Tips for bloggers #2: The aesthetics

Marketing is queen

Content is king, but marketing is queen, and runs the household.

Gary Vaynerchuk (b. 1975)

Friends,

It is true, as Bill Gates posited in 1996, that “Content is King,” but your content is specific to you and to your blog; and I don’t feel comfortable advising you on something so personal. You must be able to write well; and you must write appealingly. On a fundamental level, your content is the substance of your online identity so you should take it seriously!

These blogging tips of mine are intended for those of you who already have a handle on your content. Once you have figured out what motivates you to blog and what you are blogging about, the following advice becomes very relevant. My pieces of advice are all technical or strategic.

Now, going back to the quote from Gary Vaynerchuk above, I would classify the following guidance as marketing-oriented, although not directly about marketing, per se. Keeping in mind that these tips are intended primarily for bloggers who are just starting out, I’m focusing here on marketing one’s blog on WordPress itself, which begins with aesthetic appeal.


Aesthetic appeal – the elements

The featured image

When one scrolls through the WP reader, which is available to all WP bloggers, one can find limitless blog posts. Take a look at your WP reader and ask yourself – what are the elements of a blog post, which first draw your eyes?

The arrow is pointing to the ‘WP reader’

When one looks at a blog post, one sees the featured image at the top, but the featured image is also visible in the WP reader. Take a look at the image below:

These are two random blog posts that came up in my ‘WP reader’. One has a featured image, the other one does not. See the difference?

To me, it’s very clear that including a featured image is worth it if you’d like to increase your subscriber count. After all, from a marketing perspective, you must first and foremost be able to catch potential readers’ attention. Your posts must draw their eyeballs.

By the way, I usually spend a fair amount of time looking for featured images on http://images.google.com/ – I always try to find free images that best suit (and sometimes even enhance) my content. I take images very seriously.

And(!) ~ consider for a moment how the additional images that I’ve included above have affected your experience of this blog post as its reader.

Paragraphs

My professional experience of the last ten years has been in the field of online communications, which has given me an eye for appealing online content. When I send out e-newsletters or post articles online, I always look at the text from the perspective of an artist.

Putting aside the fact that readers are unlikely to read very long blog posts (most op-eds in English should be no more than 800-1,000 words), long, unbroken blocks of text are simply not appealing to the eye.

This is why you should look at your writing with a critical eye. Make sure your paragraphs are only several sentences long. Figure out where you can break them apart and do it. If a blog post simply must (for whatever reason) include an especially long paragraph, make that the exception rather than the rule!

Bold and italics

Likewise, on the most basic level of formatting, bloggers can bold their text or italicize it.

Don’t overdo this because text can quickly become overly busy and unappealing; but, at the same time, you should always scan through your paragraphs and find the sentences that deserve your readers’ special attention. Pretend that you are speaking through your writing… which of your written words would you emphasize in a speech?

Bold and italics draw your readers to particularly important points; and, perhaps even more importantly, they make lengthy blog posts more appealing to the eye. Regardless of the quality of the content, a bit of extra attention to text formatting will make your blog posts more attractive.

Don’t overdo it… but… do it.

Headers

I consider headers to be incredibly important, particularly in longer blog posts.

Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Therefore, they should indicate what a section or a paragraph is about. Otherwise, people won’t know what to expect.

-Jono Alderson, ‘How to use headings on your site’, Dec. 7, 2020

I have no intention of recreating the wheel so I will simply encourage you to read this article by Jono Alderson, which I’ve linked to above. He explains the advantages of using headers and provides us with several best practices.

I will, however, highlight one technical point, which you should bear in mind: the highest level heading is called ‘H1’, and it is automatically assigned to the title of your blog post. The 2nd level for headings is ‘H2’, the 3rd level is ‘H3’, etc.; and, as Alderson suggests, It’s rare for most content to get ‘deep’ enough to need to use H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing really long, or really technical content.”

Quotes, links, text separators…

In this blog post, you’ll note that I included several links, one separator (which I tend to use before every ‘H2’ heading), two quotes, and two superscripts. In addition to each of these elements being of practical use, they can also break up your text from a visual perspective.

Take the time to play around with the formatting options available to you on WordPress if you’d like to increase your subscriber count.

P.S.

On a personal level, and entirely regardless of my subscriber count, I take pride in the visual aesthetic of my blog. You should too.

75 thoughts on “Tips for bloggers #2: The aesthetics”

  1. First of all, the internet/online platform is saturated with media rich content that keep pulling the user’s attention in every direction. Too much of visually pleasing/appealing content will make the audience numb. You’ve highlighted the examples of blogposts that appear on your timeline and if I were to one who scrolled down the newsfeed, I would have chosen to read “Asymmetric Warfare” because I want something that stimulates my mind instead of feeding my senses.

    And secondly, the content is as important as the gravity of the content. The visuals will attract the attention of the readers for a short span of time but it’s the content which has the lasting impact on the readers.

    1. Neelam, regarding your first point, I can agree to disagree 🙂

      Regarding your second point, I agree with you – and that is why I mentioned ‘content’ at the outset of this blog post… but, ultimately, people need to be able to produce worthwhile content, and there’s no quick fix for me to suggest for those who don’t know how to create it.

      ❤
      David

    2. * the visuals isn’t as important as the content because the words carries immense power which will create the lasting impact on the readers *

        1. Actually… and I’m gonna barge in on this uninvited… If the visuals are so bad that the site is nearly unreadable, then it doesn’t matter if the content was done by Shakespeare or 100 chimps with typewriters. In the article the use of paragraphs and white space is given. Walls of uninterrupted text are near impossible to wade through, and I don’t care what the content is. Bright red backgrounds with black text, white backgrounds and pale text, busy backgrounds and text… Those are all visuals and design concepts. Without at least a nod to them, your content matters not.

          And a suggestion: If you’re wanting conversation in your comments section, you need more “branches” in the comment tree. It looks like you max at 3 or 4?

          1. M., regarding the substance of your comment here, I don’t think we disagree. That’s why I mentioned both images and paragraphs in this blog post of mine. There are many significant elements that I believe should be considered as facets of a holistic approach and work together to produce an appealing result.

  2. I enjoy reading this series, very helpful informative and valuable information. You share points that are unusual and very important. 🔷️🙏🏻

    1. Amber, I know these tips are very simple… but I think a lot of starting bloggers don’t necessarily think about all of these details, nor realize how important they are when all taken together.

      ❤
      David

  3. I appreciate this generous post.
    I get it. Thanks so much.
    I just want to mention, I add an image on every one of my posts. Always.
    But sometimes, they fail to show on the reader. I wonder why because I always insert them the same way. “Add Feature Image” SMH.
    Might it happen to others as well, I wonder.
    Thanks for writing this. Be well.

    1. I wonder why because I always insert them the same way.

      That’s so interesting, Selma… I wonder if it might have something to do with the size of your images – do the images of yours that don’t appear in the reader tend to be on the smaller side? Or maybe there’s something else that they all have in common… I would love to know the answer to this for my own sake 😀

      ❤
      David

      1. Thanks for taking the time to respond to me. 1200 PX is always the size I select. To my knowledge they’re all that size. But I’m an imperfect human. Those might be the times when I chose a smaller size automatically, erroneously. If that’s the case, I will be more vigilant of where I click. If that’s the case that folly makes sense. Thanks. wish me well going forward and I wish you well in all your endeavors. You’re generosity is heartwarming. Thank you. Be well. I wish you miracles.

        1. Selma – it was only an assumption on my part… I was racking my brain, trying to think of a reason for why some of your featured images don’t show up in the reader 🤷‍♂️

          If you figure this issue out, I’d love to know what the actual reason is!

          We could all use some miracles ~ thank you ❤

          Yours,
          David

  4. I don’t really pay attention to “Reader” and so failed to note the difference a feature photo makes. I sometimes use them, sometimes don’t. I believe my posts always have a header photo (guess I should check that, too!) So there’s another thing to add to my “you’ve been blogging how long and didn’t realize this?” list.

    In another life, long ago, I have an industrial design background, and I used to live with a graphic designer. Design principles hold for blog design, too. I think your key points here for ANY blogger are in readability, most notably the white space caused by paragraph breaks, using headers and making use of bolds and italics. I would add: pick a template style that suits your content (form following function!), and be aware that different fonts are meant for different things, and certainly not all of them work for body text! And color! Black type on a fire engine red background? I won’t even start to read. Pale yellow type on a white background? Nope. Teeny tiny yellow script font on a white background, ahahahahaha.

    Again, you are writing for people who want to up their readership, but all good points! I will continue to write ridiculously long posts on occasion (but WITH white space!) that I know no one is reading, and that’s ok, too. 🙂

    It is super annoying that WP doesn’t have spell checking!

    1. I would add: pick a template style that suits your content (form following function!), and be aware that different fonts are meant for different things, and certainly not all of them work for body text! And color!

      This is all important too! Thanks, M. ❤

      Yes, I am writing primarily to people who want to be noticed by others – and that's not a universal concern!

      Is your blog entirely for yourself? Do you share it with your IRL friends and family?

      Yours,
      David

      1. My blog is for myself in that I write what I want, when I want, and how I want without really considering the audience or whether it’ll have a wide appeal. However, “audience” is never absent, either. There are still things I haven’t written about because of audience, even blogging anonymously. Because I don’t really cater to an audience, my content doesn’t follow a theme. I write on a myriad of things, depending on the mood of the day.

        That said, it thrills me to no end when a post does resonate with readers. I adore comments. It annoys me when “likes” matter to me, because sometimes they do, and they shouldn’t when I’m not writing for “an” audience. I think about audience with the readability issues you are talking about here.

        So, for your readers who are looking for more followers, I would also add that the content be consistent. Does that mean it is only about one topic? Maybe. But maybe it is more consistently short, pithy views on a variety of topics. I kind of feel sorry for my followers because they never know what they are going to get.

        And no, I don’t generally share my blog with anyone in real life, with a tiny few exceptions. Most of them don’t read it anyway, unless I bludgeon them with it.

        1. I also write about a few different things, but poetry is definitely my “main thing”… but, yes, my blog most definitely has some very clear themes outside of that… You’re right about what you say, M.

          Thanks,
          David

        2. There are still things I haven’t written about because of audience, even blogging anonymously.

          I’d be curious to know more about that – if you’re totally anonymous, what do you have to lose?

          1. I wonder that sometimes, too, honestly. But anonymous or not, there is a feel of community in various sections of the blogosphere. My blog rarely tackles subjects like politics, religion or sex. I have touched upon these things a few times, but not in a way that I would think would offend tender readers. Or not offend many, too much. That I tend to be liberal in thought is not a surprise to many. I try not to push it. Why? Some of the more personal, out-there stuff, like about sex, probably wouldn’t even shock my real life readers (if they bothered to read).

            So… why not go for it? It is a good question that I don’t have a great answer for, other than I’m not comfortable doing that to others, even anonymously. Which is weird because I can get really graphic about personal things like mental health.

            I have been known to post something (and this goes to my Flickr as well) that I knew would offend some people. Most recently I gave my own blogging tip of how to increase (fake) followers and that is to simply add the tag #ketodiet.

            PS. I believe in readability so much that I extend that to comments, too. As you can see: paragraph breaks.

          2. A good answer, M. 😀

            Thank you ❤

            I believe in readability too – I try to use bold and italics in my comments, not to mention that I like to include quotes too!

            As you can see: paragraph breaks.

  5. Sound advice, David, thank you. One of the things I enjoy about writing a blog post is playing around with the formatting.

  6. May I (with huge respect) suggest that the images be made ‘clickable’ for viewing in a larger size. This might be useful, well actually, it would be useful, for readers with visual difficulties.

          1. 1) click on the image itself in your editor
            2) click on the link icon at the top of your editor
            3) select ‘media file’, ‘attachment page’, or insert your own link.

          2. . . . or maybe 😱! lol Anyway, I’m going out with the dogs first. 😆

  7. On your subject of featured images, it’s funny because while I use them on my regular blog, on the site I just started with KK we go for skipping featured images in favour of an image block at the top of the post. We both preferred how a post appeard in our site, that way.
    On headers, I jump straight in at H5.
    And, did you see the “read more” block? I like it. It shows an abbreviated version of a post, along with a “continue reading” link. I like it because I think our posts should offer readers a quick get-out if they aren’t interested. Obviously it has limited use for things like poetry, but I’m trying to use it on other posts (when I remember).

    1. the site I just started with KK

      Pete, could you please share a link to that?

      did you see the “read more” block?

      I hadn’t noticed that block, but I *love* that function, and I’ve used it in the past on other blogs. Now that you’ve brought it to my attention (I was actually just thinking of it as I was writing yesterday’s blog post on a different subject), I’ll definitely make use of it going forward 😀

      Thanks!
      David

  8. thanks; will look a the free pics when I have the time. 🙂 – also I feel a joke coming on about queen and king size beds and so-called double beds 😀

      1. David, when you have time, could you say something about tags? It’s dawning on me I have woefully neglected them. How can I repair that, arrived at post 400 or so? Going forward? Thinking not so much of increasing traffic as having a system to find/integrate posts/thoughts in bigger projects/picture? Also, I’d like your thoughts re aesthetic of my long post ‘world at heart. I had wanted to post each section separately, but the wretched editor threw spanners in the works – I could not find a way of cutting out sections after i had entered the whole as drafting… Well, that’s jut my world today. Good Shabbes to you and yours.

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