You’ve spent days creating a really great article. You finally hit “publish,” but nothing happens despite getting decent traffic.
No retweets. No comments.
No. Engagement. Whatsoever.
No one seems to care about the world-beating article you wrote.
What on earth is going on!?
No one is reading your content for one simple reason – it isn’t “scannable”
People just do not read articles the same way they read a book.
With a book, we read every word and sentence with interest. With an article, we “scan” the content for bits that interest us and read those little bits.
The web has cultured a generation of information seekers, and the thing about information is people want it FAST. Which is why it is so important to make your content scannable.
People don’t read, they scan …
People are impatient, so they “scan” content for bits relevant to them.
This known behavioural trait means we can adapt our editing style to suit them.
The idea is simple: rather than make your reader desperately swipe through your article (or web page) for anything of interest, what you’ll do instead is make it easier for them to find information that is relevant and valuable to them.
By making it easier for your audience to find relevant information, you dramatically improve the chances of your content being read and shared.
Now you know why “scannability” is important, here are 10 proven ways to make your content scannable:
1. Use headings
Headings (H1, H2, H3) keep your content nice and organised. They also make it easy for the reader to navigate your content and find what they want.
For example, we’ve used headings in this article to make each of our 9 entries stand out.
2. Format important sentences and words
You can make use of bolds, italics, and underlining to make important sentences stand out – but try and use them sparingly so you don’t over-egg it.
3. Use images in your content
This isn’t always necessary, but it helps to break up your writing.
Images can also deliver important content visually or explain complicated concepts.
Take this image, for example:
It explains the content marketing lifecycle in a more digestible way than words can.
4. Use bullet points
If you’re going to write a list as a sentence, scrap that and use bullet points instead.
Bullet points are:
- Easier to read
- Easier to digest
See what we mean?
5. Highlight important text
You can highlight text like this to draw the reader’s attention to information.
Just use the code <mark>example</mark> in your HTML editor to highlight text.
If you’d like the highlighted text to be a different colour, this can be achieved in your stylesheet.
6. Download a shortcode plugin
Shortcode plugins make it easy to integrate tables, colour blocks, quotes, notes, and other goodies into your content without writing a line of code.
7. Keep your sentences short
Writing clear sentences should be the goal of every writer, and especially on the web.
Writing a good sentence is an art, but you can get started right away by keeping things short.
Try and aim for sentences that are 20 to 30 words in length. These are easy to read and digest.
8. Write shorter paragraphs
It’s good practice to write paragraphs two to three sentences long. Shorter paragraphs are easier to read and help ensure you don’t waffle on and on and on and on …
And if you must write paragraphs longer than three sentences, refer to point #7 – keep your sentences short.
9. Avoid using long words that have a shorter alternative
This is something we see all too often.
Using long words might be good for proving your vocabulary, but it isn’t so good for keeping your reader interested.
You can make your content easier to read by replacing long words with suitable, shorter alternatives.
- Don’t write utilise – write use
- Don’t write residence – write house
- Don’t write acquire – write buy, earn, or get
- Don’t write initiate – write begin, introduce, open, start or launch
The Plain English Campaign has a good list to work from. We recommend you start looking for opportunities there.
10. Make good use of blockquotes
You can use a blockquote to present quotes, statistics, or indeed any important content in a format that stands out.
This is what our blockquote looks like. Your website will probably have a different blockquote style.
Blockquotes work to highlight areas of content that would otherwise get lost in a sea of words. Use them to your advantage.
To recap, these are the 10 ways to make your content scannable:
- Use headings
- Format important sentences and words
- Use images in your content
- Use bullet points
- Highlight important text
- Download a shortcode plugin
- Write in sentences
- Write shorter paragraphs
- Avoid using long words that have a shorter alternative
- Make good use of blockquotes
Making your content scannable is important because it enables your reader to find information that’s relevant to their query quickly.
Give some of the techniques above a try with your next post, or try editing and republishing an old one to see if you can boost interaction.