How do you format a blog post to get to most mileage from Google and your readers?
Throw out much of what you learned in writing class.
Sadly, I’m not kidding!
Writing for your blog is completely different from writing papers and term papers.
More importantly, how you present your content online plays a big role in whether a visitor reads your article or presses the “Back” button of their browser.
So, if you’re not sure how to do it, fret not!
Below, I go through all the things you need to know about formatting your blog post. By the end, you’ll know exactly
- What to do
- How to do it
- Why you’re doing it
Let’s get started.
Why Formatting Your Blog Post Properly is Important?
That’s how much time most people stay on a website.
That means within that time you need to do one of two things:
- Allow them to “read” your entire article (or at least know the what it’s talking about)
- Convince them to stay a little longer
With over 600 million blogs (as of 2019) in the world, they’re going to go somewhere else to find what they need.
And, the fastest way to do this is with your blog post’s formatting.
…And your images.
Because they’re not going to be able to read a lot of things in 15 seconds. Certainly not the 1,000, 2,000 or more words you spent hours writing.
- the way your blog post looks
- how easy it feels to read and skim
actually play a big role in keeping your reader on your blog.
Why Writing Your Blog Post is Different From Writing a Thesis or Paper
One of the things you’ll notice when you start reading blogs (and websites) online is that their paragraphs look very different from the papers and thesis your professors taught you to write.
That’s because writing for the web is an art of its own.
It looks different…
And, it reads differently…
As least compared to what your English Composition teacher taught you.
Because people online like to scan.
Thanks to the huge amount of information on the web. And the instant gratification we’ve gotten used to you want to consume as much information as quickly as possible.
This is what I usually do (you probably have a something similar):
Wait for the page to load…
- If it’s slow or takes a long time, I take another look at the title and the site.
- If it’s a site I know and like, I’ll wait… If not, I’ll just press the back button on my browser.
When the page loads…
- I’ll scroll through it and skim through the entire article
- This gives me an idea of how long it is
- And, allows me to scan through it see if there’s an answer to the question I came here for
- If it’s not there, or the answer is like a 2-liner or looks iffy, I click the back button and search for another site for the answer
If my initial scan looks promising…
- I’ll go back to the top and start “speed reading” through the article
- When I see a section that’s interesting, useful or answers what I’m looking for, that’s when I read thoroughly
- At times, I may read those sections 2-3 times. Maybe even take quick notes
If I enjoyed the article or really think it’s valuable…
- I’ll share it
What about you?
What’s process do you go through when reading a blog post?
As you can see, format plays such an important role.
In fact, it’s more important than your actual content.
Only because without it, people may never even get to read your amazing article.
How Do You Format A Blog Post?
Now that you know the value of a formatting your blog content for the web, it’s time to get the fun part.
The actual formatting…
…And simple rules you can follow to make your blog post easier to read.
Before You Get Started
Keep in mind that when reading a post, readers often switch between:
- Reading mode
- Scanning mode
They’ll scan your article, which makes your sub-headings very important. This also why paragraph structure is key.
When they hit a section they like or are interested in, they’ll switch to reading mode. This is when they read word per word. It is also when your research and hours of writing pays off.
Formatting Your Blog Post for Better Reader Engagement
Break Up Paragraphs
Long paragraphs look like a lot of work.
Just image the last time you saw a big blog of text on your screen.
In a milli-second, you just lost your motivation to read through it.
In contrast, short paragraphs are easy to get through.
This makes them more enticing, since you know it’s easy to get through them.
Additionally, because majority of your readers will be reading your blog on their mobile devices, entire blocks of text will even look longer (thanks to the small screens).
Finally, short paragraphs leave a lot of white space. That’s a good thing!
These white spaces give your eyes a break.
What should you do? Limit paragraphs to 3-4 lines max.
Write Short Sentences
Besides writing short paragraphs, it’s also good practice to use shorter sentences.
Like with paragraphs, short sentences are easier to consume. They’re also better able to make a point and deliver your message.
Ideally, you want your sentences to have less than 25 words.
But, the shorter the better.
In fact, if you look at some of the best copywriting blogs around, they sometimes use 1-word sentences.
Doing so breaks up the pattern, which makes your content more interested to read.
What should you do? In addition to short paragraphs, use short sentences as well. Stay under 25 words per sentence. In my experience 8 to 15 words do well.
Use Varying Subheadings
Subheadings are one of the most important components of blog post formatting. They:
- Break up text
- Allow skimmers to get interested
- Outline your entire post to give readers a good idea of the overall flow
- Allow readers to jump to a specific sub-topic they’re interested in
So how do you use them?
Use a subheading every 300 or so words.
This, along with short paragraphs break up your entire article in small chunks that are easier to consume.
You can use them in combination with images.
Images also help break up the monotony of text. As such, if you use images, you can go over 300 words in each subheading.
Use the different subheadings (h2, h3, h4)
Often, you won’t go much further than H4. Of course, there’s no rule you shouldn’t.
But I’ve found that all you’ll need (most of the time) are H2, H3, and H4.
By the way, DON’T USE THE H1 TAG!
That’s reserved for your article’s title (based on SEO). The H1 tag should automatically be set to in your WordPress Theme so you don’t need to worry about it.
Pro Tip: Use the Customization settings on your WordPress Theme to adjust the size, font and color of your subheadings. The best themes, like Astra and Divi Theme will have settings that allow you to adjust H1, H2, H3, and so on individually.
Your Preview Should Show a Lot of White Space
After you’ve done the 3 steps above,
- Break up paragraphs
- Use short sentences
- Add a subheading every 300 or so words
Your article should have a lot of white spaces.
Again, that’s a good thing when writing for the web.
It entices skimmers. And, motivates readers to keep on reading. That’s because the task looks easier to accomplish.
The use of white space is something graphic designers use.
It helps clear up an image, allowing the focal point of the photo or graphic to stand out.
What should you do? After applying the 3 steps above, give your article a quick preview. Then scroll through it like a skimmer would. Ideally, it should be filled with white space between the sentences and paragraphs. If not, go back and break up paragraphs or sentences that are bunched together.
Use a Narrow Width
If you look at many of the newer themes today, you’ll notice that a lot of them use narrow widths for their content sections.
That’s because more and more people view websites with mobile devices.
The smaller screen means narrower layouts.
Narrow widths also make each line easier to read. By now, that concept has already been ingrained in your head.
What should you do? Here you have 2 options:
- Choose a theme with a narrow width
- If you have a good WordPress Theme like Astra or Divi, you’ll be able to customize the width of your content section. And decide if you want to have a sidebar or not.
This will allow you to adjust the width to make it narrow enough to hold enough words. Yet, not be too intimidating to read.
Or.. Check the Number of Characters Per Line
If you like the design of your theme and don’t want to change it, here’s another alternative.
Adjust the font so it has fewer character per line.
This serves the same purpose as the narrow theme. Although, they appear differently visually.
Narrow widths look easier because the chunks of text are shorter.
Fewer characters per line make it easier to read once you focus on the words.
One study found that 55-100 characters per line is ideal.
- When people read quickly, 100 characters per line works well
- Someone who’s reading slowly does better with 55 characters
Because people read at different speeds, it’s hard to generalize more than that. So, somewhere in the middle should work.
What should you do? Adjust the content width or font so it contains 55-100 characters per line.
Pro Tip: Instead of counting the characters manually (which sucks!), use this nifty character counter and copy-paste a line there. It will show you how many characters that line contains.
Use Bullet Points
One sneaky way of breaking up text without having to use subheadings is with bullet points.
Here, you have two options:
- Numbered lists – uses numbers to show an order or listing
- Bullet points – uses bullet points (you can change the design of the bullet) to enumerate items
These work because they indent the items in the list.
Also, they add a different format, which varies the pattern of your text blocks.
What should you do? Use bullet points when they need arises. They’ll make your content easier to read. And, break up the text in the process as well.
Take Advantage of Text Formatting
In addition to bullet points, text formatting is a simple way to focus on certain sections of text.
This emphasizes particular words, phrases or sentences.
They do so because their formatting draws your eyes to them. Much like a red dot in the middle of a white screen.
They key is not to overuse them.
The reason they stand out is because they’re used sparingly. So when you come across them, they’re different from the surrounding text.
That’s what draws your eyes to them.
Here are a few options in your WordPress Editor:
- Bold – this is bold.
- Italic – this text is in italic.
- Color – you can likewise change the color.
Add Block Quotes
Block quotes are used to quote a person. Often, you use them to quote an influencer, celebrity, famous personality.
This makes people read them. And, because of their status as an authority, it lends credibility to your content as well.
In addition to the quote itself, block quotes use a different formatting. How it does so depends on your WordPress theme and how the programmer designed it.
But often, it block quotes will be indented.
They’ll also be in largest font sizes and italicized or bold.
This makes them stand out.
Images are one of the best ways to add life, color and design to your content.
You’ve probably noticed that all the formatting tips above are text-based.
As such, they may look different…
But, they’re still similar in that they’re all text.
Images offer something completely different to your readers’ eyes.
- They’re colorful
- They look different
- There are different objects, people and things in images
- We enjoy visuals more than we do text
- People tend to follow instructions or step-by-step guides with illustrations alongside text
That said, an ugly image or photo is worse than no image or photo at all.
So it’s important to use high quality, relevant and informative images.
What’s great is that images come in all shapes and sizes. You can use
- Photographs or pictures
- And many more
Here’s how to add them on WordPress.
So where can you find high quality images?
Stock image websites are one of the best places to download high quality photos for your blog.
But, always make sure that you’re not violating copyright laws. Keep in mind that the owner (who took or made the images) owns them. As such, you can use them for free, with attribution or payment depending on the kind of license their images have.
The best way to do this is to get stock images from sites like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay for them, here’s a quick list of the best free stock image sites on the web.
Make Your Own Images
Of course, the best images are those that are unique. And the only way to do this is to create them yourself.
You can do so with your phone or a DSLR camera. Similarly, you can use screenshots by using tools like Evernote or just the Print Screen button on your laptop.
Whatever you do..
DON’T JUST USE ANY IMAGE FROM GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH.
These are likely under copyright which means you’ll be violated owner’s rights.
Other Ways to Break Up Text
By now, you’ve probably noticed that formatting your blog post really comes down to a few basic things.
- Breaking up text to make the article easier to read
- Adding different elements to vary the pattern and look of the post
- Reducing the monotony of having just text
Altogether, they work in trying to make a long and daunting article more enticing to read.
So, in keeping with that theme, here are a few more ways to improve the overall format and design of your blog content.
As a bonus, some help with SEO as well. That’s because they reduce bounce rate and increase the time visitors spend on your blog.
Embed a Video
Videos are the next big thing. The reason is we all prefer watching something to reading.
After all it’s easier to consume information that way, right?
The best part about videos is that they keep your readers on your blog.
In general, a good blog keeps readers on a page anywhere from 1-5 minutes. One minute being the lower end and about 2-1/2 minutes or more being excellent.
Since videos easily last over a minute, they’re great in helping increase the time visitors stay on your blog.
Insert an Inforgraphic or Pin
Infographics is short information graphics.
As such, it’s a type of graphic that presents information (often data) in a visually appealing way.
Again, this makes it easy to consume more information, especially numbers which nobody really likes reading about.
The biggest benefit of a good infographic is that people like sharing them.
As such, they can help boost your social media strategy.
Similarly, pins work just as well.
Pins are posts on Pinterest. So, they’re effective if you’re active on Pinterest.
Pins are well designed “covers” for your blog post. They work somewhat like movie posters in that they invite and entice people to see what your blog post is about.
So, it’s important for them to look good. And, be engaging enough for the reader to want to click on it.
Graphs and Charts
Graphs and charts are another form of data visualization.
They’re useful when you want to show the results, breakdowns or figures from surveys, reports, research or case studies.
Because they put numbers in visual format, it’s easier for people to take a glimpse and understand what you’re saying.
In contrast, you may need an entire paragraph to explain what a simple chart or graph shows.
How do you make charts?
The simplest way to create charts is to use a spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. It has the ability to let you format different charts from even the most complex data.
All it takes is a little practice (plus some searching on the web or YouTube to figure out how).
If you want to create prettier looking charts, try Venngage or Canva. They don’t have the computing capability of Excel, so you can only create simple data tables. But, they have better chart designs.
Tables aren’t as pretty as charts, graphs or infographics. But, they work just as well, especially if you want to show data in tabulated form.
One of the biggest advantages of tables is that many of them are interactive. That is, they allow your readers to sort and filter the data among other things.
Better yet, they’re super easy to set up. All you need to do is install a WordPress plugin.
TablePress is my go-to table plugin. It’s very easy to use, has interactive options and allows you to upload .csv files to fill your table with data. This means you can save an excel sheet into csv format and upload everything to the table.
That saves a lot of copy & pasting or data entry time.
Add a Table of Contents
For longer articles, table of contents are essential. They work in conjunction with your subheadings to make blog post navigation easy.
In addition, having a table of contents quickly allows the reader to understand the outline of your article. And, skip to the sections they’re interest in.
That’s a win-win for you and the skimmers that get to your site.
They get to quickly find what they’re looking for. And, you get a reader who stays on your blog longer.
How to quickly add a Table of Contents to your blog posts
Again, the quickest way to do this is with a plugin.
This time, it’s the Easy Table of Contents plugin.
The plugin lets you decide which pages include table of contents. This allows you to include or exclude it based on what kind of post or page it is.
Additionally, you can choose how the table of contents of formatted. It’s color, font sizes, numbering, and so on.
The best part is, it’s automatic.
You don’t need to manually create a table of contents for each blog post, which becomes very tedious after 3 or 4 articles.
If you follow the tips above, you’ll make sure that your blog post is formatted properly for the web.
This ensures that skimmers won’t just quickly press the back button of their browsers and leave your site.
Altogether, they’ll make your content easier to read and more interesting to do so.
When you’re able to do that, more people will be able to enjoy your amazing content.
This will help increase your readership, followers and build your brand.