find out what reviews can you write about on your site.
It could be anything from children’s toys to software to a holiday destination, and more.
As for the conclusion, you could offer the chance to encourage customers to buy the product by linking to it (with an affiliate link if you choose to).
After all, customers are influenced by reviews…so why not your reviews?
And if you don’t recommend, you can still provide other alternatives too.
So it’s a win-win for you and your visitors.
And speaking of Product Reviews, Book Reviews is also another structure you can follow.
The reason it is separate from ‘Product Reviews’ above is down to the structure being altered slightly.
Everyone will have their own opinions about whether they enjoyed a book or not.
But that’s what makes it different to the other reviews, as you will be able to put your own personal take on the book and how it would or has had an impact on your life.
Just the like Product Reviews, you can provide your own conclusion as to whether to buy the book or not.
And you could provide another conclusion by suggesting to the reader what action to take, such as buy the book.
- Games of Thrones Book Review
- Wonder Woman review: a tremendous win for a franchise that desperately needed one
The 6 W’s
Along with the “how-to” queries, question-based search queries are also hugely popular.
And I’m talking about all the “W’s”, where the opportunities are endless:
- Who built the Eiffel Tower?
- What is the speed of light
- Where is the best vegetarian restaurant in London?
- When is the next World Cup?
- Why is the White House white?
- Which is city has the most millionaires?
To put it simply; we will never stop asking questions.
Not only will this give you an opportunity to appear high on Google search rankings, but it will also give you the opportunity to feature in the “featured snipped”.
So if there are questions in your industry (I refuse to believe that there aren’t any), why don’t you answer them?
- The Telegraph is known to take advantage of people searching for the “When is…” queries by creating articles around it
- Which Universities Have The Most Satisfied Students?
This deserves its own special section from the “Answer the Questions” section.
The “How To” based questions are definitely one of the most popular questions asked on Google.
In fact, there is around 2.4 billion results for queries relating to “how to” if you search for it.
People are always searching for a solution to a problem, and that is where you come in.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, there are definitely “How-to Guides” based articles you can write about.
Even starting the search on Google with “How to” followed by your industry or topic is a good starting point, and you can learn how to do that here.
And again, this will also give you an opportunity to appear high on Google search plus be featured in the featured snippet.
If there is one way of providing your value to your clients is via the use of case studies.
It may be obvious to you, but it’s not always the case for your clients (mental note: must make more case studies).
A study in 2012 by CMI and MarketingProfs study on B2B has claimed that case studies as one of the top four most effective tactics to convince your customers to work with you; with 70% of users rating them effective or very effective (an increase of 32% from 2010).
By acting as a powerful social proof, validation and also a way to add more content to your site, case studies can act as a goldmine for your business and online presence.
Although the main benefit of the structure is to make it easier for your readers to consume, there are benefits to you as it can also give you further content ideas.
For example, try to think of as many of “The 6 W’s” questions that are applicable to your industry as possible and start creating.
You may end up having too many content ideas, and that is a nice problem to have.
Other benefits could include better productivity and more focus on your creativity.
The templates above are also adjustable to suit your need. For example, you might not want to round-up some of the articles and just go straight to the conclusion.
Other times, you might want to create short 1-minute videos where you get straight to the point.
Even though it’s up to you, it is your responsibility to make sure that it is easy to consume it.
You can download your own PDF below for a more shorter version of the content structures.
And FYI, the structure for this post is obviously No.6, the Classic Listicle.