You may be hindering your business if you create a lot of blog posts without using a template. The good news is that you probably already have a template, even if it’s not “official”. Recognizing that template is important though, because it will help you save time and offer a means for improving your work.
I got an idea of how important templates are from an article Michael Hyatt wrote. It was not related to blog posts, but it certainly applied well. As I considered the importance and convenience of templates, I realized that I was already using one. It was not intentional, just a habit. And chances are great that if you are blogging regularly you have already developed a habit too. We humans tend to do that. It supports routine and increases productivity.
So why would you need a article about templates if you are already using one? You need to recognize what that template is and use it to your advantage.
Our Brains Love Patterns And Efficiency
Before I started considering templates, I would always remind myself to put a photo at the top of each post. I knew it was what I wanted to do because I had done it so many times in the past, and I was looking for uniformity. That uniformity is important to your audience because it become familiar to them. But when I decided to write about templates, the first question I asked was, “What is my template?” And that led to an even more important question, “What do I WANT as a template?” That really is the point here. Be intentional with your template.
When we frequently repeat actions, our brains tend to find the most efficient way to carry out the tasks. That means we finish quicker, but it also means we might take shortcuts. Not all shortcuts are bad, but they do tend to be short-sighted. Most shortcuts look at the immediate picture without regard for the long-term. That can hurt you. On the other hand, that you can recognize your template habits means that you can control them and choose habits that take into account both short-term and long-term perspectives. Be intentional with your habits and templates and you will have a great advantage.
A Template Is A Poor Master
The last thing you want to do is let the template control everything while removing the possibility of deviation.
When you learn a foreign language, you learn to follow the rules of that language. Then you break the rules. Until you master the rules of the language, you don’t know when to break the rules. That’s because the culture of the people using the “rules” determines the rules. (That’s why people in the northern states have slightly different rule exceptions than those in the southern states of the USA.)
The same is true for your blog posts. When you understand your template and find the REASONS for that template, you then have the power to change it.
Templates balance efficiency with speed. Sometimes you need to focus on one more than the other. In that case, deviate from the template.
A Template Allows Improvements
Improvement usually comes through intentional activity. Sometimes we learn and grow without knowing how, but if we want to be the most effective in growth, we need to map out how that growth should occur. Templates help you do that.
Templates help you test new things. By keeping everything the same except one item, you can test that one item to decide whether it would improve or detract from your efforts. That’s a key to improving your blog posts over time. If you are changing the format every time, and you see greater success with a post, you will not know what caused it. Sure–you could just continue to use the format that was successful (and that’s a great plan) but you will not know what to change to improve it unless you then continue to use that winning template and tweak it for testing purposes.
A Template Allows A Common Voice
Consistency is important to growth. Audiences get to know you in various ways. One way they get to know you is by the way you present yourself to them. If your audience only sees your blog posts, it’s important to consider how your voice is heard through it. Part of your voice is not only what you say, but how you say it. And (to some degree) the format you use defines how you say it.
If you have more than one writer for your brand, it’s even more important. Your brand is your voice, and the format of your blog posts helps solidify that voice. In some instances you might want writers to have their own unique voices, but if your purpose is to reinforce a single brand voice, your template will help.
Here’s my template, or a simplified version of it. I would never recommend copying someone else’s template, but I present it to illustrate how it could be done.
- Interesting and related photo.
- At the top of the page.
- For longer articles (more than 600 words) display one image per 300 words.
- Statement to capture attention with the topic. Question, shocking statement, statement acknowledging some pain or difficulty I’m helping the reader solve, or some other interesting statement. Something in the first sentence to say what this is about and why they need to read further.
- A story to illustrate the problem or the reason to keep reading listed in the first sentence. (SHORT)
- A transition to the body. Some statement saying that I’m about to give them the answers they need.
- Succinct discussion of main points–each with at least a reference to an illustration.
- Be sure the points tie in with the main idea.
- Each point highlighted with a Heading
- Any heading with more than 300 words needs at least one subheading to break it up.
- Make it application oriented.
- Use short paragraphs 1-4 sentences long.
- Use short sentences peppered with long ones.
- Each point leads naturally to the next point.
- Remind them of the main point.
- Remind them what happens if they will follow my advice.
- Call to action–something for them to do (even if just comment).
- Consider what you could have them to in application that will be mutually beneficial–weighted more toward the reader’s benefit.
- Only have ONE call to action. Be specific.
Templates are helpful. You naturally tend to create them because your brain craves patterns, but being intentional in creating templates can position you for growth and greater perspective. Why not sit down and create a template and improve your business even more?