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Writing for Mobile Blog Readers

Posted By Guest Blogger 18th of August 2011 Writing Content 0 Comments

This guest post is by Brian Milne of the BlogHyped Blog Promotion Community.

As far as you know, your blog is mobile friendly.

You’ve optimized the design for mobile devices using plugins such as WPtouch. You’ve started serving Google mobile ads. Heck, you even have your own mobile app.

Mobile user

Copyright Aaron Amat - Fotolia.com

But are you turning away mobile readers with your content? Are your 2,000-word posts, bogged down with 200-DPI images and run-on sentences, negating all your other efforts?

Possibly. But with mobile users making up between 5% (global) and 8.2% (U.S.) of overall traffic, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth tailoring content for mobile users.

Well, like any form of writing, you can’t satisfy every audience, but here are some reasons to consider mobile when producing content for your blog:

  1. The iPhone/iTouch combo was the fastest-growing consumer electronics line of all time (before the addition of the iPad and the dozens of ensuing anti-Apple tablets).
  2. The line between entertainment and the web has blurred thanks to today’s multi-use devices (desktops, laptops, phones, readers, iPods, TVs, kiosks, gaming consoles).
  3. And most importantly, many mobile writing tips will improve your content on the traditional Web as well.

Shorter (and smaller) is better

A wise old newspaper editor once gave me some great advice, even though I didn’t want to hear it as a reporter: “When you’re done with your story, cut out 100 words before you file it. Then it’s done.”

Hacking 100 words from a blog post is pretty extreme, but it can’t hurt to trim 25 to 50 words. Cut out content that’s irrelevant, or acts as a speed bump in your post. Your content should flow from beginning to end, without any bumps or potholes that’ll bounce your readers off the site.

Cutting down content also carries over to the images and media that complement your post. Whether they’re reading on a desktop or a tablet, users bail when page-load time becomes a problem. The W3C recommends pages be no more than 10KB, and total page weight shouldn’t exceed 20KB (images included). Using a mobile theme or skin will help shed that weight, but using a content delivery network (CDN) and making sure your images and other assets are “web ready” will speed things up across all devices and platforms.

Break it up

Along with tightening up your writing and getting to the point early in posts (getting a keyword phrase in the first couple sentences is a best practice across the board), it’s always a good idea to break up the main body text with subtitles and bullets.

Subtitles not only break up your post into digestible pieces, but they’re an ideal place to inject keyword phrases as H2 tags, further improving your SEO efforts.

Bulleted lists such as Top 10s are another popular approach, not only because they’re interesting and generate traffic in a hurry, but because they’re easier to read on both the traditional and mobile web.

Provide utility

If you’re writing about a subject readers on the move could benefit from (restaurant reviews, event information, etc.), give your mobile readers the details they’re searching for.

As with the traditional Web, a large portion of mobile users stumble upon blogs via search (Google reported mobile searches quadrupled in 2010, with one in seven searches coming from a mobile device), so don’t hesitate to include mobile-critical details such as phone numbers, addresses, websites and directions. Keeping your traditional Web readers in mind, you can avoid bogging down your body copy by offsetting those additional “mobile” details in parentheses, taglines, captions or callouts.

Get engaged

The key to a successful blog or online community is user engagement, no matter the device at the reader’s fingertips.

The easiest way to encourage interaction is through comments. But on a mobile device, with fat fingers and tiny keyboards, commenting can be a challenge. Unless, of course, your blog integrates smoothly with quick-hit services such as Twitter and Facebook—communities that thrive in the mobile realm because they’re easy to use on the fly.

Even if mobile users aren’t commenting on your blog in a traditional sense, give them plenty of other options to talk about your site, and, more importantly, link to you from the social mediasphere.

Remain balanced

Unless you have a website geared specifically toward mobile readers, it would be foolish to abandon traditional blogging and web writing best practices for mobile-only content. Even the most popular blogs out there—problogger.net, for example—see an average of only 5-8% of overall traffic coming from mobile devices.

Rather than focusing exclusively on that small slice of readers, consider the entire audience with your content development efforts—all while keeping in mind the smartphone market is projected to grow by 49.2% this year, according to the IDC.

Take advantage of this opportunity to not only better your content overall, but prepare for the mobile takeover. Absorb valuable online resources like ProBlogger, and consider offline resources like community college writing courses and those dusty old journalism books filled with priceless tips about writing for busy newspaper readers.

It might sound funny, but those age-old writing techniques carry right over to today’s hurried mobile readers. (Think of bus or subway commuters who replaced their morning newspaper with smartphones and tablets.) Now is the time to work those suggestions into your blog. Get the nutgraph (keyword phrase) of your story in your lead (first 140 characters). Write short paragraphs, and use bullets (lists) and subheads (H2 tags) to improve readability.

You’ll be surprised at how well those old-school, JOURN-101 tips can tighten up your content and enhance the user experience for your blog readers—whether they’re surfing via the traditional web or their mobile devices.

Follow those tips and it’s only a matter of time before your blog is truly mobile friendly.

What tips do you have for improving content for both mobile and traditional web audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A former senior writer and editor for McClatchy Newspapers, Brian Milne founded the BlogHyped.com and BallHyped.com social voting communities, where bloggers can share their posts, get followed links and additional blogging resources. Connect and share your blogging tips with Brian via Twitter @BMilneSLO.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Look into Infostripe, http://Infostripe.com for an easy to setup but powerful mobile app site creator for any individual or brand.

    • Nice resource!

      I wonder though, don’t smartphones nowadays pretty much handle the mobile aspects of blogs and most sites in general? Do you really need to still set anything up?

  2. I must admit that mobile is the current trend. Can’t imagine everyone including my mum has a mobile phone 10 years ago. I guess in a few more years, everyone has a smart phone and they might slowly overtake laptop, PC, etc…

    I’m using WP Touch for my blog and have seen it on Ipad and other smart phones. The look is ok but maybe I am already get used to the large monitor screen, I just feel that those mobile screen is way too small to read… even though I am using H2 H3 tag to make the structure looks good.


  3. Write the site with your phone, it is difficult of course, but when nothing else has to do it

  4. This is a nice post, hadn’t thought about this before. Ironically, it was a really long post that I wouldn’t have read on my phone!

  5. I use visuals whenever possible. It breaks up long chunks of text and is easier to take in when on the go!


  6. With the current tech and mobile growth in web traffic (growing at a pace of almost 100%) it is really important to understand the need of mobile users and optimize it. Good points.

    I don’t remember when last time I read a blog on my desktop…everything is mobile now.

  7. I think the next route in marketing is MOBILE. A friend of mine have just started a mobile
    blogging platform and people are beginning to fall in love with it. I was contemplating
    on this but you just gave me some cute reasons to consider it. I’m glad I got through to
    your guest post today. Keep ’em coming!

  8. I’m always reading problogger using Opera Mini. This browser converts almost every page mobile friendly, so there is no problem.
    However, visiting almost every site on Nokia’s default browser is pain. So mobile theme is recommended.

    About readability using h2 tags ane bullets. It’s good to use no matter what platform reader is on.

  9. I consider the ease of using plugins such as WP-Touch one of the big advantages of blogging on the WordPress platform. My WordPress sites pretty much all have it already. My older sites with HTML still don’t have a mobile theme. I want to get around to it, but not yet.

  10. I was not taking into consideration Mobile blog readers. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  11. You know, I went through all this crap of switching over many of my sites (WP) when a mobile browser is present. BUT, come to find out that on most smartphones the actual webpage looks better and is more user friendly. Besides you can hit them with everything you got with regular adsense and affiliate links still intact.

    Of course this works if your site is not overloaded with flashy ads and huge photos coupled with a friendly theme for both platforms.

    The more simplified version imo just leaves the visitor unsatisfied. When I read the NY times on my iphone and then view it on my laptop I realize there was a LOT left out.

    I’m cross testing both platforms right now, perhaps I may be totally wrong!

  12. Thanks for the great tips! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve not given writing for mobile much though, though I do use WPTouch on my main site running WordPress. Is there a better mobile interface out there? I need to trim up a lot of my posts to make them more mobile friendly.
    Thanks again,

  13. Wow, your tips are highly beneficial! We sure will apply them to our blog – We do have a mobile-friendly site, which we now hope to make better … thanks to you :D

  14. this is good. since there are a lot of smart phones out there, it is good to be posting an article that is also compatible for the said mobile phones.

    – Jack Leak

  15. Which template platform are you deploying? Hoping I could try to get our web site’s feedback built more like this structure, my url is alright but, I have been designing on it to get it looking quite as clear as your site.

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