Getting to the Bottom Of It
(The Page, That is)
Pretty much everything in the entire world has been written about. Which is a discouraging thought. So how do you catch and keep a reader for your blog post(s)? Ellipsis Digital’s creative director, James Kingsley, and our copywriter, Laurie Bursch, have some suggestions…
Take it Easy with the Typefaces
Keep your type choices to two or three typefaces at most. Size, decoration (weight, underline, and the like) and colour can attract the attention you might otherwise seek through a(nother) typeface.
- Limit Your Line Length
Generally speaking, a line length of 50 to 75 characters is ideal. Start there and make adjustments based on how things “feel” when you read it. If you stop paying attention before the end of each line, maybe you should shorten things up a bit; if you can’t quite get into the content, lengthen it and see what happens. Even better, A/B test a few lengths and see which resonate best with your specific audience.
- Limit Your Paragraph Length
An unbroken mass of text is daunting to everyone. Break your post into short paragraphs that make for easy scanning, and use lots of white space. Use bulleted lists if it makes sense for your blog post.
- Consider Your Post Length (But Don’t Let That Constrain You)
Seth Godin can do amazing things in 200 words; for most of us, it takes longer. There’s one school of thought that says that shorter is better, although not Godin-short, more like 500 or 600 words: long enough to say what you want to, but still short enough that your reader commits less than five minutes. Other research indicates that posts longer than 1500 get more tweets, and Facebook and LinkedIn shares. Whether all those likes and shares mean more readers, or a whole mess of “TL/DR” is another matter.
If your post is good - well written, interesting, with good information - people will read to the end. (Think about those great movies that feel like they last an hour, or that terrible presentation that you could have sworn lasted three days.) The best length is the number of words it takes to tell your story, make your point, share your knowledge.
- Go Big
Don’t ever be afraid to make headlines, call-outs, titles, etc., bigger. Not only does it make the text more accessible, it’s a great way to signify a change of tone or pace in what’s been written.
- And While We’re Talking About Titles…
Write a compelling title (or get someone else to write one for you). This is the hook - bait it well. Try to indicate what the post is about, but do not reveal all - you want them to say, “Oooh, what’s this about? I must click this link…”
(Please note that you’ll probably write the title last. Don’t start there - you can cut off a whole lot of interesting avenues if you’re not careful.)
The second most important thing after the title is your first paragraph. If the title is the hook, this first paragraph is where you start reeling them in. Tell your reader what your post is about, and make it good.
- Use Your Voice
Remember that opening statement? “Pretty much everything in the entire world has been written about.” However, very little of it has been written about by you. If you have an engaging, honest, unique point of view, then your blog post will be interesting as well.
Be yourself. Write like you talk. Have a conversation with your reader.
- Use Images
Make your post pretty. Break things up with images. (This copywriter is constantly grateful for her secret weapon here: two insanely talented graphic designers who use their skills to make everything read better.)
Not only do good images make a post look better, they increase its readership. Jonathan Clemens experimented with our case studies, and learned that using an image at the top increased readership by 388%. (Yes, 388%. Nope, that’s not a typo.)
- Actually Read What’s Been Written
Don’t get so caught up in how things are going to look that you ignore the content you’re supporting. Read it carefully and you’ll likely find the answers to many of your questions (“What typeface should I use?” “Should I try columns with this?” etc.) right under your nose.
- Sweat the Details
Take your time to get things looking and working right—set your type well and you’re setting the stage for a great design (and reading experience) to follow.
- Sweat the Details - Part 2 - the words
Proofread. Better yet, get someone else to proofread: not only will they be better equipped to catch your typos, they’ll also be able to tell you that what you think you said is actually what you did say.
So there it is. Ten (and a half) ways to make your blog posts the ones that people read.
Does it still sound daunting? Then give it to us.
James Kingsley, Ellipsis Digital's Creative Director, has been making the print and online world more attractive for nearly 20 years.
After writing tech manuals and medical legal reports, copywriter Laurie Bursch is delighted to be writing things that people actually read.