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10 Types of Blog Posts & How to Use Them Effectively

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10 Types of Blog Posts & How to Use Them Effectively

When it comes to writing a blog post, there are multiple formats you can use—and it all depends on the goal of your article and what your audience is looking for.

Here are some popular types of blog posts to know, along with examples of how to use them:

  1. How-to guides
  2. Content hubs
  3. Expanded definition posts
  4. Listicles, aka list posts
  5. Expanded list posts
  6. News
  7. Data studies
  8. Case studies
  9. Cheat sheets and checklists
  10. Templates

A how-to post offers a series of specific, chronological steps on how to achieve a goal. It’s typically structured like so:

Infographic showing structure of a how-to guide

For instance, this post is titled “How to Choose the Right Words for SEO” and shows you how to achieve that goal through a four-step process:

  • Step 1 – Find keywords with search traffic potential
  • Step 2 – Create content that aligns with search intent
  • Step 3 – Ensure the keyword has “business potential”
  • Step 4 – Make sure you can rank for the keyword

We then elaborate on each step by showing you how to execute it.

In the case of step one—finding keywords with search traffic potential—we suggested using keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and then elaborated on how each tool works.

Excerpt of an Ahrefs article talking about GKP and Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Best practices

  • When chronicling your steps, be as specific as possible. Consider that your reader may ask, “How? Why?” and then fill these gaps to make your how-to guide substantial.

A content hub is an interlinked collection of content about a topic. 

Sometimes, you may have multiple blog posts on your website about a topic—let’s say SEO—but they aren’t housed in one place. That’s where a content hub comes in: It’s strategically built to boost your site structure for more traffic, links, and topical authority.

In simple terms, a content hub comprises three parts:

  1. Your hub page – A high-level guide about the overarching topic (e.g., SEO). It usually includes links to subtopics that are sometimes split into chapters.
  2. Your subpages – These are in-depth guides about parts of the main topic. Each of these guides is split into yet more chapters.
  3. Hyperlinks – These connect the subpages to your hub page. The hub page links to all the subpages, and each subpage links back to the hub.

It may be a little confusing, so let’s take the example of our beginner’s guide to SEO. This is our hub page:

Hub page of beginner’s guide to SEO

We first give the reader an overview of what SEO is. This is followed by six hyperlinked chapters (with descriptions for each). Clicking on each of these chapters brings you to their respective subpages.

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So if we click on chapter 1 (How Search Engines Work), the reader is taken to the subpage—which is split into yet more chapters so that you can easily hone in on a specific subtopic.

Subpage of "How Search Engines Work"

We’ve also included a hyperlink for each subpage to connect it back to our hub page.

Link that brings user back to hub page

Best practices

  • Map out a structure to ensure your content hub is well organized

Example of content hub in flowchart form: "Keto Dieting" is in the middle and branches out to pictures of different fruits and vegetables

  • If you have a topic in mind but aren’t sure how to structure it, follow these steps:
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
  2. Enter your search term (e.g., “link building”)
  3. Look at the top results to see how other websites structure their content hubs/guides
Content Explorer search results

3. Expanded definition posts

Expanded definition posts are somewhat similar to how-to guides. The difference is they start by focusing on the what before the how—because sometimes, you want to understand a topic in greater depth before getting to the actionable bit (i.e., the how-to).

Here’s how it’s structured:

Infographic showing structure of an expanded definition post

Our blog post titled “What Is a Backlink? How to Get More Backlinks” is one such example of how this structure can be put to practice:

  • Introduction, then table of contents—bulleted summary of what you’ll learn
  • [H2] Why backlinks are important 
    • [H3] Rankings (elaborate)
    • [H3] Discoverability (elaborate)
    • [H3] Referral traffic (elaborate)
  • [H2] What makes a good backlink
    • Elaborate with H3s as above
  • [H2] How to check for backlinks 
    • Elaborate with H3s as above; add screenshots where necessary
  • [H2] How to get more backlinks 
    • Elaborate with H3s as above
  • Conclusion: Your final thoughts

It’s fairly straightforward. Tell the reader what to expect, explain why the topic is important and what they can do with it, then offer some steps on how to achieve a certain goal around the topic.

Best practices

4. Listicles, aka list posts

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Listicles—also known as list posts—typically feature one tip, technique, or point per paragraph. They’re often used for non-chronological advice but, sometimes, have a poor reputation because many publications use the format for clickbait stories.

This BuzzFeed article accurately captures one instance of how the format is used:

Excerpt of a BuzzFeed article titled "32 Cheap Things To Treat Yourself To Right Now"

The descriptions below each subheading are kept short so that readers can quickly capture information in a concise manner without having to stay on a page for too long. Listicles may also be image-heavy.

Excerpt of an image-heavy BuzzFeed article

Despite the poor rep that list posts may carry, they can be useful for readers who are looking for quick answers to certain questions—as in the case of this Search Engine Journal blog post titled “21 Web Directories You’ll Still Want to Use.” This is a good example of how an SEO or marketing listicle should be written:

Excerpt of an SEJ article

Best practices

  • We recommend not using sensationalist wording in your headline (like this BuzzFeed article). Instead, ensure your headline captures exactly what the blog post is about.
  • You can learn more about the best practices of crafting listicles here.

An expanded list post mimics the format of a listicle. The difference is this format is better suited to more complex topics—so each pointer on the list is beefed up to better explain a tip or idea.

Example of expanded list post about copywriting

It’s also why we don’t publish all that many list posts on the Ahrefs blog; SEO is a complex topic to unpack when compared to “lighter” content, such as the “best cafes in Singapore.” 

The blog post you’re reading now is also an example of an expanded list post.

Best practices

  • Since expanded list posts are lengthier than listicles, use images and H3s (a subsection that sits under your subheading) to break your points up. This very subsection is a H3.

Newsworthy blog posts contain time-sensitive information that’s relevant to your business and/or industry. This includes industrywide changes or trends that may affect your readers (or be of interest to them), as well as company or product updates.

Naturally, the piece of news you’d like to share should be disseminated as soon as possible, and, ideally, before other publications. This is especially so if you’re covering industrywide changes.

For example, let’s say Apple intends to announce the launch of its Mac Studio and Studio Display via a press release.

That same press release is first shared with multiple publications and kept on embargo (i.e., not to be published until a certain date and time). Based on the information, media outlets can build a story and schedule the news for publication—in the case of “fastest fingers first.”

Except of Google SERP on Apple's Mac Studio

Being quick to publish a newsworthy story also puts you in good standing with your target audience, who may over time regard your blog as a reliable and credible source of information. To achieve this, you need to be consistent in publishing accurate and timely content. 

Best practices

  • Use the inverted triangle so your most important information is up top
Inverted pyramid. "Need to know" at top, then "nice to know" at bottom

Data studies are a great way to earn backlinks.

At Ahrefs, we’ve run more than a fair number of data studies over the years—many of which have brought us traction on our socials.

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But don’t simply cobble data from multiple sources and claim it as yours. Instead, decide on what you want to first study.

One way to do this is by recreating outdated studies, which you can find using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer:

  1. In Content Explorer, enter a search term like [industry] + “study,” [industry] + “survey,” [industry] + “research,” or [industry] + “data”
  2. Set the filter to an In title search
  3. Set the Published filter to an older date range (e.g., 2010–2015)
  4. Sort the results by referring domains
Content Explorer search results

From here, you can identify popular and/or outdated studies to recreate and write about as blog posts.

Best practices

  • Create graphs so readers have a concise overview of your findings

Pie chart showing 7.4% of top-ranking pages have no title tags

More Examples

Case studies look at real-life experiments or businesses that have succeeded in using certain tactics or strategies. They’re effective because readers are more inclined to buy into information when it’s backed by proof.

In this case study of fintech company Wise, we explored five reasons why its SEO strategy is so admirable:

Except of an Ahrefs article showing five reasons why Wise's SEO strategy is good

We also weaved in our product—the Ahrefs toolset—where we could.

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Excerpt of an Ahrefs article talking about content optimization for featured snippets

For your case study to be effective, it has to give the reader some “wins”—clear takeaways that they can apply to their business. Ideally, you should feature a business that’s either well known or has a unique enough selling proposition to entice readers to click on the blog post.

Best practices

  • Give readers some clear takeaways (e.g., Oatly SEO Case Study: 5 Lessons You Can Learn From the Oat Drink Giant and Its IPO) so they’re more likely to read your blog post

9. Cheat sheets and checklists

Cheat sheets and checklists are essentially the same thing and may include a clear breakdown of the steps required to reach a goal.

Unlike how-to guides, which may sometimes be ambiguous in explaining how something works, checklists and cheat sheets are effective because they tell you exactly what you need to achieve something.

Here’s a concise SEO checklist we crafted for a blog post. We later repurposed the checklist as a tweet:

In the above blog post, we shared that our SEO checklist helped grow our blog to over 640,000 monthly search visits. Then we shared that same checklist with users before going into a breakdown of each of the elements in the cheat sheet.

Best practices

  • Arrange your checklists/cheat sheets in chronological order so that the reader knows exactly how to reach a goal

Similar to what the name suggests, template blog posts include templates on how to achieve something—as in the case of this blog post on how to create a one-page marketing plan.

We recommend using this format:

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  • What is [topic]?
  • Why is [topic] important?
  • How can I make [topic] work for me?
  • Template

You can share your template at the start of the article, which is what we normally do, or at the bottom of the blog post.

Excerpt of an Ahrefs article about a one-page marketing plan

There are also multiple ways to let readers access your template: We usually offer it as a free, copyable template (via Google Docs), but you may decide to create a downloadable template instead.

Best practices

  • Keep your template simple and organized, with guiding questions or tips for open-ended fields
Example of a simple and organized template

Final thoughts

These templates are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to writing a good blog post.

Try to mix things up depending on what you think works best. For instance, this guide to creating SEO-friendly URLs starts with a step-by-step guide, then looks at some best practices in a listicle format.

It’s all about experimenting and figuring out what your readers want, so don’t limit yourself.

Have questions or comments? I’d love to hear them on Twitter



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WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

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WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

Matt Mullenweg, developer of WordPress and CEO of Autommatic, proposed no longer adding new features to the WordPress, pivoting instead to a plugin-first policy.

This new approach to the future of WordPress has already resulted in a new feature intended for the next version of WordPress to be dropped entirely.

Canonical plugins are said to offer a way to keep improving WordPress on a faster schedule.

But some WordPress core contributors expressed the opinion that publisher user experience may suffer.

Canonical Plugins

First discussed in 2009, canonical plugins is a way to develop new features in the form of plugins.

The goal of this approach is to keep the WordPress core fast and lean while also encouraging development of experimental features in the form of plugins.

The original 2009 proposal described it like this:

“Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution.

…There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility.”

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This approach to features and options is also referred to as Plugin First, to emphasize how features will first appear in the form of plugins.

These plugins are called canonical because they are developed by the WordPress core development team as opposed to non-canonical plugins that are created by third parties that might limit features in order to encourage purchase of a pro-version.

Integration of canonical plugins into the WordPress core itself would be considered once the plugin technology has proven itself to be popular and essential to the majority of users.

The benefit of this new approach to WordPress would be to avoid adding new features that might not be needed by the majority of users.

Plugin-first could be seen to be in keeping with the WordPress philosophy called Decisions, Not Options, which seeks to avoid burdening users with layers of technical options.

By offloading different features and functionalities to plugins, a user won’t have to wade through enabling or disabling functionalities they need, don’t need or don’t understand.

The WordPress design philosophy states:

“It’s our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.”

Canonical Plugins the Future?

Matt Mullenweg published a post titled, Canonical Plugins Revisited, in which he made the case that this is the way that WordPress should be developed moving forward.

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He wrote:

“We are reaching a point where core needs to be more editorial and say “no” to features coming in as ad hoc as they sometimes do, and my hope is that more Make teams use this as an opportunity to influence the future of WordPress through a plugin-first approach that gives them the luxury of faster development and release cycles (instead of three times per year), less review overhead, and and path to come into core if the plugin becomes a runaway success.”

The first casualty of this new approach is the cancellation of integrating WebP image conversion into the next version of WordPress, WordPress 6.1, currently scheduled for November 2022.

Plugin-First is Controversial

The shift to a plugin-first development process was subjected to debate in the comments section.

Some developers, such as core contributor Jon Brown, expressed reservations about the proposal to switch to developing with canonical plugins.

They commented:

“The problem remains that there are too many complicated plugins standing in for what would be a simple optional feature.

Plugins are _not_ a user-friendly option to core settings. First users have to discover there is a plugin, then they have negotiated yet another settings screen and updates and maintenance of that plugin.”

The commenter used the example of a commenting functionality that is currently served by mutliple bloated plugins as a less than ideal user experience.

They noted that having one canonical plugin to solve a problem is preferable to the current state where desirable options can only be found on bloated third party plugins.

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But they also said that having a settings option within core, without the need for a plugin, could present a better user experience.

They continued:

“Now, I do think Canonical plugins are a better situation than 6+ bloated plugins like exist here, but so would a single checkbox added to the settings page in core to do this. Which would further improve the UX and discovery issues inherent in plugins.”

Ultimately, the commenter expressed the idea that the concept of canonical plugins seemed like a way to shut down discussions about features that should be considered, so that the conversation never happens.

“Canonical plugins” seems like a weaponized tool to derail discussions the same way “decisions not options” has become for years.”

That last statement is a reference to frustrations felt by some core contributors with the inability to add options for features because of the “decisions, not options” philosophy.

Others also disagreed with the plugin-first approach:

“Canonical plugin sounds grand but it will further increase maintenance burden on maintainers.

In my opinion, it’s no go.

It will be much more better to include some basic features in core itself instead of further saying – It’s a good place for plugin.”

Someone else pointed out a flaw in plugin-first in that collecting user feedback might not be easy. If that’s the case then there might not be a good way to improve plugins in a way that meets user needs if those needs are unknown.

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They wrote:

“How can we better capture feedback from users?

Unless site owners are knowledgeable enough to report issues on GitHub or Trac (let’s be honest, no one reports plugin issues on Trac), there’s really no way to gather feedback from users to improve these recommended/official plugins. “

Canonical Plugins

WordPress development is evolving to make improvements faster. Core contributor comments indicate that there are many unresolved questions on how well this system will work for users.

An early indicator will be in what happens with the cancelled WebP feature that was previously intended to be integrated into the core and will now become a plugin.


Featured image by Shutterstock/Studio Romantic

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