When it comes to producing written content for your website or blog, there are a number of rules and guidelines you can follow to ensure you get the biggest returns on your investment.
In this post we will take a look at some of those rules to show you how you can make your content more engaging, rank better in the search engines, and help grow your audience and build your brand.
The advice covers important aspects of a post or page, including how to write great post titles, the benefit of rich snippets, what the ideal post length is, and other design and formatting choices you must make. While creating high quality content is perhaps the most important thing to focus on, if you don’t pay attention to the other elements that go into publishing a post, then you might not be making the most of your hard work.
Learn to Write Killer Post Titles
Being able to write enticing titles for your articles can have a massive impact on the amount of traffic your site receives. These post titles are displayed everywhere your content is shared or listed and if they can catch the attention of your target audience and pique their interest, then there is a good chance your site will receive a new visitor.
As your post titles are also displayed on your site – in recent post titles or sidebar widgets – a good title will also help increase the number of pages each visitor views while on your site. This in turn increases the time on site metric and pushes down the bounce rate – both important numbers which are used by Google to determine where to rank your site in their results.
Fortunately, when it comes to writing those post titles that will see your click through rates soaring, it’s more of a science than an art. There are certain formulas you can use as a template to simplify the process of quickly coming up a compelling title.
One easy to remember formula is “X for Y” which translates as “Best Dog Food for Fussy Poodles” or “10 Top Plugins for Saving Time and Money”. This not only explains what the content of the post will be, but also how the information will help the reader.
If you want a fully comprehensive toolkit for writing titles for your content then this infographic containing 71 terrific templates for blog post titles ideas is well worth saving for future reference.
So even though there are templates and formulas you can follow, the best way to find out what works on your blog and with your target audience is to do some testing in order to increase conversions.
If you do want to test different titles for your posts then the free Title Experiments plugin can help you do just that. Simply enter multiple titles for a post, and they will be shown to your audience to find out which one gets the highest number of clicks.
This type of testing only works internally on your site, rather than when your content is listed elsewhere, but it can still help you get better at writing irresistible headlines.
Use Rich Snippets to Stand Out in Google
Although Google recently stopped displaying post author photos in their search engine results next to each enabled entry, you can still use rich snippets and structured data to make your site stand out in the listings and get more clicks from those searching.
Depending on which markup format you choose, the information that is included along with your post’s title and description can vary from media playlist controls, review ratings, product information, opening hours, and a lot more.
If you want a simple way to start adding snippets – a few lines of useful information – whenever your site is listed in the search engines, then there are a few WordPress plugins that can help you out:
So if you want to increase the click through rate of your site in the search engine results pages then adding rich snipes with these plugins is a quick way to do so.
How Many Words per Post? 1,000 vs 2,000 Words
When it comes to determining the optimal post length, in terms of words and the time it takes to read, there are two perspectives you need to consider: SEO and that of your readers.
The first is related to what length or word count of a post results in a better rank in search engines such as Google. While the second refers to what post length gets the best response from readers, and at what point does the post become too long and readers either avoid your long form content or abandon it half way through.
Well according to research by serpIQ that saw them analyse the average content length of many top 10 results in Google, there is a significant increase in length from tenth to first place.
This can be interpreted as the more you write the better chance you will have of ranking well in the search engines. However, it’s important to remember that quality is taken into consideration when evaluating a web page, so don’t just inflate your word count for the sake of it.
It’s also important to understand what the optimal length for your reader is, and at which point they start losing interesting in your long form content.
Well Medium did a test on the content on their site to establish what the ideal length of a post is from the perspective of their readers.This research revealed that the ideal length of a post is 7 minutes or 1,600 words according to how their visitors engaged with their content.
So it appears that content over 1,500 words not only stands a better chance of being ranked well in the search engines, will be read more than shorter posts, but it will also get linked to more according to this research posted at Moz.com.
With a 2,000 word post having a better ROI than 1,000 words, if you are not regularly writing long form content for your website or blog, then you should start thinking about doing so, or hire someone to take this task off of your hands.
Formatting, Styling, and Fonts
Once you’ve crafted your perfect headline, added rich snippets to your post, written your long form content, and chosen your images, it’s now time to turn your attention to how your content is presented and formatted.
The impact of paragraph width is one aspect you might not have considered when setting up your theme and choosing a font. However, a shorter paragraph width of 40 to 55 characters, or eight to 11 words, “ensures maximum comprehension and the appearance of simplicity” according to Derek Halpern at Social Triggers.
For the designers out there, this translates to a width of about 250-350 pixels, although be sure to take into account font size and face.
While that might sound very thin for your main post content column, Derek shares a little trick for applying this narrow width to the first few lines of your posts in order to entice your readers with the perfect paragraph width, before reverting to a more practical width once they are hooked. This post over at Baymard Institute backs up Derek’s thoughts on this matter.
Font choice is another very important formatting and styling element to consider. When it comes to selecting a font type, using a simple font actually makes your content appear easier to understand. This is compared to a fancy font, which will make readers assume your content is more complicated than it is and will therefore be more difficult to understand.
However, using a fancy font can have its advantages, as Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan also discovered. As it makes things seem more complicated, if you are promoting services or products that you want to appear complicated to your readers, then such fonts do have their place.
When it comes to font size, as Derek Halpern is keen to promote, size 16 is the new size 12, with smaller fonts making your content look less trustworthy and more difficult to read.
If you want to discover the perfect typography for your website then the online Golden Ratio Typography Calculator tool can help you out.
Remember to Measure, Test and Experiment
While the above advice and practical steps you can take to make your blog and its content more engaging and get more traffic have worked for others in the past, it doesn’t mean you will see the same results.
Although some things are universal, for others it will depend on your website and its audience. Thankfully for WordPress users, there are a few great tools for tracking how your readers interact with your content, and some that give you the ability to run experiments on your website, comparing and testing different versions of your content.
Split Testing Plugins for WordPress
WP Experiments and Nelio A/B Testing are two tools for WordPress that allow you to create two or more version of your content, which are then automatically each shown to a portion of your visitors to determine which one converts the best against your goals.
This could include writing and then comparing two completely different posts or pages, or just comparing two slightly different wordings on a call to action button.
These plugins will run in the background and test your content until the best performer emerges.
Heat Map Analytics for WordPress
While Google Analytics can tell you a lot about how your visitors find your site and then interact with it, if you want to find out even more about your users’ experiences, then a heat map tool can be very revealing.
By logging each time a visitor clicks on your site, a heat map can show you which buttons are being clicked and even which non-interactive parts of your website are catching the attention of your visitors.
Clicky is one such heat map service that integrates seamlessly with WordPress, giving you real time analytics for your website. Those looking for a free solution will find the Heat Maps tool from the SumoMe a worthy alternative that is very easy to setup. The SumoMe apps for WordPress also include free tools for growing your mailing list too so are definitely worth taking a look at if you’ve not done so already.
Conclusion and Key Takeaways
There is an art to writing great blog posts and website copy. But as we’ve just seen there is also some science that can be taken advantage of to make that content as successful as possible.
To summarise what has been covered in this post, we can take away that post titles deserve a lot of attention, rich snippets are an easy way to make your content stand out in the search engines, long form content is more effective than shorter posts, and getting your formatting right can be crucial to ensuring your visitors stick around to consume your content.
By using the testing tools available for WordPress you can see how this advice applies to your site and its audience, and optimise your content for the best possible results.
If you know of any other tips for making content more engaging please leave a comment below.