Published on by Digitally Squared

Engagement is quite the buzzword in content marketing right now. It’s signalling an evolution that’s affecting both content marketers and their audiences.  It’s time to get more strategic with our content, both in terms of how often we publish, what we publish and how we get results. An excellent insights as show below as engagement rates are in decline specifically because there is so much content being published, probably described as “content shock”.

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There are a lot of different factors that have to line up to enhance engagements on contents you produce. Sometimes, an focus on increasing engagement for plain old text-based content, e.g, blog posts, eBooks i.e, text-based content is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to videos, images and interactive content.  According to the Nielsen Norman Group, a globally-respected usability firm, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” It can help to have fewer words on the page, but 200-word blog posts don’t work very well. In fact, Google slightly penalizes pages with less than 300 words.

Here are 11 of the most commonly used, most effective readability hacks that will also help SEO on all blog posts:

1. Subheaders

Subheaders are also excellent for SEO. That’s because they’re typically set in <H2> or <H3> tags, and search engines are set to recognize those tags as holding subheaders. Also over-optimizing pages is not a good idea. It’s based on a psychological principle of “chunking”, which is to break up information into more manageable pieces.

Like this:

07042016

Versus this:

07/04/2016

Finally, subheaders work well for readers who scan. They show what each section is about, so readers can zoom in on the information they care about the most.

2. Short paragraphs

Short paragraphs are especially important for mobile readers. Because their screens are so much smaller, lines of text get wrapped more often. So even a paragraph that looks short on a laptop can become long once it’s read on a mobile phone.

3. Bullet points

Bullet points are also ideal for lists. If subheaders were for sections and paragraphs are for ideas, bullet points can be honed down to single words.

Bullet points also work to counteract that “wall of text” problem. If you’ve got a spot in your copy that needs some air, see if a list of bullet points would fit. Just don’t make them go on too long – one of the rules of chunking is not to have the chunks be more than 5-7 items. That’s about the maximum number of things the human brain can comfortably grasp.

4. Trim sentences

There are plenty of tools to help you do this. The Hemingway Editor is one. It’s free, user-friendly and great for showing you how to make your writing clearer. Use it to improve your content’s search engine optimization, too: several recent studies have revealed that readability is probably a ranking signal.

content readability is a search engine ranking signal

5. Use plain language

It basically just means to write as clearly as possible. Part of that means cleaning up your sentences, but another part is to simply use words and terms people will understand.

6. Use bold and italics

These aren’t game-changers when it comes to readability, but they can help. Bolded words or terms help readers scan. They pop up a bit from the rest of the text, and so that gives you another tool for attracting or directing readers’ attention.  Italics attract attention, too, but I wouldn’t recommend using them very often. These are a good tool for emphasis, too.

7. Block quotes

Quoting people is a great way to back up an opinion. It can also be good for making friends with influencers and conveying authority, should that be your goal.

8. White space

We’re starting to shift into typography issues with this one. But this applies to SEO and advertising, too. Some companies publish content based on the advertising model. Because they make their money from ads placed around their content, they can get lured into squeezing ads into every available space. That tightness makes for a poor reading experience and it is sometimes wildly distracting too.

Add some white space for your readers’ eye to rest, as it enhances to engagement factor on reader’s part.

9. Line length

There’s an old typography rule for line length: Keep it between 50 and 75 characters. Any longer and people will start to have issues reading Any shorter and they’ll be jumping from line to line more often than is comfortable.

10. Font size

This one’s incredibly important for mobile users. Text that’s too small to read on a phone will drive them away. So what’s the minimum size? About a 14-point type size, though some experts recommend 16 points.

According to the 2015 Searchmetrics Search Ranking Factors study, font size is indeed a ranking signal, though not a major one. It appears the search engines prefer 14-point type.

how text formatting affects search engine optimization

11. Images

According to Searchmetrics’ Search Engine Ranking Factors Study, images help pages rank. Searchmetrics says the top 10 listings concept have, on average, ten images a piece of content. Of course, visual content is also very popular right now and for good reason, it can telegraph it’s meaning. Infographics can often explain a situation or a fact far better than words will ever do, in fact adding a few small, simple infographics to a blog post is a fantastic way to increase shares and to convey complex ideas to readers.

Conclusion

If there was any doubt about how meshed content marketing and search engine optimization have become, we can only have to look to how content formatting affects SEO rankings. As Google and Bing get more and more focused on user behaviour and content marketers get more and more focused on engagement which is nothing but user behaviour, it seems like the two disciplines are overlapping more and more.

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