How to format a blog post – Common mistakes new bloggers make
Over the past two months on Google+, I’ve been meeting lots of new people, and many of them new bloggers. I always enjoy heading over to these new blogs to take a look, read over their content and try to add an encouraging comment.
While visiting all of these new blogs, I started seeing some common mistakes new bloggers were making, especially related to post formatting.
When I first started blogging, I really struggled with how to best format a blog post, and it took me more than a year to determine the format that worked optimally for my blog and readers. Post formatting is something I still adjust on a frequent basis. Again, always new things to learn.
Interested in learning how you can help retain people on your blog, entice them to read your article, and make them a subscriber? The small little tips I share below can really make a huge difference in your blog.
This is a big one. I was visiting a blog the other day, and the article was just one big long stream of text with very little white space, and no logical breakup of the content. Using sub-headings provides a visual break in your post, allows the reader to skim over the content, and has an SEO benefit. Google gives priority to text in sub-headings – use them.
The line above that says “Use Sub-headings” is itself a sub-heading as are the other common blogging mistakes listed here. See how it’s easy to skim over the article and know all of the common mistakes without having to fully read the article? This is really helpful for the reader.
Sub-headings are generally <H2>, <H3> or <H4> tags. If you’re using Thesis (affiliate link) like I am, your sub-headings should be <H3>s. To determine which one to use for your theme, see what heading level your article title is. Then use the next level down.
Using the wrong sub-heading can hurt you your SEO optimization a little, so make sure you are using the right one. Google likes things well organized and hierarchical.
Use lots of white space
This is actually more of a recent trend, and one I probably started using a little late. I always wrote my article more like a book using longer paragraphs. That’s also how my generation was taught to write. Not so with digital content.
People are busy and when they pull up an article and it’s wall to wall text from top to bottom, they perceive the article as being bigger than it really is and leave. Putting more white space in your article creates a perception that it’s not as large and overwhelming.
Additional white space also makes the article easier to read and skim.
See the trend on skimming? Really important in today’s web. Most of your visitors will not read your whole article, most of them will skim it. They’ll read the parts of interest to them, and ignore the rest. Breaking your text into smaller “chunks” allows your readers to quick find and digest each chunk and move on.
Oh, and if you don’t use paragraphs, please use them. Nothing will drive a visitor away faster than a wall of text.
Don’t use light on dark color
I know, black text on a white background is boring. I agree, I really do. But you know what? Black text on a white background is highly effective.
Blogs are met to be read, and anything done that makes it difficult for your visitors to read your blog, hurts your blog. Make it easy, and use black text on a white background. Spend some time looking at the biggest blogs on the web and you’ll see the same pattern. One the blogs I’ve been reading for years and still love to read is Copyblogger. Hands down, they win my vote for best site design. What do they use? Black on white.
Which one do you think is easier to read?
Be different in your header, your sidebar, your footer, the graphics that you use in your content, but don’t be different with the colors you use for your copy.
Use a larger font than you think you should
Again, we want people to read our blogs. Focusing on making our blogs easy to read and skim, you’ll want to use a larger font. Many fonts used in content on blogs are too small. I know, some of you are young and have no problems seeing it. Well, for geezers like me, it hurts my eyes and gives me a headache to read a large article when the font is too small.
Yes, I can increase it using my browser settings, but most of the people that visit your site don’t know how to do that.
I’ll say it again: Make things easy on your readers.
Don’t use script type fonts
Script fonts are cool, but they’re hard to read. Sometimes really hard to read. I generally won’t read an article that uses a strong script font because by the time I’m half way through, my head hurts. Seriously.
Which one do you think is easier to read?
Just say no to script based fonts.
Keep it simple
This one might generate a little controversy, but I recommend targeting a high-school or middle-school reading level. Use anything higher and you might begin to use words that people don’t know. This results in them not understanding your article. Even worse, they might leave to go look the word up, and not come back.
I always find it funny when people use big fancy words – I just don’t get the point of it, unless they are trying to impress people with their vocabulary.
You should target your site for the majority of web visitors. This gives your blog the most exposure and largest audience. If you write at a college level reading level, you’re turning people away.
If you’re ok with that, than by all means continue.
Google likes bullets and so do your readers. Not too many mind you, but a reasonable amount. Using bullets also makes your article easier to read, skim and follow. Use bullets for short lists. Using bullets makes your articles easier to read, easier to write, more skimmable and improves your SEO.
Avoid using bullets for items that require longer explanations. I’ve made this mistake before, and find that using Sub-headings is more effective and readable. Using bullets for large amounts of text actually ends up making it harder to read, and takes away from the advantage of using bullets in the first place.
When was the last time you read magazine that didn’t have images alongside the text? Think of your blog as an electronic magazine. Everyone of your posts should use images or visuals to help bring the points home. Images will also often entice a visitor to read an article that wouldn’t normally read. Why? Because the image draws them in. With all of the free images for your blog available, there really isn’t a good excuse for not have outstanding and high quality images in your blog articles.
I suggest having at least two images. One early on in your content so the visitor sees the introductory article text AND the initial image. Then, and midway down or towards the end of the article, having another.
There really isn’t any right or wrong size or shape, just develop your own unique style and people will associate it with your brand.
Use 3 main sections
The first part of your article should tell the visitor what you’re going to tell them. An executive summary if you will. Keep it to one or two paragraphs and be concise. The last sentence should be somewhat of a teaser to make them keep reading.
The middle sections should be the “guts” of your article, the real valuable stuff.
The last section, and generally the last paragraph or two should tell the visitor what you told them (a summary) and then leave them a few things to think about. I like to end with questions, as it encourages people leaving comments. Speaking of questions…
How about you?
What mistakes have you seen bloggers making? Disagree with anything I touched on above? What would you add or remove from the list? Add a comment!
Photo Credit: plindberg