Picture this: a reader arrives on your blog post. The mood is right, the music swells, you’re saying all the right things, and they read your post its entirety. That’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it?! We don’t want a cheap quickie where readers skim the first two paragraphs and leave. We want romance, dammit. But it doesn’t happen on its own. Keeping readers on the page is one of the big challenges of blog writing, and it largely depends on how you format your blog posts.
You only have a few seconds to seduce any visitor to stay and to read your article. On average, it takes readers about 15 seconds to decide whether or not they want to read your blog post.
Fortunately though, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Since we all want to present our content in a way that draws people in, we should look to authors that have been doing this for ages, and who do it well.
Introduction To How To Format Blog Posts
One of the best examples of adapting to changing reader behavior is the way newspapers and magazines have evolved over the years. They’ve both had to compete for reader attention fiercely and have tried it all to survive.
Both have had to seduce readers in a matter of seconds, who tend to pick up a newspaper or magazine on a whim.
In their discussion of the evolution of newspaper design, LibDiz came across one of the key takeaways for bloggers. Readers tend to judge content by its packaging. If your content doesn’t look good, people won’t read it.
For blog content, looking good means looking easy. Nowadays, people want to consume the information in your article both as quickly as possible and with as little effort as possible. Your content is supposed to both look good and be effortless to read.
In this blog post, let’s look at five ways to work on packaging your blog to meet this reader demand. This outline on how to format your blog post will help you adapt your writing so people will always be drawn to the next paragraph.
I cover blog post format as well as images, keywords, the works in my SEO checklist:
How To Format Your Blog Posts
Use these five steps as a blog post template and your blog will immediately be more readable.
1. Use (Powerful) Headlines
Traditional newspaper headlines focused on the facts and often functioned as a summary.
However, the increased competition that came with the relatively recent phenomenon of online news forced individual newspapers to actively work on improving their headlines to attract readers.
An excellent example of this process in action can be seen in a recent discussion of potential new strains of coronavirus. While Forbes ran the headline “What We Need To Know About The Future Of Covid Variants,” the Daily Mail chose to go with “SAGE: Next Covid Variant Could Kill One In Three People.”
Two radically different headlines that consequently attract radically different readers.
Instead of being summaries, headlines are now actively trying to lure people in by piquing the interest of a specific group of people. Over the years, they have become shorter and the language has been simplified.
There are some takeaways for us as bloggers. When it comes to writing appealing headlines, there are a few guidelines to follow:
- Be very specific. People like to know what they can expect when reading your article. If you offer something in 5 steps, mention it in the headline. If you have insight or the solution to a specific problem you can attract readers by making it ultra specific.
- Ask a question. Most blog readers want the answer to a question that they have. By posing a well-researched question in your title (and then answering it in your blog post), you build credibility.
- Be creative. Research has shown that headlines that include creative, emotional language generally do well. Your titles can be entertaining and by using creative language you can pique your audience’s interest.
- Don’t over-promise. Your audience will probably see right through you if you make promises that are over the moon. Don’t promise solutions to complex problems when you can’t deliver. Whatever happens you don’t want your content falling short of your promise and your brand to be known for disappointing content.
- Don’t make them too long. Both newspapers and magazines have shortened their headlines and so should bloggers. The ideal length for a blog title is around 7 words.
Writing good blog titles is an art and finding a good one is incredibly important. However, learning how to write a good one might take some time. A good idea would be to brainstorm 10 titles and then pick the one that fits the best.
Your action item: brainstorm 10 titles for your blog post and then pick the best one.
2. Shorter Is Almost Always Better
There are few things as effective as huge blocks of text if you want to chase people away. Over the years newspapers have come to realize that people want content that is quick and easy to read. A recent study showed that people tend to choose the product that stands out visually when they’re in a hurry. Obviously, including images helps with making a visual impact. However, what makes a text stand out visually?
A good rule of thumb when it comes to blog writing is that short is almost always better. This is most definitely true when it comes to writing paragraphs. No matter how much I try, most visitors won’t read every word in this article.
Instead, they’ll skim the article for the headings, bullet points, and the first lines of your paragraphs.
So what does it mean to write short sentences or paragraphs? Well, the people at Coschedule asked the same question and came up with the following tips:
- The maximum length of a paragraph is three sentences. Every paragraph should start with its core sentence, followed by 2 or 3 sentences that elaborate on the core sentence.
- A sentence should not be longer than 25 words. Anything longer than this will lead to comprehension problems. Obviously one long sentence is not going to hurt your piece but a few in a row will.
Reflect on your own user behavior: did you read the entire first paragraph in this section? It was five sentences long.
The reader’s preference for brevity extends to word choice as well. Simplicity is key when it comes to your language.
When it comes to individual words, don’t use a complex word where one or a few simple ones would do. For example, why talk about a deal that is inchoate when you could say you’re still ironing out the details?
On a deeper level, this gets to the core of your brand’s personality and how your writing makes people feel. But, I would hate to scare you off by getting too serious too fast.
Is this the blogging equivalent of bringing up going out of town on the first date??
Your action item: check your blog for long paragraphs and excessively flamboyant language.
3. Make Your Content Easy To Read
Remember the takeaway from the very beginning? People tend to judge content by its packaging. It turns out that people prefer content that looks easy to digest.
This doesn’t mean that you can only write on simple topics though. The big goal is to make whatever you write look like it doesn’t take a lot of time to read.
Translation? White space, bullet points, and occasionally bolded text.
White space can work wonders for making your post look less intimidating. Let’s face it, nobody likes being confronted with huge blocks of text. Although you can easily break up your text by using bullet points etc, keep in mind that breaking up your text is not the whole story.
White space also occurs on the vertical margins on either side of your text.
People tend to interpret a text that is narrow as easy to read. In this insightful blog post, Derek Halpern discusses the impact of the width of a text on readability. The ideal width of a given sentence is about 75 characters, depending on the font of course.
Longer lines are harder to understand and therefore cause visitors to wander off.
Finally, be aware of the effect of both your blog’s background and your chosen font on readability. A recent study pointed out that having anything but a light background will make your content difficult to read.
Similarly, picking the wrong font will ultimately hurt your content. Although you might like certain fonts, reading a text that is written in them is something completely different. Moreover, certain fonts might be perfectly readable on desktop but hard to read for mobile or tablet users.
Your action item: review your blog posts for short paragraphs and ample white space. Check on both desktop and mobile.
4. Use Subheadings And Offer A Table Of Contents
These days many magazines offer some sort of tasting menu on the front page.
You know what I’m talking about:
- The most shocking hair trend of the year!
- The sex position you didn’t know you needed!
- How so and so found love, and you can too!
By outlining the contents of a magazine, a well-designed front page draws people in. Instead of just an overview, it shows them all the pieces that are in there so a potential reader can see if there’s anything that interests them.
People tend to scan blog posts rather than read them. What would you do if you were looking for something specific? Would you really read a 5000+ word blog post? Probably not.
Use subheadings to make your content easily scannable and well organized. Every heading should make the content of the respective sections very clear. That way even scanning readers can find that bit of information they’re looking for.
Don’t be cute with your subheadings, either. For example, the subheading for this section is “use subheadings and offer a table of contents.” Not…
- Organization matters
- Breaking it up
- People have short attention spans!
Instead of being put off by a lengthy blog post, people will read the section that is relevant to them.
Your article might be brilliant but sometimes people just need a helping hand. Pointing people in the right direction by showing where they can find the thing they’re looking for will benefit the user experience. By giving them an overview of what is in the post, you can salvage some of the readers that would otherwise have bounced.
Your action item: use subheadings to break up your text and insert a table of contents in every blog post.
5. Use More (And Better) Images
People are used to spending time on social media every day. They expect content that is visual and engaging. You don’t have to dance, but you do have to offer visuals.
In order to make users stay on the page longer, you will have to use images, gifs, or videos in every post.
Does that feel intimidating? Remember this:
- Use an image above the fold. The “fold” is the part of your content people see when they first load the page. Since you only have a few seconds to make an impression, using an image at the beginning of your blog post will get you good results. On this blog, the first image you see is the blog post feature image.
- Images are really good at piquing interest. Images can be funny, interesting or just unusual. Use the full spectrum! Just always make sure they enhance your content.
- Keep in mind that images are more than just photos. Use infographics or gifs to illustrate some of the more complex points you’re making rather than resorting to complex and overly long paragraphs. Remember, one piece of media says more than a thousand words!
Images are a great way of drawing in the reader and they can really help your content to be memorable. Furthermore, images can help with SEO. By optimizing them correctly, you create another way in which your content can be found.
Final Thoughts On How To Format Your Blog Posts
Most people can write, but how much do they know about blog writing specifically?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is somewhat of a learning curve when it comes to blog writing. It’s okay, even the biggest names in blogging had to learn the blogging terrain.
Master blog readability and you’ll be on the road to joining all of the other success stories that you look up to.
These tips on how to format your blog post will get you there even faster. You’ve got this!
As always, I am rooting for you,