Great content needs a great layout.
You could have written the most impressive, well-thought-out, precisely researched and informative blog post ever. It could be pure gold in text format, but without a layout and design that reflects its brilliance, your post might never meet its full potential. We eat with our eyes, and that includes consuming content.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and examples to help you polish up the curb appeal of your blog – which will lead to higher readership and engagement of the content within.
Use Headings and Sub-Headings
There is nothing more off-putting than landing on a page and being hit by a solid wall of text. It’s intimidating and just looking at it could give you a cracking headache, or send you to sleep immediately. Neither of these options encourage engagement with your site – which is the ultimate goal, right?
When you’re faced with an unbroken block of text, it’s also very difficult to navigate. How do you find the section you’re interested in quickly and easily? Well, you don’t, and you’ll probably find that the individuals hitting this page leave as quickly as they arrived:
The solution is very straightforward: use headings and sub-headings to break your post up, and use them wisely. Break your post down into sections, and give each section an appropriate (and non-cryptic heading) that will help users identify what each section is about, and where they’ll find the answers to their questions.
Boris Demaria of WooRank wrote a very helpful post back in 2013 that explains all about using heading tags, why they are helpful, and best practices. Joost de Valk’s heading structure for your blogis also worth a read!
For larger pieces of content, you may find that you need to use a combination of H1 – H6 headings to make your content easy to navigate whilst sending the right signals to Google’s spiders and bots. You might also want to think about using page jumps to give your readers lifts to particular sections rather than having them scroll through pages and pages to find what they’re looking for. I’m a big fan of page jumps, and I always like to use them in longer posts like this.
It’s also worth remembering that headings and sections shouldn’t be an afterthought. When you’re planning your content, you should be thinking about how everything connects together. What information does the reader need to know? What order do they need it in to understand the process you’re trying to explain? If you can’t break your writing down into sections, you probably need to spend a bit more time clarifying exactly what you want to get out of your post and what questions people are likely to be asking around your topic and go from there.
Keep Your Paragraphs Short and Sweet
Avoiding that “wall-o-Text” look isn’t as simple as sticking some headings in. You also need to think about your paragraph and sentence structure. If a paragraph is looking overly long, see if there’s a natural breaking point; likewise with long sentences. Struggling to identify sentences that need cutting in half? My never-fail test is to read it out loud; you’ll pick up on overly long sentences immediately.
Use Images. More Precisely, Beautiful Images
So you’ve formatted your blog post nicely with carefully placed headings, and it’s easy to navigate. The work doesn’t stop there. To break up your text even further and help your audience engage with your post, make sure you use images and photographs.
Not only do these help to break up your site, but the use of screen-grabs, gifs, sketches, and photos can also help illustrate a point or add humour to your post.
I’ve recently signed up to a fantastic site called Death to the Stock Photo. Most stock photography sucks; that guy in the suit talking on his Bluetooth headset, a group of employees laughing together, awkward poses – you know the story. DTTSP are trying to change that. You simply sign up with your email address, and each month you’ll have a themed .zip file (last month’s theme was the beach) sent to your inbox with a collection of absolutely gorgeous photographs. You can’t browse or pick and choose; you get what you get, but it’s always something a little different, and it’s always beautiful:
When you’re using photos in your posts, make sure that they’re creative commons, and that they are licenced for commercial use, and always credit the photographer. It’s good karma.
Screen grabs are also particularly helpful, and not just in blog posts. When we report to clients at Boom, we like to drop screen shots of Analytics, keyword performance, and any other interesting bits and bobs that we think would benefit from illustration in addition to the PDF reports. When it comes to screen grabs, forget about Ctrl + Alt + PrtScn. That’s old and messy! Our preferred tool is Evernote’s Skitch.
Skitch allows you to easily take screen grabs and quickly and easily add annotations and notes when needed. It’s available on desktop, tablet, and phones, and I can’t recommend it enough:
Incorporate Multi-Media with Embedding
Images are great, but embeds are one step further. You can easily add a little motion to your blog posts with a couple of embeds.
Whether you choose YouTube videos:
— Boom Online (@boomweb) May 20, 2014
Basically, you can embed pretty much anything you want in to a blog post these days. It’ll help to emphasise points, illustrate details, expand on topics mentioned, and generally give your reader a more immersive experience.
Keep the Design Simple
Simple doesn’t mean boring; simple means easy to navigate, uncluttered and easy to read. The polar opposite of this:
Usereffects is a handy tool that will help you see where your eyes are naturally drawn when there’s no text. It helps you identify if you’re overwhelmed by colour or blocks of text, and it can help highlight missing CTAs and other important markers on a page.
Whilst we’re talking about design, make sure you avoid light text on a bright background. White on any colour pretty much guarantees a headache, so try to stick to dark text on a pale or light background for the highest levels of readability.
-Always use appropriate headings and sub-headings.
-Keep paragraphs and sentences concise.
-Use images. They break up the text and make the whole thing look nice.
-Embed. Embed. Embed.
-Keep the design simple.
-Dark text on a light background.
What tips and tricks do you have for making your blog content look great? I’d love to hear from you!