Good Practice Content Formatting

Good Practice Content Formatting

As we all know, Google is putting an increasing focus on content quality, value and variety in its constantly-evolving search engine algorithm. It’s now more important than ever that the content you create is as good as it can be for both users and the search engine bots. There are a number of tricks which can be used in order to improve the effectiveness of your articles for both the reader and Google, thus improving your authority, increasing chances of social sharing and improving your SERP rankings to make more money. We’re going to look at article formatting and some of techniques to make sure your content is delivered to maximum effect.

Pre-article Preparation

Before you start writing, decide on an angle and do some research. The majority of people reading this will have a law school education from which to draw valuable information. Before legal marketing, my background is in journalism for non-legal print publications, so I’m not so lucky and have some catching up to do in that respect. However, things like researched stats and other third-party data can also make for good content. The more time spent researching and digging deep into useful facts, the more value you’ve got to input into your article. Ideally, an article should be between 600 and 800 words but really, it’s about making the article as long as it needs to be for the purposes of making the point.

Personally, I find it useful to draft down some bullet points on paper; some of the key things that I’d like to convey in the article. Spending a few minutes getting ideas down usually means the draft flies out a lot more fluidly. Secondly, I use Google Docs for drafts as it saves the document in real time. This means that if you experienced a power cut, your PC shutting down or some other type of disaster as you’re writing your article , the work is saved as you write it and information won’t be lost.

Google Docs is like Microsoft Word but automatically saves as you write and is accessible from anywhere

Using an HTML Editor

If you’re planning to send an article to a friend, colleague or fellow Circle member, it’s best to do all of the HTML formatting on the article so as to allow them to easily copy and paste it from you, right into their content management system (CMS). Take the draft that you just created in Google Docs and copy/paste the whole lot into your WordPress or other CMS’ HTML editor so you can do the formatting.

Click here to use HMTL. Clicking on visual will show you how the article will look on a site

Header Tags

Using header tags (or ‘H tags’) is good formatting practice for your titles. Make sure all of the words start with a capital letter. Header tags make the intentions of the article clear to the search engine bots and also to your readers. Having H tags for titles means readers can easily see what the content is about and it’s also great for breaking up the different sections of the article. The first header tag should be ‘h1’ and the HTML code is pointed out in the image below. All subsequent tags can be ‘h2’ tags, also such as in the below picture. If there’s a point which you’d like to add at the end of the article which perhaps is incidental to the crux of the matter, you could use the same method but with ‘h3’ or ‘h4’ tags which will appear smaller.

This is how to use H tags in HTML

Other Tools in Your Arsenal

Other tools which can be used are bullet points, numbers, strong (or bold) headings, underlines and italics all of which are at the top of the CMS window. I try to use as many of these in this article to make things clear, varied and interesting as I’ve attempted in this example. These tools are effective in conveying snippets of information and they also break up the format of your articles, thus allowing for a less intimidating page of text for the reader. It makes it more digestible for people and, hopefully, is better for the search engines. At a glance and as an example:

  • Bullet points
  • Underlines
  • Numbers
  • Bold words
  • Italics
  • Colours

To get bullet points in HTML, just switch to ‘Visual’ mode, highlight and click the bullet points icon

Added Images to Your Articles

Using your own images
Uploading images is another great way to add some variety to your content. There is also research to show that articles with images both keeps the reader on the page for longer and increases the click-through rate which can only be a good thing your traffic figures.

Click on the upload image icon in your CMS. Once you select the image it will be uploaded onto the server where it can be edited. In WordPress, you will get a number of options for the image. It’s important to always add an alt-tag which should be a description of the image itself, allowing the search engine bots to know what it is as they can’t ‘see’ an image. When copy/pasting the HTML code from the CMS to send to someone later on, the image will appear in their webpage just as it would in yours.

Here are the things to look out for before inserting images

Using Creative Commons Images from Flickr
There are many images floating around the Internet which can be used under the Creative Commons license. This means that you can include images which other people have taken as long as you give them sufficient attribution via a link. Flickr is a great way of doing this as it’s also an authority source and you can go to the advanced search here. When on the page, click on the Creative Commons button at the bottom, search for the images, select the one you want and then copy and paste the text snippet, pasting it straight into the HTML editor in between the two paragraphs where you want the image to appear.

Just copy and paste this snippet into your article and you can use great images from Flickr. Make sure to get Creative Commons ones in the search

Authority Links and Proofreading

Adding in authority outbound links is another important step. If you haven’t used any authority sites as sources of the article, Google search for further reading content from ‘.gov’ sites or major news publications to add at the bottom of the article. The benefit of doing all of this formatting after the first draft is that it gives you a bit of a break from the words before a final proof read. The longer the delay in between the initial draft and the proof read, the better you’ll edit it as the brain has a tendency to skim over the work to fill in the blanks rather than point out to your eyes any mistakes which you might have made.

Link out to useful, relevant authority news articles, government web pages or established and relevant organisations

Attaching in An HTML File

In some instances, copying and pasting HTML code from the CMS into an email can mess things up a bit when sending it to your recipient. Just in case, it’s good practice to use a .txt file to attach to the email and send that instead, as seen in the picture below.

Note that you want a text file here, and NOT an MS Word document

Remember not to use a MS Word document as this can also add in extra bits of unnecessary code to your HTML copy/paste. Once all this is said and done, you’ve got a great article to send on to the recipient.

Posts by Jim Loxley

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