2012 01 03 203331Proper formatting is one of the most regularly overlooked best practices of content creation, but it is a major reason for the success and for the failure of a piece of content. 

On the Internet, you only have a few seconds to capture your audiences attention and show them that your post is worthy of their time. The secret to garnering more reads is by optimizing your formatting to be easy to digest.

Think about it -- you could craft an amazing piece of content with incredible educational value, but if it was one long paragraph with no photos, bolding, subheads or ways to break up text, then it would be difficult for anyone to digest.

There are a few ways you can use formatting to increase the readability:

#1 Utilize headers, numbering and bullets to their fullest extent.

When you break items down in a list using subheads, numbers or whatever you choose, you make the piece easier to scan, understand and read. And generally, easy to scan pieces allow people to immediately understand the value of the piece increasing the likelihood that they take a few more minutes to read your post in full.

Next time you read a piece of content, pause for a moment and think about how the information is broken down. Long paragraphs and no scanable pieces are a major cause of a high bounce rate.

Decrease those bounce rates and increase your reads and shares by taking a moment to make make your major points stand out. If you’re using the tiny MCE editor in HubSpot’s software, select the “More” options in the editor and select different paragraph headings like "Heading 2" and "Heading 3".

#2 Follow the mini-skirt policy

You blog posts should be approximately 200 - 500 words in length. The content should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep people wanting more. If you’ve done this properly, then your perfectly placed and relevant top of the funnel call to action should elicit brag-worthy conversion rates.

When creating a post in HubSpot, our Blog Optimizer will suggest how you can optimize your piece, and this includes the length of your content. Less than 200 words? It will tell you your content is too short. More than 800 words? Our optimizer will let you know that it might be too long to read and recommend shortening it. Pay attention to this side-bar help and your piece will be optimized to its full potential.

#3 Use bolding or some other coloring tactic to highlight major points

What do you think when you read a bolded statement? Probably that it is important and that you should make a mental note that a point is being made. Use these tactics in your pieces to drive your point home to readers.

#4 Include a relevant image

Including images is a great way to drive your point home, make it aesthetically pleasing and also once again make your content easier to digest. Look at content that is read, shared and linked to on the web - usually it has a photo that relates to the piece. Take a few extra moments and find a free and legal image to enhance the value of your post.

When uploading a photo, remember to name the file when saving to your hard drive with your long tail keyword phrase in mind. Then, when uploading in HubSpot, make sure you’ve added the ALT text to include your long-tail keyword phrase too. These minor details add to the SEO value of your blog article.

Next time you craft a post, make it a point to start incorporating these important formatting pieces into the post helping to increase your reads, shares and inbound links.

Originally published Dec 15, 2011 8:32:00 PM, updated January 13 2014