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Formatting For Increased Traffic, Conversion & Engagement (and how I grew one of our site’s page traffic by 9275% by re-formatting it)

Note: The tool I used to reformat our post and earn 9275% more traffic to our site is called Thrive Content Builder (you can read the review here). If you have any question about the tool feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

When I was still a student a few years ago, I was looking for lazy ways to improve my grades. I also loved the idea of understanding what a good or bad paper is in the head of my teachers.

​One thing I learned at that time is that people judge you more on the appearances than they judge you on your character to start with. You see it all the time right? If you're well dressed, you can go in most places, no matter what your net worth is.

More...

If you're in dirty shorts and flip flops with long hair though, you may be a millionaire and still not get in medium range venues without extensive justifications. Because of that, I started learning how to use Microsoft Word extensively and deliver impeccably formatted papers.

And not surprisingly, without changing at all the way I was producing my papers, my grades went up 10-15%. The only thing that changed was that I followed the layout the best students were using for their papers.​

Why formatting is probably even more important than your content itself

Now I know what you're thinking. What does that have to do with online marketing and authority sites?

Well, if people are slowly catching up on the type of content they should be creating. One major thing that most people are still heavily overlooking is content formatting.​

If your content is a dull wall of text, people WILL get distracted / not get impressed by your stuff and you'll lose out on potential conversions and revenue.​

Let's get into the skin of the typical blog reader:

  • ​Half of the time they're on a tiny mobile screen, in transport or somewhere with a lot of external stimulus to distract them.
  • They have modern days ADHD and run after the new Facebook/Twitter/Skype/Whatsapp notification they get every minute or so.
  • They've seen it all, incredible info graphics, free web apps, 3D movies etc. They're used to media rich highly engaging, easy to consume content.

All this means that if the content doesn't look appealing withing a few seconds, your readers will bounce somewhere else and never see how good your content even is. Ultimately, attention is the ultimate scarce resource and formatting earns you the first 30 seconds of it.

With the raise of mobile and notifications tilting all around us, the average attention span is decreasing drastically.

The good news is, there are also elements of formatting that can directly increase your bottom line and how​ much traffic you're getting. I'll get to these in a minute.

Interesting fact:

17% of web page views are under 4 seconds. [Tweet This]

What is good content formatting?

While I can't say I have the absolute answer to that question, here's what I've learned on the subject by running my own authority sites:

  • Your content must be scanable. Most people don't read full articles and you should help them find what they're looking for.

  • Your content should be media rich. Nobody reads walls of text online unless they're your regular readers.

  • Your content should contain offers and call to action. You need to guide people towards the next steps. It's often the occasion to monetize as well.

These objectives translated into the following edition guidelines for our sites:

Formatting Editorial Rules

  1. ​Paragraphs should be no longer than 3-4 lines for better readability.
  2. Use bullet points to describe processes and steps. (see what I did there)
  3. Break down the articles with sub titles every 3-4 paragraph.
  4. Use / Create relevant images, videos and sound files to enforce your point but avoid generic images.
  5. Link internally and externally to relevant resources when applicable.
  6. Include low engagement call to actions throughout the content. (Share, Email opt in etc)
  7. Include a final call to action, this should be the most meaningful call to action to you.
  8. Break any of the rules above if this makes the content more engaging and readable.

Pro tip:

Putting important call to actions on their own line rather than in the body of the text almost doubles the click through rate. (Credit to Pat Flynn for this one)

Learning from those who do it right

​Let's first look at someone who cares about content formatting very much: Matthew Woodward. Actually, some of the actionable tips below come from him.

Despite the fact that he doesn't talk about it, Matthew has very meticulous formatting and makes sure his posts do not look like walls of text and are easy to read. Not surprising that his average time on site is over 5 minutes.

The main reason for that is that usually between the middle or the end of his posts, he will recommend products to people and he needs to make sure a maximum of people are following his thoughts until that point.

Actually increasing the amount of people scrolling down results in an increased revenue for him without the need to grow his traffic.

Case study: reformatting a post from basic to advanced formatting

I know you guys love practical case studies so I've dug around Health Ambition and found a post we've heavily reworked back in november.

The post used to be a good SEO performer that slowly shrunk in traffic and rankings to end up at the bottom of page one getting very little traffic.

​We therefore worked on a complete overhaul of the page, we re edited the content, transformed a bit of it and most importantly made it look super nice and professional and follow the editorial/editing rules mentioned above.

We re promoted the page on Pinterest which allows us to gain some momentum around it and we started observing user metrics. Here's a screenshot of our analytics:

​blue line = after reformatting, orange line = before reformatting

​It took a bunch of work to revamp this page but we were super pleased with the results. We were able to retain people 224% longer on the site and the bounce rate decreased significantly. We also ended up making a lot more advertising revenue from this page.

The increase in traffic just after the redesign I'd say can largely be attributed to the Pinterest promotion we did, actually, the post went completely viral over there. Here's the current pin count at the time when I write this post:​

Did the formatting help this happening? I can't say for sure but I'm confident it contributed to it a lot.

​How about the SEO traffic? Well, in the next 4 weeks, the page went from being #10-11 to taking slot #2 above sites like the BBC, Live Strong and Fox News for a keyword getting 15,000 exact searched per month at $5 CPC plus the long tail.

Was that SEO win directly due to the reformatting and re editing of the content? I highly doubt it.

However, the fact that the post went viral on social media is probably highly correlated to the fact that it looked dashing. That in turn has turned into other blogs linking to us which in turn gave us higher rankings.

If you look at the analytics now, this page gets over 18,736 visits in the same 3 weeks period. That is a 92x increase​ in traffic for this page in just a few months. The time on site fell down to 5:25 but it is to be expected with such a steep traffic increase and social traffic surge.

​unique page views of the same page in the last 3 weeks

This experiment led us to create​ more advanced articles with advanced formatting and while they did not all reach the success of this case study, they've all done very well and are a very worthy thing to spend our time on when building our authority sites these days.

Technical implementations of advanced formatting

Now that we know why formatting is important and what the main rules of good formatting are, the next logical question is usually: How do I apply this kind of formatting to my content without spending hours on it.

Nowadays, most WordPress themes offer plenty of short codes that ​allow you to somewhat create decent formatting but most of the time, these are cumbersome to use.

I personally use Thrive Content Builder (review) to create most of my pages and posts. Thrive is real What you see is what you get page builder and you do not need to keep reloading your pages to see what they're going to look like.

I've tried dozens of "visual editors" for WordPress, this one is the only one that doesn't require any abstraction and offers enough flexibility to build any kind of page you like. Here's a video overview where you will see me build this post using Thrive editor.​

Click Here To Learn More About Thrive Content Builder

Pros of Thrive Builder

  • Real What you see is what you get for WordPress.

  • Tons of pre design elements you can simply drag&drop into your page.

  • Different styles for each element to better fit the style of your site.

Cons of Thrive Builder

  • Design options can sometimes be inconsistent.

  • Selecting elements can be a bit cumbersome on complicated layouts.

  • No visual control over margins/padding etc.
    edit: the function was just added to the editor.

Wrapping it up

Believe it or not, a well formatted average piece of content tends to do better than a poorly formatted master piece. This is why I put a lot of care into trying to make our posts across all sites look above average.

​This inspires trust, keeps people on your page, gets them sharing and take action. The only issue with advanced formatting was that it used to take a ton of time to build beautiful posts and it could not always be justified economically.

Now that something like Thrive editor is out there, it's incredibly easy (and fast!) to look better and more trustworthy than your competitor​s.

Gael Breton
 

Hey I'm Gael, one of the guys behind Authority Hacker. I make a living working from my laptop in various places in the world and I will use this website to teach you how you could do the same.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 21 comments
Andrew - May 5, 2014

Honestly…. I’ve never read a sales post like this that immediately has me convinced I need a content builder.

GREAT stats.

GREAT product (which I can’t afford but, you best believe I already started my search for a free short code editor)

Great post!

I will be linking to this post on my blog soon! Really great post… I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment like this….Ever…Seriously

Reply
Gael Breton - May 5, 2014

Hey Andrew,

Thanks for the comment and glad you liked it. I’d say the post is not just sales, it’s more me sharing my experiences and the products I use to achieve the results I share. I also make some money for recommending products and that kind of justifies the time spent on the blog. I would never recommend something I haven’t used extensively myself.

As for free editors I’m not sure there are many and they’ll be far from the quality of thrive but you may want to check Code Canyon for cheaper alternatives (which I think are not as good as Thrive by a long shot)

PS : I was actually reading your post about the email confirmation growth hack this morning, nice one, I’ll probably try it out when I change autoresponder ;).

Reply
    Andrew - May 5, 2014

    Awesome! Maybe you can throw up a post about it and link back to me 😉 My blog has no friends right now!

    Also – I am already writing a post about this post (and giving you credit) BUT, the twist is – This is first post on my blog with short codes so it’s actually a post for a NEW post about the analytics of content with short codes VS no short codes (verify e-mail hack)

    If that makes sense 🙂

    Reply
Gael Breton - May 5, 2014

Hey Andrew, sure I will, but only after testing it on a few thousand people at least so I can provide some relevant data like if people were more engaged with a personalised auto responder vs a generic one.

Great, looking forward to check out your new post.

Reply
Hannah - May 22, 2014

Just a note.. in your analytics screenshot post-content-revamp, it actually looks like your bounce rate increased from 76% to 82%, which is a negative increase (hence the red arrow.) Right? You want the bounce rate to be decreasing.

Reply
    Gael Breton - May 22, 2014

    Hey Hannah,

    Yes the bounce rate did increase.

    A bounce in Google analytics is basically a person who saw a single page on your site unless you spec it otherwise.

    People view 1 page on your site for one of these 2 reasons:

    1- they didn’t like what they saw and left.
    2- they found exactly what they needed and they left.

    In this case, the bounce rate didn’t increase as a direct result of the redesign. It did increase as a result of the increase in popularity of the page.

    As you can see, the page is now getting a LOT more traffic from social and search.

    Most of these visitors search for something/find something interesting, click through and leave after they found what they wanted to find/read about.

    If our rankings went down and the page stopped being shared again and again our bounce rate would almost certainly go down but honestly we’re better off with the traffic ;).

    Hope that makes sense.

    Reply
      neale - April 10, 2015

      Great post as always 🙂 The whole idea of taking a post and revamping it, is probably the most underestimated method of increasing revenue.

      Sorry bounce rate is not as you described. I have a one-page site built to test some things, http://www.bicycletouringtent.com/ It has just one page, no about me, privacy page, nothing just one page!

      It has a bounce rate of 26.32% “I also have no fancy analytics stuff” If what most people consider to be true “people viewing just one page = bounce” my bounce rate would be 100%

      The part of the equation that most people miss is,
      “if the user interacts with the page = no bounce”

      I use a lot of in #page, #section links, I’m fairly sure when a user clicks on one, this is counted as an interaction, explaining the low bounce rate. I did read this somewhere on an oficial google type post.

      If you guys are ever up in Northern Thailand give me a shout, realy enjoy your posts 🙂

      Reply
        Gael Breton - April 11, 2015

        Hey Neale,

        Thanks for dropping by! We actually were in Chiang Mai 6 weeks ago for our yearly planning trip. Too bad we missed each other. Love the page and agree, people completely ignore formatting when its pretty much as important as the content itself.

        Reply
Rob StGeorge - October 9, 2014

Hi Gael, awesome advice, its something I havent paid enough attention to unfortunately, it looks like I now have a LOT of re-editing to do. Thanks however for the valuable lesson!

Reply
    Gael Breton - October 9, 2014

    Trust me, I still have a lot of work to do since I figured this out. But I’ve repeated the experiment several time and EVERY time, traffic bumped up significantly. It’s certainly something people should work on if their budget is limited in terms of content but they have time to play with. Plus, with thrive content builder it doesnt require any tech skill and it’s kind of fun.

    Reply
Neale - November 22, 2014

Thank’s Gael I really enjoyed reading this. Finally a simple easy to follow method, for formatting content. I’m going to try this on one of my older smaller sites and measure the results. Thanks again.

Reply
Dale - November 24, 2014

Another good article Gael.

One thing I need to point out is that “re” is not a separate word – it was bugging me (and a bit confusing at first), it should either be connected to the word it prefaces or hyphenated. /grammar nazi

Reply
Sebastian - December 1, 2014

Hey Gael,

great post, as always 🙂

I have a quick question…on this page: http://www.healthambition.com/juicing/ you added a post list to your page…so basically you have a list of posts from your recipes category and so on…how did you do that? I know that Thrive Content Builder allows you to add a list to your post, but it looks totally different.

Did you do some custom coding or is it a feature that i just havent found yet?

Thx for the help and keep up the great work!

Cheers,

Sebastian

Reply
    Gael Breton - December 1, 2014

    Hey Sebastian,

    Glad you liked the post! I actually used Performag’s short codes for this one. They fit in the page a lot more and offer that wide image view that you see. To add shortcodes with Thrive content builder just select the “WordPress content” element then click on it, it’ll open a regular wordpress editor. You can then pick the post list in the thrive short codes, set it up, click update and it will render it in real time on your preview. Also, I’ve created sub categories to split things up around the page.

    Gael

    Reply
Sebastian - December 1, 2014

Ah thanks man! I didn’t think about using shortcodes for that. I’m also using performag so that should work. Thx for the help. Much appreciated!

Have a great day (and i hope it’s a bit warmer in Budapest than in Berlin)

Reply
Zach - December 8, 2014

Another great article Gael! It’s really helpful to have the step by step list of formatting guidelines instead of just general theories. Thanks for sharing! As others have mentioned, I have a lot of work to do to improve my formatting in my posts going forward. I am definitely going to consider Thrive once I can cover the costs.

Reply
Matt - December 19, 2014

Great Article Gael!! I can honestly say that I read this article all the way to the end. Your stats were dead on for me, usually I only read the first 3-4 paragraphs and move on. But the way you mixed in lists and graphics, it broke the monotonous task of reading 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation

Reply
Akash - July 17, 2015

nice post for every blogger.
Thanks.

Reply
Theodore Nwangene - August 7, 2015

Interesting post Gael,
Content formatting is really of great importance as you mentioned but many of us are not yet doing it, myself included.

However, I’ve also been looking for a good tool that offers short codes and is also affordable but have not found any. Thrive content builder is what many people are currently using but some of us cannot afford it yet so I’m looking for a good alternative.

I will take a look at the one you recommended to Andrew ( Code Canyon) and see what it looks like.

Thanks for sharing.

Reply

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