If you want your blog to be successful, you will have to think about presentation. A strong layout, a regular posting schedule and carefully timed post promotion can be just as important as the quality of the posts themselves.
How internet users take in information
From the moment that a user loads your blog, you have eight seconds to get their attention. The average user will only read for that length of time before deciding whether or not to continue. This means that the layout of the page has to make it easy for them to plunge straight in. A snappy headline should be followed by a subheader that elaborates on the central idea, or by a short introductory block of text. This should be treated as a sales pitch for the text that follows, tempting them to read more.
Breaking up the text
Studies have found that internet users are more likely to read text if it’s broken into short, easily digested paragraphs. Unless you have something complicated to explain, these should normally be no more than five lines in length. Every one to three paragraphs, you should use a subheader so that readers can easily skim through and read the bits of information that most interest them.
Although it might sound counterintuitive, breaking up text like this actually means that people will read more of it. If they find their preferred sections useful or interesting, they’ll then be more likely to read the rest of what is on the page.
Another way to break up text is by using sidebars. With sidebars, you can present information designed to catch the reader’s eye but without any pressure for them to read it straight away. Sidebars are a good place to put links to other articles with intriguing titles; if your visitors find them appealing, they will visit them after they’ve finished reading the main article.
You can also use sidebars for advertising or for very short, related articles. For instance, they make a good place for top ten lists with links to other content such as reviews.
Using pull quotes
Pull quotes are quotes taken from the article itself, and can be used in a variety of ways. Longer ones – up to about 250 characters – work well under introductory images, whilst short ones can be used under smaller images, or on their own, enlarged, emboldened and enclosed in quotation marks before being slotted into the text as if they were images. You can also place them on coloured rectangles within the text.
Pull quotes need to grab attention. Where possible, they should directly communicate something important, such as a key statistic, but not explain too much about it so that the reader will have to read the text that follows to find out more.
Images and video
No matter how carefully you write and lay out your blog, the first thing that people will see when they look at the text is just that: a lot of words. Even the best titles won’t always grab their attention. You need prior visitors to know that what they’re looking at is new, and the easiest way to do that is with a large introductory image. Smaller images can then be used to break up the text.
Photos, drawings, graphs and cartoons can all work as introductory images. The most important thing to remember is that they should not be generic. If you illustrate a blog post about a new piece of software with a picture of a computer that you’ve used before or, worse still, that other people have used, it will dilute the impression made by the text.
Video can also be used as an introduction or partway through the text. If an introductory video starts automatically, it will grab visitors’ attention. It will, however, also annoy some visitors to the point where they immediately leave the site. In general, younger audiences are more comfortable with automatically starting videos than older ones are.
The ideal posting frequency for your blog will depend on your audience. It shouldn’t fall below one post per week, and if you are able to post more frequently than this, you will find that your traffic increases significantly as a result, with the ideal in most cases being to post every two days. This effect is most pronounced for smaller companies.
Old posts can also contribute to your traffic, so each one that you add will not only help you in the immediate term but will also increase the value of your blog as a lasting asset.
Announcing new posts
As your blog develops over time, you will find that you acquire a regular following of people who will make regular visits to your site or sign up to your RSS feed. In order to reach a wider audience, however, you will need to promote each post on social media. There is an ideal time of day to post in each medium:
- Twitter – 8am or 1pm to 2pm.
- Facebook – 9am to 11am.
- LinkedIn – 1pm to 2pm.
- Instagram – 11am to noon.
- Pinterest – 8pm to 9pm.
As a rule, it’s easier to reach businesses on weekdays and other customers at weekends.
Remember that you can preset posts on these media so that they will appear at the ideal times. You don’t need to be there to post them yourself. If you can be there, however, it means that you may be able to tag them with current trends or otherwise add topical elements, boosting their likely circulation.
Getting the appearance and timing of your blogging right may require effort at first, but you can set up templates to make it easier, and before long, you’ll find that you get into the right habits. It’s an effort well worth making because it will maximise the potential of your posts.