What the heck are scannable blog posts? And how do you write them?
It’s easy to see how this phrase, scannable blog posts, could be confusing to anyone unfamiliar with its meaning as it relates to content marketing and blogging. Certainly, it doesn’t mean literally scannable, as in scanning an image. Right?
Or does it?
I know when I embarked on my freelance writing career and first heard the term scannable blog posts, I scratched my head in confusion. It reminded me of my IT days in corporate America where phrases like the system blew up or the computer crashed were tossed around on a daily basis.
Who knew working in an office environment could be so fraught with danger? 🙂
Terms Of Art And Scannable Blog Posts
Maybe the best way to illustrate what I mean by scannable blog posts is to ask you to consider your own behavior when reading online content. Let’s see if this rings any bells:
You open an email or click open a blog post link on social media. What’s the first thing you read?
I’m guessing the headline is the very first thing you read. In fact, it was probably the headline that made you click on the post link, to begin with. If the headline didn’t grab you, the rest of these points are moot.
But let’s assume the headline did its job, and you’ve opened the page. Let’s further assume that the page is wall-to-wall text, with few breaks, long paragraphs, nothing but words, words, words. And more words.
What’s the next thing you did? I bet I know.
The Dreaded Inward Groan
You inwardly groaned.
Maybe you even uttered the word Ugh, or a reasonable facsimile, and clicked right off of the page. You did not pass go; you certainly didn’t collect $200. You just bailed faster than a dog after a squirrel and told yourself you’d read it later.
And you and I both know later never comes. Or at least hardly ever.
The truth is, life goes on, you get busy, you move on to other things, and that post you were interested in reading? It’s way, way back there in the rearview mirror. And every time you remember that scary block of unremitting text, you shudder.
An opportunity lost, both for you and for the blog post writer.
On The Other Hand
If, however, you opened the page and were greeted with short paragraphs, a strategic sprinkling of subheadings, maybe some bullet points and creative formatting, you likely scanned down the page, taking in the major points of the blog post.
Did you catch the operative word there? Scanned.
Then, if the blog post captured your interest thoroughly enough, you read the entire post from beginning to end.
Do you see the difference? Why did you read one blog post, but not the other? The one you read was scannable. And that’s half the battle. No. I take that back. It’s the full battle, waged and won.
The Ultimate Goal Of Your Blog Post
If you’re new to blogging or freelance writing and content marketing, you may still be trying to stick to writing rules you learned in school. The only problem is they don’t work in business writing.
Arguably, getting your dang post read is your ultimate goal. No easy task in these days of information overload. Sadly, often even exceptionally valuable, well-written articles get passed over.
Fortunately, there are some simple rules you can apply to your very next blog post to help it stand out and reach more people. If you think scannable blog posts and white space, you’re on the right track.
Scannable Writing Rules
1. The more paragraphs, the better
If you’ve ever opened an email or online article only to see nothing but wall-to-wall words with no breaks, just lengthy areas of dense text, you know how quickly you click right back out again.
Nothing is more daunting than a thick block of words. And if you need a magnifying glass to see them due to a minuscule-sized font, it’s even worse.
Holy smokes! Who has the time much less the energy to wade through that?
Not me. Probably not you. Likely not anyone.
Break your posts up into small bites with lots of paragraphs. As much as possible, stick with only three, maybe four sentences per paragraph. And dare to step outside the box now and then and write a one-sentence paragraph.
You rebel, you!
If you’re feeling especially rebellious, write a one-word paragraph. Ye gads, what will the neighbors think?
To heck with the neighbors. Unless they’re going to read your blog post, it doesn’t matter. You just need to increase the odds that your readers will hang with you.
2. The magic of subheads
Another tool in your content creation toolbox is subheads. Try not to write more than three or four paragraphs at most without including a subhead.
Subheads break up blocks of text, create white space, and allow the reader to quickly scan the page, much like jumping from rock to rock in a swiftly flowing river.
If your reader is suitably intrigued, they’re more likely to read the blog post.
Subheads make the text scannable — precisely the goal you’re striving to reach.
3. Get comfortable with bulleted lists
Lists are your friend. Bulleted and numbered lists are another great way to break up text, making it more readable. More scannable. And I’ll keep saying until you throw me out the back door:
Another advantage to list posts is that you can write a list headline to go with them, increasing search engine optimization. And as a content marketer, high SEO ranking is as important as readability.
Use lists to:
- Itemize points
- Rank ideas according to relevancy
- Illustrate how-tos for your readers.
4. Use creative formatting
What do I mean by creative formatting?
Creative formatting is another way to break text into bite-size pieces. Do it by using variations in font size, bold and italic fonts, even different colors.
Indenting whole paragraphs to make them stand out is another use of creative formatting.
Creative formatting creates white space, breaks up the monotony, and makes for scannable blog posts — in other words, blog posts that get read.
5. Learn to love white space
The use of white space deserves a point all its own. It’s what all these elements, when used together, do, which is to create scannable blog posts and articles.
The human eye loves white space. It’s easier on the eyes. It doesn’t scare the reader away but instead invites them to come on in and get comfortable. And read.
6. Include images
Adding images to your blog posts adds interest and entices the reader. People are visual beings, and they respond well to images. And if the picture is intriguing enough, it can be the main reason the reader sticks around.
Images give your reader something to look at other than text. And hey, once they see some great pictures, they just might settle in and read your blog post.
7. Use a conversational tone
The tone of your blog post has less to do with actual visuals than it does with creating a feeling. When you write a blog post, the last thing you want to sound like is a boring science instructor.
Aim to write as you would speak when sitting across the table from someone, having a conversation. Just leave out the ohms and ahs and throat clearing. You do want to sound coherent, after all.
A conversational tone is much more digestible to your reader, and the post will be more enjoyable to read. If you have a funny bone, let it show. Nothing is more engaging than humor, when appropriate, and if you have a flair for it, use it.
Make Sense Now?
Hopefully, you now see what I mean by writing scannable blog posts. It’s all about visuals and voice.
You want white space. Scannability.
Your goal is ease of reading.
Blog posts that get read spread your message. They build your audience. They foster audience loyalty.
And a loyal audience will trust you.
They’ll look to your for answers.
And when they’re ready, they’ll buy from you.
All because you didn’t scare them off with a daunting block of unrelenting text.
Who knew it could be that easy?