Here’s a simple thing you can do to make everything you write online more popular. Whether you’re writing blog posts or marketing copy or email, this technique will make sure your writing gets read and shared by more people.
This is something beginners ignore and pay the price for every day.
You pour your heart into a piece of writing, make sure it has great benefits for your readers and yet hardly anyone pays attention.
What’s the solution?
Make your text scan-able.
Here’s the thing. When you write in long monotonous paragraphs with no specific emphasis, you make your readers fall asleep.
They take one look at your 10-line-long paragraphs and head for the back button.
The problem is that those long paragraphs make your readers work too hard, so most of them don’t end up reading your text at all.
Readers on the web don’t read word-for-word, starting at the top, like you would a novel or news article. Readers on the web start by scanning new pages, looking for key points and headings.
By making your text scannable, you make it more likely someone who visits your page or receives your email will digest what you’ve written.
This Isn’t New, but Everyone Has to Learn It
I work with lots of online entrepreneurs who are relatively new to writing for the web. The majority don’t know that making text scannable is so important, and they end up writing long blocks of text and wondering why they’re having a hard time attracting an audience.
Look around at some of the most popular blogs and websites online. Observe the layout and formatting the writers use. Do you notice a pattern of breaking up and emphasizing text to make it easier to digest?
Like I said, this isn’t a new concept. Jakob Nielsen studied and wrote extensively about the benefits of scannable and concise text in the late 1990s.
Jakob’s research found that 79% of readers on the web always start by scanning a page before they read it. He also found that using concise text, scannable layout and objective language (the opposite of hyped-up marketing speak) combined accounted for a 124% increase in usability.
How to Make Your Text More Scannable
Making your text more scannable (and therefore more likely to be read) takes a little work, but with practice can become second nature. Here are several techniques you can use to make sure more people read what you write online:
- Use lists — either bulleted or numbered
- Use formatting — bold, italics, color and underline in reasonable quantities are all effective (don’t go overboard)
- Use fewer words — say what you need to say with less
- Break up your paragraphs — vary the number of sentences you use in each paragraph. Don’t be afraid of one-sentence paragraphs for important points.
- Use headings and subheadings — guide your reader with mileposts
- Use images and graphics
- Use more hyperlinks — links break up your text and give you more credibility at the same time
Try it in your next several posts and see if more people read and share what you write. It should only take you 5 minutes more per 1,000 words to make your text scannable.
A Clinic on Scannable Text
Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt regularly cranks out shining examples of effective highly-scannable text. He’s a master of creating multi-thousand word posts that attract hundreds of comments, links and social shares.
Check out his epic post How NOT To Suck at Blogging for a virtual clinic on how to make your text scannable. You’ll also learn about how to pour your soul into a blog post and how to write things people care about all from this fantastic read.
What about you? Have you given thought to making your text more scannable? What results did you see? Please share in the comments.
Photo by C.P.Storm