When new bloggers come on board to contribute to the Nonprofit MarCommunity, the first thing I do is refer them to our editorial guidelines. This ensures contributors write useful and relevant content for our readers that fits with the focus of the blog. Each week, when I review the latest submission, once I know the draft content is in good shape overall, my next step is to ensure the content follows proper blog post formatting.
Good formatting helps with many things, from easier online reading, to search engine optimization and prevention or monitoring of content scraping. Here’s a checklist of eight blog post formatting considerations to look for before you hit ‘publish’.
Blog post formatting checklist
1. Is the post title clear, short and descriptive?
Does the post have a clear and descriptive title? Does the title include a specific keyword or key phrase (something potential visitors would be entering in a search engine when researching the topic)? Is the title concise enough to display properly in search engine results and translate easily into social shares (for example, could it work as a tweet)?
2. Is the introductory paragraph descriptive and does it include your key phrase?
Is the post written in an inverted pyramid format; does the introductory paragraph state the main point and tell readers what to expect from the rest of the post? Once again, does the first paragraph include the key word or phrase you are targeting (see above)? Don’t stuff the post with key phrases, but ensure the phrase appears again, early in the post.
3. Are sentences and paragraphs concise?
Writing for the web means using words efficiently and breaking up large chunks of copy. Keep sentences short and break them up if they are getting too long (give yourself permission to include sentence fragments in this context).
Paragraphs can be two or three sentences long. Even one sentence paragraphs work in a blog post.
4. Have paragraphs been broken up into bullets, where possible?
Look for opportunities to break up paragraphs into bullets. If a sentence contains a list, turn it into a bulleted list. If a paragraph includes a series of distinct statements or sentences, present them as bullets.
5. Have subheadings been included throughout?
Help visitors scan your post (and hopefully decide to read it) by including subheadings throughout your copy. At a minimum, include a subheading every two or three paragraphs. Depending on the format or type of blog post, you can even include a subheading for each paragraph.
As with your post title, make your subheadings interesting, clear and descriptive. If possible, include your key phrase in one of your subheadings.
6. Are there multiple inbound and outbound links?
When I review a post, I look for at least one inbound link (to content on your own site) and one outbound link (to content on an external site), preferably more.
Both types of links:
- Offer your readers more in-depth information on your topic; making your content even more useful and credible.
- Help visitors to scan the page – because links stand out visually – and determine what your copy offers (when link copy has been written well; see below). Links do the same thing for search engines.
- Offer another way to showcase your site’s other content.
- Can help you with content scraping; inbound links can help you to detect when this scraping has happened and at the very least, increase the likelihood that the scraped content points readers back to your site.
7. Are the links well written?
The copy inside a link is called ‘anchor text’. Does your copy have links with the text ‘click here’ or ‘read more here’? Replace uninformative link copy with well-written anchor text; words that accurately describe the content readers will find when they click the link.
8. Have bold and italics been used?
Use them sparingly, but help readers to scan the page by highlighting important points or ideas with bold or italics.
Now you’re ready to publish!
Once you’ve ensured all of these formatting points have been addressed, solid content becomes a solid blog post and you’re ready to publish. Of course, there’s more to formatting a blog post than what you do with your text, but cross these eight items off your list at the review/editing stage!
Use this list to evaluate and format the next blog post you write – or receive from a contributor. Better yet, when it comes to working with contributors, share this list with them before they start to write, along with your organization’s editorial guidelines (and here’s help with developing blog editorial guidelines of your own).
Did you find this checklist useful? If yes, share it! Do you agree with these points? Have anything to add? Comment below!