Want to get people to read your web content?
Buckle up and settle in. It’s harder than you may think.
Good content that people want to read isn’t just well-written. It’s also:
In other words, it’s easy on the eyes. You don’t have to do much work to make sense of it.
But, why is this important?
It’s simple: People read differently on the web than they do anywhere else. “Anywhere else” includes papers, books, magazines, and other printed matter. Whatever the physical medium, people do not read them the same way they read a web page.
If you’re not optimizing your web content for the way people read on the web, you’ll be turning them away more often than inciting them to dive deeper.
Want people to get the most out of your content? You need to fan the flames of their interest, not douse them in freezing cold water.
Why Do People Read Web Content Differently?
Why do people read differently on the web than they do for printed matter?
We could surmise that people don’t feel like they have time to read every page they encounter word-by-word. The web is so large, and there’s so much information to sift through, something’s got to give.
Think about how many pages you click through daily. If you have no idea, check out your browser history for yesterday. How many websites did you visit?
If you’re like me, the list is most likely a mile long. There’s no way I would have digested all that information unless I scanned it.
Deep reading is not conducive to web browsing.
What Does Research Say About Reading on the Web?
Research backs up the fact that people don’t read web content like they do books.
In fact, the Nielsen/Norman Group found this was true 79% of the time in an eye-tracking study they did. They measured over 300 people’s eye movements as they browsed hundreds of websites. They came to an overwhelming conclusion:
People do not read on the web. They scan.
Slate came to a similar conclusion when they tracked how far people scrolled down their web pages before leaving. Even if people do stick around long enough to scan the page, they don’t stay for long.
About 50% of users stopped scanning at the halfway mark in a Slate article before they clicked away from the page. Across the web, people stopped at about the 60% mark.
Here’s Slate’s conclusion:
“Few people are making it to the end, and a surprisingly large number aren’t giving articles any chance at all.”
Another Nielsen study found that to be true. According to the research, people only have time to read (or choose to read) about 28% of any given web page.
If this isn’t discouraging for web content creators, I don’t know what is.
If we can’t get people to read our content, how do we make any impact at all?
There’s Hope: You Can Get People to Scan and Scroll Your Web Content
Yes, you can improve your chances that people will scan your content, read at least some of it, and scroll all the way to the end.
On the internet, where attention spans are shorter than a blip, that’s a huge deal.
Some of these tips to achieve these goals may be obvious, but some may be surprising. Here are five ways to make people more likely to skim, scan, and read.
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1. Organize Your Content Well
Well-organized content is scannable content. It’s a cinch to read, plus, you can easily find ideas within the text. Some examples of good organization:
- Bulleted lists
- Numbered lists
- Headings and sub-headings
- Short paragraphs with one main idea in each
- Meaningful links
These all have one thing in common. They’re all ways to break up your content so it’s scannable. Readers latch on to these text markers – all of them are alerts that say, “Hey, this is important. Pay attention.”
And, luckily, most readers do!
So, what does the opposite look like? This leads us to my next point:
2. Don’t Build Walls of Text!
You can find content with zero organization most often in that infamous “wall of text.” You know what I’m talking about.
It’s hard to scan and will make people want to punch their computer – never a good scenario.
Because they can’t punch their computers, instead, they’ll leave your website without a backward glance.
3. Make Your Organization Logical
A page that’s organized is great, but if that organization isn’t logical, you’re still not helping your readers.
What does logical organization look like?
It means ideas are grouped together. One paragraph, one idea. One bulleted list, one main idea. Here’s a fantastic example:
Note that all items in each list go together. On one hand, there’s the list of ingredients. On the other, there are the instructions. These groupings make sense. They’re logical.
Here’s an illogical example:
Note the formatting. Some of the items have punctuation; others don’t. Some are one-word long; others are sentence-length.
Also, note the information itself. All the items in this list relate to ice cream, but they don’t all belong there. A bulleted list needs to have the same type of “thing” next to each bullet.
Don’t make these errors. Instead…
4. Format Your Bulleted Lists Well
Good organization helps your readers immensely. It also makes them want to linger on your page.
When your page is easy-as-pie to scan, your readers can glom-on to important information. They’ll grab the hook and get caught on your line.
Here are some main keys for strongly organized lists in your content:
- Don’t mix sentence fragments with full sentences in your lists. Use phrases exclusively, or only use sentences with periods – not both.
- If you find yourself typing out long lists with commas in paragraphs, consider breaking up that information into a bulleted list.
- Try to use the same sentence structure and type in your lists for each bullet. For instance, don’t mix statements with questions.
- Don’t overuse bullets or lists. Employ them when it makes sense, especially when they clarify your ideas.
In short, to make sense, use common sense. Try your best to enlighten your readers, not confuse them. Break up your content, organize it, and do it logically.
5. Use SEO Strategies
SEO is how you make your website usable and readable for both search engines and humans.
This optimization double-whammy is exactly how you should go about boosting your content for a better user experience.
SEO tenets, like the use of keywords, headers, meaningful links, and more, contribute to readability.
Plus, according to Yoast, readable text ranks. On the other hand, text that’s hard to read will not rank. Think stilted sentences, strange wording, or unorganized blocks of text.
Bottom line: Search engines loathe walls of text in web content. You should, too.
Get Read More Widely: Format Your Web Content the Right Way
Unfortunately, most internet users don’t do any deep reading on the web.
That blog post you spent hours composing? It may not get skimmed past the third paragraph. Even more people will bounce before they ever read the first line.
These are not good reasons to get discouraged and quit, though. Instead, take them as motivation to format your web content so it’s ultra-readable.
This means a logical organization with zero text walls. It means using bulleted or numbered lists to break up chunks of information. It means being smart about including meaningful headings and links.
Image via Spyre Studios
Don’t forget the SEO! This is the perfect way to optimize for both search engines and people. Implement basic SEO tenants and you’ll find that organization is inherent to its success.
To sum it all up, pay attention to what you’re saying, but don’t neglect how you’re saying It, either. The way your words appear on the web can dramatically affect how people consume your content.
To feed the most people, make it easy to digest. Make it readable.
If your content is suffering from lack of structure and organization, call on Express Writers to help. We produce web content that’s simple to read and well-written.