A lot of successful blogs have a secret weapon when it comes to helping them create outstanding content consistently, and that’s a style guide. Without one, it can be hard to develop and maintain a coherent style that your visitors like.
Blog style guides are simple documents that help you to compile all the small and large rules that make your content exceptional. For example, if you have a unique approach when it comes to handling images within blog posts, that information should go into your style guide. That way, you and the rest of your team can refer to it at any time.
In this article, I’m going to tell you more about what a blog style guide is and how using one can help you. Then we’ll talk about the three basic elements every style guide should include. Let’s get to it!
What is a Blog Style Guide? (And Why You Need One)
Style guides are compilations of rules for creating and publishing content on a website or any other type of medium. For example, if you run a blog, your style guide should probably discuss what type of content it targets, how you like to format posts, rules for adding images, and more.
If you’re running a blog on your own, chances are you already have your own set of rules, even though they may not be written down anywhere. Putting them to paper and creating a style guide is an investment in your blog’s future. It provides you with a document to reference at a moment’s notice in case you forget anything, and it’s a great way to bring new team members up to speed on how your blog works.
To be fair, if you’re still in the planning stages of creating a new blog, crafting a style guide can be overkill. The best time to tackle this project is when you already have a few articles under your belt so you have an idea of the style you want to use on your blog. In any case, if you need help getting your new blog up and running, we can give you a hand through our Beginner Blogging course, so check it out.
3 Elements Your Style Guide Should Include
You’re free to include any information you want within a blog style guide. These three elements should cover the basics so that you can focus on more specific information further on.
1. Who Your Target Audience Is
You can write content without an audience in mind, but that’s shooting in the dark. When you run a blog, you should have a clear idea of what type of visitors you’re targeting and what their interests are. This will provide you with a reference in case you’re not sure of what ideas to run with, or who to target with your content. Here’s a quick example from our own style guide:
The reader base is made up of people who are thinking of making (or have made) their transition from employment to online business, specifically freelance blogging and making money from blogs.
As the person in charge, you probably don’t need a reminder of who your blog should target. However, this information becomes crucial as you add more people to your team. Without it, they might not be able to write content that resonates with your audience.
2. How to Format Your Posts
Formatting information is the bread and butter of blog style guides. You’ve probably noticed a lot of your favorite blogs use the same format throughout most of their articles. For example, I like to use a specific style of featured images for most of my posts. Most times, I also use a similar format for my introductions since it enables me to ease the reader into each article. To put it simply, formatting plays a considerable role in the way we digest content online.
It sounds gimmicky, but consistency is critical when you’re running a blog with a high output of content. Once you have your own set of steps for how to format each post, doing it becomes second nature. Here’s how such a set of instructions might look within your style guide:
- Break down your introduction into three parts, posing a problem, presenting a solution, and a lead-in to the rest of the article.
- Set all external links to open on a new tab.
- Add a short conclusion to your article, summing up its contents for people who like to skip right to the end.
That’s a quick and loose collection of tips, but you can get as detailed as you want within your own style guide. In fact, the more details, the better. It will leave less room for confusion when you add more writers to your team.
3. When (And How to Use Images)
When it comes to blogs, the written content is king. However, images also play a substantial role in the way people read your articles. In fact, it’s been shown that articles without images tend to be less engaging.
As a rule of thumb, you want to include as many images as possible within your blog posts since they help you provide context. However, you should also set down a few ground rules for how to use images within your blog, and there’s no better place to do it than through your style guide. Here are a few quick examples from the Leaving Work Behind style guide:
- Set a featured image for each blog post with a resolution of 310×210 pixels.
- Make sure any featured image you choose is similar in style to our previous picks.
- Scale any image within your articles to a width of 710 pixels.
- Only add images that are relevant to the content you’re discussing.
- Remember to include proper image attribution whenever necessary.
As you can see, we have a lot of rules when it comes to image usage. It would be much easier to avoid using images altogether, but let’s be honest – that would make for a boring blog. In any case, the way you use images throughout your website should remain consistent. That way, users will grow accustomed to your style, and formatting blog posts will be much more straightforward.
When you’re working on a blog, it’s important to develop your own voice and stay consistent with it. For example, at Leaving Work Behind, we like to keep things informal, but we do have a style guide that helps us stay on the same page. It takes time to build a style guide, but it’ll save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
If you’re ready to create your own blog style guide, here are the three basic elements it should include (although you’re free to add anything else you want):
- Who your target audience is.
- How to format your posts.
- When and how to use images.
Do you have any questions about how to create a blog style guide? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.