The Big Short: Writing for Readers Who Scan

Nobody reads these days.
Actually, let us rephrase that—nobody reads word-for-word these days, especially not on the internet.
Check out the data by research group Nielsen Norman: According to their research, only 16 percent of readers read a web page word-for-word. So, with nearly one-in-six readers scanning your content, it’s in your best interest to make it as simple and easy to digest as possible.

Scannable Strategies

The point of your content/website copy/marketing materials is to engage readers and drive action. But few readers will be willing to dive into a piece of content that looks like it was ripped from an encyclopedia. Smart publishers use simple tools to keep their content accessible:

  • Use formatting tricks, such as bulleted lists or bold type to draw attention to key points.
  • Headlines: Headings and subheadings provide readers a quick overview of the content’s material. They aid in comprehension of the subject matter both for readers who scan and readers who read word-for-word.
  • Use mixed media, such as images and video where appropriate. These help break up intimidating blocks of text and adds stylistic variety to your page. They also provide new opportunities for SEO.
  • Keep it simple. Dense subject matter has its place in niche markets, but general audiences will respond better to simple ideas put forth in clear ways.

Consider Outsourcing

Above all, those trying their hand at content marketing need to take a journalistic approach to the process. They must get in front of their readers, state their case, and provide only as much detail is needed. But knowing what to include and what to cut can be difficult, even for short-form content. Don’t be shy about reaching out to a third-party publisher if your writing skills aren’t up to par. Outsourced content marketing is a simple way to gain all the benefits of content production without any of the work—no matter what type of content you’re publishing.