“Beyond writing good quality content, how can I format my posts so that they communicate more effectively?”
I was asked the above question by a reader earlier today on Twitter and shot them back a series of DMs with the following suggestions that I thought might interest others (I’ve expanded them here).
Of course, as the question implies, the most powerful communication strategy for bloggers is quality of writing—but beyond that, here are a few things I’ve found helpful over the last nine years of blogging.
1. Your blog post titles are everything
Okay, they’re not everything, but they’re often the main thing people look at to decide whether they’ll read your post. So take time to hone them.
Use a title that grabs people’s interest, but also leads them into what you want to talk about. You don’t want to grab interest with a sensational post title that has little to do with what the post is actually about.
2. When writing longer titles…
I generally try to make my blog post titles reasonably short. They seem to have more impact, and they’re easier to share on the social web.
However, sometimes a longer title is necessary. If you’re using one of those, make the first words in the headline get straight to the point. The first words in a headline seem to be the ones that have the most punch—choose them wisely.
3. Use short, punchy paragraphs
One of the main edits that I do on guest posts submitted to dPS is to simply break up long paragraphs.
Large slabs of text are unattractive to those reading online, so break it down!
4. Use images liberally
Similarly, a whole page that is just text tends to be a turn off to many readers.
Adding a visually appealing image to the top of a post will grab attention and draw people in.
Using images throughout longer posts will also draw the eye of your readers down the page and keep them engaged.
Larger images are said to be good. One study I heard about recently found that bigger images draw people to look at them for longer—keeping people engaged.
5. Faces can also draw attention
Faces in images also tend to hold people’s gazes for longer.
As humans, we’re wired to connect with others’ faces, so using them in a post seems to grab attention, draw people in, and hold their attention a little longer.
I’ve particularly found this to be true on Digital Photography School, where we regularly feature portrait images.
You may not be able to use faces in every post you do, but keep the principle in mind and test it for yourself.
6. Break up posts with subheadings
Those viewing of your site will often scan your content when they arrive on your page to find out if it is relevant to them.
So if you have some main points, highlight them with sub headings.
Your sub headings should give a snapshot of what your post is about, but also draw people into reading it.
One effective technique with sub headings is to only say half a sentence or phrase in them. I’ve done this in points #3 and #7 in this post. By doing so, you signal what that section is about without giving away everything—you give people a reason to stop and read.
When looking at a design or theme for your blog, try to make sure that whoever designs it has good options for heading tags. I use h2 and h3 tags pretty regularly in my posts (it can also be advantageous for SEO).
7. Lists: we love to hate them, but…
Many bloggers are obsessed by list-type posts and, as a result, others look down at them.
However, they’re very very effective in terms of bringing in readers and communication effectiveness. You probably don’t want to use them in every post, but don’t write them off completely.
Further Reading: 8 Reasons why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog.
8. Use formatting to your advantage
Make your blog posts a little more visual but breaking up your text visually with formatting changes.
You can go over the top with this but using basic formatting like bolding and italicising words can draw the eye to your key points effectively.
Similarly using blockquotes or some kind of call-out box for key sections of your article can draw people to important parts of what you’re communicating.
9. Call people to do something
If you want to be “effective” as a blogger, you must have some goal in mind for what you want your readers to do.
If this is the case, it is important to actually call your readers to do that in some way through your article.
The call to action might be anything—it could be to apply what you’re writing about in your own life, to go away and do a little homework, to react to the post in comments, to share the post with someone else… but the key is to actually invite your reader to do these things, rather than just assume that they will.
What would you add?
I’d love to hear your advice to a blogger wanting to improve the effectiveness of communication through the way that they format and design their blog posts.
- What has worked for you?
- Do you apply any of the above principles, or have you found other styles and approaches to work better for you?
- Lastly, feel free to share a link to a blog post that you or someone else has written that you think is styled effectively.