Are you one of those marketers with unfairly low read-through numbers? I say unfairly because you produce really interesting content, embracing all storytelling techniques shared by marketing gurus. Yet 95% of your visitors bounce. Then you should take a deeper look at the layout of your content. It might suffer from poor readability.
Making people read blogs is hard, for several reasons: reading takes effort (opposed to watching video); every few seconds they must decide if they should scroll further or skip to something else. And there are hundreds of other things competing for their attention.
To make people hang on to the end of your articles, you must make the read as smooth as possible. Nielsen research have found that 79% of people merely scan through web pages, which means that you must optimize the styling of your content and drive attention to the most important information, instead of relying on the random words people may otherwise fixate on.
Here are 7 simple layout tips that will make people read your posts:
1. NOT TOO WIDE, NOT TOO NARROW
Today we use single column publishing online, which is good for readability. But it has lured us into producing too wide text blocks. Especially when we use responsive design, to fit all platforms.
The ideal line length is considered to be 66 characters, including spaces, but anything between 50-75 is fine.
Too long lines makes it hard to focus on the text, and difficult to jump onto the next line. Too narrow lines will break the reader’s rhythm, as their eyes travel back and forth too frequently.
Action: restrict the width of your text blocks in your publishing tool.
This is a science of its own among designer nerds. But let’s make it easy: the contrast between the font and the background must be strong enough to make reading easy, also for people older than 41 (Adult vision starts at 41).
There is no defined optimal contrast, because readability depends on a combination of contrast, font, font size etc, but according to W3C, body text should have a 7:1 contrast ratio with the background, as long as it’s a solid color.
Action: ask your tech team to calibrate the contrast in your blog if you’re even a bit concerned your texts are difficult to read.
3. USE THE LINE BREAK
Text blocks should not be too wide. Nor should they be too long. The easiest ways to make your content more readable is to split your text into more paragraphs. Remember: less is more.
Keep paragraphs to no more than three or four sentences.
Present only one idea or concept per paragraph.
Action: hit ENTER more often.
4. WRITE KILLER SUBHEADS
Great headlines attract readers to your posts. Great subheads (the smaller headlines used throughout the text) make them stay.
Many online reading experiences are cluttered with distractions: links inviting readers to sign-up, ads, notifications and various marketing automation triggers. Subheads help people stay on the right track, like signposts during a long drive.
A strong subhead should:
- Highlight the benefits of reading the subsequent paragraphs
- Be informative and intriguing.
- Focus the reader’s attention on how to use the information she’s about to get.
Action: Read this guide to writing irresistible subheads.
5. SAY YES TO BULLETED LISTS
Again, the idea is to make your content more accessible. Lists are easy to scan and can illustrate how different items relate to each other. For example, a numbered list is a comprehensible way to present a step by step process, without writing lengthy texts.
Don’t overuse it, no more than two bulleted lists per article please, otherwise people might start
Action: read your blog post and see if you have listings in your text that can be broken out.
6. HIGHLIGHT STRATEGIC WORDS
Emphasizing keywords or phrases in your text makes it easier for impatient article scanners to find your candy. But highlight sparsely (never ever more than 10% of the text), overuse clearly dilutes the value.
Example use of highlighting:
- Bold acts like a magnet with its higher contrast.
- Italic is more subtle and used to signal importance within a sentence.
- Underlined is an effective highlighter but it creates more noise than bold, interfering with the reader experience.
- Color can be changed for the font of for the background. Be careful not to hurt contrast.
- UPPERCASE is powerful especially for single words. Make sure people can’t misinterpret it as yelling.
Action: identify and highlight your key words.
No matter how great you write, massive texts will be easier to digest if you complement with images. Great images provide readers with micro pauses, help them understand complicated stuff and will evoke the right emotions.
Action: Seek or create visuals that support your content and encourage people to read the text that accompanies.