Derek Halpern and the Perfect Blog Post: A Short Memoir

Chris ran out of books but signed a card for me–now in my copy of the $100 Startup

When I dropped into Chris Guillebeau’s (The Art of Nonconformity blog) book launch in Manhattan a few months ago, I also met author and blogger Jonathan Fields, who introduced me to Derek Halpern.

Only in New York does a grandma get to talk to Chris Guillebeau, Jonathan Fields, and Derek Halpern–all within 20 minutes. (Tweet me).

Learning from young people (often young men)

I am old enough to be the mom of any one of these enterprising young men. But because of social media, I can learn from them and apply at least a fraction of what they know. As the saying goes, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Don’t take that too literally. 🙂

I paid attention to Jonathan’s recommendation, started getting Derek’s newsletter, and this week watched his free webinar that gave away a lot of good “content” for free. I learned a lot in one hour and now Derek has sent a link of his diagram of a perfect blog post, which I am sharing with you.


Like this? Get more marketing tips from Social Triggers.


A grandma’s takeaway? All I can say is “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”


Okay, tell me. Do you like templates like this? I know I have a lot of creative readers. Do templates foster or hinder you as a writer?

Here’s a newer and updated 2015 version of the perfect blog post written my Matt Banner. If you are working to attract a large audience, he has valuable advice.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Tina Barbour on June 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    This template makes me nervous because I haven’t been doing most of the parts consistently.

    I like to use templates as guides. They help lead me in the right direction and remind me of what I need to include.

    How much leeway does the author believe in? In other words, does he advise using this format step by step every time?

    What is a click to tweet quote? (I’m still learning . . . )

  2. shirleyhs on June 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I know what you mean, Tina. And I should have added a caveat. Halpern is focused on using a blog to get readers to take action of some kind, often to buy or subscribe to something.

    If you want to educate rather than sell, no need to follow a template — unless the format actually helps people to read and come into your “classroom.”

    I’ve taken some of his ideas and left some behind.

    But he did help me incorporate subheadings and think more clearly about how to create a conversation with the reader, which is my goal right now.

    As for Tweet Me. Scroll up in the post and hit that link. Then hit tweet when the message comes up.

    The idea is that if you find something a reader might think is funny or insightful or fitting to their ‘Twitter followers (a soundbite), you can make tweeting easy INSIDE the post rather than making them make up a Tweet from the post, which most people won’t do.

    Derek explains here:

    Let me know if you like these ideas or if you have any follow-up questions.

    • Tina Barbour on June 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      I used to teach writing, too, Shirley, so I’ve had to unlearn some things, too. 🙂

      Thanks for the explanation about the tweet. And I agree wholeheartedly that there are lots of good ideas to be found in this template. Thank you for sharing it!

  3. Dora Dueck on June 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    You inspire me with your steady, enthusiastic learning, Shirley and so much else you do. — I agree with your reply to Tina, this template won’t fit every kind of blog — I don’t think it fits the purpose of mine — and yet I’ve picked up some tips that are transferable. So I thank you!

  4. shirleyhs on June 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks, Dora. Yes, do pick and choose. One thing I’ve had to do is some “unlearning” of what I taught about writing. Neither creative writing (memoir) nor social media formats follow the five-paragraph thesis essay template.

    And thanks for your encouragement. We granny bloggers/writers stay young by learning something new every day.

  5. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living on June 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm


    I’m a huge fan of Chris and met him in LA. He remembers me and e-mails me when I write, which I cannot believe. He must have a huge team helping him or he would never get to sleep. He also has a major conference and a world book tour he’s on.
    OK, my thoughts: I remember my web-designer asking me,
    “Sonia, are you an author or a blogger?” I didn’t understand her question as I thought of myself as a blogger all the time. I used to follow the A-List blogger program with Leo and Mary, Copyblogger, Problogger, etc., and I think that took me in a different direction. I’m an author that prefers few close relationships rather than million of “superficial” relationships. I’m not saying it’s easy to get the latter, but there’s a technique, and I’m not willing to play the game, nor the money. Just my opinion. What does everyone else think?

    • shirleyhs on June 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

      Sonia, you are intrepid. And you are the one who started this whole chain because you got me started reading Chris’s blog.

      The question your web designer asked is an excellent one. As all good questions do, it clarifies the mind.

      Like you, I have no intention of trying to find millions, or even thousands, of readers so that I can convert a blog into a cash cow.

      But, also like you, I can slowly build a group of people with similar interests, most of whom are also trying to figure out the relationship of writing, publishing, social media and blogging. Learning can come from everywhere. I have to limit the time I spend learning, so I seek out “high value” content that cuts through hours of experimentation on my part and allows me to learn from the pathbreaking experimenters. On the learning curve, I place myself well behind the pathbreakers, but ahead of laggards and luddites.

      Templates for blogging are like story structure diagrams. They help clarify the ingredients needed. One still has the freedom, and the obligation, to create what you need for yourself.

      BTW, some of my favorite blogs, the few I allow into my inbox, are dense with type and don’t look anything like Derek Halpern’s template.

      Thanks for your(as usual) honest, helpful, response.

  6. Jerry Waxler on June 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Your comments and responses have addressed most of what I want to say Shirley. But before I comment on the template, I want to say I admire the extent and enthusiasm of your networking. This is fabulous. It’s ironic that you are networking so much through the internet, but being in a person’s presence still takes it up a notch or ten. The question “are you a blogger or an author” is key for me. When I blog, in addition to wanting to inform others, a big motivation is to build my skill and develop my voice. Having said that, I want readers too, so gradually I have to develop an intuition about what draws readers to my site and gives them what they want. Thanks for sharing this, Shirley, and thanks for being an explorer of internet/memoir space.

    Memory Writers Network

    • shirleyhs on June 30, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Thanks, Jerry. The admiration is mutual. You have been steadily building a following as you carefully explicate issues, interview writers and authors, and review books. What a memoir goldmine! If readers are looking for resources, I hope they click on your icon to find your blog.

      And yes, personal in-person relationships are the very best ones. If we keep meeting like this online, sometimes we eventually end up in the same place at the same time. That would be lovely. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Jerry Waxler on June 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm

        Thanks so much for the compliment, Shirley. Speaking of meeting in person, I notice you are “right up the road” in New York. With the memoir wave in full swing we ought to be able to find ways to share our passion in the media capital of the world.


  7. shirleyhs on June 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Actually, Jerry, I’m not in NYC any more. I moved back to Virginia and haven’t yet updated all my profiles. Thanks for the reminder! But I do hope to get to NYC several times this year. Who knows when we might meet up.

  8. Chris Guillebeau on July 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for this fun post, Shirley.

    I’m also a big fan of learning from anyone, and I’ve learned from Jonathan and Derek too.

    Keep up the great work!

    • shirleyhs on July 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Thanks, Chris. I never expected a response from you, so it was a lovely surprise to see this comment. You made a grandma smile today. How’s that for the art of nonconformity?

  9. Kathleen Pooler on July 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you for introducing us to Derek. You are leading the charge here for us to tackle all these social media challenges we are required to master. I have joined you in subscribing to Derek’s blog and newsletter and have been following Chris and Jonathan. There is so much to learn and so many incredible resources available. I like the template and am particularly interested in the idea of “engaging your followers in conversation.”

    Thank you for all you are doing to share what you are learning!

    • shirleyhs on July 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      You are so easy to engage, Kathleen, and I have learned much from and with you. Keeps us young, right? Thanks.

  10. Kathleen Pooler on July 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Yes, it does keep us young, Shirley! It’s really been fun to learn together. Thank you!

  11. Richard Gilbert on July 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Shirley, I agree with those, including you, who say such things are great for ideas—love the subhead idea, for instance, and have been trying to do it.

    I like templates like the five-paragraph theme, to a point. There is something useful and perfect about it. But the irony seems to be that eventually formulas do get in the way—so maybe they shouldn’t be taught? Well, I don’t, while defending them here, so go figure. I guess I read blogs and try to emulate the conversational tone of certain writers, like you, whereas relentlessly formulaic blogs in structure and tone can bring out my bad qualities, or ones I can’t sustain, like didacticism.

    Big topic . . .

    • shirleyhs on July 2, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Richard, I was hoping you would add your voice, because your blog is one I would read if it were in Sanskrit italic. Just a little Monday morning humor.

      I will be taking away some of the formatting ideas (partly because I know that my own attention lags when speed reading so much every day. Making things easy, and clear, for the reader is the blogger’s job. Now how to do that without being boring, didactic, and overly simple?

      As you say, it’s a big topic. I’d enjoy your own reflections on it. Metacognition can be fun from time to time. 🙂


  12. Andrew on July 11, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Hi Shirley,

    I too received Derek’s Perfect Blog Post template through his newsletter. I’ve been experimenting with it, and I love it.

    For someone like me, with no writing background, starting with a solid structure like this is a huge help.

    Sonia Simone from Copyblogger speaks often of post structure, and it’s importance in creating content that engages readers and builds a successful blog.

    I’m trying to pay more attention to structure these days, so this infographic was a great find. At the very least, Derek just provided a post structure that I’ll keep in my blogging toolbox.

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Apparently, Andrew, I missed responding to your comment long ago. If you are still with me, give me an update. How are you doing using the perfect blog template or some other you have created for yourself?

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