In this guide, you’ll find 12 tried-and-true templates that content writers have used successfully for years. These templates are invaluable for finding the right structure for the type of content you’re creating.
Why is this important? Because when it comes to communicating your ideas, the way you organize and present them is as important as your ability to put them into words.
In most cases, one of these templates will suffice. What’s more, these templates work for video and audio content as well as written.
So each time you begin a project — no matter what type of content it is — after gathering research and developing your ideas, review these templates to find the best structure for your particular message. Then all you have to do is plug in your ideas and develop each section.
These are the 12 structures and templates:
- Example Template
- Point-Illustration-Explanation (PIE) Template
- Thought Leadership Template
- Inverted Pyramid Template
- Interview Template
- List Template
- Link Post Template
- Book Review Template
- Product Review Template
- How To Template
- Case Study Template
- Media Post Template
For short content, you can use one of these formats as you see them here. For longer content, you may mix and match them. For instance, your overall project may be a thought leadership piece, but individual chapters may use other formats, such as how-to, case study, or interview.
When it comes to content creation, variety adds to the overall impact of your content. So don’t settle for just one or two. Experiment. Try different formats. And enjoy the creative process.
Let’s take a look at each of them now.
Sometimes the point you want to make is simple enough to express in your introduction. The real value is in the examples you provide, showing your readers how other people have applied the information you share.
When that’s the case, try an example post.
Readers love this type of article because they can see many examples in one place, without having to do the research themselves.
- Title it right – The title often includes a number, such as 10 ways to show your inner geek, or 5 types of tiles you’ll love in your kitchen.
- Introduce your topic – Tell people what you’re talking about and why they’ll be interested in it.
- Give an example – The subhead may be the product name, method, or concept.
Pictures aren’t necessary in the Example format, but if your example is visual, pictures can help clarify your points.
After you give an example, talk about it. Include a few sentences about why you like it (or don’t like it), why it works, or how your readers can get it.
Repeat With More Examples
Follow the same format for all your examples. There is no right number of examples to use. We’ve seen posts that focused on two examples, and we’ve seen posts that give 20 or more.
In general, in short-form content, the fewer examples you provide, the longer (or more detailed) your evaluation. In long-form content, you have the space to provide a lot of examples and in-depth evaluation.
Conclusion and CTA
Many example posts leave this off. But you can make your content stand out if you’ll wrap it up for your readers. End your article with:
- A summary of the examples you’ve shown.
- Your opinion.
- Advice to your readers.
- A question.
Then include your call to action. Ask for comments or social shares. Or tell people to visit another page on your website.
Point-Illustration-Explanation (PIE) Template
This type of content is very similar to the Example template. But in PIE, you aren’t simply sharing examples of your point. You’re making statements about your topic.
Each section provides another point, which is then illustrated and discussed.
Introduce Your Topic
Tell people what your topic is and why it matters.
Make Your First Point About Your Topic
Try to find a quick and easy way to summarize your point. This summary statement will be your subhead. If you like, number your points.
This particular post draws examples from different brands advertising online. So it includes the source at the end of the point.
If you have an image, include it under your subhead.
Sometimes the illustration can be words, not just a graphic. That’s okay. Simply take a screen shot of your example and post it as your illustration.
If you use a screenshot of words, check readability before you publish. If the words in your illustration aren’t readable, forget the screen shot. Quote your source instead.
Include a paragraph or two that expand on your point. Give an explanation. Then give a practical tip on how your readers can implement it.
Repeat With Remaining PIE Sections
Follow this same format for all your points.
Conclusion and CTA
This type of article needs a strong close. So make sure you tell your readers why your topic is important and what it means in their own lives.
- Promise more information.
- Make a forecast.
- If at all possible, take your point one step further.
Then, as always, give a call to action.
Thought Leadership (Syllogism) Template
If you want to share a new idea, one of the best ways to get people on board is to create a logical argument that leads people to arrive at the same conclusion you have.
With this type of post, you don’t start with your main point. You start with something your readers already know and accept.
Then you build on that idea using the logical framework of a syllogism.
If your first point (A) means this (B). And if this (B) means that (C), then you must consider that as a real possibility.
With this type of content, you want to start with something engaging. Perhaps a story, an interesting thought, or a startling statement.
If A = B
Begin your first section with a topic or idea that your readers already accept. Then tie it to your second idea. Use research, stories, or logic to make a strong connection and back up your ideas.
And B = C
In the next section, take your idea one step further. Tie it to your main point. Make it a natural progression of your opening idea.
Then A = C
Now make your final point. Make it clear that this is a logical extension of the known fact (A) that you started with. If possible, use research or a story to support your statements.
You may need some additional discussion to bring home your final point. Now that you’re on topic, you can add those thoughts here.
Conclusion and CTA
Give a strong conclusion. You now have your readers thinking. Give them something to chew on.
Then give your call to action. It’s a good idea to ask for comments after this type of post. Then take the time to respond. People are more likely to engage with you if they know you’ll answer their comments.
The Inverted Pyramid Structure
You may recognize this as the standard format used by journalists over the last century.
It was developed when writers delivered their stories via telegraph. And it was ideally suited to print because the main idea was given in the first paragraph of a story—which meant an editor could cut an article to fit whatever space was available.
But those days are over.
We now live in a digital world. We send messages via email, not telegraph. We publish digital books and magazines, which have no paper-size restrictions.
This format is losing its popularity, but it’s still an accepted structure for news-style articles. So if you’re writing a press release or news announcement, this may be a good option for you.
The traditional inverted pyramid press release starts out with all the facts: who, what, where, when, why and how.
If you’re writing for a news service, include this information in your first sentence or two.
If you’re writing for a blog, jazz it up a bit. Give the information, but make it interesting. Lead with an unusual fact or statistic. Then give all the required information.
Second Most Important Information
The inverted pyramid is aptly named. Each successive paragraph gives information that’s less relevant to the overall point.
So tell your story from most important facts to least important.
You can keep the middle of the article interesting by introducing a bit of story, a specific example, or interesting news relevant to the story.
Quote to Back Up Your Claims
Include quotes from your key sources.
This is really important, so readers don’t think you’re pulling information out of thin air.
Presentation of Facts in Dwindling Level of Importance
As you near the end of the article, your story will dwindle. That’s because most of the important information was told in the beginning.
You will feel like your article closes with minor facts and story bits. Keep the interest level high by sharing an interesting quote or a concluding thought that is inspired by your news.
Boilerplate Close and Call to Action
Most press releases end with a “boilerplate,” or short paragraph about the company or brand being written about.
Traditionally, the call to action is a link to your website or landing page.
The Interview Structure
An interview is viewed as a high-value piece of content. That’s because it shares inside information that most people don’t have access to.
Most interviews these days include audio or video as well as the written transcript. But you can still publish a written interview without media.
Format it in whatever way suits you and your readers. Do be aware, though, that just posting a video or audio file doesn’t optimize your content page. So even if you opt for a video or podcast, add written content to go with your media.
In this template, you can start a short intro with a picture of the interviewee, then share a link to the interview.
The link could be to a YouTube video, MP3 file, or podcast.
When “writing” an interview, You can approach it different ways.
Highlight the name of the interviewer and the interviewee, with their comments following.
Interviewer: Tell me how you got into home decorating.
Interviewee: It was an accident really…
Or you can bold the question and write out the answer below it.
Provide a choice of digital downloads for the live interview. Then present a transcript of the interview for readers.
Then readers can listen to the final edited interview, the unedited interview, or read the transcript. Their choice.
Even if you give a digital download of the interview, you need to provide written content for SEO purposes. So the template we provide below assumes you’ll present the interview in written format.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Add media and images to add interest to your page.
Introduce Your Interviewee
Open the article by introducing your interviewee. Give background information about him or her. Then introduce the general topic of your interview.
If you’re going for a written format, pose your question.
- You can put each speaker’s name in bold, followed by their questions or comments.
- You can put a big Q, followed by the questions, and a big A, followed by the answer.
- You can highlight the questions and print the answers in normal text.
Record the Answer
Transcribe your interviewee’s comments in full.
Keep listing questions and answers until the interview is done.
Conclusion and Call to Action
Wrap up your interview with some kind words about your interviewee, or consider highlighting one of the comments in the interview.
If the interviewee has written a book or created a product, highlight it at the end of your interview and link to it.
End with a call to action.
The List Template
Some lists are short and some are long — we’re talking 30, 50 or 100 long — but it doesn’t really matter. People love lists. The longer, the better.
One of the secrets to making lists work is to include the number in your title.
While it’s impressive to end with multiples of 5 or 10, don’t be afraid of odd numbers. You can get more attention with 7, not 10, or 21, rather than 20 items in your list.
For a bit of fun, put your list in reverse order. Begin with the last item and work your way down to your number-one item.
Introduce Your Topic
A short introduction is fine. Simply tell people what the list is about and why the information is useful. It’s okay to be a little tongue in cheek — but only if it’s already part of your branded voice.
Create Your List
List all the items in your list. Be creative. Make your list fun to read.
Make Each Item in Your List a Subheader
List all the items in your list. Be creative. Make your list fun to read.
Write a Sentence or Short paragraph For Each Item
Add an interesting thought, opinion or explanation.
Consider including pictures. While you don’t have to include them, they definitely add interest.
Conclusion and Call to Action
After spending time compiling your list, it’s easy to stop cold when you’re done.
Don’t do that. Take a few extra minutes to tell your readers why the list matters. How does it help them? What new thought should they take away from it?
Give them a strong close. And don’t forget your call to action.
The Link Post (Round-up) Template
Link posts are a great way to add SEO value to your website. By creating Web pages that link to other pages — whether on your own website or others — you can improve your site’s rank.
When you create Web pages that link to other high-value websites, Google may begin to see you as an authoritative site.
And when you link to your own Web pages, you can keep people on your site longer, reducing your bounce rate and increasing your page views per visit.
Do that consistently, and Google may assign you points for Trust and Authority.
Tell your readers what information you’re sharing and why it’s valuable.
Optional: Break the Topic Into Subcategories—Each With its Own Header
If you want to include different categories of information on the same topic, this is a great way to do it.
If all your links relate to one main topic, you don’t need subheads. Skip this step.
List the Articles You’re Linking to and Add Links
Most link pages just give a list of page titles, linking them to their source.
If you are using sub-categories, include a short blurb under each subhead and then paste your links under each.
This type of post doesn’t always have a conclusion. But it’s always a good idea to tell your readers what to do next.
- Your conclusion may be a normal invitation to comment or share.
- You can provide a link to a landing page or contact form.
- You can tell them how to learn more about the topic.
Book Review Template
Book reviews are a great way to provide thought leadership.
You can essentially be the Oprah of your community, recommending books, curating ideas, and helping people find the information they need to succeed.
As a perk, these activities also give you Trust and Authority status with search engines.
So how do you write a book review?
Introduce The Book
You can introduce the topic of the book or the book itself. Simply come up with an interesting introduction that gets people curious about the book.
Introduce the author.
In a book review, who writes the book is as important as what the book says. So do your research. Visit the author’s website. Check out his or her social media. Look for an engaging story that elevates the author to celebrity status (or at least gives your something interesting to say).
If you can, combine the book review with an interview. Get some original quotes from the author to add tons of value to your book review.
Summarize Major Points
Provide an overview of the ideas in the book. For example, if the book is divided into three sections, you could create a subhead for each section and share the major point the author makes in each.
Say What You Like (and Don’t Like) About the Book
The biggest draw to book reviews is your opinion as reviewer. If the book over-delivers in a particular way, tell your readers.
Give an honest review. Where does the book fall short? What would make it better?
Give Your Recommendation
Tell your readers whether they should buy the book or not. Be sure to include a link to Amazon or other site where they can get the book.
Your recommendation can serve as your conclusion in this type of article. But you still need to give a call to action. As in our example, give people a link to the book and tell them to check it out.
Product Review Template
Product reviews are similar to book reviews and are an easy way for you to build authority as a solutions provider for your followers.
For instance, if a new tactic is gaining momentum in your space, and if you find a product that makes it easier to implement, you owe it to your followers to tell them about it.
You can treat product reviews like the book review above. To do that you simply introduce the product and talk about what it does and whether it’s worth the purchase.
Or you can combine the product review with a how-to article and add significant value.
Introduce the Product
Provide an introduction to your topic. You can do this in two ways:
- Introduce the problem the product solves.
- Introduce the product and move straight to a review of how it works.
Introduce the Producer/Maker
As with the book review, people appreciate a product more if they know the story behind its production. So introduce the maker and a link to their website.
Describe the Product
Why was it created? What problem does it solve? How does it do it? Here’s where you give all the details about the product.
IDEA: You can turn your content into a hybrid product review/how-to by including your how-to information here. Make each step of your solution a subhead, with images and copy to provide in-depth instruction. (We’ll give you a template for the how-to article in a moment.)
Tell What You Like and Don’t Like About It
As in the book review, you need to give your thoughts about the product. Tell your followers what works, what doesn’t work, and why.
Give Your Recommendation
Share your opinion. Tell your readers whether you think the product is worth the investment. If you have any tips, share them as well.
If you opened your product review with a problem, you can close with the solution. That’s an easy way to take your content full-circle, making your readers feel as if they got the whole story.
As always, include a call to action.
Product reviews become high-value content when you compare different products in the same space. For an example of this type of post, take a look at this post by The Sales Lion:
How to Template
How-to articles are some of the most-searched-for and most-read information on the Internet.
If you have a solution to a common problem, by all means, turn it into content.
Simple solutions make great blog posts or videos. But if your solution is more complicated, consider creating longer content. You can create special reports, ebooks and even multi-media programs to share your solutions.
No matter how long or short, though, you should follow the same basic structure.
Introduce the Problem You’re Solving
Tell people about the problem. Then let them know you have a solution. Don’t forget to tell them how the solution can benefit them. (It may seem obvious, but people need you to connect the dots.)
Explain the Solution and Benefits
If your solution is complex, you may not be able to cover the topic in an article. Consider creating a long-form piece of content, such as a special report or ebook. Or make a video to show and tell.
Make sure it isn’t too complicated,
If there’s more than one problem, list each one under a separate subhead. Use a parallel structure to make it easy for readers to see how you’ve organized your information.
List Each Step of Your Solution
If your how-to involves actionable steps, consider numbering them.
But you don’t have to number steps. You can easily just list the action, provide a screen shot or image, and then provide an explanation.
By providing the steps in order, you easily guide your reader through the process.
Provide Lots of Detail
You can organize your information as a list, numbering the steps of your solution. Or you can organize it by topic, providing a complete discussion of each problem as you introduce it.
But no matter how you organize your information, provide lots of details. The best how-to content gives step-by-step processes, graphics, and clear instructions.
Conclusion and Call to Action
One of the best ways to close a how-to article is to create a final subhead with the bottom-line benefit of your solution. Then tell your readers what they’ll gain by taking the actions you’ve just outlined for them.
Focus on the benefits, and don’t forget to include your call to action. In this case, it’s a reminder to do it again in six month.
Case Study Template
Case studies are a great form of mid- to deep-funnel content. They can help people understand the value of your product or service.
They can also provide value for customers, helping them get the most from your products.
Summarize Your Case Study
Start with an executive summary of the study.
Provide a quick overview and what you discovered.
Explain what the challenges were and what you were trying to accomplish.
At this point, you want to share the steps you used to solve the problem. Provide as much detail as possible. It may help to think of this section as a modified how-to article, providing summaries of each step implemented.
List each step as a subhead:
Each of the sections should a description of the exact steps implemented.
Next, itemize the results that were achieved. Be as specific as possible. You may include a few paragraphs of text. But be sure to include percentages of improvement.
Give Samples and Cite Resources
With case studies, in lieu of a standard conclusion, you can offer more information.
As always, try to incorporate a call to action. A few ideas:
- Invite readers to share similar problems or success stories.
- Link to a landing page that sells this same solution.
- If your case study is published as a special report or ebook, offer a discount on first-time purchase of your product or service.
Media Post Template
Media is a great way to add variety to your content and engage followers in whatever way they prefer.
People are so busy, they don’t always have time to read your content. But if you provide the same information in a podcast, they can listen to it during their daily commute or exercise session.
The type of media you produce is limited only by your imagination. Popular formats include slide shows, infographics, video and audio.
The biggest challenge in publishing media is SEO — because search engines can’t crawl media. So be sure to optimize your content by providing written content along with your media.
Introduce Your Media
Introduce your topic as you would with a blog post. Tell people what information you offer and how it will benefit them.
Embed Your Media
Put the media file in your blog post or digital page.
Write a Summary or a Transcription (for SEO)
You need approximately 400 words of content around your media. So you have a few options here:
- Provide a written transcript of the media file.
- List highlights and other important points from your media file.
- Draw excerpts from the media file, and provide them in written format.
Conclusion and Call to Action
As with all other content, make a strong final point and give a call to action.
How to Use These Templates For Longer Formats
As we’ve already mentioned, the 12 formats provided in this chapter are useful for print content and media. They work equally well in blog posts, special reports, ebooks, and even full-length books.
Regardless of the length or format, you can use these same templates to structure your information — allowing you to speed up content creation and increase engagement levels.
So how do you use these formats in longer content?
Adjust the Length of Each Section
Instead of a short paragraph for your introduction, go deep. Introduce all the ideas you’ll discuss in your content, then summarize your big idea or major point. It can be one page (for a short ebook) or chapter length (for a print book).
Always remember, when you work with longer copy, break up your copy into sections, each introduced by a subhead. This makes it more readable.
Your process for writing chapters is similar to the creative process we reviewed in Chapter 4.
Adjust the Depth of Each Section
You have more space to get detailed in long copy. So you can introduce a topic, break it into sections and subsections, then provide in-depth research for each subsection.
In short copy, to provide the same depth, you must narrow your topic. Or if you want to talk about a broad topic, you must talk about high-level concepts, not details.
Mix and Match Formats Within the Long-Form Content
The exciting thing about content marketing is that you aren’t limited to written content. You are limited only by your imagination.
- Give followers a choice about how to digest your content. Offer an audio version of your written blog posts. Or create an audio book in addition to your print or digital book.
- If your how-to information is too complicated to put into words, create a video that shows and tells. Then write out your steps as a quick reference below the video.
- Combine images, screen shots and videos to illustrate your points.
- Create your ebook, not just as a PDF, but as an HTML file. Then embed videos, audio files and images to enhance its ability to communicate your points.
Don’t think of content only as written words. Think of it as ideas. Then share your ideas in the way that communicates best.