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Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable

Only 16% of people read web sites word for word. Source

The average person only comprehends 60% of what they read. Source

Knowing this – how should bloggers who want to communicate effectively write?

Is your Blog Scannable ?

Most people read online by scanning the page for individual words or phrases, headings and other visual cues. Studies have shown that reading from a screen is more tiring and therefore about 25% slower than reading from paper – hence scanning becomes a technique that most employ.

Is your Blog Scannable? It’s a pretty simple thing to test. Ask a friend who is not familiar with your site to take a quick look at a few of your recent posts. Give them 15 to 30 seconds on each post, at the end of which you ask them what the post was about. You’ll quickly get a sense of how they’ve interacted with your blog.

Techniques to Make your Blog Scannable

Good bloggers keep this in mind as they write and will employ a variety of techniques to make their posts easier to read. Some of these techniques include:

  • Lists – Anecdotal evidence here at ProBlogger suggests that its my posts with bullet point lists in them that get linked to ALOT more than similar length posts written in of an essay style.
  • Formatting – Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard as you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
  • Headings and Sub Headings – Large, Bold words that act as visual cues of what is happening in the content are effective ways of drawing readers further into articles.
  • Pictures – Research shows that readers eyes are drawn down the page by pictures. Place them cleverly by your key points (especially when they closely relate to the content) and you have more of a chance of getting readers to read full articles.
  • Borders/Blockquotes – boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
  • Space – don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen – rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed and again tend to draw readers eyes to what is inside such space.
  • Get to the Point – try to be succinct with your points.
  • Don’t Bury your Points – one trap many of us fall into is to bury our main points deep within content where it’s unlikely to be noticed. If you have a key point make sure you say it up front. You can expand upon it later but get your message across in the first few sentences if possible.
  • Find creative ways to reinforce your main point throughout your post.
  • Don’t Introduce too many New Ideas in one post – once again this helps to avoid overwhelming readers with information all at once. If you want to cover many ideas that relate to one another consider a series of posts that link to each other.

If your site and its posts are not easily scannable you run the risk of losing your reader to another blog that is.

More on Posting Schedules

Peter at Almost Cool comments on my series on Blog Apathy – particularly picking up on some of the comments on posting goals and schedules. He rightly observes that with RSS subscribers you’re likely to get readers look at your posts whether you post regularly or irregularly and argues against quantity over quality of posts. This has been a common response to my mention of a posting schedule from a number of readers.

I agree with Peter and others – quality posting is essential to good blogging – but I guess want to argue for balance.

Blogging commercially is a traffic game whether we like it or not. If you want to earn more money one good way to get it is to increase your readership. Quality content is essential but so is quantity. You can write one fantastic post per week and get a bit of exposure but the chances are that unless it’s amazing it will never draw enough traffic to sustain you financially until the next post.

Having a posting schedule or goal is like being a journalist with a deadline. It’s not meant to decrease the quality – but gives an end point when the article needs to be finished so that a new one can be started upon and that a paper/magazine can continue its publishing rhythm.

Perhaps one of the things I should have mentioned some of the following in my initial comments on posting schedules:

[Read more...]

The Best Blog Content

Just stumbled upon an article at awesomeblogs.com which looks at Why Blogs Have Become the Search Engine Optimization Equalizer. It’s one of those mass produced ‘free articles’ that I warn bloggers from using too much – but it does make a useful observation about some of the top sites on the internet:

‘The big sites on the internet got to be that way because the consistently add new, original, and exclusive content to their websites.

While you and I may never have as much content on our sites as the big boys do, we can benefit from the lessons they teach to us.

Now that you have also learned this important lesson, it is time to put this knowledge into action. Make it part of your daily or weekly schedule to add fresh, interesting content to your website. ‘

The lesson is a good one. The following are some of the words that describe the best type of content if we subscribe to this theory:

fresh – original – interesting – exclusive – new – daily

This is the type of content that will get you ranking higher in search engines, its the type of content that will get your readers coming back every day and its the type of content that will generate incoming links to it and referral readership.

Of course most bloggers have a mixture of this type of content and other content – links to other sites, quotes from others etc – but in most cases the more you increase the quotient of the fresh and original stuff the more chance you give your blog to grow.

The Long and the Short of Blog Posts

Dave Taylor answers the eternal blogging question of “Are long blog entries better than short ones?” and writes :

‘I’m reminded of a common piece of advice from good development editors in the publishing business about how long a chapter or book should ultimately be: write just enough to cover the material at the appropriate level of detail, then stop….

Personally, I don’t subscribe to weblogs where the typical entry is less than about 250 words, because I’m not interested in discoverability, that is, what other pages on the Web I should be checking out, but in why the blogger thinks the page, article, site, entry, whatever, is worth my attention.’

I’m with Dave in arguing that each blogger needs to work out what length post suits their writing style and blog topic.

Whilst I’d always advise that your posts should be to the point – I find that here at ProBlogger my posts tend to be much longer on average than some of my other blogs – (and you as readers don’t seem to mind) – however on other blogs readers seem to want quick and simple information and the short post works very well.

I also find that on those blogs you choose to post lengthy posts on it’s helpful to use the extended entry field and to mix up the length of your posts. In the middle of your long ones put a few short and simple ones – after all, variety is the spice of life.

What’s the average length of your blog posts?

Quality vs Quantity of Posting?

I was chatting to a soon-to-be-blogger this morning about ProBlogging and he asked me how long he’d have to blog before he could earn a reasonable amount from it.

It’s a common question that is usually on the lips of new bloggers exploring the world of ProBlogging.

Of course there is no real answer to the question as there are just so many factors including:

- traffic levels (which rely upon many other factors)
- value of ads for the topic you’ve chosen
- revenue streams chosen

Another factor I talked with him about was his level of posting. Obviously the larger a blog is the increased chance of earning income it has. Whilst it’s not impossible for a small website or blog to be a good earner – in most cases the number of posts on a blog is a major contributing factor.

This flies a little in the face of the constant catch cry I hear from many bloggers about ‘quality content being the key to successful blogging’ – I agree with this – but want to argue that it’s not just the quality that counts – ProBloggers also need to consider quantity. For me it’s not an ‘either or’ question – it’s about both.

As I often say – the more pages in your blog the more potential entry points you have to it via search engine referrals. Of course it’s not just a matter of creating thousands of useless pages (although some try this) – each page should be a useful page with high quality content – but in general the more pages you’ve got the better.

Out of interest this afternoon I decided it was time to add up how many pages of content I’ve generated since I started blogging in November of 2002….

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Posting Frequency Observations

One of the things that going away and not checking your RSS feeds for a month can do for you is help identify who is blogging how much.

I generally clear my bloglines account every day. As a result I don’t notice from day to day which of my 350 or so feeds are updating frequently.

Being away for four weeks has left me confronting 7000+ unread items (many of which I won’t read). However in scanning through them I’m surprised to see how little some of my favorite bloggers are posting. In 30 days some of them posted less than 5 times.

I won’t embarrass anyone by naming names – however some of them are pretty prominent and in my ‘must read’ list.

On the other hand I also observed that some of the bloggers that I follow are even more prolific at posting than I am – with literally hundreds of posts over the 30 or so days.

I don’t really have a point to make – just an observation that I’ll file away to think through later on.

How often have you posted in the past 30 days?

Looking For Online Revenue Bloggers – ReveNews

ReveNews is a trusted, unbiased source focusing on Internet related industries such as online marketing, SEM, affiliate marketing, retail (e-commerce), analytics, spyware, blogging and much more. ReveNews authors consist of highly respected thinkers, commentators and business people who have real experience and insight. ReveNews readers include industry gurus, top-level executives and CEO’s, plus many of the industry’s top net-repreneurs; all coming together to create a global Internet community to distribute, discuss and analyze the industry at hand.

Interested in writing for us? Applications are being accepted now.

“I was standing in line at an industry show when someone grabbed my arm and introduced themselves saying they read my blog at ReveNews all the time and wanted to ask a question. Turns out it was a senior developer from Google. He couldn’t say enough about the good things he reads on our site. Pretty cool. And a nice contact to have in the future.” – Wayne Porter, ReveNews Blogger

Canadian Professional Blogging Podcast 2.2 – your blogging voice continued

For those of you following the start of our Canadian Professional Blogging series, thanks for turning in. Tris and I really appreciated the feedback and have built upon that to create a more detailed look at finding your blogging voice.

Having a voice is a key factor in getting noticed, being read, and building up that much needed traffic to your site. However, creating that “voice” may seem like a daunting thing. Many people don’t find writing easy, and that makes it even harder. We hope that our podcast and the notes will help people figure out a path that works for them.

One tip we talk about is reading everything you can find. The writers that appeal to you likely do so because you connect with that voice. Try to apply that same style to how you write and you’ll be one step closer to a distinctive voice. Another tip is to think about your writing verbally – your conversation style should go into your writing. If you are someone who speaks in short bursts, then you can try that out on your blog.
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Improve your typing skills

Being a professional blogger means in most of the cases: publish content, targeted at your audience, structured, and well written.

But the other part is: It has to be typed. And the more you want to publish, the more you have to type, and edit, and retype … If you where writing a book, you could give your handwritten manuscript to somebody else, but as a blogger, you are on your own.

If you don’t have good typing skills, blogging will be much more of an effort for you – and then you publish less. But other than being a good writer is at least part talent, being a speedy typer is purely training.

So let’s take a quick look at your typing skills: [Read more...]