How to Write Scannable Content for Your Blog

You've done it. You've optimized your website for search engines and are now getting people to share your content on social media. People are subscribing to your blog in droves, but how do you get them to actually read what you've written?

Ah. There lies the rub.

How to Write Scannable Content
Just because people are coming to your blog doesn't mean they're actually reading your content. Let's change that, shall we?

The emergence of scanning

With blogs and Twitter and Facebook, everyone has a voice. Each person has a story to tell and a platform to tell it. This is truly a monumental time. But there's just one problem with this age of abundant information:

Everybody scans.

Due to the incessant interruptions we encounter every day, we are all trained to ignore, gloss over, and constantly search for what matters to me.

For a communicator, this raises the bar. You really have to have something remarkable to say in order to catch a scanner's eye. Otherwise, you're already forgotten.

So what will it take? You've got to understand your reader.

The new age of aliteracy

No one reads any more. Not really. Not on the web, not with this Internet. Not when everyone feels the need to blog every day just to keep up with the Joneses. Not when a million pixels of data and news are demanding your attention every single second.

If you are a content creator, you have already begun with a trust deficit.

Nowadays, people float through the web with little investment in the content they're encountering. Sure, people can read. They just choose not to.

You need to learn how to communicate to people who are functionally illiterate. Or perhaps, more appropriately, aliterate — that is, they're able to read but just choose not to do so.

Here's the solution…

With thousands of marketing messages inundating people everyday, who can blame someone for missing a few words here and there? There's simply not enough time to read it all. Scanning is a necessity.

When you're writing copy for for a website or blog, you need to remember that in this age of perpetual distraction, people don't absorb content like they used to. Not today.

So, what do you do to stand out?

Write content crafted for the scanners and skimmers, of course. Here are a few ideas for writing scannable content:

  • Keep the length of your posts short. 400-600 words is ideal.
  • Use subheads. This breaks up your content into scannable chunks.
  • Use numbered lists. These are fun to write and read.
  • Use bullet points. Bullets can actually make you a better blogger.
  • Have fun with formatting. Make good use of the bold and italic formatting options.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Two to three lines, at most. Absolutely no more than four.
  • Write like you talk. Blogging is different from your doctoral thesis or newspaper article. Blogging is about community. There needs to be a conversational flow to your content.
  • Give people an opportunity to participate. Allow people to join the conversation through commenting or via social media.
  • Link to quality content. People love clicking anchor text. Give them something worth clicking. Try linking to some of your best content. This catches scanners in the act and holds their attention.

And one alternative option (just to shake it up):

  • Go against the grain. One way to beat 'em is by not joining them. There's still a place on the web for long-form. Try writing longer posts, not shorter ones.

For a contrarian view, read: Stop Perpetuating the Myth — People Do Read Online

Do you scan when you read? What grabs your attention?