I type and think pretty fast so some of my blog posts can get quite large. I like to be complete. Especially for this site. The point here wasn't to create a collection of short daily tips, but to post less frequently but more thoroughly explained entries.
The problem with writing long posts (or web pages) is that many site visitors aren't looking for every section on your page. They usually want one specific bit of information and they want it fast. If they don't quickly see that your post provides the information they are looking for, they will leave.
If they realize your page has the answers they are looking for, they will be more inclined to take the time to read it. So it's important to make your blog posts skimmable, especially on longer entries. More readers will skim or scan a page before committing the time to read it.
Write your posts for visitors not for search engines or advertising. You want increased traffic and advertising revenue, but you will get more in the long run if you create a site primarily for visitors. The reason is simple. Better content increase visitor loyalty and increases the number of quality inbound links you'll have. That will help with both traffic and advertising revenue.
Luckily, writing web pages for visitors normally ends up creating search engine friendly HTML.
Write Good Blog Titles
This is the most important. Before your site visitor will even see your site, they will see a little blue link on a search engine result page. The text in that link is what is contained in the <title> tag of your page.
So your title needs to be descriptive and accurate. Descriptive so that they know what your post is about, and accurate because if the title doesn't reflect what your post is about, you lose credibility.
You should take some time to think about what your post will be. Think of the overall context and not just the specifics. For instance, for this post I could have chosen any of the following titles:
- Make your Blog posts Scannable
- Proper use of Headings, Strong and EM tags
- How to Organize Your Blog Posts
I chose the title I did because it relates what I'm trying to achieve, not how I'm trying to achieve it.
In most blog software, the title is the title you give to your entry. If you're using Blogger, read this post from Amanda at Bloggingtips.com on How to change Blogger title tags.
Use Heading Tags Properly
One thing heading tags do is control the formatting of the text within them. This differentiates them from other parts of the page. Your visitor can quickly scroll through your page and just read the heading tags and determine what the page is about and if it is worth reading. They can also choose to just read the section that interests them most. Remember, many people quickly scan through a post to see if it's what they are looking for. You need to make your page easy to scan to grab their interest so they decide to stick around.
Heading tags help define different sections of your site, not just the formatting of the text within them. Think of heading tags like the headings in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org. They not only help format the text, but they provide a way to identify sections. The software even knows how to create a Table of Contents based on how you defined your headings.
The same is true for web pages and search engine spiders when you use Heading Tags. The HTML Heading Tags are H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. The lower number indicates a higher level. An example of a typical heading layout is shown here:
1:<h1>Blog Entry Title</h1> 2: <p>An introduction to your blog entry that 3: gives a short summary</p> 4: <h2>The first section in the Entry</h2> 5: <p>...</p> 6: <h3>This is a subsection of the first section</h3> 7: <p>...</p> 8: <h3>Another subsection</h3> 9: <p>...</p> 10: <h2>The second section</h2> 11: <p>...</p> 12: <h3>Sub sction</h3> 13: <p>...</p> 14: <h4>sub sub sction</h4> 15: <p>...</p>
Optimal use of H1 Tags
H1 tags are the highest level and given the most importance by search engines. Many people recommend that you use only one H1 tag per page for improved SEO. I'm not sure if that's true or not but it is good practice.
Don't use H1 Tags for your Blog Title. This is a mistake I see in many blogs and blog templates. In most cases, the blog title isn't that important. I'm not talking about the title of each blog post, but the overall title of your blog that usually appears in the header section of your blog on every page.
Think about it. Most people's blog title's are something like "Bob's Random Thoughts", "Someone about Something". Chances are people aren't sitting in front of their computers wondering what someone named Bob is randomly thinking.
Even if your blog title is relevant, it's not always a good idea to mark it as the primary heading since most blog posts are more granular. In most cases, the title of your Blog will be in the URL of your site in some fashion, and search engines can pick it up there. You want to clearly define the subject of a particular post. Search engines don't think in terms of sites, they think in terms of pages and you should think of your site in the same fashion for optimizing for search engines.
Optimizing other tags
You can and should use the other tags more than once. The only rule you should stick to is to use them in order. For instance, after and H1 tag you should have an H2, not and H3.
Put relevant keywords in your heading tags
You want to make sure that the keywords you use in your heading tags are appropriate to help search engines rank your pages well as for visitors to quickly determine what the content underneath is about. Don't just use headings like "Section I", "Section I-1".
Rank your headings visually
Your heading tags should visually reflect the level. You want your H1 tag to look more important than your H2 tag, your H2 tag to look more important than your H3 tag and so on.
An easy way to do this is to change the font size and font weight. So your H1 tag might be 16pt and bold, your H2 14pt and bold, your H3 tag 12pt and bold, etc. You can use underlines, italics as well. Another important aspect is to provide whitespace around the top and bottom of the heading to give it visual separation.
Use Bold Text
As people are scanning through your page, bold text will help grab their attention. They may stop scrolling to read a phrase in bold and decide to read the whole paragraph, section or page.
Don't overuse bold text. Keep it short and sparingly. If you overdo it, then they won't notice it. A red box in a row of white boxes stands out. A red box in a row of red boxes is just another red box.
Search engines also give a little bit more emphasis on keywords on your site that are emphasized in bold or italics. To find out more view my page on Strong Vs B and Em Vs I.
Use Pull Quotes
Pullquotes are blocks of text that float within your content to highlight phrases. The text is usually bigger to make them more pronounced. When a blog reader is scanning through a page, the pullquotes will grab their attention.
If you tend to write a lot, like I do sometimes, pull quotes are another way to let a reader that is scanning your page find something that is interesting that will interest them in reading more. Use them sparingly though.
Attract Attention with Images
Images are another great way to grab people's attention. The image can be a picture or some sort of graphic. Just make sure it's relevant to the content near it.
Also respect the owner's copyrights when you choose to use a photo, illustration or other graphic. Just because you find it online doesn't mean you can just use it.
Paragraph Width and Length
Keep Text Areas Narrow
It's much easier to read text when the distance between the end of one line and the start of the next isn't too great. Especially online. The eye doesn't have to travel that far and it's easier for your reader to find the next line.
If you want, try it yourself. Print a document in both portrait and landscape mode. Then read each one. Then imagine doing that without your thumb as a reference. I find that around 500px is a comfortable reading width for online content.
Just like it's not always what you say, but what you don't say that's important, blank areas in web pages critical. Good use of white space helps make your web page/blog entry easier to read. So you should try to keep paragraphs shorter than you would in printed material. Using a narrow width keeps it from looking like one line per paragraph. Floating images in your paragraphs, or pullquotes, also helps break things up.
You'll want to use some or all of the techniques listed here. The longer your post is, the more you should break it apart visually. But don't go overboard with it. A little bit helps some of your content stand out. Too much and nothing stands out.
Just like this picture of the balls here. In the first group, the blue ball is obvious to you. In the second grouping, the other colored balls take emphasis away from the blue ball. There is so much distracting the viewers eyes they don't know what they should be focusing on. So nothing clear jumps out.
These techniques are only effective if used appropriately and sparingly. Every word on your page is important, otherwise you wouldn't have written it, but your goal here is to pull out small bits here and there to help define what the surrounding text is about.
The same is true for search engine crawlers. If they see everything on a page is a heading or in bold, then they give less importance to what you're trying to emphasize than they would have if you didn't overuse those tags.