8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

8 content design tips

Your precious words. You know they’ve got to be right to attract the audience you want.

You’ve slaved over them, carefully crafting each phrase. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens?

Nobody reads them.

No comments, no tweets, no sharing on Facebook.

It’s enough to send a writer into deep depression, and wipe out motivation to keep producing great content.

Think you need to spend another 10,000 hours perfecting your writing skills? Probably not.

Actually, the solution may be a lot easier than you expect. Writing less and styling your text so it’s easy to read could be all you need to do to attract and hold attention.

Impatient searchers

Jakob Nielson’s seminal web usability study from 1997 showed that 79% of web users scan rather than read.

Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting, you click away and look elsewhere.

The web is a “lean forward and participate” medium. Television, by contrast, is a “lean back and let it wash over me” medium.

What can you do to engage your readers so they lean into your content, stay on your pages and interact with your information?

Make it snappy

To write successfully for the web, you need to forget some of what you learned in English composition class.

Accept that people scan web pages rather than reading them in detail, and work with this reality rather than fighting it.

If you want to cover a complex topic, consider breaking it into a series of posts. It’s a great way to keep people coming back for more, and your reader will find it easier to digest your content if they get it in portion-controlled sizes.

Structure your paragraphs in the inverted pyramid style. This means stating your conclusion first, then supporting it with the sentences that follow. This helps scanners to move from point to point, and decide where they’d like to dive in deeper.

Once you’ve done that, use the following easy design techniques to make your content much more reader-friendly. It takes just a few minutes to turn a post from an overwhelming mass of gray text to something that engages the reader and pulls her in.

1. Embrace the line break

There are few easier ways to make your content more readable. Even complex content can be made much more reader-friendly with the simple introduction of lots of white space. Feature one idea per paragraph, and keep them short — three or four sentences at most.

And try writing some paragraphs with one sentence only.

2. Break up your content with compelling subheads

One technique taught here at Copyblogger is to write your headline and subheads first.

A strong headline (and therefore a strong premise) is vital to getting readers to come check you out in the first place. And solid subheads keep the reader engaged, acting as “mini headlines” to keep them moving through the rest of your content.

Make your subheads intriguing, but informative, too. Web readers have well-honed BS meters, so don’t exaggerate or you’ll lose credibility. “Compelling” is not the same as “hypey.”

Once you’ve written your subheads, review them to see what your reader/scanner will understand if he or she reads only that part of your article. Is there a compelling story? Will they get the gist of your information?

3. Use bulleted lists

  • They create fascinations your readers can’t resist
  • They’re an easily-scannable way to present multiple points
  • They look different from the rest of your text, so they provide a visual break for your reader

4. Use deep captions.

Studies have shown that image captions are consistently some of the most-read copy on a page. Try pairing a strong image with a “deep caption.”

Deep captions are two to three sentences long. That’s long enough to intrigue your reader to dig in to your whole article.

5. Add highly relevant links

Internal links back to your own cornerstone content will keep people on your site and reading your best material.

External links demonstrate that you’ve researched the topic and want to highlight other experts.

Good content uses both to expand your reader’s understanding and add value.

Another advantage of internal links is they make it less frustrating when some dirtbag scrapes your content (cuts and pastes it to their own site without attribution).

6. Use strategic formatting

Add emphasis to your web copy by bolding important concepts. You reader will be able to scan through and pick out the most important information at a glance.

Don’t highlight everything (which would have the same effect as highlighting nothing). Instead, emphasize the key points so the scanner can quickly pick them out.

7. Harness the power of numbers

Think those numbered list posts are tired? Think again. Numbers are an incredibly effective way to both capture attention and to keep the reader oriented.

If you don’t believe me, take a quick look at the “Popular Articles” on the right hand of this site. You’ll get a mini-tutorial in some of the ways you can use numbers (and other techniques) to make a post more inviting.

You can often make a post more compelling just by numbering your main points. Give it a try.

8. Check your dual readership path

Once you’ve used subheads, numbers, bulleted lists and other formatting to highlight the key elements of your post, read through it again — looking only at the text you’ve called special attention to.

Does the reader get the gist? Have you pulled out the most interesting and relevant words, the words that will pull your scanner in and turn her into a reader?

How about you? What are your favorite techniques for getting readers to lean in to your web content? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small businesses grow with great design and marketing tips. Learn the basics with her free Design 101 e-course at Big Brand System.

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Reader Comments (242)

  1. says

    Pamela:

    I like today’s article. Keep the writing short and sweet.

    The same elements you bought up for blogs, also apply to B2C copy – with a few added touches. People scan the main points and short paragraphs. They usually look at the headlines and PS first. Write in conversational tone. Think of talking to a friend – over a drink – in the bar.

    Bullet points focus our attention. They help break up short paragraphs and focus on key points.

    Sub headers also capture our attention and usually focus on benefits.

    Numbers also apply to copy. The ad, “5 Ways to Cure Corns,” ran in the National Inquirer for years (during the paper’s peak years). I got this tidbit from renown, direct response copywriter and marketer Ben Hart.

    Say! These great points about writing effective blog posts also apply to good B2C copy.

    Thanks for the excellent sharing!

    Randy

    • says

      Great tips on the issue. It is a good plan but there are many external or unknown factors also which contribute largely to traffic and visitors. Let us be comfortable with whatever we do.

  2. says

    Great article. I love the ‘make it snappy’ advice. It’s true that there is so much information that people view on a daily basis that it takes a different style of writing to grab and keep someone’s attention.
    Great stuff!

  3. says

    I really liked the tip about writing in an inverted pyramid style.

    You need to draw your readers in at the first sentence!

    Otherwise, when they first land on your post, they will scan, scan, scan. If the first paragraph doesn’t draw them in, they will move on fast, fast, fast.

    So, the first sentence of a paragraph is very important. When you draw the readers in, you slow them down, and then only will they really read your post.

    Great post Pamela. Loved it! :)

    Cheers!
    Gloson

    • says

      I remember reading a book entitled The Adweek Copywriters Handbook by Joseph Sugarman. He invented many things – like Blue Blocker sunglasses – and was a multimillionaire entrepreneur, marketer and copywriter.

      He said the purpose of the first paragraph of copy, is to get you to read the second paragraph. The purpose of the second paragraph is to get you to read the third paragraph. Yada, yada, yada (reminds me of a Seinfeld episode).

      Randy

  4. says

    I’ve recently taken to writing super-short (but complete) posts as an experiment. The one I’ve done so far got more hits and likes than most I’ve published recently.

    If this works out, I’ll start treating my blog as a tidbit repository with short but useful pieces of information posted more frequently.

    And there’s a good argument for linking out a lot. As long as people open them in tabs, they’ll fall back to your post when they’re done with the other site. If my limited knowledge of marketing is close to accurate, that repeat exposure should increase engagement

    • says

      Interesting! That’s very cool that you saw a difference right away.

      Even if some of your pieces are longer (it’s always good to have a mix), you can still format them in a way that makes them look easier to scan through and absorb.

      I always make my links open in a new window so people don’t lose my site when they click on them. Not sure if that’s the cool thing to do, but I feel more comfortable adding links when I know they’re not going to click completely off my site.

    • says

      I agree with getting to the point and being succinct. I started writing shorter blog posts–about 300 words instead of 500. People like them and they are much easier for me to write on a regular basis … speaking of which, I have fallen out of that habit. Gotta go blog!

    • says

      I third that! The “series of posts” idea is something I’m trying out now. Just wrote my first one today in fact, so it’s cool that you wrote about it.

      I’ll try to save my long complicated lessons for my paid products.

    • says

      I think you’re on to something, MKR. Seth Godin uses this approach in his blog as well, and I especially like it when I’m reading on-the-go (read: on my phone). And since mobile is such a big deal today, I think you have an advantage, too.

  5. says

    Thank you Pamela, great article. I’ve just gone through today’s blog post and put into action smaller paragraphs.

    It felt really odd to do but it looks SO much better! I will try and write like that next time, instead of trying to do it retrospectively.

  6. says

    Use design!

    I like to utilize CSS to design unique looking lists for different posts. I also have specific callout paragraphs designed for notes, info, downloads, alerts, etc.

    • says

      I agree: adding design elements helps, too.

      This post is really about structuring the words themselves so your reader finds them easier to get through, but using design to add pizzazz is another great way to draw them in.

  7. says

    Thanks for another great post. Copyblogger really helps me refocus and deliver better and better content to my readers. Every time I read your site I’m inspired.

  8. says

    This is great advice to anyone who’s looking to make a website, too. Not just bloggers and content marketers.
    If you’re only going to write your website content once, like in a simple business website, it’s vital to make sure that your info is easily accessible. It just makes good business sense to make it easy for people to find what they want.
    It makes your website a credibility tool for you, at the very least. And if you do it right, you might just make a few new clients while you’re at it.
    Thanks for the article. It shines a light on the aspects of web as a medium, in itself: wholly different from print, radio, and television.
    – Chris

    • says

      I find it very different from print. They all have their own set of rules, don’t they?

      Each medium is consumed differently, and our content has the best chance at grabbing and holding attention if we adjust it to suit where it’s going to be seen.

      Thanks for your comment, Chris!

  9. says

    Love it! You guys totally rock. Nice thinking.

    I have been getting a little tired of list-type approaches in my own humble blog. But it’s great to be reminded that my three readers out there might not be. Was that “three?” Your post reminds me of things that will make it 33!

    Thanks again.

  10. says

    Hi Pamela,

    Up until reading this article, I had been doing at least a few of the points in my content. However, I’m not sure if I understood the point you were making about using “deep captions” on images used in a post.

    Could you clarify that a little further here?

    • says

      Absolutely! Because people’s eyes tend to go straight to image captions, you can use this to your advantage. It’s not something I see done on blogs a lot, but it’s a technique used in the print world very effectively.

      Use a compelling image, and write a long caption to go with it: 2-3 sentences is good. Allude to your content, and make the caption intriguing.

      That way if all the person reads is your caption, you’ve drawn them in and piqued their interest so they’ll want to keep reading the rest of your content.

      Does that make sense?

        • Dian Kjærgaard says

          Comment / contribution: The same principles apply to all business writing – even writing on old-fashioned paper. It was great to get confirmation.

          Question: Is the attraction of the caption strongest when the caption is above the image – or below the image?

          Thanks for a great blog.

  11. says

    I write all the time about how to make your content stand out so people can read them better. With great blogging formatting for your content..people will run the other way.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  12. says

    I’m really glad you wrote this for us, Pamela, because I see good content every single day that’s not getting readers because it’s formatted in ways that are hard to get to.

    Good writing is the hard part. But this is the nice easy part that makes our good writing more accessible. :)

  13. says

    Great post! I will refer to it frequently and look forward to monitoring improved results. I’ll keep you posted (there’s a pun in there someplace!) Thank you!

  14. says

    Nothing makes me click away from a blog faster than a giant block of text. Yet so many people still write blog posts this way! Next time I see that I should post a link to this article.

  15. says

    Hi Pamela,

    Being forced to read short little posts about a complex subject is maddening.

    When important information is straggled out into multiple pages, or forces me return day after day, leaving me hanging until tomorrow…

    I don’t return at all. Between having to load multiple pages, wasting all that extra paper while printing useless pages, etc. I assume the site owner doesn’t really know what they’re doing. They certainly are not considering user experience. Even the major News sites that do this give the option of One Page view.

    I do appreciate white space, bullets and headings; but I appreciate skilled writing, as well.

    The way your article is broken up could be a great deal longer (if warranted by the subject) and be easy to read/scan, regardless of its length.

    As for writing style, that really depends on the type of people your information attracts. Short, curt, and to the point may be just the ticket for a computer geek, but others may wish to take a little more time and get the subtleties that don’t come thru as well with a curt style.

    Just my highly inflated 2 cents :-)

    Rick

    • says

      IMO, that kind of content isn’t well suited to blog posts in the first place. It would make a better white paper or special report delivered as a PDF, so the reader can sit down and address it start to finish.

      Also, those of us with longer attention spans need to ask the tough question: “Am I like my buyer?” Sometimes what we prefer isn’t what the customer prefers.

      • says

        Hi Sonia,

        When given the opportunity to choose the PDF version, I never have to be asked twice :-)

        In your opinion, how many words could a post have before “crossing the line” into PDF territory?

        Thanks!

        Rick

        • says

          Sonia may have an idea of how many words is the cut off, but I can share a low-tech designer trick you can use that might help.

          Push back from your screen a ways and squint your eyes. If you see big, uninterrupted blocks of grey that go on and on, it might be time to take it to another format, break it into a series, or do something else to make it easier to digest.

        • Mike Korner says

          I recall a blog post where Chris Brogan mentioned 500 words as the point where people start bookmarking instead of reading. As one who has read 27,359 blog posts so far this year — slight exaggeration :) — I think that number is a great guideline.

          One strategy I’ve seen used effectively for longer topics is having a series of blog posts AND a pdf option at the end of the series.

          Those who prefer a bite at a time are happy, and those who prefer to have it all in one spot are happy (assuming are patient enough to wait for the end of the series).

          • says

            Hi Mike,

            That magic 500 number always comes up, but this is the first time I heard a solid reason for it.

            “I’ll come back later” never happens, does it?

            That explanation right there, sold me.

            Thanks!

            And thank you, Sonia & Pamela :-)

            Rick

  16. says

    Some years ago I took a writing course from a professional article writer. His entire career was built on writing short high interest articles for periodicals and newspapers. He had thousands of articles in print and clearly was an expert in his field.

    Most of what you said here mirrored what we learned in our course in terms of style. All those writing techniques mentioned worked well for print publications, and obviously also apply to writing for the web. What you have added is however also important to note. Writing for the web really is a different animal in many respects to writing for print. I believe that, attention spans really are shorter for most readers these days. That combined with the different nature of reading which comes with surfing the web.

    The huge volume of material available really does encourage, in fact demand, that readers scan rather than read. There is simply to much to cover to allow one to spend much time on things which have no interest.
    People are looking for specific bits of information which is personal or important to them. As a result they will tend to skip over things which don’t attract and hold their attention.

    Yours is an excellent article, with points very well taken.

  17. says

    I’ve printed this article and put it on my «take care about this» board, at front of me. One remarkable point for me is to write having in mind the «scanners readers».

    Thank you a lot for your unvaluable guide.

    MeetBloggers

  18. says

    I just started writing more lists – I like the idea of breaking up paragraphs and writing shorter posts. I am going to have to try that. Maybe on days that there is a longer blog posts it could be broken into part one and part two?

    Thanks for the great read! :)

  19. says

    Thank you these were great tips. I was happy to see I already do some of them and they were a good reminder to focus my style content on our site.

  20. says

    Great post! Excellent advice. I try to do that as much as possible in my blog posts and write as if it’s a conversation and less like an English essay. Hopefully that comes across well :-)

  21. says

    Most of the first commenters are scanners, not readers, although they may share a point related to the idea of the post. Striving after wind ..

  22. says

    Excellent article – the tip about photo captions is a new one for me. That’s one I’ll put into use immediately, and track the results on site!

    • says

      Please come back and let me know if it works, Rececca. Just add a comment to this post and I’ll see it. I’d love to hear if it helps increase the time people spend on your pages!

  23. says

    Hi Pamela,

    I need to be reminded about this all the time. As an ex English school teacher I continually fall back into the exact opposite. I wish there was some way to flick the switch for good. I had no idea unlearning something was so much harder than learning something. on the positive side it has made me very careful about what I learn these days.

    ~Marcus

    • says

      It’s all about tailoring your writing style to where it will be read. I suspect following these tips to write your English papers would be a bad idea …

  24. says

    I like it!

    I try to remind myself AND clients that it Is called a web BROWSER for a reason. I think most of these points apply to email as well.

    I’m intrigued by the concept of DEEP CAPTIONS, something I will definitely test in the future.

  25. says

    Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for the great reminders. We write for the benefit of our readers, so our focus should be on making our ideas more accessible.

    There is one other compelling reason to utilize these ideas. They make writing easier!

    Writing is more about organizing ideas than about writing deathless prose. The disciplines that you mention force you to organize and tighten your writing, making it easier to write clearly, and easier for the reader to understand.

    Why no deep caption on the 8-ball image? Gotcha!

    Jack

  26. says

    You have made a several good points. I’ve also noticed the greta value of subheadings. I’ve started using them after I’ve noticed that they are highly used here at copyblogger.
    I’m definitely looking forward to reading more articles about writing style.
    Greg

  27. says

    “Television, by contrast, is a “lean back and let it wash over me” medium.”
    — ha ha ha….
    Nice post. I had slowly started to learn this by my own experience. You have put it quite succinctly.

  28. says

    I love using bullet points and subheadlines in all of my post because it makes the post easier to read and also gives them the ability to skim and scan through the post if they don’t want to read the entire post.

  29. says

    Not sure if I agree with ‘stating your conclusion first ‘. It sometimes pays to state a contrary position or your opponent’s position first, and then proceed to demolish it.

  30. Graphic Design Blog says

    Brilliant article. Obviously this is real, working advice because of all the comments!

  31. says

    All good tricks to keep in mind, but nothing engages readers more than giving them the content they are looking for with personality.

    If it’s not relevant, you are wasting their time.

    If it’s not personal, it’s boring. Readers may not take action on today’s post.. but well written post that show the authentic personality of the blogger will give them reason to come back for more.

  32. says

    Awesome Post! Good advice for beginners and those who want/need more traffic.

    My favorite tips? I find that commenting on other blogs (just like I’m doing now) with thoughts that are designed to continue the conversation have helped drive traffic to my blog. People who think you sound cool and interesting in miniature sometimes wander over to see more of what you have to offer.

    My other favorite tip is to mix it up a bit. Add some pictures or video clips to your blog. While I don’t have any images on my blog (yet) I do have some video clips. Google and people like videos and images in blogs as long as they’re not too long and are relevant to your message. The Animaniacs ice cream song, even if you like it, is not appropriate unless you can tie it back into your content in a way that makes sense to your readers.

    • Andrew B. says

      No kidding! I know posting comments in a popular blog is a strategy to drive traffic to your own blog, but how that dude gets the first slot every single day is either genius or obsessively psychotic. Keep it up, though, Randy… it would be weird without you.

  33. says

    As a guy that nearly flunked comp in college, this site has the way of explaining info on writing in a practical way my profs couldn’t.
    Thanks!!

  34. Judy Anderson says

    Great post.
    It’s hard for folks to break out of the “talking to ourselves” mentality–and focus on skiming, images, captions and emotional connection. Once I mentioned to a client they needed more white space and they responded with larger margins (and denser text). It’s a hard concept for folks, but it really works.

  35. says

    Hi Pamela, great article and I’ll re-tweet it as well as share it on the Facebook. Will start using points 4 and 5 more often in my blog. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise.

  36. says

    Pamela, I agree heartily with all of your points, except #5. I think links can be useful, but every link is a distraction for the reader. She has to decide whether or not to click on it, and even though it may take only a tenth of a second, it pulls her away from your content.

    So I say any links in a blog post should be there for a very good reason, and that bloggers should decide carefully whether or not adding the distraction of a particular link is worthwhile or not.

    • says

      Agreed: the idea isn’t to load up your post with links just for the sake of it, but rather to place them in your text when they will add to the topic you’re talking about.

      Adding links to text is an act of bravery, because you’re saying you believe the page your reader is on will hold their attention enough to not lose them to the links.

      I don’t know if you saw Sonia’s comment above, but it does help soften the blow when your content is scraped, too.

      This isn’t a problem I have on my own blog, but Copyblogger content is scraped on a regular basis. All those links leading the reader back to Copyblogger make it easier to tolerate the scrapers. If someone comes across scraped Copyblogger articles, they’re full of signposts that point back to the real thing.

    • says

      I definitely agree that links should be there for a good reason.

      There are lots of good reasons to put them there, though. :) (SEO, relationships, clarifying a point, sharing somethign fabulous, etc.)

      But you’re right, each one is a tiny distraction, so it’s smart to be judicious.

  37. says

    Great article Pamela. I’m working on the ‘smaller paragraphs’.

    PS: Your Design 101 Course is great! The color chart has helped me to branch out into a couple of different colors – the ‘right’ complementary colors!

    Thank you – Theresa

  38. says

    Thanks, Pamela (and/or Sonia?)! I’m a huge fan of the bulleted list myself – I use it in almost all my blog posts. Great tips!

  39. says

    Breaking up content is so important. The internet has made everyones’ attention spans much shorter, so making each glance easier certainly helps.

  40. says

    Crap! C’mon stop catering to the short-attention-span generation. Grow up folks and learn how to read in-depth instead of expecting to be spoon fed on pap. Bulleted lists, oh puleeze.

      • says

        Formatting your posting is fine but “outline” writing lacks content and has no real value in the end. Think of it as a version of PowerPoint. How many of those have you sat though?

    • says

      Rich, don’t you find it’s harder to read in-depth on a screen? This isn’t blanket advice for all writing: it’s specifically for people who are writing for the web.

      I have nothing against long articles with no breaks: I’ve been a faithful reader of the New Yorker magazine for years, for example. But I don’t think that style of presenting information works as well on a screen as it does on paper.

      Breaking up copy like this so it’s scannable on a screen is just one way to be respectful of your readers. It makes it easier for them to process what you’re presenting to them, and makes reading on screen more comfortable.

      • says

        I’m probably 30 years older than you and I read all kinds of documents on line. In fact I read a lot of the New Yorker online (especially James Fellows — oops he’s The Atlantic)

        What I am seeing is folks are using the scannable-ness of an online document as an excuse. Hence all of those urban legends proliferating becuase no one takes there time to read.

          • says

            Hi Rich,

            It all depends on the purpose of your post. You might try an A-B test: one article formatted with block text and another formatted with all the dreadful, soul-killing devices cited here. Then check your analytics and see which one accomplished your goal. (BTW, your lovely photos make me miss NYC.)

            Jack

          • says

            Very sensible, Jack.

            I’m not quite enough of a social media Ent to have been on ARPANET, but I did join the WELL in 1989, which is pretty damned close. :)

            (I just typoed that as AARPANET, which cracks me up.)

          • says

            Well, if we’re confessing, then I’ll go ahead and add that I was the proud owner of a Prodigy user name back in 1989 and frequented the bulletin boards. Pass the Metamucil, please!

          • says

            Ha! I also had a GEnie account, which is really reaching back into the mists of time.

            And you know what? it was *exactly* the same then as it is now. :)

      • says

        And it’s not exactly unprecedented. Just about any non-fiction is broken up with headers, images, and other little things.

  41. says

    Great advice! When I come across a page on the web that has huge paragraphs and not enough white space…it hurts my eyes and head. I leave and continue my search.

  42. says

    All of these tips are excellent and are exactly what everyone should follow when creating content online. There’s nothing worse than seeing something that looks like a novel with paragraphs aligned together, making everything look like a HUGE blog of white and black.

    The best tips are subheadings and bullet points. Makes things flow a LOT better, especially for “how to” articles or blog posts.

    • says

      A lot of commercial novelists follow some of these tips as well. Particularly lots of white space — it takes the same words and makes them read “faster.”

  43. says

    Great tips Pamela. I have definitely adapted “ending the post with questions” strategy and it is working, albeit slow. I would continue to work on the other pointers you’d mention. Thanks!

  44. says

    Hi Pamela,
    I really like this post as I am fairly new to the blogging world.

    This is a great help for me to get my posts out into cyber world and hopefully more and more people will get to read them then, Thanks very much.

    Cheers Margot

  45. says

    Pamela … love your work!

    I edit the blog posts for my colleagues, and I’ve been striving to employ all the tips I’ve been getting from Copyblogger (which I discovered in October). This post nicely summarises the presentation aspects of a blog post.

    Our company blog is very technical, so this type of editing is really helpful for making the content more accessible.

    I have a question: is there anything wrong with editing published posts? I’d love to use these tips in some of my posted work to improve its readability.

    • says

      I don’t see anything wrong with editing past posts. If you increase their readability you might get more people reading them, and that’s always a good thing.

      Thanks, Mark!

  46. says

    I wrote about this a few months ago and had the same suggestions except I suggested pictures, video, anything to break up the text.

    If I go on a blog and it’s a 2,000 word post with no white space, I’m out of there!

  47. Lucinda DeVries says

    There are some great tips here that I can use immediately. I write my blog as a way to do some personal branding to emphasize my skills and experience in marketing. I am in the job market and am looking for ways to promote myself and give hiring managers a way to learn more about me. The bullets and bolding technique can be used today! Thanks for the info!

  48. says

    I have to disagree with your point “Make it Snappy.”

    I think the length and style of your writing depends on your audience and the user experience you’re trying to provide. Even before the introduction of the iPad, there were still people who read lengthy articles online, and I see that trend growing. If your audience spends time online at home, and you’re trying to inform, persuade or entertain them with witty prose, you won’t be serving them well by writing in an inverted pyramid style.

    And, in fact, what you learned in English composition class might serve you well.

    • says

      Everything depends on who you’re writing for.

      And I do try to inform, persuade and entertain, but I also try to get to the damned point. Which is not, it must be faced, all that natural to me.

  49. says

    Some really good, common sense advice here. All too often we forget the common sense and need to be reminded. The bottom line is that we need to deliver content the way our target readers consume it …

    A couple of minor additions …. Get creative with the title of the post. It should create some “curiosity”. I use google reader to keep up, and my starting point is always the title. If it doesn’t grab my interest, I move on (rightly or wrongly). Of course, you walk a bit of a tightrope here as the title is important for SEO too, behind the scenes. Balance the “steak and the sizzle”.

    Another suggestion is to simply add a picture or two. It’s a great way to break up the content …

    Cheers, Eric

  50. says

    What a great article, breaks down the basics into simple digestible tips that actually do increase readership. I’ve felt the very same frustration with writing articles for my blog, spending countless hours creating content and then seeing that the blog never gets read or shared. It can certainly be defeating. I love the tip about using deep captions, great call, I remember originally hearing about this tip in regard to the captions in newspapers.

    Now let’s say I’ve made my blog posts super readable based on these excellent guidelines, if my content is boring, it’s still not going to be read or shared. I’m beginning to think that I need to change my angle in how I approach blog post writing in order to create more unique topics.

    Thanks for the tips!

  51. says

    Great Article, It really makes a difference when you learn to use your H2,H3 tags in your post. It highlights the important copy as you stated. In most WordPress blog designs, you can change the color of the highlighted text to anything you want. Do this to make your highlighted text blend with the color scheme of your blog. It seems to hold the readers attention longer instead of using standard black bold text.

    I began doing this after reading the Aweber blog and noticing the layout they use. My bounce rate decreased a whooping 20%!

    Thanks for the post,
    Craig

  52. says

    Pamela, Thanks for some really good advice.

    Funny thing is that in some ways (not the snappy sentences and short paragraphs),some of your points remind me of the old P&G (Procter & Gamble) document writing format whereby subject and sections were individually named, main conclusion of each highlighted, information listed or numbered so that the reader could zero in on what was important and peruse its content.

    While a blog post should be a lighter read, even so, as you say at the start, it is our precious words and we’ve slaved over them, so let’s do the best job we can to make people want to read them.

    • says

      Hi Mike,

      “Deep caption” is just a funky name for an image caption that is more than one sentence. An editor used that term with me once years ago, and it stuck.

      Imagine your image is the first thing the viewer sees on your page. Under the image you’ve added 2-3 sentences that will intrigue your viewer to keep reading … you share just enough information to pique their interest.

      Because people tend to notice images and read their captions, it’s just one more way to draw them in long enough to want to read your content.

      Does that make sense?

      (And now I’m off to add a deep caption to the image I’m including on the post I’m writing for my blog tomorrow, or else you all are going to bust me for not having one!)

  53. says

    Pamela, you complete me.

    I mean, you convinced me.

    I’m going to:

    1. Break some of my larger articles into smaller articles.

    2. Revise many of my subheads so that a scan of my subheads shows the gist of the articles.

    I’ve got my work cut out for me. Good luck to the rest of you!

  54. says

    Very true! Seems like you walk the walk and talk the talk since you have 126 comments in response to your tips and most all of them favorable! Glad to have stumbled onto this blog and look forward to returning.

  55. says

    Very convincing points made Pamela. I really like how you lay them out so that they are easy to follow and grasp. I think even if one were to employ even one of the suggestions (the ‘inverted pyramid’ is my personal favorite), you would already get more people reading your copy in its entirety. Thanks again for the post. I look forward to more of your articles.

  56. says

    Awesome tips! I love anything that makes me a more effective writer and blogger. I think you’re right about the bullet points too. My more narrative posts seem to get less interactions than my bulleted ones do.

  57. says

    Great article! I just recently discovered that I need to break up the text more and use sub headings to make it easier to read and better for those who just scan the articles. (I tend to scan a lot myself) My articles used to look just like when you open a book. No wonder my visitors didn’t stay on my site:)

    BTW, What are deep captions?

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Ole,

      I went into detail about deep captions above, but we’ve had so many comments here it’s a little hard to find!

      People’s eyes tend to go straight to image captions, and you can use this to your advantage.

      Use a strong image, and write a long caption to go with it: 2-3 sentences is good. Refer to your content in the caption, and make it intriguing.

      It’s a way to draw your reader in and build interest so they’ll want to keep reading the rest of your content.

      I hope that helps!

  58. says

    Hi,
    thanks for the info.

    I love the part :
    “Make it snappy
    To write successfully for the web, you need to forget some of what you learned in English composition class.”

    I do not know english very well, so I start with with advantage!

    :-)

  59. says

    Unless I’m posting about a recipe, I can’t seem to ever keep my posts ‘short.’ And yet, I have a hard time reading other peoples’ long posts and always hit the blogs I know will give me short posts. I frustrate myself for this reason!!

  60. says

    Hi Pamela. I enjoyed the post. I agree with your tips. 3 things I’d toss in for consideration: (1) Use video in your posts every once in awhile, (2) vary the length of posts (it’s OK to publish a very short article sometimes, and (3) stop writing when you’ve made your point. I posted a link to this article on my site. Thanks.

  61. says

    I find that blogging is a different style of writing than normal. You want to break up your paragraphs more so that it’s easily scannable. I’m also learning to use more bullet points and headers to easily direct the readers.

    Probably the best posts are the ones where someone can scroll down and figure out exactly what your major points are by simply reading the headers.

    • says

      You might be right, Antonio! I’ll touch on it again in a future post.

      I’m very curious to hear how that technique works for people who try it. Feel free to post results here and I’ll see them.

  62. says

    Thinking about writing a 979-word count blog post. Most of the people I read can write long blog posts, and it makes me feel smarter to have read/written something that long, to be honest. I should probably cut my entry down eh?

  63. says

    Great post! This is the first time I’ve seen information on captions being one of the most read parts of a site -will be trying out “deep captioning” today! Thanks!

  64. says

    Hi Pamela
    I am a sixty year brazialian author. It is very difficult for me to put into practise these teachings you post here. But in my deeper mind I know you are right. I know we are in a complete different era. Now the form is much more valuable then the content.
    I’ll keep trying.
    For while thanks for sharing your expertize with us.
    Roberto

    • says

      Hello Roberto,

      I wouldn’t say that form is more valuable than content.

      The reason I wrote this post is to give your valuable content the best chance at being read and understood. If you’re going to share it on a web page, formatting it in this way will make it easier to read and absorb.

      That doesn’t make formatting more important. It’s just a technique to use when you want to make your information more accessible. Does that make sense?

  65. Jason says

    I agree with your post completely. I think that one of the biggest problems with blogs is that people write too much. It really is quality over quantity. Nobody has the time to sit and read long posts when they are only looking for particular information. I think that using some of these tips will increase the comments and shares of a blog.

  66. Gina says

    Great article. All very worthwhile suggestions, which I know work.

    But even though I appreciate the trend toward tighter sentences and very short paragraphs, I think it comes with its own set of problems.

    I think a lot of writers get smug using the short-paragraph technique–kidding themselves that they are writing well, by snapping off clever one-liners. I see the value of the shorter structures, yet I still question how I see it being applied.

  67. says

    I agree with you, Gina. This post is about making already-good content more readable. Simply applying this kind of formatting to weak writing won’t turn it into good writing.

  68. gina says

    I get the feeling a lot of people are using the sparser formatting to kid themselves they are writing well. If you turn one sentence into a paragraph, it better work.

    • says

      I see that sometimes, but not as often as I see good, interesting writing that’s not getting the readers it should because it’s a mass of gray text that no one feels compelled to dive into.

  69. gina says

    I can think of one blog that I must read. Great writing is rare regardless of the format. I see so many one-line paragraphs that sound self-conscious–so sure they are witty or clever or delivering a punch.

    I can’t count how many blogs and discussions I see that focus on how to pump out the volume and how to use strategies to target readers. Discussions about how to truly write well and with substance are rare.

  70. says

    I am going to use these tips on my company blog. I think the thing that might have been most helpful about this post is not actually the post but the link to an introduction to cornerstone content. That could really help at my company blog:

    http://blog.ampli.com

  71. says

    I used to do a lot better formatting like you suggest here with sub headings, etc. I need to get back to writing in this fashion.

  72. says

    Great post, thanks, very useful to a relative novice in the field. The headline point reminds me of a great tip from David Ogilvy, Scottish advertising geezer of the 50’s & 60’s who said ‘Once the client has his headline, that’s 80 cents in the dollar spent…’

    Cheers

  73. says

    People just gotta love list posts and this is another comprehensive and clearly informative post. I often get frustrated when I’m not getting any feedback from readers but I’m glad it’s a great time for me to access my skills and improve it.

  74. says

    Great article.

    I found especially interesting the last point, mainly because I never realized how much important is to “scan” the pages as others do.

    This “dual readership path” theory opens my mind to many new possibilities to consider when composing the documents.

    Colors apply here as well (this could be red)

    In fact, very often documents (specially squeeze pages) are not read in sequence from the beginning till the end, but jumping and scrolling up and down instead. As hunters, targeting to the most relevant information (at least I do).

    So, there are more than two paths, indeed. 😉

    Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

  75. says

    Great tips to follow. It is really interesting to know how the same content can be made more reader friendly.Ultimately that is the aim of any public post. Thanks for sharing these tips here.

  76. says

    Love this post. I myself scan through posts and try to get the gist without ‘wasting’ the time to read the entire post. Sometimes it’s hard to place a post that is short and sweet. Will be implementing some of these techniques in my future posts.
    Thank you for this information – it is very helpful.
    Tammy

  77. says

    Pamela,
    Fantantic post. This is an instant society and we definitely need to realize that when we’re writing a for them. There are so many wonderful blogs out there; we need to get their attention quickly.

    Your tips will help tremendously. Two of your points I’ve never heard before – “Structure your paragraphs in the inverted pyramid style” and “Check your dual radership Path”. These are brilliant.

    Thank you for taking the time to explain such an important subject.

    Connie

  78. says

    As a new blogger I’m bookmarking this and will remind myself to look at it after I write a post and before I publish it.

    It’s very easy just to do a mind-dump once you start writing. It makes sense to slow things down and space them out once you get into more complex information.

    I find it all too easy to rattle things off and hit publish without thinking how the end result looks to someone who doesn’t live inside my head.

    thanks for the post – makes a lot of sense.

  79. says

    This is a great post… I have however found another technique to be quite successful across most of my blogs the technique is to include quotes or grayed backgrounded sections of text. When testing this technique initially i found that when users commented it was in relation to the gray backed text.

    Also indented text works well as it gives variation to the way you read the post thus keeping the brain interested.

    • says

      Note that these rules of visual accessibility apply to all online communications. I constantly see these huge text blocks of dense text. My message to my clients is: “Would you read this? Of course not, and nobody else is going to read them either. Three words: Break it up..

  80. Jessica Potter says

    I have never thought of writing in the ‘ inverted pyramid way’. It is actually a great and effective idea!! It actually grabs the attention of the readers as they want to know all the facts leading to the conclusion statement on the top.I am going to follow this strategy from now onwards!!

  81. says

    Your tip on the “inverted pyramid” is particularly useful. I’ve tried writing this way, but I’ve often wondered if I would “lose” the reader. Sounds like I’m on the right track– thanks for the tips.

  82. says

    This is an interesting article because it basically sums up how the internet is ruining our attention span. Once users get used to reading blogs in this type of short, choppy format, we expect it from the other things we read – like novels. It’s dangerous. I’m young and I’m telling you this is the sole reason why my reading comprehension is not as good as it can be.

  83. says

    Fantastic post. We need to deliver content the way our target readers consume it … It is also a good thing to add some pictures or video clips to your blog. Google and people, like videos and images in blogs as long as they’re not too long and are relevant to your message.

  84. says

    5 top ten, 10 tips for.. the best 3.. the most controversial 76.5 .. the sexiest 7.. ok I am starting to get the idea I think. Thanks I have been putting it to use.

  85. says

    Great stuff here – you can do SEO work until you are blue in the face but if no one wants to read your content your site/blog will still fail. That being said, SEO work is still necessary to allow readers to find your content, but in the end content is still king IMO.

  86. says

    Lots of helpful tips here. I just started blogging recently and wish I could have found this resource sooner. Even though I have 50+ articles, the knowledge I am getting here is invaluable!

    Thanks for the great tips and insights :)

  87. says

    Hi, great article. In my case when writing for websites etc i also concentrate on making it visually appealing for instance back to graphic design basics, with line height, line spacing, font, font size and as you suggested the use of “bold” format. You covered a good point that readers when searching the net only quickly scan an article or website so having a “snappy headline” as you mentioned or something to get their attention from the start i think is also key, but I also think its important to ask the reader questions etc through out to get them thinking along whilst reading.

    Great read Thanks

  88. says

    Pamela,
    Nice post. But I take links as a distraction. After a blog is not a Wiki. so there is no need of having a link to a relevant text unless it is your own older post, which you can always summarize in this one, as you hold the copy rights. Adding external links I think should be avoided.

  89. says

    Nice article, Pamela.
    These Blog writing tips are actually the basics, yet, they can be quite effective in adding to the reading experience.
    I think writing in a clear, easy to read manner, can make a very big difference. I don’t think we should oversimplify our writing, though, I believe it should be formatted in a way that can be fully comprehended.

  90. says

    Love how quick this info is presented, I am a BIG TIME SCANNER. I hardly ever read posts fully and slowly. These tips are very true. I guess it depends a lot on who your audience is too.


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