blog formatting tipsYou can have the best copy and the smartest message in the world. But if your blog post isn’t formatted correctly or cleanly, it can significantly cut into the impression, impact and conversion potential of your content.

Based on both what we see across the web and attempt to do on this blog consistently, here are nine formatting best practices we’re particular sticklers about (and recommend you be as well).

Spacing consistency
How you choose to handle spacing is up to you. Space between sentences, between paragraphs, before the beginning and end of bulleted lists, etc. Just be consistent. Nothing stands out more than inconsistent spacing.

Bullets and sub-bullets
Similar story. If you start with carets, stick with carets. If you use circular bullets, stick with them.

Short paragraphs
Online copy needs to be read in short bursts. A reasonable paragraph in print will look impossibly long and intimidating online. My general rule of thumb is that a “traditional” paragraph in print should be at least two, and maybe three, paragraphs in online or blog format.

Links
I hate blogs that highlight every other word or phrase linked to somewhere. But if you reference a person specifically or content from elsewhere, give them the courtesy of a link. It’s a great way to get their attention and also participate in the online community (plus encourage more link-backs to your blog in the process). This isn’t as much about formatting as it is etiquette, but it’s still important.

Photos
Every blog post needs a photo, ideally something that anchors the post and will accompany it in syndication. Pick something relevant but unique, from iStockPhoto or any other rights-free source.

Calls to action and related articles
Don’t leave your readers hanging. Every good blog post should offer something next. It doesn’t have to be a call to action to a lead asset, it can simply be links to other, related and/or associated articles. Just don’t leave your readers in a dead-end.

Social sharing
Hard to believe that some blogs still don’t highlight their social channels at all, and make it even harder to one-click share the blog post across social channels. I really like Floating Social, which not only sits prominently on the left-hand side of the post but “floats” with the post as you scroll down. That way you don’t have to decide to put the social sharing buttons at the top or bottom of the post. It’s just there on the side, all the time.

Highlight guest authors at the top and bottom of the post
This is a bit of a nit, but when you allow a guest blogger to contribute something, give them the courtesy of a highlight up front and at the end. This helps them get more noticed and more followers to their own channels as well.

Always link back to anyone mentioned (individual or company) and let them know
If you do happen to to mention specific companies or individuals in your post, link to them and give the a courtesy heads-up (via email or phone) that they’ve been mentioned. They’ll appreciate it, and likely share the post with their networks as well.