Whether it's for Inc., the Firebrand Group Insights section, or elsewhere, I'm always writing. And if you have a blog, you probably want to increase traffic and maximize engagement with your audience, right? The best way to do that is to not only share ridiculously captivating content but also present it in the ideal way. It's not as tricky as it sounds. Here's my 8-step checklist to strive for blog perfection:

  1. Craft a short, snappy headline.

Headlines are read more than any other text on a website. You could have the most fascinating article in the history of the Internet, but if you don't have an eye-catching headline, the reader will just keep scrolling--or click away. Get your point across in a clear, direct way. Shorter is better: Statistics suggest that readers tend to absorb the first and last three words of a headline.

  1. Use an opening hook.

A great headline will grab the reader's attention; a strong intro will keep it. If you can catch someone's interest in the first 3 to 4 sentences, that person is more likely to read the entire article. Research by Buffer finds that the best way to introduce a new post is through storytelling; in fact, sharing a compelling narrative can attract 300 percent more readers. If you're unsure how to begin a post, lead with a personal anecdote.

  1. Include photos and other visuals.

Forty percent of readers will respond better to visual information than plain text. We're naturally drawn to visual content, and photos and graphics are an essential component of social media marketing and user experience. While a well-written post is important, images have a quick and powerful impact--and are easy to digest and share.

  1. Limit the number of characters per line.

Help your readers process text, especially key segments of your piece. The best way to do this--without skimping on content--is to place an image next to a particularly important phrase. Don't be afraid to play around with formatting: Boost the font size of your opening paragraph and see how it looks.

  1. Incorporate subheadings for better readability.

We've all heard about our society's ever-shrinking attention span. It happens all too often: A reader's mind starts to wander halfway through a post. But if someone sees an interesting subhead farther down the page, it will likely prompt the reader to continue.

From readers' perspective, subheads make the material easier to absorb and help them scan and skip to the sections they find most appealing.

  1. Keep the length close to 1,200 words.

After analyzing 100 top-ranking blog posts, Blog Pros found that long copy outperforms short copy, with an ideal length of 1,149 words per article.

"As we strive for leanness, we shouldn't sacrifice the inclusion of data or links to our sources," says Glen Gilmore, the noted social media expert and principal of the Gilmore Business Network. In fact, longer articles are usually well researched and have a lot of supporting data, which is why they're shared more frequently.

  1. End with a call to action.

Ask yourself, "What's the takeaway for the reader?" If you can answer that, you've done your job. "Encourage sharing through strong visuals, snappy data points, and a clear call to action that includes your company handles and any relevant hashtags," says Dina Fierro, the blogger behind the well-known Eye4Style fashion and style blog.

  1. Edit, edit, and edit again.

After your post is complete, read it again--slowly--and have someone you trust read it as well if you're able. Even after you publish the piece, read it again and fix small typos that have invariably sneaked past you. "Have you ever thought twice about sharing an article, but it had a few key typos, so you felt embarrassed to?" asks Amy Vernon, the Prize-winning writer and journalist. "Don't give people any extra reason not to share your posts."

Which of the eight steps have you used most effectively on your blog? Can you think of anything I've left out?

Published on: Oct 21, 2014
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