It’s been 24 years since the first blog post was published, and since that time there’s naturally been an evolution in people’s expectations of what constitutes a well-designed and well-written one.
While there are no formally written rules of blog writing and formatting, to get best results from your blog in terms of traffic you’ll need to know that there are certain differences in writing for digital as opposed to printed media.
‘Walls of text‘ with little use of white space, tiny fonts, dark backgrounds, and long lines of text sprawling across the screen have mostly gone the way of the dodo bird (and good riddance too!)
(Check out the first blog site, with the tiny font and text sprawling across the page. At least he had a light colored background and an awesome first name working for him!)
Nowadays if you want to keep your ‘bounce rate‘ to a reasonable low level and actually see some returning readers, you want to have a good understanding of readability and ‘scanability‘ as it relates to putting words and images up on the screen.
Another difference between blogs and books (or other printed media) is the lack of cues as to the length of the article.
To entice people to keep reading you’ll need to provide a user-friendly layout and some information as to what they can expect to find in the body of your text.
1. Use Whitespace
By giving the reader’s eyes ‘room to breathe’, whitespace helps to make reading and scanning text easier and less stressful.
According to a study conducted by Wichita State University, “Properly using whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins can increase comprehension up to 20%.”
2. Choose a Large Font Size
For readability, most experts recommend to use a larger font size, generally between 16px and 18px.
12px is great for books and that’s where it should stay – if you use tiny text in your blog most people’s first squint at your site will usually be their last.
The Easy Google Fonts plugin makes it simple to change your fonts and font sizes in the various sections of your blog in a simple and visual way. The plugin lets you access hundreds of beautiful web fonts for you to choose from and try out.
3. Reduce Your Column Width
With the vast amount of information available to people these days, it’s no wonder that people tend to scan articles more often than they carefully read them word by word.
Keeping your column widths fairly short (about 80 characters is generally recommended, though some recommend as low as 40) helps to facilitate this for your readers.
You’ll also notice that if you scan an article with a narrow column by focussing on the central section that it’s possible to use your peripheral vision to help you whiz through the text more quickly–something you can’t do with the older style of long lines of text.
4. Keep Paragraphs Short
Paragraph length is another important factor in the quest for a user-friendly blog reading experience.
I have seen “two to three sentences” quoted as a guide for many years, but in the last couple of years it seems that the bigger blogs have trended more towards one to two sentences (and usually short ones at that!)
So when in doubt–keep it short!
5. Include Images
For the same reason every book needs a great cover, every blog should include at least one great image (such as this totally unnecessary one of a kitten:)
People are visual creatures, and the blog image has a direct affect on your traffic and social shares. This is particularly true in Twitter for instance, where tweets with images get a 35% increase in retweets.
Be careful though–some bloggers have been hit with lawsuits costing them thousands of dollars for using copyrighted images on their blogs, so this is something you should make sure you’re doing correctly right away.
If you’re not sure of any pictures on your site just delete them immediately and find new ones—better safe than sorry!
6. Use Internal Linking
Internal Linking is one of the best and most simple things you can do that will immediately boost your search engine optimization (SEO) metrics.
An internal link is a clickable link that connects a page of your website to another page of your website.
Experienced bloggers are aware of the importance of internal linking, especially near the beginning of a blog post.
As well as being great for SEO, internal links encourage readers to stay on your blog for longer, thus the value of linking to some of your other posts at an early stage of a post.
You should be careful however to avoid using too many internal links in your posts or it’s possible that Google might flag it as spam.
7. Think of a Great Title
One often cited statistic to do with blogging is that 80% of readers will only read the title, while only 20% actually bother to read the text. (Many people will share a post purely on the basis of it’s title!)
A great title will ‘sell’ the content of your post for you – it’s what people will see most clearly on email, social media and search engines.
You don’t want to have spent hours laboring over a post, only to have people ignore it completely because you gave it a boring, uninteresting title.
(For much more on this topic, see the end of this post to download my free PDF ‘How to Write Great Headlines That Get More Blog Traffic.’)
8. Include a ‘Related Posts’ Plugin
When a reader reaches the end of one of your posts and sees nothing more of interest to click on then there’s a good chance they’ll just continue on to another site.
This is where a good ‘related posts’ plugin is useful, displaying an assortment of posts relevant to the one just read (see the bottom of this post for an example.)
This also adds to the ‘stickiness’ of the site, making for longer average browsing time, lower bounce rates and more page views.
The related posts plugin I use on this site is Contextual Related Posts by WebberZone, which as it’s name implies bases it’s choices on the content of the title as well as the post text. You can choose from either thumbnails or text display.
Are then any rules of blog writing and formatting I’ve left out? Let me know in the comments.
FREE PDF: 'How to Write Great Headlines That Get More Blog Traffic'
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