An online reader gives a piece of content about 10 seconds to catch their attention. If the content fails to lure in the reader within those 10 seconds, the reader is gone.
While the content topic has a lot to do with engaging the reader in the first moments of the initial impression, the way the content looks may be just as important. Readers hate ugly content.
Bad pictures, long blocks of text, no subheadings – there are a lot of content turn-offs that can send your readers running for the next fish in the sea. So it’s important that you format and style your content so that it will appear attractive and endearing.
That means you absolutely must properly format blog content so that it:
- Is easy to scan (scannable)
- Highlights important elements in the content
On the first impression, readers must be able to quickly see if the content has what they want or not; so give the goods up front. Make sure you have quality, scannable elements that properly describe the content bodies. Show off with:
- The Headline
- Bold, Underlined, Italicized and/or Highlighted Text
- Summaries (In the Introduction & Conclusion)
Create a Sexy Outline
We have found a simple content format that readers love to look at. Consider it the little black dress for blogs, and always use it as the template for your content format.
In short, use:
- An Introduction
- Sections of Supporting Ideas (At least 3)
- A Conclusion
But to take it one step further, build out of this outline by plugging in your main ideas as subheadings and supporting ideas as sections of supporting blocks of text.
When this outline is properly followed, the content should look something like this:
Image via Socialmediaseo.net
Balance Sections of Supporting Ideas
The number of sections of supporting ideas that comes after each subheading should vary based on the delivery and word count of the article; however, you should never use less than three sections of supporting ideas. The more sections of supporting ideas you use, the better.
So don’t write a 1,000 word article with two subheadings. No one wants to read that, and it won’t even place for the pageant.
Determine the appropriate numbers of sections of supporting ideas by considering the word count and delivery of your content. A fun, 1000-word article about the Top Twelve Celebrity Dogs will include 12 sections (one for each dog). A 500-word article about Six Creative Uses for Old Cell Phones will include six sections (one for each use).
Image via Gizmolord.com
An informative, 500-word article about Cell Phone Spies may include three to five sections, depending on how many main points the writer will showcase.
Keep a Consistent Shape
You should include roughly the same amount of information in each section of supporting ideas when the sections are parallel elements.
Parallel elements discuss matching information such as answers to the same question and elements of the same list. For example, Top Twelve Celebrities Dogs would use parallel elements in the section as each dog would be a section, so each should be around the same length.
This helps the content feel balanced and easy to scan and read.
Image via CopyPress.com
Don’t Bloat or Shrink Blocks of Text (Within Sections of Supporting Ideas)
The text within a section of supporting ideas shouldn’t be too long or too short. It is best to include 1-3 blocks of text (paragraphs, bulleted lists) in each section. If the section is longer than 1-3 blocks of text, divide into another section or create subsections.
When creating subsections:
- Use logical, nesting hierarchy for subheadings for subsections.
- Format subheadings with H2 then format subsection-headings within that as H3 and so on.
- Provide an introductory sentence or paragraph before introducing a subsection within a section.
This example shows a section of supporting ideas (Choose a Blackberry Service Plan) formatted with H2, with blocks of text (Minutes, Email, Text Messaging) formatted as H3.
Show Off the Goods with Images
Now that you have the format down, make sure to finish with solid images. As a major rule, you should include one graphic per subheading. Each of those graphics should adhere to the following guidelines:
Image Orientation – Use images with horizontal orientation whenever possible.
Size – When dealing with digital graphics, sizes are measured in units of pixels. The best size for graphics is between 300-600 pixels wide. Whenever possible use (or resize images) so that they are the same size.
Clarity – The clarity of a graphic is determined by the DPI or Dots Per Inch. Use graphics that are at least 72 DPI. Any graphic below 72 DPI may appear blurry or distorted.
Alignment – The position of graphics in the content (left/right/center) is the alignment. Centering looks best in blog content.
Vary the Image Selection
There are many ways to graphically represent your content. Don’t feel like you have to stick to using pictures. Good visuals include, but are not limited to:
- Pictures/ Photos
- Screenshots (from websites and phones) – Always use screenshots when discussing specific websites or phone apps.
In the case of online content, people do judge the book by its cover, so make sure your content is giving off the best first impression possible. You only have 10 seconds to grab a reader, so ditch the ugly content format and start shaping your content to put its most beautiful foot forward.