Writing content for websites is quite a bit different than it would be for a newspaper, magazine, book or even a newsletter. While the quality of the content itself is the most important thing, the formatting of the page is also absolutely essential. There have been some proven techniques which help get people to read more than just the first few lines of a website, and learning them is essential for any writer.
Whether you’re a freelance writer, producing content for clients, or you have your own blog, you should always try to format the content in the best way possible. People aren’t going to be likely to read through, much less share, what you write if they don’t read it. Fortunately, formatting content for the web isn’t that difficult, and with a little practice it will be like second nature.
Tips for Formatting content for the Web
The following tips were developed based on my experience as well as the recommendations from some of my clients. Some of these clients are (extremely) successful with online marketing and getting people to read their sites, so they know what they are talking about. Much of this may seem like common sense, but if you can even learn one new trick, it can dramatically improve the way your writing looks, and the number of people who read it through. So, without further ado, the tips:
- Use Sub-Headlines – Sub headings or section titles are a great way to break up the page so it looks less like a wall of text, and more like something the reader can easily get through. They also give readers a way to quickly scan through the content to see if it is something they want to read, so make sure the headlines are both descriptive and eye catching.
- Use Lists – Bullet-point lists like this, for example, help to further break up a page into more manageable chunks, which readers typically prefer. You can format a list like this, with the main point bolded, and an explanation after. Or simply use the bullet points only.
- Images – Images should be included with most types of web content. The image can be something which will help get the point across, or just a cute picture of something which is quasi-related to the topic at hand. The point of the image is often more to cause a change in the formatting so it doesn’t look the same all the way down the page. Typically, you’ll want about one image per 1000 words, unless the images are a critical part of the post, in which case use as many as are needed.
- Shorter Paragraphs – This is one which I often struggle with. Using paragraphs which are shorter will add more white space, which has been shown to increase the amount of reading people do. 2-4 sentence paragraphs are ideal.
- Bold, Italic, Underline – Use these formatting tools, but DO NOT over do it. If you start having words or even sentences formatted using these things in every paragraph, they will lose their meaning. 1-3 bold items per 500 words is about the limit (this applies to using bold for emphasis, not for section headers or bullet points). Italics typically has a specific purpose, so don’t use it unless it is appropriate. Underlining can get confusing because many people will think it is a link, so only use occasionally.
- Colors – Using colored text can be helpful in certain circumstances. Just keep in mind, however, that different colored text can be difficult to read for certain people. Sticking with traditional colors like black text on white background is typically going to be best.
- Font – There are thousands of fonts available to choose from, but the handful that have become standard are the standard for a reason. People can read them easily, and they can be displayed in all browsers without a problem. Unless you have a compelling reason not to, always use a standard font.
If you can think of any additional tips and techniques for formatting content for websites, please post them in the comments, and I’ll update this thread. I hope these simple formatting tips will help you get your content read by more people!