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How to Optimize Your Blog for Scannability

3/03/20

Content Marketing

If you’re reading this right now, chances are the headline grabbed your attention. Awesome.

Now, what if the rest of the blog post was formatted in one huge block of text? 

No headers. Long sentences. No paragraph breaks. Just word after word after word in one long, unending stream of content.

printed pages with the same words gif

THE HORROR.

It doesn’t matter how great your blog is content-wise: if you’re not making it easy to read, then you’re probably losing a lot of your readers. The good news is, you don’t have to be a graphic design expert to make your blog scannable.

How we read online matters

Pre-internet, people took their time reading. People still do today; we read entire books word-for-word, after all. When we want to feel intellectual and fancy, we even read a news story word-for-word. However, those are the exceptions to how we consume most content in this age. 

Look at Twitter. You get 280 characters to make a point before you send your tweet out into the ether. In turn, your Twitter feed is jam-packed with headlines, witty jokes, pull quotes from articles, and the shortest of short stories. 

Twitter forces us to be concise with our writing, and it forces us to fight for everyone’s attention. Thankfully, your blog is not formatted like Twitter. But similar principles apply. 

In a study from Nielsen Group, 79% of their test users always scanned any new page they came across. Only 16% of their test users read word-by-word. That sounds nuts, but it speaks to the importance of making scannable content. 

Your readers aren’t looking to read content formatted like a book online. They want content they can sift through easily to find the good stuff.

Tips for making your blog easily scannable

Use headers.

See what we just did with that header? For anyone who doesn’t have time to read this entire blog (important as it is), they can easily find the header and skip to this section. Use headers to break up your content. Make it easy for your readers to find what they’re looking for.

The shorter, the better.

(We refuse to take the bait and make an inappropriate joke here.)

Use short sentences. Remember how Twitter forces you to be concise? It’s a good rule of thumb for any writing. We’re not saying you can’t be creative or use long sentences, because variety makes your writing interesting. But when in doubt, get to the point. 

Make use of white space.

While you’re at it, use short paragraphs, too. Avoid paragraphs longer than three or four lines. Leave white space between paragraphs so that your blog is easy to read. Don’t pack all your text into one giant chunk. It’s annoying to read and looks bad.

You can also break up blocks of text with bullet lists, images, or graphics. Spice up boring text by highlighting or bolding important information. Link to other content when appropriate. Embed social posts to support what you’re saying.

Remember: Everybody scans

With so much information available at our fingertips, scanning has become a necessity. People have become eternally distracted. We’re always looking for the next piece of content to make us feel good. 

Keep your blog in the game by optimizing it for scannability. Break up text with headers and white space. Add visual interest with images, links, and lists. When your blog is scannable and looks good, you’re more likely to keep your readers reading.

Bonus points if you keep it short and sweet, just like this.

 

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