How to Format Your WordPress Blog Posts (Insights Based on 2,500,000-Words of Experience Publishing Content)
Nearly 1.4 million WordPress blog posts are published every single day. And that’s great news(!) … somewhat.
On the one hand, it means that you can keep your job and continue building all those sites that will then host all those millions of posts.But on the other, and particularly if apart from building sites you do a fair bit of publishing as well, this makes the environment a bit tough. Knowing that mind-bending number – 1.4 million posts daily – how do your posts stand out? What makes them worth being noticed?
Yes, the information quality itself is one way to stand out. You probably spent hours writing your latest post, right? But does your blog reflect that? Is it easy to read, easy to skim? Do the main points jump out of the page, urging the reader to read more? Do you format WordPress blog posts correctly?
In fact, 40% of people will just leave without even scanning through your post (aka they will “bounce”). Of those left, most will read only half your content, if you’re lucky.But you can make things better:
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to format WordPress blog posts, based on over 2.5-million words of experience publishing content.
In case you’re wondering, that’s 4 years of writing 3-5 posts per week, around 2-3k words each. Here’s what all those words have taught me:
WordPress formatting fundamentals
To master any craft, you must first understand the fundamentals.
Even if you don’t become a master, getting good at the fundamentals will put you leaps and bounds above the average blog.
Formatting adds white space, which makes pages more scannable. Content is easier to consume if it’s in small groups, with important points called out.
There are a few ways to format WordPress blog posts:
- Short paragraphs (no longer than 3-4 lines)
- Subheads every 300 words or so
- Bullet lists and numbered lists
- Bolding and italics
- Quotes or called out text
- Internal links – linking to other content on your site
In addition to these formatting fundamentals, you should also add strong and relevant imagery.
I don’t mean stock photos – I’m talking about high-quality pictures that add value, like charts, graphs, screenshots, or high-resolution images. More on imagery later.
Pro Tip: When designing your blog and trying to format WordPress blog posts, don’t forget to ensure everything looks great on mobile as well. Google is penalizing non-mobile-friendly sites. Even if you do get found, people will leave if it looks ugly or doesn’t function well on their phone.
Now, let’s break these fundamentals down!
How to format WordPress blog posts
Now you know what the fundamentals are, but that doesn’t mean you can just go into a post and start formatting like a master. In this section, I’ll break down each of the fundamentals in further detail. Let’s dive in:
#1: Break up large paragraphs
Let me give you an example of a huge paragraph.
If you even read that paragraph, I’ll be amazed. For one, I rambled on. For two, it’s ugly.
Instead, break up your paragraphs! Let’s try breaking up the long one above:
If I just keep writing, I can easily keep my thoughts going and have a lot to say. Sure, it takes up less space, but…Long paragraphs don’t give the eyes a break or make the content easy to scan.
Who wants to ready a wall of text? Have you ever seen one and went the other way?
Long paragraphs make it look like the writer is rambling on or writing a book.
This isn’t a book. We’re writing for the web! That means small paragraphs; each containing a single idea, before moving onto another paragraph for the next idea.
Which one did you prefer reading? Which one did you take more away from? Now you understand the difference a little formatting makes!
Go through your posts and ensure your paragraphs are no longer than 3-4 lines at most.
#2: Add subheads every 300 words
Subheads help the reader skim your article and get to the section that most relates to their needs as quickly as possible.
Additionally, 300 words is just a ballpark figure. You can go above or under that; it’s merely a number to shoot for to keep things looking nice.
For example, instead of placing a new subhead after 300 words, you could add an image or a block quote to break up the sections.
When writing your subheads, you can go one of two ways:
- Call out key information, detailing exactly what the section will be about
- Use copywriting tactics to entice your readers to read the section
The first method is practical, useful and easy, the second increases reader engagement and time on page, but is more difficult. The best writers will combine the two.
For example, this post uses the first method. Each of my subheads simply tells you what to do. They’re not particularly sexy.
If I were to combine the methods, I might instead make this subhead something like “Increase time on page and engagement by 200% with subheads”.
I didn’t do this because this is a more straightforward guide, but it would likely pique your interest and get you to continue reading.
Check out this post by Brian Dean for more advanced SEO copywriting strategies.
#3: Put your main takeaways in bullet points
When you skim a post online, what are the first things you look at? After images, I’ll bet it’s headings and bullet points.
However, when writing bullet points, there are four things to keep in mind:
- Try to keep each point consistent in length
- Don’t add too much information to one bullet point
- Make sure the info you’re bulleting is actually valuable
- Use bolding at the beginning of your bullets if you have to make them longer. However, if you do this, frontload the bullet with the most important info and follow point one: Keep it consistent! (Meaning, don’t do what I just did here.)
Pro Tip: If you really want to get fancy with your design, you can add custom image bullets. For example, Robbie Richards uses little light bulbs as bullet points in his articles.
#4: Use bold and italics to call out key points
Bold and italics are an excellent way to draw the eye and create emphasis. When using them, however, don’t overuse them. I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche: If everything is bold, nothing is bold!
During my writing process, I often complete an entire article, then go back and bold the important bits. Sometimes they come to me while writing, but the editorial process is what really makes a post shine.
I also like to use italics to call out something I want to say that doesn’t directly flow from my last paragraph but is important to my overall point. Or for quoting others in my article.
#5: Add block quotes or called-out text
Notice in the first section about breaking up paragraphs, I used a box to call out the text. I see it as a way of making it obvious where information is different.
Not only does this call out important information, but it also acts as a break from regular text (even though it includes more text).
You see, our brains work by “chunking” information. When something is visibly different, it makes our brain’s chunking process easier, helps us to scan the information and even increases recall.
Is adding a quote simple? Yes. But, in the words of Paul Rand:
Oh, that reminds me: Use click to tweet boxes.
#6: Use great images to put the cherry on top
I promised you I’d tell you more about using pictures in your articles, so here it is!
So, we already know not to use cheesy stock photography. You also shouldn’t use crappy clipart images you pull off Google (not only do they usually suck but you’re also stepping on copyrighting laws).
Instead, stick to graphs, charts, screenshots, infographics, and high-resolution photos.
Why do you need great images? Maybe these stats will convince you:
- Researchers found that color visuals increase the willingness to read by 80%.
- People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.
So, where does one get these incredible images?
- For high-resolution photos, check out this full list of places to get free images (and how to use them)
- To take screenshots, try Lightshot
- To create graphs, charts, infographics, and other fun stuff I use Canva and Venngage, plus if you want to embed live charts straight in your WordPress blog, check out the Visualizer plugin
What if you see a perfect graph on another article you’d love to use in your own work?
You can, but be careful. Make sure you’re giving them proper credit. Even then, you may still be breaking copyright laws. If they ask you to take something down, do it.
What if you know what you generally want an image of, but don’t have time to create it or aren’t quite sure what you want?
That’s where Google comes in! I use Google to find free-to-use images through their advanced tools. Here’s how:
1. First, go to Google and search for an image you’d like to find.
2. Don’t use these images! First, go to Tools -> Usage Rights -> Labeled for Reuse.
3. The resulting images (while drastically cut down from the original number of results) are free to use as you please to format WordPress blog posts! (Be sure to still give credit, just to be safe.)
One final tip on imagery: It pays to hire a designer to create the images for you. CoSchedule does this very well on their posts, which always look great. Plus, you can see a similar trend in use at the ThemeIsle blog as well:
Now that you’ve formatted your post and even added some valuable images, are you done? Well, no. There’s one last thing you must do with every post you write…
#7: Have a round (or three) of edits
Whether you’ve been writing for years or you’ve just gotten started, every single writer on this Earth needs at least one round of edits on their work. Don’t believe me? Listen to Dr. Seuss:
He’s not alone. Stephen King believes you should “Kill your darlings” (aka get rid of your good writing to keep only your great writing).
The verdict is in: You need to edit.
Editing is a part of the formatting process because it’s the act of editing that makes your work flow better and allows you to shorten your sentences to only the essential bits.
How do you edit? Here’s my process:
1. Write your full draft, beginning to end.
2. Leave it to sit for at least an hour, preferably a day, before you go back to it. This gives you a fresh perspective when looking at your work.
3. When you’re ready to edit, read your work out loud. This helps you catch spelling and grammatical errors, and gives you a better feel of the flow of your article. Ideally, you want your post to sound conversational in most cases.
4. Edit while you read it. Chop unnecessary words and even sections that don’t make sense or add much value. It’s hard, but the better you get at this process, the better your work will be.
5. Leave it to sit some more if you can, then go back and read it a final time to ensure it’s where it needs to be. If not, rinse and repeat.
A few examples of nice formatting
To help you get an idea of what great formatting looks like, here are some examples to help you draw inspiration:
- How to Optimize Google Analytics for WordPress
- 6 Straightforward Steps to Create Bookmark-Worthy Content
- How to Create an Extraordinary Social Media Strategy for 2017
The goal of writing a blog post is to get people to actually read it, right?
With the formatting tips and tactics you’ve learned in this post, you should see an increase in your time on page, a smaller bounce rate, and (if you track scroll depth) a greater scroll-through rate on your articles.
Not only that, but content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without, and visually appealing content is more trusted and shared than big walls of boring text.
Content with relevant images vs withoutViews withimagesViews withoutimagesViews0%50%100%150%200%
|Posts||Views without images||Views with images|
(Chart by Visualizer Lite.)