Why no-one read your blog post (and what to do about it)
I’ll admit, I didn’t read your blog post.
Do you want to know why I didn’t read your blog post?
It was because of the layout.
Your blog post was too hard to read.
Now that I’ve admitted that, can I ask you a question? “How many blog articles do you read— I mean actually read – from start to finish?”
Naturally your answer’s going to depend on what type of reader you are and that can vary. But did you know that most people scan blog posts rather than read them?
In fact, there are all kinds of statistics that ‘prove’ this. Though how they actually know is beyond me— I read loads of posts and I’ve never been asked. However, the latest stats show that it’s around 43%. Though I reckon it’s higher. Much, much higher.
How Readers Scan Online Content
On that note, I have to admit something to you—I’m one of them—a scanner. Well, I scan most blog posts, about 95%. That figure could be higher, but I relegate a lot of them to the too hard basket – I don’t even bother scanning them—too hard to read. Which could be a shame because the content might be incredibly valuable. But I’ll never know.
Which brings me back to why I didn’t read your blog post. I’m sorry, but I put it in the ‘too hard’ basket.
You see as one of the ‘scanners’ I read blog posts like they do:
- First, we read the blog title; and if sounds enticing…
- We read the introduction; if that’s interesting…
- We read the first paragraph.
- Then, we skim down the page and read the bits that capture our attention, or we look for the section that answers the question the headline promises to deliver on
- And then, only then, if the post seems
- well written and /or
…and having got the gist of the post,
We may or may not go back to the beginning and read the whole article.
Eye Tracking Studies
Over the years there have been numerous eye tracking studies that show when reading on screen, a typical reader’s gaze runs down the left side of the page with brief forays deeper into the line. As they progress down the page the reader steadily reads less and less into the line. This is known as the F-shaped pattern.
The F-Shaped Pattern
Eyetracking by Nielsen Norman Group: nngroup.com
In addition to the F-shaped pattern, there are other scanning styles that have appeared in eye tracking studies:
- some people scan the headings and subheadings only, skipping the normal text below
- others skip big chunks of text looking for something specific, such as a particular set of words, statistics, numbers or a link
- and some readers fixate on almost everything on the page. This occurs when readers are engaged and highly interested in your content. They will read your entire post. This is the holy grail when it comes to writing content. It’s achievable when we make a connection with our ideal reader because it’s written for them and we understand who they are and what they want from us.
How to Layout your Blog Post to Optimise for Scanning
Now that you know this, I want to help you learn to layout your post so that it’s easy to scan and encourages the scanner to read the post from start to finish.
I’ll start with an example of what your blog post looked like, paying attention to the layout only.
How Not to Layout a Blog Post
This blog post is incredibly hard to read because the sentences are overly long, and they are all around the same length, which makes the post difficult to understand. In fact, the more words you write, the harder it is for the reader to get your message. Because of this there is no sense of flow so using sentences of varying lengths is much better because it makes your text easier to read and creates a sense of rhythm to your writing. Also, each of the sentences flows onto the next which makes for long paragraphs with minimal paragraph breaks, which means that there’s not enough white space on the page to rest my eyes. Reading like this is too hard; it actually makes my eyes tired. And the text, because it’s single-spaced, it contributes to making it harder to read than if 1.5 spacing was used instead. Also the font is too small, which means that I have to increase the document size to read it comfortably.
Formatting your text is known as signposting which is an effective way to capture your reader’s attention. There are no sub-headings to capture the reader’s attention which means they’ll likely miss the relevant parts of the post, and valuable or essential information, such as quotes and statistics haven’t been highlighted in the example, so they are easily missed when scanning the page. The blog post is all text; there are no visuals to help bring the words to life or to emphasise the main points. How more engaging it would be if the piece used a visual graph to represent the statistics then they would be more likely remembered. Numbers are boring, unlike visuals which people love to share. Content writers often research blog posts to search for information they can share on their blog posts and social media channels, and visuals, particularly infographics, graphs, quotes and memes are the most popular. So try and incorporate one or two of these in each of your posts.
You have to admit – this is hard to read.
Compared to this example:
HOW TO LAYOUT A BLOG POST
The above text is incredibly hard to read because the sentences are overly long and around the same length. This makes them difficult to understand. In fact, the more words you write, the harder it is for the reader to get your message. Because of this there is no sense of flow. Using sentences of varying lengths is much better because it makes your text easier to read and understand while creating a sense of rhythm to your writing.
Writing sentences in varying lengths makes your text easier to read and creates a sense of rhythm to your writing.
Use White Space
Each of the sentences flows onto the next, which makes for long paragraphs with minimal paragraph breaks. This type of layout means that there’s not enough white space on the page to rest my eyes. Reading like this is too hard because it actually makes my eyes tired.
Text and Font Size
And the text! Because it’s single-spaced, it contributes to making it harder to read than if 1.5 spacing was used instead. Also, the font is too small, which means I have to increase the document size to read it comfortably.
Formatting your text is known as signposting which is an effective way to capture your reader’s attention. Here’s how to do this:
There are no sub-headings to capture the reader’s attention. Which means they’ll likely miss the relevant parts of the post.
Highlight Important Information
Valuable or essential information, such as quotes and statistics, haven’t been highlighted in the example, so they are also easily missed when scanning the page.
The blog post is all text; there are no visuals to help bring the words to life or to emphasise the main points.
The post would be much more engaging if a visual graph was used to represent the statistics (like in the example above). Because when you use visuals, the ‘numbers’ are more easily remembered.
Let’s be honest, numbers on their own are boring—unlike visuals—which people love to share on their own blog posts and social media channels. The most popular visual content for sharing are:
- Quotes and
Therefore, to encourage people to share your content, incorporate one or two visuals in each of your posts.
As you can see in the two examples, version 2 is considerably easier to scan than version 1 and will increase the chances of your blog post being read.
Bottom Line…if you want people to read your blog post, use a layout similar to Version 2.
I hope this helps.