How does your time compare?
If you find that you’re struggling to write an article, format it properly, and see the results you want, you’re in the right place.
Today I’m going to be teaching you proper article formatting, which will improve your reader’s experience, search engine visibility, and more.
These techniques are easy and quick, too.
You can apply them to every article you write and I guarantee that you will see improvements in many areas.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
What is an article?
Before we cover how to format articles, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.
Google defines it as:
A piece of writing included with others in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication.
I’m going to be covering some ideas that apply to only digital articles like blog posts, but most of what you’ll learn applies to newspapers, magazines, etc.
How to format an article
These are article formatting rules you can follow and apply to every blog post you write to ensure it reads well.
I personally use this in my own writing process to get past writer’s block and for optimizing workflow.
Create an exciting headline
One of the most critical elements of any material is the headline.
8 out of 10 readers will never make it past the title, which is what makes it so important.
If you don’t write a headline that resonates with them, speaks to their problems, or excites them, they won’t click through.
Here are some strategies you can use craft great headlines that will make reading your article irresistible.
Include the benefit ahead of time
What is the reader going to learn from finishing your article?
I believe that every piece of content needs to have a clear benefit or else it’s just a pile of fluff.
This is why clearly stating a benefit in the headline can be so powerful. It lets the audience know exactly what they’re going to gain by clicking through.
Ask a question the reader is thinking
Asking a question in a headline that relates to the reader’s experience is a great way to attract clicks.
It shows that you’ve done your research and understand their problems.
Here’s another example from Moz that shows how to use this technique.
It’s common for agency owners to struggle to prove their worth and value to clients.
This is especially the case in industries like SEO where it’s difficult to make services sound tangible.
By adding “How Do You Prove Your Value to Clients?” in the headline, they are speaking to the reader’s struggle and what they are already asking themselves.
Use numbers and stats for validation
Vague headlines won’t get you anywhere.
They’re not interesting or exciting.
This is why citing exact numbers and statistics in headlines is the better way to go.
I love reading Neil Patel’s blog and came across this title. Note he didn’t make it “A Simple Hack to Getting Likes on Facebook.”
He states specific numbers that gives his audience a better perspective on what the article is about.
Also, mentioning that one hack will generate 1,000 likes sounds amazing! Who wouldn’t want to learn that?
Make the URL easy to understand
The URL is the web address for your article.
Optimizing the URL helps both users and search engines better understand what the content pertains to.
It’s not uncommon for websites to have poor URL structures, which hurts both the user experience and SEO.
While it depends on what platform you’re on, URL format can often be changed in a flash.
Those on WordPress can navigate to the “Permalinks” page under the “Settings” tab on the left sidebar.
You can then choose a custom structure or one of the pre-made options. I recommend either using custom or post name permalinks.
Even with proper permalinks, you still need to optimize URLs by hand.
What I mean by this is to clean them up and make them simple.
URLs shouldn’t be huge strings of text, but rather condensed down to a short phrase or keyword.
I personally enjoy and have had great results with adding the main search term I’m targeting in the URL.
Some websites also opt for categorized URLs. This means that the category of content is displayed first before the post itself
It looks like this:
Some marketers structure their URLs in this fashion because, once again, it’s easier for search engine crawlers and readers to understand the premise.
You can read more about how to optimize a blog post for search engines in my previous content:
Write the hook
If the title gets the reader interested in the article, then the introduction gets them interested in the rest of the content.
This is why I suggest taking time to craft a great intro using one of the following techniques.
I wrote an entire article on writing good introductions that you’ll want to give a read after, as well.
Make a bold statement that grabs attention
Get the reader thinking and grab their attention by saying something that goes against the grain.
Let’s imagine that you’re writing an article on inbound marketing.
You could open it by saying that 99% of people do inbound marketing incorrectly or that it’s on the brink of extinction unless readers follow new trends you’re proposing.
Here’s an example from Hubspot in an article they wrote on creating an SEO strategy:
Here’s a cliche among digital marketers: Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what it used to be.
Here’s a true statement you don’t hear as often: Your SEO strategy for 2019 shouldn’t focus on keywords.
Keywords are often the bread and butter for SEO campaigns, but they’re claiming they’re not necessary anymore.
It’s safe to say that will interest many marketers into reading the rest of the blog post. I know it did for me!
This is also known as the contrarian approach as it goes against the normal belief on a certain topic, thus getting readers interested in learning why you think this way.
Cite relevant data to back up a point
I love using this approach myself.
The idea is that you cite an interesting case study, graph, chart, or piece of data that is relevant to the topic at hand.
This will grab people’s attention because it adds substance to what you’re talking about and helps persuade them.
One of the best ways to use this technique is by visiting Google Scholar every time you’re formatting a blog post.
Type in a search term related to what you’re writing about.
This will give you studies, trials, patents, and other scientific data to back up claims you make.
Having good references is more event than ever with Google’s E-A-T algorithm update, too.
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
A.K.A, are you a good source of information for the reader?
You don’t have to be a PHD wizard on the topic you’re writing about to rank with this algorithm change, but you do have to offer resources from these kinds of people and organizations.
This is especially important in YMYL niches. YMYL is an acronym for your money or your life, meaning the market is related to life-impacting ideas.
Let’s say that you were writing about personal finance and building credit. Your blog post could have a huge impact on somebody’s money, credit score, and overall life.
Thus, Google wants to make very sure that you yourself or the information you provide is backed by credentials.
With that being said, let’s touch on how you can write the body of your article properly next.
Flesh out the body
The body is the meat and potatoes of your content.
This is where you will outline the main points, strategies, tips, and whatever else you’d like to cover.
One of the first formatting tips I have is keeping sentences and paragraphs short.
This makes articles easier on the eyes and simpler to read. Large blocks of text are both more difficult to read and intimidating.
Similarly, experiment with different font types and sizes to find a combination that performs the best.
Too small, and your audience will be squinting as if they were staring at the sun. Too big, and only a few words will fit on the screen.
I find that 14 to 16 pixels is good font size and flat fonts are the easiest to digest. Flat fonts include:
- Open sans
It’s very important that you also organize articles via header tags.
Notice how in this article there are bold headers that separate all of the different ideas I’m talking about?
That keeps my content uniform and easy to scroll through and find what you need.
I suggest using H2, H3, and H4 tags to drill down into different sub-points in each article if necessary.
Other tips I have on improving the value of content and formatting for blog writing are:
- Make it actionable: Most content needs to require step-by-step instructions, tools, and resources to lead readers in a better direction. Too often is content full of fluff and doesn’t improve the reader’s situation once they’re done consuming it.
- Long form wins: It’s been proven that long form content ranks higher in Google and attracts more social shares. This is because you are able to index for increased amounts of keywords along with providing more value to the audience.
- SEO tags: Don’t forget to optimize the title tag and meta description as it’s a glimpse into the content found on search engines.
Conclude the article
The final remarks of an article should recap on the main points while also ending with a call to action.
This CTA can be used to funnel users to a product page, sign up for an email newsletter, or any other step in your sales funnel.
It’s also good to ask a question related to the article to increase engagement and get feedback from readers.
Here’s an example from Backlink to see what I mean:
Overall the conclusion should be looked at as an opportunity to sum up the article while presenting the next step for readers.
Final thoughts on formatting a blog post properly
Everybody and their mom is writing content these days. But how many are formatting them to be entertaining and easy to read?
Not many if you look around.
You can be one of the websites that readers can’t wait to come back to for content by applying today’s main takeaways.