There's a myth floating around that people don't read online content.
Here's the truth of the matter: People read content online. They just do it differently.
There are two simple rules to remember: Relevance and Skimming.
If you missed rule #1: go here
2. The Rule of Skimming: People will scan content to find out if it is relevant.
The distinguishing characteristic of online readers is the practice of scanning or skimming.
I’ve positioned this point as the second rule, because it builds on the rule of relevance above. First and foremost, people want something relevant. Thus, they will scan in order to discover whether or not the content before them is relevant. If scanning establishes relevance, they will continue to read.
Jakob Nielsen's groundbreaking eye-tracking studies proved that scannable copywriting produces a 124% improvement in visibility. A major Poynter study reached the same conclusions regarding reading practices. People skim headlines before they read the content. Thus, declares one proponent of skimming, "All content should be skimmable content."
The rule of skimming provides several guidelines for how to structure your content:
Your headlines are the first place people will look for relevance. Solid headlines are the key to powerful web content. Ensure that your content makes the connection from the outset by means of effective headlines.
Bullet points and numbered lists are the second connection point for relevance. If the headline and subheads are relevant then readers move to the second scannable portion of the text — lists. Bullet points or numbered lists make an impact because they are easy for the eyes to move quickly over.
Text formatting provides a third level of scannable text. The final area for the reader who is scanning content is formatted text. Bold text, specifically, is the best way to format relevant content that you want the skimmers to see.
Scannable web content is content that will better engage with your users. Break up your text into chunks, headlines, bullets, and bolds. This will improve readability, and encourage response. For more information about how to format and optimize web copy, see my post “10 Steps to SEO-Optimizing Your Blog Articles.”
I've provided two simple pieces of advice for content that people will read:
As a final reminder, all online content should be great online content. There is seldom an excuse for posting shoddy copy, shot through with typos and poor grammar. Readers can be finicky about quality, and they have every right to be. Your credibility is on the line with every word that you create. Make it count.
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