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5 Elements of Creating Scannable Content

The marketing landscape is changing once again. Most likely due to marketers themselves. To semi-quote Gary Vaynerchuck "marketers ruin everything". As us marketers saturate platforms, new platforms are born - similar to cellular service, once 3G got overly "crowded" 4G opened up to provide an alternate route for all the traffic.

Lets face it, people aren't consuming content in the same way as they used to and it probably has to do with, what I like to call...

"the impulsed thumb"

The act of scrolling aka swiping up on your mobile phone.

The problem is marketers are prioritizing growing SEO and organic search with blog posts and long form content, and it's not how people want to consume content.

In fact, 79% of people scan content while only 16% actually read the content in its entirety.

Less than 2 out of every 10 people that come to your blog will actually read your blog, and that's of the people that actually click through to an article.

Video is thoroughly consumed at almost double the rate that it's skimmed, compared to blog articles which are skimmed at a rate two thirds greater.

Video, social posts and news articles are the highest cited formats people want to see more of. And likely thoroughly consume.

For marketers to capture their audiences they are going to need to create more scannable content because 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds on a page.

So how do you actually write and produce scannable content? A writing format geared towards the 21st century of course.

But what does that look like?


1. Write shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences

Nobody likes a sentence they have to read more than once to understand its meaning.

Answer this, When was the last time you read the terms and conditions before you updated your phone?

Never. You just hit "agree" and move on.

Terms and conditions are a prime example of long dense paragraphs that leave little room for breathing.

Compare that to popular blogs on the internet and you can quickly see the difference. Were those blogs easier to scan through? Yes,

Now tell me, which ones are easier to read. Or better yet, which ones are easier to scan?

If your paragraphs are easier to scan then people are (your readers) are able to quickly analyze an article and take out of it what is most useful to them specifically.

Think about it, lets say you work for a technology company that


2. Include lots of whitespace

White space can be your best friend. But why?

Simply because it gives content more breathing room.

Whitespace also helps the reader focus, drawing attention to a focal point by padding it with space.

Long dense paragraphs have a hard time here because there is literally no whitespace to capture your readers attention in a quick scan.


3. Talk through visuals

Videos and images play a big role in how people consume content. Video is the most throughly consumed content and images are the easiest content to quickly digest. Both making your content easier to manage.

Use visuals to capture and inspire your audience. People want images, just look at Instagram.

Similar to whitespace, visuals can interrupt written text to lessen the burden a page full of words can hold.

Whitespace provides breathing room while visuals break the text into manageable sections.

Making content easier to scan through.


4. Lean on links

External links and internal links have been a strong SEO strategy for awhile now.

Ever since Google creating a "link" between the number of links a page has from external sources and its quality, they were able to rank higher quality pages which created a better user experience.

Using external links to create more scannable content takes the phrase "less is more" to heart.

Instead of thoroughly explaining something (especially if it's outside your area of expertise) summarize your thought and link it to another expert's article.

By doing so you'll accomplish a few things:

  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Shorten paragraphs
  • Force whitespace
  • Increase influencer traffic

Internal links can provide the same benefits, with one advantage.

They keep people on your website.

By linking to additional sources of information more thoroughly discussed in other articles you've published, people can navigate your website in a more personalized and specific manner.


5. Use bullets, lists, sections and sub headers

Bullet points are one of the most common ways to list out a series of information in a easy-to-scan format.

They highlight important information and can save both the writer and the reader a ton of time.

People love them.

Similar to using whitespace to give your text some breathing room and images to give your reader a break, these formatting techniques achieve the same desired result.

Any technique that strays from the dense paragraph of plain text will improve the overall experience of your content consumption.


Bonus: Google AMP

Google AMP (accelerated mobile pages) is a special project Google is working on. It's a solution for the slow and clunky experience of reading content on your mobile device.

More people than ever before are relying on mobile devices for quick updates and overall content consumption. 

Once the content is created and Google AMP is set up, publishers and readers can enjoy instant content loading across mobile devices.

The real opportunity comes in the form of a little lightning bolt.

When you search from your mobile device, some of the search results will display a little lightning bold next to the link.

These links will load automatically. Not in 5 seconds, or 2 seconds but 0 seconds - instantly.

Overtime, as people become more aware of what exactly the lightning bolt means and how much better the user experience is, people will begin to favor websites that are AMP optimized.


Final thoughts

The amount of content available to people today makes it more difficult to capture someones attention.

People want to quickly analyze whether or not they can get any value from content before investing time into it.

That's the real value of creating scannable content.

Helping people decide how much value they'll get from a piece of content before they invest their time will only improve the experience and establish credibility.

Scannable content directly addresses the exponential growing supply of readily available content and a demand level has remained flat.

If you want more people to stay on your site and read more of your content then help them get more value in less time.

Everyone wins!


Do you feel that scannable content is becoming more important? What else would you add to this list?