Grabbing a reader’s attention in today’s world isn’t too hard, but getting them to read every word is almost as impossible as breathing in outer space. People simply don’t have the time, or more accurately, the attention span, to read your entire piece of content. Despite this uphill battle in the world of content marketing, there is still a way to get your message across and grab the attention of today’s buyers: writing scannable copy.
On average, people will read roughly 20% of the text on your page. It’s a sad truth, but embracing it will allow you to find a way to reach your audience without having to bore them to death with endless copy. Today’s readers don’t technically read—they scan. Writing scannable content is easy, you just have to know what works and what doesn’t.
Get to the Point!
While attention spans are at an all-time low, you can still effectively get your message to your audience: you just have to be quick and concise about it. Journalists use the “Inverted Pyramid.” This is a method of getting the most important and relevant information out of the way early on before your reader abandons ship.
You also don’t want to be too wordy. You’re not writing Moby Dick, you’re writing content for potential customers. You want to finesse them, but not too much. Cut the adverbs, wordy adjectives, and the passive voice. Make sure that you provide them with the information that they’re looking for, but in as few words as possible. They’ll appreciate the easy read as much as the helpful information.
Adapt for Scanners
According to Jakob Nielsen “users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” When visitors happen upon your site, they will find the vast text alarming and they won’t want to read, let alone scan it. Why not make it easy and simple for them by changing your format to benefit scanners? There are several tactics that you can employ to successfully create scannable content.
Make the text pop out on the page by using bold, links, italics, and even colors. This will draw the readers’ eyes in to focus on the words. The use of bullets and sub-heads are also crucial, because it tells the reader that the content that’s being broken up is different and important. Make sure to keep each point your making in its own paragraph, as to not confuse the reader.
You also want to make use of the white space by not filling it up with words. A webpage completely filled with copy instills anxiety and dread. No one wants to read all of that content. They want t get the key points and move on; so embrace the empty space.
Avoid Subjective Language
Making things as simple as possible for your readers is one of the most effective ways to grab their attention. Readers like when the language is simple, but they also want to know that it’s credible. Using facts and figures makes your content more trustworthy. If you make a claim and don’t back it up, your reader will be suspicious and question whether or not to continue reading.
If you’re trying to share helpful information, your reader wants to know that you’re presenting honest copy, not trying to sell them something that they don’t need. Be fair about what you’re writing about. Highlight the advantages while at least acknowledging the disadvantages. Readers will trust you if you give them reliable and unbiased information.
Using these practices will allow your content to be read, and your message to get across to the reader. Scanning is the new form of how people consume content, so adapt to the style instead of refusing to evolve.
Stream’s Kick-Start Step: Take a look at a piece of your content and see how you can edit it to cut down to make it more scannable. Add bolded text and bullet points to make it easier for your audience to digest.
Learn the best practices and avoid the mistakes by download our Content Marketing eBook.
Matt Jobs is an Inbound Marketing Copywriter at Stream Companies, a full-service Philadelphia-area advertising agency.