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How to format your article content to maximise reader engagement

Great content attracts readers. But when a new visitor lands on your article page, you only have around ?? Seconds to convince them to stay. How you format your blog post/feature article can make or break that relationship in an instant.

Most users don't know who you are

For a large proportion of your visitors, this is their first encounter with your site and brand.  Over time, it wouldn't be unusual for 70% or more of users to come directly from a search results page.  So making a good impression, and quickly, is important.

Luckily, there's a lot of research and some well established science around how users read on-line.  Jakob Nielson's "F pattern" research and conclusions are as valid today as they were 10 years ago when he first expounded his theories.

The key thing to usnderstand (and if you think about how you're reading this you'll agree, is that users don;t read online they scan.  So formatting your content with this in mind means you'll have the best chance of capturing and keeping their attention fr the maximum time.

Content with a purpose

This sounds obvious but what is the purpose of this piece of content?  What do we want the user to do as a result of reading it?  If you can't describe this from the start then your content doesn't have a clearly defined purpose.  Any effort put into formatting it is just prologing the agony before the user disappears back to whence they came.

Don't waffle!  Stick to oe topic and cover it as comprehennsively as you can.  Google loves content that is specific because it makes it easy to match up with the queries people type into the search bar.

Get to the point

The inverted pyramid of news rules.  Tell them the answer, then explain how you got to the answer, then provide some background material for those that are still interested enough to read this far.

Laying it out

Have a look at this article, here's what you'll see:

  • Title
  • Imagery
  • Intro paragraph
  • Body text
  • Headings and sub-headings
  • Bullet points
  • Call to action

Let's take a closer look at each of these and how we can use them to our advantage.

Titles

In the days when you had to pay for an Evening Standard, Londoners would walk past hundreds of news stands declaring "Famous actor dies" or similar.  The idea was sound, you only found out which actor had croaked if you stumped up the 25p.

Those tactics don't work online.  In search results you need to tell the audience who died and idaelly how as well.  

Be clear about what it is about Famous actor dies Doesn’t work Which actor?

Imagery

Make it high quality and relevant Or not at all

Intro paragraph

The hook, this needs to tell the user why they should continue to read

Headings and sub headings

Two levels If not, tyou’re making it too complicated

Body text

Short paragraphs Easier to keep track of on the screen.  Links Adding not diverting

Bullet points and lists

Call to action

Primary Secondary Tertiary So what? Call to action Download checklist

Other considerations

How many words?