I read many blog posts every week. As a social media marketer, I’m always on the look out for great content to share and for inspiration. Reading many different blogs help me do that.
One common blogging mistake that I often see is people not breaking their blog posts up visually. There’s nothing like big chunks of paragraphs that make me want to move on to something else.
I am not alone. Studies show that the TLDR (or tl;dr for too long; did not read) syndrome is real. Most people simply don’t finish reading online articles.
That’s partly because we have shorter attention spans, but that doesn’t mean bloggers can’t do anything about it. It all comes down to formatting. Your blog posts are not academic papers, so stop formatting them as such.
Here are 8 tips on how you can increase blog reader engagement by visually breaking up your blog posts.
1. Use images.
Images help convey your story in a way that words are not be able to. In addition to providing a visual break to your blog posts, images can also encourage social media sharing (especially on Twitter and Pinterest) and improve search engine optimization (SEO).
Don’t be afraid to use multiple images. Use one in the beginning of your article, and then one or two in the body. Consider using a variety of images: for example, use an animated GIF, a meme, an infographic and a photo you took.
If you’re looking for pictures, several websites provide free stock photos.
2. Embed videos, Slideshare presentations and audio.
Similar to what images can do for you, videos, presentations and audio can support your points.
YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are great sources of videos, while Slideshare (perhaps the most underrated B2B content marketing platform today) houses great thought leadership presentations.
Don’t forget about audio as well: Soundcloud, Spotify and even YouTube are great sources of audio to embed in your posts.
3. Use headings and subheadings.
You sweat every single word in your blog post, but readers on the go are more keen to skim what you’ve written than to read it in detail. Don’t take it personally. In my case, for example, I usually read during my short commute to work. If a blog post takes more than 10 minutes to read, I look for the article’s main points instead of reading every single word.
Headings and subheadings can help quickly communicate your message. And when used appropriately, they can also help with the flow of your blog post.
Make your headings more impactful by making them actionable, specific and descriptive. For example: the heading “Actionable items to increase your landing page conversion” is a lot better than “Conclusion.”
4. Embed social media posts.
Most major social networks now allow bloggers and publishers to embed posts. For instance, if there’s a tweet that’s relevant to your article, you can embed that by getting the code from the Twitter website. Facebook posts, Pinterest pins, Google+ updates and Instagram photos are also embeddable.
LinkedIn posts are not embeddable yet, although I can see the professional network introducing this functionality soon.[googleplus https://plus.google.com/100232897053936299039/posts/JiyZxZVY7wY]
5. Add “Click to tweet” links.
Adding links that encourage people to share your article has multiple benefits. The obvious one is that it makes it easy for people to share your piece. But when treated correctly, “click to tweet” links can also provide a visual way of dividing several paragraphs.
If you’re using WordPress, simply install the “Click to Tweet” widget. For other CMS systems, the Click to Tweet website allows you to create short links that you can then add as hyperlinks in your article.
6. Add pull quotes.
Similar to “click to tweet” links, pull quotes can be used to highlight top insights from your article. Intriguing words of wisdom can stand out simply by putting them in a pull quote. If you’re quoting a big chunk of text, using pull quotes lets readers clearly see that you took that text from somewhere else.
Most CMS systems and themes visually highlight pull quotes, so use these strategically to enhance the formatting of your article.
7. Use shorter paragraphs.
It is not a crime to have one-sentence paragraphs.
In fact, one of my favorite blogs, Copyblogger, often starts off with a short (but emphatic) paragraph.
Short paragraphs give your readers’ eyes a break. They can also emphasize your most important points.
Don’t over-do it though. If most of your paragraphs are only one to two sentences each, that might be a sign you need to flesh out your points more. Don’t compensate logical reasoning for brevity. You want both.
8. Use bullets and numbers.
This one’s a no-brainer. Because of the way they are usually formatted on various CMS systems, bullets and numbers make your articles skimmable and more visually appealing.
I suggest using bullets when you have a list of more than 3—otherwise, stick to other tactics to break up your article. Numbers are great for step-by-step instructions, but they’re generally a good alternative to bullets as well.
Share your insights on how to break up your articles
Visually breaking up your blog posts is more than just about making your blog posts pretty. It’s about being reader-centric and making it easy for your audience to digest what you wrote.
Bloggers, I want to hear from you! How do you visually break up your articles? Share your tips below or tweet me at @kcclaveria.
Photo credit: Picjumbo