Close
Close

Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable

Only 16% of people read web sites word for word. Source

The average person only comprehends 60% of what they read. Source

Knowing this – how should bloggers who want to communicate effectively write?

Is your Blog Scannable ?

Most people read online by scanning the page for individual words or phrases, headings and other visual cues. Studies have shown that reading from a screen is more tiring and therefore about 25% slower than reading from paper – hence scanning becomes a technique that most employ.

Is your Blog Scannable? It’s a pretty simple thing to test. Ask a friend who is not familiar with your site to take a quick look at a few of your recent posts. Give them 15 to 30 seconds on each post, at the end of which you ask them what the post was about. You’ll quickly get a sense of how they’ve interacted with your blog.

Techniques to Make your Blog Scannable

Good bloggers keep this in mind as they write and will employ a variety of techniques to make their posts easier to read. Some of these techniques include:

  • Lists – Anecdotal evidence here at ProBlogger suggests that its my posts with bullet point lists in them that get linked to ALOT more than similar length posts written in of an essay style.
  • Formatting – Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard as you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
  • Headings and Sub Headings – Large, Bold words that act as visual cues of what is happening in the content are effective ways of drawing readers further into articles.
  • Pictures – Research shows that readers eyes are drawn down the page by pictures. Place them cleverly by your key points (especially when they closely relate to the content) and you have more of a chance of getting readers to read full articles.
  • Borders/Blockquotes – boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
  • Space – don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen – rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed and again tend to draw readers eyes to what is inside such space.
  • Get to the Point – try to be succinct with your points.
  • Don’t Bury your Points – one trap many of us fall into is to bury our main points deep within content where it’s unlikely to be noticed. If you have a key point make sure you say it up front. You can expand upon it later but get your message across in the first few sentences if possible.
  • Find creative ways to reinforce your main point throughout your post.
  • Don’t Introduce too many New Ideas in one post – once again this helps to avoid overwhelming readers with information all at once. If you want to cover many ideas that relate to one another consider a series of posts that link to each other.

If your site and its posts are not easily scannable you run the risk of losing your reader to another blog that is.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. Devin says:

    Great advice Darren.. I’m definitely a “scanner” and I never put myself in the reader’s shoes when writing. As always, thanks. =)

  2. Also, make good use of paragraphs. Don’t make them too long. I know that I, as a reader, have the tendency to read the first sentence of a paragraph, and if it is not interesting to me, I’ll skip the whole paragraph, assuming it’s all about the same thing.

  3. It’s probably not a good idea to use underline for getting attention to some point, because this will be easily confused with a clickable link. It’s probably better to use em or strong tags.

    I’m not sure where I read this (probably on http://www.useit.com/alertbox), but I have seen myself click on things, that weren’t links, but *were* underlined.

  4. Kurt says:

    I don’t do as much formatting as I should with lists, bolding, etc. But I do break text up into short paragraphs, which I hope is somewhat of a mitigating factor.

    Good advice, though, I’ll continue trying to improve on what I’m doing. We need a blogging best practices compendium… or at least better practices.

  5. Stuart says:

    There is some interesting research on what people see on their computer monitor and how they deal with it here:

    http://www.poynterextra.org/eyetrack2004/main.htm

    It’s an interesting read whether you’re involved in marketing or just want people to read what you have written.

    Even if you’re not into marketing it’s also interesting to compare that research with one of Jason Calacanis’ blogs and note where he puts his ads.

  6. Great post overall! I do take issue with your recommendations for emphasizing points.

    I would recommend that you never use underlining except for identifying links – to do otherwise negatively impacts usability as it has been well documented that people associated underlined words with links.

    Nor would I recommend using capitals – HAVING TOO MANY WORDS ALL IN CAPS reduces readability and looks like ‘shouting’. I can’t really think or – or have seen – a good example of using caps to emphasize a point.

    One other recommendation would be to include a summary of your post at the top so that people can quickly get a grasp on what the post is about.

    Perhaps the most easiest way that authors can make their posts more scannable is to break up long paragraphs. Always preview your post before publishing so that you can identify long paragraphs. There is nothing less scannable than lines of dense text. Paragraphs should be one or two sentences at most.

  7. Great advice. Definately agree with your points, especially the formatting. More useful too for search engine purposes, with bold words highlighting your point.

  8. Paragraphs should be one or two sentences at most.

    Well, I don’t know if I’d go quite that far. And ironically, you state this in a paragraph that is four sentences long.

  9. Hidden Nook says:

    Thanks for the tips! Your quickly becoming a favorite read of mine!

  10. Darren Rowse says:

    nice points gang – especially on the short paragraphs. I should have included that as a tip and appreciate you drawing readers attention to it.

    Thanks for your kind words Hidden Nook! Leave comments like that often and you’ll quickly become one of my favourite readers!

  11. mac says:

    Nice overview! I teach a few Web journalism courses and I’ll definitely incorporate some of these suggestions into my usability section (better known as my “endless pontificating about usability”). To add to the mix — I’ve found that print journalism and effective blogging share many similarities:

    * The inverse pyramid method of writing (stack the good stuff at the top, then trickle down to the less important facts)

    * Short paragraphs.

    * Check for spelling, grammar, etc. Never put a first draft up. Ever.

  12. mac says:

    LOL — one last one: READ THE POSTS BEFORE POSTING. Mea culpa everyone — I can’t believe I unloaded that “short paragraphs” point.

  13. Thanks for the tips!

    http://www.wealthjunkie.com

  14. I think I read that Google requires paragraphs to be at least two sentences, otherwise it considers the “page” to be nothing more than generated spam. Can anyone verify this?

  15. eckes says:

    Speking of scanning, since you started to increase you blog frequency I did not really read any of your articles, only scanned them.

    You write that it is good to produce a lot new articles as entry points for SEO, but is it also possible to lose some readers if they cannot anymore catch up with the blog (or if they think too many postings happen which dont really bring anything new)?

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    Good point Eckes.

    I’m thinking that after the 31 Days project that I’ll return to a more normal posting frequency here – it’s not only too much for readers but me :-)

  17. Jennifer – don’t you know “do as I say, not as I do”? ;-)

    Seriously though, if you look at a lot of good news stories – say, Reuters or the BBC – their paragraphs are usually one sentence long; two at most. This makes the content way more scannable.

    As a rule of thumb, I really would recommend 1-2 sentences or 3-4 lines per paragraph.

  18. Kidino says:

    I agree with short paragraphs. And I also go with short sentences.

    Many times, I see long sentences being used as if it projects a ‘cool’ corporate image. When you get to the end of the sentence, you forget what the sentence was trying to say in the beginning.

  19. centerpide says:

    but I dont get it…when you’re succinct, don’t you lose quality..I mean you lose the “richness” of the blog don’t you??

  20. I am delighted to discover your site and fascinated to learn blogging has become a healthy source of income for you. While I have been developing my skills as a writer this year, I had no idea one could turn blogging into profit like this. I will explore further.

    Best regards,
    Diana Christine
    http://www.feminineexpressions.blogspot.com
    http://www.towardconsciousness.blogspot.com

  21. chen tong says:

    If you have a long article for your blog, do you break it down to several posts like part 1, part 2, part3…etc. or you just put the entire article into one post with good sub-titles?

    Darren…and other savvy bloggers around, which method, you think, that majority of readers may find more comfortable?

    I have not seen many people break down a long articles into different parts and posts, but I think it makes sense, e.g. one idea a time/ a post. So a reader may not be scared away from the lenght of the article…
    Also, personally I don’t like scrolling down. I like one page at one glance. and click for the next topic. But I suspect I am the minority.

    Less important, it also increase the times of displaying AdSense since there are now broken into several posts.

    However, unlike the one post method, it does not give the reader the convenient of scanning. It is not scannable.

    What are your insights on this? Thanks.

  22. Wai Pyo says:

    I absolutely agree with your points and will stick to them when writing for my blog. Thanks!

  23. Models says:

    What do you mean about making you blogging site scannable… Scannable like a resume is scannable?

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    Scannable like ‘it’s easy to run your eyes over and get the main points’ type scannable.

  25. Patrick Soon says:

    Hi, I’ve just started a new blog and I have no idea how to “block quote” quotes that I use. Is there a simple way to do this in blogger?

  26. Paolo says:

    Hi, thanks man for the good advices, i’m starting with a serious blog project and looking always for good ideas about blogging and your site is really inspiring.

  27. Chandrakanth says:

    I am still in the process of creating a blog. Information like this is so invigorating and encouraging. Ideas are indeed indepth and creative. This piece of advise will give a head start for newbies like me. Very impeccable and down to earth & inspiring.

    When brought out, my bog content will definitey follow precepts given in your article.

  28. Blogging is quite a hard and time consuming. If none of the visitor read even a single post. entire work is quite a waste. So i feel to make some thing scanable and make an effective communication with my visitors

    Thanks

  29. SEO Genius says:

    Excellent tips Darren

  30. SEO UK says:

    Excellent tips and some annoying yet true statistics there. It makes you a little less motivated when your writing a big 2,000 word pillar article when you know most people are going to scan over it.

    However I am trying my best now to make my articles more suitable for lazy readers as I like to call them :P

    Taking some of your tips in to action
    Thanks.

  31. Excellent tips. Since my website is about speed reading, I think I really need to pay special attention to them. Thanks for that.

  32. Chris Martin says:

    Many of us do not pay attention to these nitty-gritty things. You are true, if the readers find it easy to read the blog he will definitely revert.

  33. BLOGBOOZE says:

    Hey darren i read the whole article, I have also applied few of these points to my blog.

    Only after the post i realized that the post have written in 2005. I think these points are still valid because its timeless content.

    http://blogbooze.blogspot.com

  34. red says:

    very informative and I agree with blogbooze – timeless!

    red
    http://www.mybitterblog.com

  35. Spiceh! says:

    Gotta love that attitude.

  36. Thanks for the heads up! When brought out, my bog content will definitey follow precepts given in your article.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] For my Dutch readers: this post is for linking to Problogger’s 31-days to building a better blog [...]

  2. [...] Featured Links: Problogger has an August challenge to improve your blog in 31 days I know some principles of keyed to reader, Plain English, Scannable, such as, [...]

  3. [...] 一般人透過電腦螢幕的閱讀速度,會比閱讀紙張時降低25%左右。因此在寫作blog時,如何增加文章的易讀性,便是一門值得blogger關注的課題。Darren Rowae在這篇Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable裡,提示了以下10個技巧: [...]

  4. 奇文共欣賞系列—(2) Blog、版面、文章、內容

    在大家瘋狂地製作和推銷 blog 的此刻,就好像當年網站以及個人網頁熱潮襲捲學術與商業圈狀況,以 N 倍的程度重演. 當年網路還是個高價與奢侈的東西,所以家庭和個人使用只是極為少數.

  5. [...] 一般人透過電腦螢幕的閱讀速度,會比閱讀紙張時降低25%左右。因此在寫作blog時,如何增加文章的易讀性,便是一門值得blogger關注的課題。Darren Rowae在這篇Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable裡,提示了以下10個技巧: [...]

  6. [...] Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has an article up on how important it can be to make your post content ’scannable’. According to a study done by Jakob Nielson & John Morkes back in 1997, only 16% of their test users actually read webpages word for word. [...]

  7. [...] Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable (ProBlogger). Nothing to do with baseball, but it occurs to me that I’ve been blogging for a long time and I know there are others who read this site that blog or are thinking of blogging, and the least I can do is pass along some of what I know. If you are at all interested in blogging, I cannot recommend Darren Rowse’s writing enough. He is an absolute must read. [...]