The bitter truth is that the majority of your readers won’t read each and every word you write, and there’s not much you can do about that.
But, if you make peace with the fact that most people simply scan websites instead of reading posts word for word, then you can actually start to implement tactics in your content creation to help ensure that your posts still get the engagement, comments, and shares that you desire.
Most people get to a website and they scan.
You probably do the same, as well (I know I do!). When I get to a website or blog, the first thing I do is scan the page to determine if there’s something that’s relevant to me.
If I find something intriguing in those first few seconds, I might scroll further down to see more of what’s beneath the fold. But if I don’t feel that the content I see above the fold is relevant to me, then there’s no point bothering with the rest of it, is there?
Everyone makes decisions in seconds these days.
They get to your site and make snap judgments as to whether your content is relevant to them and if it’s worth their time to read it.
If you don’t succeed in convincing them that your content is worth reading, then they will click away and leave your site without reading your content, leaving a comment, or sharing your post.
And the odds are they probably won’t ever return either.
Since the vast majority of visitors to your site only scan your content and decide in an instant whether to read it or not, it’s absolutely crucial that you write content that is scannable so that your readers can determine its value at a glance.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of the techniques you can use to write scannable content that your readers will enjoy consuming.
16 Clever Formatting Techniques For More Scannable Blog Content
1. Write Magnetic Headlines
Your headline is the first thing your readers will see, and it’s a major determining factor in whether or not they will read the rest of your content. Make sure your blog’s design allows your headlines to pop.
Change your theme or tweak it to get the right effect.
As for the wording, make your headline as compelling as possible by giving the reader a very clear benefit that they will get by reading the post.
I’ve written several posts on this blog about writing great headlines and you can use any of them as your resource to help you craft compelling headlines for all your blog posts.
2. Make Your Opening Line Just As Good
In addition to writing a great headline, you also need your opening line to be just as good since it’s the part of your post that is read the most – next to the headline, of course.
Your first line should give people a very good reason to carry on reading.
If you’re able to come up with a strong opening line, it makes it much more likely that your readers will be intrigued enough to read the rest of your post.
3. Keep All Your Paragraphs Short
Most readers are turned off by giant slabs of text.
Keeping your paragraphs short gives your readers an immediate visual clue as to the ease with which they will be able to consume your content, and put it into action.
If they are presented with massive chunks of text, it makes it too daunting to even attempt reading it. Try to stick to a single idea in each paragraph, and keep the paragraphs as short as you can.
4. Write Short Sentences
Writing short, clear sentences makes your content accessible to your readers. If you write an opening sentence that is 50 words long, it will just confuse your readers, and they are not going to want to carry on reading.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your sentences to 16 words or less.
5. Use Simple Words
There’s a place for all those four-syllable words that you know, but it’s certainly not on your blog post.
While such words may sound impressive, they tend to make your writing inaccessible to a lot of your readers (and no, the irony of that sentence isn’t lost on me, seeing as ‘inaccessible’ has five syllables…)
Try to write the way you speak and make sure that you choose your words very carefully to help you convey your meaning in the simplest and most accurate way possible.
6. Whenever Possible, Use Lists
List-format posts typically perform better than essay-style content.
When your readers make that inevitable scan of your content to see if it’s worth reading, seeing a list there gives them the impression that the content has been broken down so it’s easier for them to read and understand.
Your entire post doesn’t necessarily have to be a list, though. You can also use bullet points in your post to break up the content and make important information stand out.
Here are some tips for the effective use of bullet points:
- Keep bullet points brief
- Start each of them with a verb
- Use them in the right place
- Keep bullet points consistent
- Lead with the benefits
- Sell a feeling (remember, it’s emotions that drive behavior)
7. Break up The Post with Subheadings
Having endless blocks of text on your site (even if they are short paragraphs) will turn people off from reading your post.
Without subheadings, nothing stands out on your page, which makes it a lot harder for your readers to figure out what the blog post is actually about.
It’s always a good idea to break your content up into 4 or 5 sections, and then give each one a subheading that communicates clearly to your readers what the section is about.
That’s a great way of giving your readers a visual clue as to what the post is about overall, and if any of the sections is particularly relevant to them.
8. Include Different Types of Formatting
Other than subheadings and bullet points, you can also use other types of formatting such as italics, allcaps, and bold letters to emphasize the key points in your post. You might even alter the color or size of the text to make it stand out.
These things can really make a difference and draw your reader’s eye to the most important points.
Just don’t overdo it with these types of formatting (especially the font, size, or color changes) as this can make your content look like a mess, when overused.
9. Use Attractive Images
If you’re using featured images at the top of all your posts, that’s great.
But what about inside the posts?
People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images, so make sure that you put some beside your key points – particularly when the images are closely related to the content.
This increases the chances of your readers making it all the way to the end of your post. Just be sure to avoid infringing on other people’s copyright.
There are plenty of places online where you can find unique, attractive images that will not get you sued.
10. Use Image Captions Whenever You Can
Research has shown that the majority of readers read the descriptions below images.
In fact, after your subheadings, they are among the most read parts of the post. Use image captions to emphasize a point or even use them as calls to action.
If you use WordPress, inserting a caption for an image is very easy.
All you have to do is click on the image to edit it, and then type your message into the box labeled ‘caption’. The text will then be displayed just below that image in your post.
11. Incorporate Other Types of Visual Content
While images are great for your blog posts, there are various other types of visual content you can use to make your posts more scannable.
For instance, you can use charts, tables, infographics, and so on. There are many ways you can create visual content that conveys information to your readers in a different way and draws their attention.
There are many free tools online that are great for creating unique pieces of visual content that your readers will love. And with most, your options are only limited by your imagination.
For instance, you could take one of the key quotes from your post and use it to create a unique image by layering it over a photo.
You can then use it in your content like a sub-header. This breaks up blocks of text nicely, and gives your readers something else to read other than text.
12. Make Use of Block-quotes
Most WordPress themes have the ‘block quotes’ style which allows you to easily highlight part of your content in a specific way.
This is normally used for highlighting quotes, but you can use it in various other ways if you so desire.
To apply block quotes formatting in WordPress, simply highlight the paragraph, then click the icon for block quotes in the visual editor.
13. Leverage Whitespace
Every inch of the screen doesn’t have to be filled with content. It’s important to leave space within and around the content you create.
This makes it easier for your readers to read your content, and doesn’t leave them feeling overwhelmed.
White space is something else that can draw the attention of your readers down the page.
Your blog’s design will have an effect on this, but you can also create extra line breaks to make short paragraphs (as previously discussed) and help space things out on the page a little more.
14. Pick a Great Design
A cluttered blog design will make your posts very difficult to read. You can simplify things or even switch to another theme if that helps.
A couple of things you can do to enhance your design include choosing fonts that are not too small and adding a little distance between the lines of text on the page.
15. Make Sure Your Main Point(s) is Clear
Don’t bury your main point so deep within your content that it goes unnoticed by most readers. Each post you write should carry at least one main point, and that should be communicated clearly.
Your readers shouldn’t have to dig to discover what your post is about.
So, if there’s something you want your readers to remember or understand, just say it (clearly) upfront. For those long, in-depth posts, you could try using summary statements under each of the subheadings to make it easier for your readers to see what that section’s main point is.
This is also a good way of giving them an instant reason to read the rest of the section.
This way, you get the benefits that come with using a compelling title and a great opening line throughout your post, as opposed to just at the beginning.
16. Repeat Important Points
Ever heard the phrase: ‘Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them’?
It came about because it’s long been understood that repetition is the mother of all learning, so if you’re clear about what you want your audience to get from the content you created, then, repeat it.
Remember, not everyone is reading your post word for word, so it’s a good idea to emphasize your main point(s) a few times throughout your post.
For instance, you might have it in the opening and also in the summary statements, and again in your conclusion. That way, your readers will be more likely to get the point you’re trying to make (or call to action).
As you’ve seen, there are many ways you can make your content easy for your readers to scan.
Just remember not to introduce too many ideas in a single post. No matter how well-formatted your content is, you’ll still confuse your readers if there are too many points.
If you’ve got many ideas that you want to cover, simply break them up to create a series of posts instead so there’s more likelihood that your readers will get all the points.
And remember, you don’t have to use all the techniques in each and every post you write. Just use a few at a time to make your content easier to scan, and therefore more likely to be read.
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Updated: Originally published March 9th 2018