9 Cheeky Ways To Create Scannable Content Your Readers Will Love
Bombarded! A feeling every person experiences when they read online.
It’s amazing the amount of distractions deliberately put in front of our eyes. Our brains, of course, take the bait almost every time.
Luckily, as we’ve grown with the web, we try to save our time and attention for the important things.
So we scan our content.
Then choose where to stop and read.
A study by Nielsen Surveys found that 79% of people only scanned the web pages they visited. Just 16% read content word for word.
Users have no patience for online content reading.
They will always question whether it’s worth staying around. How long is this article or web page? How long will it take me to go through it? What value does it give to me? Is it easy to read?
The last question is the important one for bloggers or content creators.
Because making scannable content is something you have TOTAL control over.
You might have life-changing ideas in your blog post but for more people to take on those ideas, you need to let them scan.
I’ve scoured the web finding the best advice to do this effectively and I’ve listed the most essential tips below:
I see them as signposts along your content’s road trip. They’re great for scanning eyes because they stake out important points.
Take a look through any good blog post or webpage you follow and you’ll find subheadings placed in key areas for readers.
Some act as megaphones, which can be counterproductive, but good subheads are beacons throughout the content that assist scanners to stop and consider.
Blogger Jon Morrow uses subheadings like the champion of blogging he is.
Readers are able to scan through his posts, that are well spaced and easy to engage, and hit his subheads. Those subheadings are as compelling as any headline, giving a hook for readers to stop and read.
Check out his post above called ‘For All the Entrepreneurs Confused about How Content Marketing Actually Works.’
His subheadings like ‘The One Metric that Matters’, Why Some Content Marketers Make Money and Others Don’t’ and ‘Content Marketing is not about Traffic’ are able to hold someone’s interest because they preclude an answer to follow. Outstanding.
Bullet points or lists:
Using bullet points or lists within articles or web pages breaks up any dense information into organised chunks. Bite-sized chunks which a reader can easily consume.
Using lists in content also gives readers a ready-made template to step along. If
If complex content is sifted down into a list format, people can navigate it from start to finish and understand exactly where they are located on your web page or article.
For example, Buzzfeed and their list posts do this effortlessly because people are more likely to respond to them.
They take what’s essentially a by the numbers process and creatively refresh and renew the approach with every post, almost every time.
Good, scannable content needs white space.
If you don’t have white space, well, you don’t have scannable content. Many brilliant bloggers and content marketers know it helps their readers take solid breaths between sentences throughout their posts or web pages.
Even a couple of long sentences can slow down someone’s reading pace.
By spacing them out and giving them bigger legroom, you help users efficiently jump from one sentence to the next.
Make it easy to breathe between lines.
26 or twenty-six? Your brain probably reacted to the number more than the written words.
You’re not alone in doing that either; research has shown that actual numbers hit our brains quicker than their written namesakes.
We picture numbers easily. That’s why great headlines use them so much.
So any numbering you employ in your website copy, emails or blog posts should be, well, numbers.
3 instead of three, 7 instead of seven, and 138 instead of one hundred and thirty-eight. You get the picture.
Again, Buzzfeed are masters of using this technique but most content marketers take this action because it’s working.
Visual content can not only break up paragraphs but reinforce or supplement the ideas or data being discussed in the content.
It’s an area that’s evolving quickly, as users become more accustomed to visual and interactive information being available on websites and blogs.
A good example is Moz. Their content machine pops out regular articles on SEO tips and tactics for business owners to use.
But these articles are also extremely easy to scan.
They’re not short by any stretch of the imagination, yet the inclusion of data charts, images and breezy white space between paragraphs makes them flow so easily.
The visuals highlight the points made in the content, without monstering it. They’re a model for anyone wanting to balance visuals with written content.
Font is an interesting area in content presentation. Some typefaces suit online consumption, others don’t.
The ones that do make reading a pleasure.
Fonts like Open Sans, Ubuntu, Droid Sans (which is especially good on mobile devices) and Roboto Slab are all smooth typefaces that help readers take in the content.
Courier New, Comic Sans, and Brush Script trip the reader up and slow their ability to scan your content. Fonts that are bumpy or require re-reading should never be used.
Not so common fonts are also used by major websites.
Science Friday, a site where a wealth of posts and podcasts cover countless topics in science, uses a unique typeface called Egyptienne.
It’s a relaxing but firm style and I believe perfect for scanning its content.
Conversational tone of voice:
Conversational content helps content become scannable because of its inviting tone of voice and straightforward language.
If readers can reach the middle of your blog post or article, and still be engaged, then they’ll have no trouble scanning the content.
The reason is pretty obvious.
People respond to casual, easy-going conversations that duplicate how we talk with our friends and family. The people we care about and take notice of.
When our walls are down, we’re far more open to connecting with others.
People will easily pick up your content when it’s human.
By bringing personality into the content you produce, you help make your content easier to scan. Why?
We gravitate towards interesting people doing interesting content. When there’s energy, confidence and uniqueness to a website page or blog post, it goes such a long way to helping readers stick around.
Think about the voice you place on the types of content you read.
The style you use pitches the voice of the person behind the content. I place voices of mashed-up Hollywood heroes and villains on web pages I’ve newly come across (and don’t know about).
As I read more, the voice becomes its own distinct character – based on the language and style of the piece. Oh yeah, a glimpse into my childhood!
A great example of this personality within scannable content is Neil Loper, founder of Side Hustle Nation.
Every page and blog post sings with his voice, you’ve got no doubt there’s someone fun, honest and interesting here.
Neil successfully targets people looking to start, and grow, a side business. And his content lets users scan it smoothly without a speed bump to jar their eyes.
This is copywriting 101 but the active voice in any kind of copy is crucial.
Writing in a passive voice such as ‘the brilliant goal was scored by the striker’ instead of ‘the striker scored the brilliant goal’ sucks the energy from the text. It’s too static, the antithesis to good content writing.
For scanning success, the momentum must push the reader forward from one sentence to the next. An active voice in content will do this.
Scannable content means understanding that your readers will not stay around for long, even if there is decent information to read.
They have to use their resources efficiently when they jump around the web because their concentration levels get eroded quickly.
Make it easy for them, let their eyes scan through your web page or blog post.
If they can pick up the ideas and advice given in your content without stumbling, they will stop and give it their attention. Or bookmark it and return.