With an attention span average of fewer than 8 seconds, fighting for people’s attention is a tough job these days. Every day we’re bombarded with posts, memes, videos, adverts, promises, and content created to distract us.
UX signals like bounce rate, click-through rate, time on page, and a few other things are all a major ranking factor in Google’s eyes. It’s hard to ignore the importance of a well-crafted design that is not only appealing but actually engaging.
That’s why it’s crucial that once you have your reader’s attention you know how to keep it and how to encourage them to take action by consuming, sharing, commenting, subscribing, and ultimately, converting into a paying customer.
Over four million blog posts are published daily, meaning it’s your job to ensure your articles rise to the top by providing insanely useful, creative, and engaging posts.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the most optimal design elements for maximum blog post engagement.
Why Blog Post Design is Essential for Engagement
If you think content is key and design doesn’t count, think again. Studies have shown that a whopping 48% of people say that website design is the most prominent factor when deciding the credibility of a business.
Needless to say that Google is tracking everything. So, the amount of time a visitor spends on your page, how they interact with it, and whether they then go on to explore more content on your site or simply click off make up important UX signals for google’s algorithm.
The fact of the matter is that writing a great post is not enough if you can’t hold a reader’s attention long enough for them to read it and want to learn more.
Let’s dive into some simple strategies you can implement today to design your blog posts for maximum engagement.
1. Push Your Content Above the Fold
Users often leave pages early. In fact, most visitors leave a webpage within the first 10-20 seconds of landing on it. One thing you can do is to make sure that your title states precisely what the searcher is looking for.
Put it like this: Title=What do they exactly get.
Let’s take my post about how to get free gift cards as an example:
As soon as you land on the page, you get the early title in bold stating exactly why you should stick around. And if the headline isn’t enough, you have the few lines used to prompt the visitor to start reading immediately.
It’s tempting to have a huge image dominating the top of your post with your headline in big bold letters as Images help with content visualizations and we’ll talk about them in a bit. However, ensure that the first two or three lines of your article can be seen above the fold, whether on desktop or mobile.
People are far more educated on how websites work these days and most will scroll, but there will still be a percentage who land on an image, wonder where the content is, and click away before reading anything.
Make it easy for your visitor to want to read more by making the first line or two so enticing they can’t help but read on. Here’s another example from Kreative Copywriting:
2. Break Up Your Content Into Easy to Read Sections
53 percent of the world web traffic came from mobile in 2019. And in case you hadn’t noticed, mobile screens are getting smaller. The iPhone X, for instance, has less than a 6 inch screen. Besides the fact that small screens are not conducive to huge walls of text.
Adding to it the fact that reading as a whole is down 7 percent, you need to make sure you’re not building walls of text that nobody is going to end up reading. See what I mean:
With the advent of Twitter, Tiktok, and so on, we’ve become used to chunked down bite-sized information. Anything too unwieldy and our brains shut off as we go looking for the next distraction. To avoid that, ensure you:
- Keep your paragraphs short and succinct.
- Keep your sentences within the paragraphs short and easy to read.
- Don’t be afraid of white space which makes your article easier to consume and skim.
- Use plenty of headers and subheaders to break your content up into relevant sections.
3. Use Skim Stoppers
According to a study by Hubspot, 43% of readers skim blog posts rather than consume them thoroughly.
To stop a reader in their tracks and get them to consume more of your post, you’ll need to use more skim stoppers.
Here’s what I’m talking about;
- Use Images and create Infographics that are great skim stoppers – did you stop to look at the graph image above as you were skimming down this post? If so, that’s a great example of a skim stopper.
- Giant quote images that draw attention:
Bonus tip – make these shareable with a link back to your post.
- Use bullet points or numbered lists – this breaks up the text and makes for interesting summaries or tips your audience is likely to stop and read.
- Create tweetables by using plugins like ‘click to tweet’, again breaking up the text and serving as a linking strategy to attract more views to your post.
- Install a pin it button on your website so people can pin your images to Pinterest as it’s a good engagement signal for Google. You can find many social sharing plugins that provide this feature. I personally use JQuery Pin It WordPress plugin.
4.Embed Videos in Your Post
According to a study by Wyzowl, 80% of marketers say video increased the dwell time on their website.
It makes sense. If someone watches a video embedded in your article, they’ll stick around longer, will likely consume more of what’s on the page, and look for more information on your website as a whole.
That’s the power of consumption.
There are a couple of ways you can embed a video into your content. Firstly you can create your own video explaining a strategy by video rather than by text. Upload that video to youtube and embed it into your site.
Or you can find a video someone else has created and embed that video into your site, similar to an external link out to another resource except this time you’re keeping them on your page.
So how do you embed a video into your post?
First, scan your posts and see if you can find a place where a video would make sense.
Specifically, you want to embed a video that helps explain something that you’re not explaining via writing. It’s pretty similar to when you link to another post within your content.
For example, I embedded a video in my podcasting guide that explains how to edit using the Garageband software:
The key is to find the best video for the perfect spot in your page. That ensures that they stay watching and forget about the back button that will get them back to the search results.
Lastly, add context before and after the video. Don’t just toss a few random videos around your posts and call it a day. Make sure you add a sentence or two about the video before it appears on the page. This will help contextualize your videos and make them more relevant.
5. Include a Table of Contents
The average blog post length is up 41% than it was 3 years ago, so If you’ve ever started to read a post, got part way down, only to start skimming to the bottom to see:
- a) how long it is and b) where the specific part you’re searching for is, before clicking off because you can’t find the information fast enough, you’re not alone.
The goal is to create stunningly valuable articles that your audience loves you for, but for that, they may have to get a little long sometimes and the reader may only be looking for one specific piece of information from the whole post.
The best way to avoid this happening and to give the reader what they need is to include a table of contents at the top of your posts.
Of Course, there are other formats of table contents you can use. One format that is very effective is the hyperlinked table of contents. And with google actually favoring long-form content as studies show that the top-ranking blog posts are in the 2000+ words range, a hyperlinked table of content makes the browsing experience smoother.
Here’s an example of a hyperlinked table of contents from G2:
The hyperlinked table of content in the left sidebar helps the reader:
- Quickly jump from one part to another and choose their own parts of a topic and explore it.
- Quickly find the needed area of focus and take the confusion out of their mind.
- Share the specific portion of the guide without having to share it in its entirety.
- The table is sticky, which means that they can scroll down and it’d still be available.
All of that amounts to a great user experience.
You can create a table of contents manually if you know a bit about code or if you’re on wordpress, you can simply use one of the many table of contents plugins available for WordPress users.
Table of Content For Mobile
Mobile is even more complicated to deal with when it comes to browsing as you only can scroll down and you don’t have the same flexibility of desktop browsing.
A creative way to solve this issue is The Wirecutter’s expand/collapse phone design that makes browsing their mega guides very simple.
Orr Shutul, a product designer at Wirecutter, stated that their mobile table of content increased their stay on page time by 26% compared to the old one and almost closed the gap between mobile and desktop.
Another great example of a great phone blog post design is the ListenMoneyMatters expandable table of contents which stays at the top of the page:
The point is that you need to figure out the best way to make your content easily digestible on all mediums, and there’s more than one way to go about doing that.
6. Use Bucket Brigades
You’re probably asking: “bucket what?”.
Bucket Brigades are connector words designed to make the copy ‘flow’ and keep the reader intrigued.
It’s a copywriting technique designed for sales pages but now used widely for SEO purposes (i.e., keeping people consuming your content for longer).
In his extensive SEO Copywriting post, Brian Dean from Backlinko uses them throughout his content and gives some great examples of exactly what they are including terms such as:
- On the other hand:
- Here’s the deal:
- But here’s the kicker:
- You might be wondering:
- This is crazy:
- You want to know the best part?:
Use your own bucket brigades to keep your readers attention and encourage them to keep moving down the page.
It’s a great way to let your readers catch their breath in between paragraphs and not be in constant reading mode.
7.Summarise the Main Points of Your Post at the Beginning
Used a lot in news sites, this technique summarizes the salient points of your article linking to the main subheads included.
This allows the viewer to get a quick overview of what’s included and jump to the section that’s most relevant to them.
8. Create Sticky Intros
Think of the introduction to your post as your film trailer.
This is the moment that the reader decides whether to watch the movie or move on to something more interesting.
Most intros are long, rambling, irrelevant, and boring.
Keep your intro short, interesting, on-topic, and give the reader a glimpse of what to expect when reading the whole article.
A genius at introductions, which is why he’s probably one of the best selling authors of the last decade is Mark Manson, author of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’.
He uses a selection of different intro types including stories, questions, interesting facts, outrageous claims, and more.
Every intro is structured to ‘hook’ the reader into the topic at hand and encourage them to read more.
Pro tip – Create your intro, then write your post, and then go back and improve your introduction. Make your introduction the very last things you write, knowing that’s your opportunity to draw the reader into the rest of your post.
9. Create Sensational Subheadings
Think cat memes, clickbait headlines, and outrageous videos. This is what currently captures the most attention online these days.
This means there is no room for boring headlines that no one really wants to read.
Always remember your visitor doesn’t actually want to read your post. They want the result your post will give them.
Think about it. If someone searches ‘How to Lose 30lbs In 30 Days’, they’re not going to read your post thinking, ‘Wow this person writes really well! Their use of metaphors and similes is quite unprecedented and the way they enticed me to move from one sentence to another was genius!’.
Of course not. They don’t even want to read through the whole post. All they’re after is the secret ingredient that will help them to lose 30lbs in 30days.
Therefore headlines such as ‘A Review on Dietary Related Strategies’ won’t be as enticing as something along the lines of ‘Bananas Reduce Belly Fat in Just 3 Days!’.
Here’s a great list of over 400 power words to help you create sensational subheads (see what I did there!)
10. Optimize for Mobile
According to Statista, in the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices generated 50.81 percent of global website traffic.
This means that likely half of your blog visits or more are happening on a mobile device. Search engines like Google are also giving preference to mobile devices first. So if you really want to ace SEO, that’s the first thing you should go for.
If your posts can’t be read properly or your images aren’t optimized, not only will Google penalize you in the rankings but when you do attract a reader they’ll be quick to click away.
These days it’s easier than ever to optimize for mobile as most website themes have mobile optimization built-in.
However, be sure to test your site and individual posts to see if the text is big enough to be read easily, the images are resizing correctly depending on the size of the device, you don’t have any pop-ups or forms that can’t be closed down with a click of the finger or any other odd bits of code or information that shouldn’t be where it is.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply write an article, publish it as is and the whole world would read and share it?
There’s no doubt content is King but in this day and age of distraction coupled with the sheer amount of content we’re faced with every day, it’s not good enough just to write a great post anymore.
You need to provide experience in order for people to stay and engage.
So read through this list and next time you write your post, go back through line by line adding in the images, quotes, tweetable, sensational subheads, bucket brigades, videos, contents, white spaces, and anything else you can think of to make your post scream out: ‘Read all of me, I’m going to change your life!’.