If you’re going to spend time writing blogs, emails, or articles, you want people to read them, right? Because, after all, you’ve poured your heart and soul into sharing your knowledge. But when it comes to online marketing, that simply isn’t enough. In the digital world, creating great content is about knowing how to explain an idea clearly… and in the way people read it online.
Readability 🤓 That’s what week 2 of Kickass Content Month is about. This month I’m sharing how to do online marketing by creating quality content.
This all came about when my favorite resource, the Content Marketing Institute, shared a checklist for creating quality content.
Today, we’re looking at how to make people WANT to read your content by understand HOW they read your content.
3 Steps to Creating Readable Content
Last week I talked about understandability (check it out here). Readability is different. It has more do with how the brain scans information and where the eyes look on a page. Trust me, this can get VERY geeky (I ❤️ it), but here is what you really need to know:
1. Don’t bury your lead. This is the old journalism mantra I learned more than 30 years ago in J-school. It still pertains. Make sure your topic is clear. Don’t spend 1,000 words talking about something and then bury the most important fact in the middle of a paragraph.
2. Chunk it up. Keep your paragraphs short and varying lengths. (You’ll notice I often have one or two words on a line… I do that for readability, event though my SEO plugin hates it).
Strive for no more than three sentences in a paragraph and no more than three paragraphs under one heading—although if the paragraphs are really short, you can have a few more.
3. Use bullets and numbered lists. Help your reader find information fast. The eye is drawn to bullets and numbers.
Those are the three important takeaways from this article. But if you like the geeky stuff like I do, read on because knowing this will help you understand how to do online marketing.
Understand how people read digital publications.
When it comes to writing great content, you may have heard of the inverted pyramid. It’s how I learned to write for print, and if you’re writing something that will be printed, use it. But for online marketing, you have to approach content differently.
Eyetracking research shows that people scan webpages and phone screens in various patterns.
The most common is the shape of the letter F.
What does this mean for online marketing?
It means your audience will read your blog or web page like this:
- First is a horizontal movement (the top bar of the F), usually across the upper part of the content area.
- Next is the second horizontal bar of the F a little further down the page, and it’s usually read a shorter area than in the first pass.
- Then they scan down the left side of the page (the F’s stem). According to the research, sometimes this movement is slow and systematic, sometimes it moves faster.
What does this mean for how you write and how readable your content is?
- The first few lines matter because they will get more attention than any other lines.
- The first few words on the left of each line will get more attention.
In short, users aren’t going to read very much of your content. That may not sound fantastic, and it’s not really. But if you understand that, you can do something about it.
Why do people scan this way when they’ve been searching for your article and presumably WANT to read it?
The article I found this research in is fascinating and I suggest reading the whole thing. Here is the link again: F-Shaped Pattern of Reading on the Web: Misunderstood, But Still Relevant (Even on Mobile)
Specifically the article said:
People scan in an F-shape when all of these 3 elements are present:
1. A page or a section of a page includes text that has little or no formatting for the web. For example, it has a “wall of text” but no bolding, bullets, or subheadings.
2. The user is trying to be most efficient on that page.
3. The user is not so committed or interested that he is willing to read every word.
The three steps you learned today will help with the addressing items 1 and 2. If you make your content easy to read, you’ll significantly improve your online marketing efforts.
The other articles in this series on creating Kicka$$ content will help you with item number three. So go back and read the post on understandability and come back next week for a discussion on actionability.
For help implementing your kicka$$ content, check out The Kicka$$ Content Planner. This quarterly planner is available now!