You spend hours researching your topic, collating content, gathering just the right images, and synthesizing it all into a fantastic blog post…only to learn that people usually read less than 20% of content on any given web page. Why? By nature, we are skimmers who prefer to do as little work as possible to find what we need. So how do you write compelling content that’s engaging for readers yet supports the way most people actually interact with the text?
Tips for Converting the Skimmers
1. Use plain language. The average American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level, so keep it simple. Eliminate excess words, use positive and active language, and avoid jargon or expressions. Protip: did you know Microsoft Word can check your document for reading ease and grade level? Give it a try! No one ever complains that something is “too easy” to read!
2. Format your content to support scanning habits. Most of us have an aversion to reading big blocks of text, so break it up by making main points bold, using bulleted or numbered lists (ahem) and inserting relevant images when appropriate.
3. Lead with the most important content. That way, users can quickly decide if they want to (or need to) read the entire article. If they do stop reading, you’ve already given them what they need to know. Here’s the basic approach: use the 5 W’s! Who, what, when, where, why—in other words, bottom line it. Give them the meat and save the potatoes for later.
4. Talk about what matters most to your reader. Writing a sales pitch? Readers want to know two things: what’s in it for them and how much? Protip: a feature is not the same as a benefit. You need to connect those dots for your reader in (yes, I’m saying it again) plain language.
5. Format for mobile devices! 91% of mobile users say that access to content is very important. It’s also important to note that consumers are more likely to recommend and buy from the business that has a better mobile experience. Give extra thought to how and when readers will be accessing your content. Try using summaries, shorter paragraphs, and narrow lists.
6. Use your authentic voice. Readers connect with a human voice that’s warm, engaging, and “real”. There is a time and a place for stiff, corporate business-speak, but that’s not going to keep your audience interested. If you’re funny, use that to your benefit. You’re a great storyteller? Even better. People connect with other people, not with companies.
7. Use imagery. Visuals can make your story really stand out and pique interest to the point of reading your work—hopefully all the way to the end. Protip: great visuals can increase likes by 54% and comments by 104% on your blog posts. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and if you make your visuals appealing, then skimmers may stick around to read your words. Pictures or diagrams can often do a much better job of explaining concepts than just text, and at the very least, they may grab attention where you may otherwise have lost engagement.
If Orange is the New Black, then skimmers are the new readers. And even though skimmers may not spend a lot of time actually, well, reading, quality content formatted in an easily accessible way will improve their experience, thereby leading to higher engagement. Use these tips to optimize your content for the different types of web readers, leading to increased shares, higher web traffic, and an ever-growing stream of interested leads.