The only thing worse than not having a solar blog at all is having a blog that chases traffic away. Often, I come across corporate blogs whose styles and layouts are simply uninviting.
I don’t want to read them… even before I’ve started reading them.
This problem exists in all industries. However, solar energy is facing a unique marketing crisis as it tries to overcome:
- Solyndra-style failures
- Myths about the technology
- Trade wars with China
- Unpredictable silicon prices
- Green legislation uncertainty
- Countless other challenges
Why shoot ourselves in the foot with Web content that doesn’t drive, keep, and convert traffic? We, as an industry, should work harder to make our blogs inviting and readable.
Solar Blog Best Practices – for Now
The following is my list of top 5 tips for making your solar blog as easy to read as possible. It will evolve with time (in future posts). For now, I won’t discuss actual content or tone in this post – just basic readability.
1. Short Sentences – Avoid super long sentences whenever possible.
Reading online is very different from reading a book or magazine. Computer screens are much harder on the eyes. In addition, readers are literally inundated with other options. Why should they bother with your solar blog when Youtube, Wikipedia, and Facebook are just mouse clicks away?
Don’t make your audience work too hard, or they’ll move on to something else – something easier and more enjoyable.
So what is a long sentence exactly? That really depends on your audience, but if your sentence is approaching 30 words, you should think about splitting it into 2 new sentences. You’ll readers will never thank you (cause they’ll never know what they could have faced). But you’ll thank yourself when you see your traffic and bounce rates improve over time.
2. Simple Words. Simple Phrasing – Avoid overly complex vocabulary or confusing sentence constructions.
This was a challenge for me after writing countless college and business school research papers (and reading countless academic journals). The general trend in academia is to use big words (and complex sentences) to sound smart. In reality, you just end up sounding pompous and stuck-up.
This much is true in academia – and even more so in online marketing. Imagine if Nike’s tagline was, “All that is required of you is to venture forth and achieve that which you set out to do.”
I think “Just do it” sounds better. Don’t you?
“But I write for technicians, engineers, and professionals who are used to complicated jargon.”
I get this a lot. For me, this is all the more reason to keep it simple. If your target audience is accustomed to large words and bulky sentences, your blog is the perfect time to give them a break.
You can still weave in whatever necessary industry jargon you want. Just keep it as simple as possible everywhere else.
3. Bullets & Lists – These are your friends – use them abundantly.
When scanning a blog post or article, readers naturally gravitate towards bullets and lists.
- Lists are easy to read
- They stand out on the page
- They give the reader a nice break from block paragraphs
- They allow you to weave in important keywords naturally
Don’t believe me? Just look at any ad copy with more than 500 words, whether it’s online, in the newspaper, or on a billboard. Chances are, the writer used bullets or lists somewhere in the copy.
4. White Space – Whenever I open up an email and see block paragraph after block paragraph, my immediate reaction is to close it, flag it, and save it for later.
No one enjoys reading blocky text. By breaking up your paragraphs into smaller, digestible chunks, you give the reader a break.
My high school English teacher would probably cringe if he saw me now. He always told us – a paragraph must have at least 3 sentences. He’s probably right. In fact, knowing him, he’s definitely right. But we’re not talking about writing Romeo & Juliet term papers – we’re talking about blogging. The only graders are the people visiting your site.
This means you can make your paragraph as short as you want.
Graphics can also go a long way in breaking up text (as can bullet points and lists).
Another way to create the appearance of more white space is to use a larger-than-normal font – one that is easy to read. On my own blog, I use 16pt, but you can probably get away with larger.
5. Paragraph Headings – Never underestimate the importance of paragraph headings. They’re important for several reasons:
- They make it easier for readers to scan your content and quickly identify the most relevant passages
- They let you naturally weave in BOLDED keywords that stand out – both for the reader and for the search engines
- They help you organize your own thoughts a little more clearly. If you start with an outline (and you always should), it’s easy to turn one of your outline topics into a bolded, keyword-rich paragraph heading
Testing your Solar Blog for Readability?
Note that none of the above actually talks about “style” or “tone.” We’ll discuss these things in future blog posts. The goal here is to make your solar blog as readable and inviting as possible.
And here’s a simple test.
Imagine that you’re someone who doesn’t speak English at all. And you stumble upon one of your own blog posts (in English). You have an electronic translator and a grammar book at your disposal.
Now imagine that you’ve been tasked with translating and understanding this blog post.
- If the post is dense and lacking white space, you probably won’t look forward to the ordeal. Long sentences, complex words, and small fonts simply make the entire process uninviting.
- If the post is spacious, with short sentences, engaging graphics, and bulleted lists, the task won’t seem as bad.