A surprising number of folks find your blog while they are cruising the Web.
I call them your drive-bys.
They are on a big old freeway, with cruise control set at 70 MPH. They don’t want to stop until they reach their destination— and they’d rather not be distracted by billboards with too much information to read.
They are not so much interested in the journey; they just want to get there, unpack your blog post, and take the fun stuff out.
Along the way, they are looking for signs that tell them they are on the right road.
In fact, your entire audience is attention-disordered. The majority of readers are scanners, looking for the answer to a question or some new gem of information. We have precious few seconds and if our post doesn’t grab those visitors, they will zoom away—or take an exit— without reading our excellent content.
A Good Post is a Readable Post
First, let’s assume that you have content worth reading. You are writing in a friendly, conversational tone about something that you know something about. What can you do to ensure that your reader stays with you through the whole post?
1. White space is your friend.
Web designers call it negative space. The more you break up your content with white space, the less clutter there is for the reader and the better chance you have of driving home your points home.
It also gives your readers’ eyes a rest. At the minimum, every time you introduce a new sub-topic or point, you should have first clicked your return key. Your visitors will thank you.
2. Your font matters.
Of course, the readability of fonts will vary, depending on which browser a reader is using. But the general rule on the web is to stay away from any font that has too much detail. There are many good ones to choose from—Open Sans always rated highly on the list—but you are sage using any one that is simple, open and optimized for web legibility.
What you are looking at is size and contrast. Stay away from that gray font color. And gone are the days of 12 point, or even 14 point font. On our site here, it’s 20 point. Everyone wants it easy to read.
3. Sub-heads are your signposts along the way.
Sub-heads are the titles you put within your posts to organize your points and help your readers get through the copy faster. Think of them as road signs along the way, leading your readers through your content and helping them remember your major points.
In this post, my numbered tips are my sub-heads. They break up long copy and are especially good for the skimmers and scanners.
4. Use bold to make important sentences or categories stand out.
Not much more to say here, except that bolded words and sentences are another way to let your readers know what you think is most important. We also use bolding with our links so they are easily seen.
5. Use pull-quotes to add flavor and draw attention to specific content.
Ever notice how your eyes are drawn first to the text that is pulled out and formatted differently in a magazine or news article?
Pull quotes help busy readers digest information faster and can make them curious enough to read the whole post.
6. The right photos will make your content memorable.
Your reader wants a reason to read your post. If you’ve just crammed a bunch of words together, her eyes won’t get the break they need. A photo grabs us by the shoulders and makes us pay attention long enough to read the post. And images make us remember the content.
Aside from the emotional impact and staying power of photos, they can break longer posts into more easily consumable chunks.
7. When appropriate, numbers help your reader scan and retain your major points.
Even though list posts can seem boring, we know that they work. Think of them as a promise to your reader.
We eagerly await the 5 or 10 or 20 things you are going to show us. We remember the points you make when you number them. And we know exactly what we’re going to get when we read a headline with “5 Ways to..,” 10 Strategies…,” and 20 Tips for…” doing this or that.
Numbers help us organize our content—especially if we are racing through a post—and they appeal to the logical mind.
Don’t overuse this strategy, but if it fits a particular piece of content, as you see here, go with it.
Okay, I lied. This next one is not so simple.
8. Choose your headline carefully.
This is probably the toughest challenge you will have. So much can be said about the importance of a catchy headline.
In a nutshell, write your headline for your reader, not the search engines. (You can always go into the backend and craft a headline with the words people may be using in their google searches.)
Most importantly, your headline is a promise. Remember, whatever you promise, you must deliver in your post. If you don’t, you will lose your readers’ trust. And trust is a fragile thing.
These tweaks and fixes of course assume the content of your post will satisfy the reader. It’s good content. Educational. Entertaining. It’s what your readers are looking for.
When it comes to the length of your post, there is no hard and fast rule. In fact, longer posts are not frowned upon. No matter the length, if your post is interesting enough, your readers will consume it. Just keep one thing in mind: quality over quantity.
With just a few tweaks, you can make your content easy to read, easy to understand and quickly consumable.
Trust me. Your readers will thank you.
An audio version of this post: