I hear it all the time: “people don’t read any more.”
It’s an interesting statement because I’d argue that people read more than they ever have. Texts. Emails. Feeds. Blogs. Articles. eBooks. We consume it all day, every day.
What’s changed is that people are now choosier about what they read. They won’t just read what you want them to because you took the time to write it. And they won’t read everything you wrote. It has to be relevant and, more importantly, that has to be clear to them quickly or they’re moving on to the next thing.
So what’s a marketer to do?
Make Your Content ‘Scannable’
Some pretty good studies have indicated that the average reader will read, at best, only 28% of the words on the page. Readers generally scan pages – rather than reading every word – so the key with your content is to make scanning it as easy as possible (allowing users to find the info that's most important to them).
With that in mind, the first thing you can do to help is …
Use Frequent Subheads. Here’s why …
If this content writing guide were written as one long paragraph with no sub-heads, you would have stopped reading by now. Same applies for your web pages. Break longer content into multiple paragraphs, (no longer than 4-5 lines each) and include frequent subheads to guide the reader. And make sure your subheads descriptive, not vague (“new lamination technologies reduce cycle times” vs. “innovative solutions”) so readers understand why they should read the related content.
2 Other Techniques that Aid Scanning
Use bullets points or numbered lists for lists of features or benefits
Use numerals for numbers, not words (“1,000” rather than “one thousand” is easier to scan)
What About Page Length?
There are no hard and fast rules about how many words a page should contain – it should contain as many words as you need to communicate the message effectively and no more. Recent SEO (Search engine Optimization) research is showing that top-ranking pages (in highly competitive keyword segments) tend to have longer text (1500+ words) but there’s no hard and fast rules.
Always Be Relevant
More and more, the process of reading starts with searching, so getting found by search engines is critical. And while there is an entire industry dedicated to gaming the search engines, there is one basic that you should always keep in mind – make sure your content is about something specific. The more focused the subject, the easier it is for search engines (and users) to decide whether it’s relevant.
Stop assuming everything you write is relevant to every reader. Make your content scannable by breaking long blocks of copy into smaller chunks, use subheads to identify what’s in them and use bullets, pull quotes, images and other assets to support what you’re trying to say.
This post was written by R. Wilkie, Creative Director at PUSH 22.