How to Write Quick-Scan Content

Happy Monday! Happy, because today’s post is rich with details about how to make your web pages sing!  So grab your notepad, as we walk through the process of transforming your per-page keyphrase strategy into compelling, reader-friendly content, one webpage at a time!

The first paragraph is crucial: make every word count

Your first paragraph, the first block of text your visitor encounters, is usually high up on the page, or “above the fold” (if you were to imagine a web page as a folded newspaper). Holding such a prominent position, front and center, it is incredibly important!  Here is where you reinforce your headline and highlight your main benefits.

An important note about your first paragraph: yet another old search engine optimization (SEO) myth — similar to the “ideal keyword density” nonsense — holds that all of your keyphrases should be contained within the first 25 words of your copy.  Not only is there is no discernable SEO benefit in cramming your keyphrases in the first few sentences, it makes for difficult, clumsy copy that can sabotage your best copywriting efforts!

A great way to check your online writing for (inadvertent) keyphrase stuffing is to read it out loud.  Seriously!  This allows you to “listen” for clunky copy and keyphrase redundancy.  If your writing “sounds” chock-full of keyphrases, it probably is!

Structure your online content for quick-scan reading

Essential to web page “usability,” or ease of use to the visitor, is content structured for quick-scan reading.  Quick-scan reading is what most people do:  scan a page, picking out individual words and sentences.  It is rare that we busy, attention-challenged folks read a page verbatim.  Also, relative to print, it is difficult to read a computer screen; readability decreases about 25 percent on the screen.

Customer engagement is what we’re striving for, and there are simple methods for making content reader-friendly:

  • Keep paragraphs short, and use lots of white space
  • Strive for an economy of words: less is better
  • Provide information in bulleted lists, like this one
  • Make sure your copy is interesting and engaging: don’t drone on and bore the reader right off the page!

Use sub-headlines for inner paragraphs

Adding sub-headlines is another simple, yet highly effective, way to make your copy reader- (and thus, conversions-) friendly!  This technique has its roots in direct marketing, as sales people were aware then that their prospects tended to scan sales letters rather then read them word for word.  Typically, sub-headlines begin inner paragraphs, capturing the main points and expressing a benefit statement.  In this way, you can ensure your main theme and benefits are conveyed to the reader, however briefly!

Include your keyphrases in hyperlinks

Hyperlinks — that text that links one web page to another — present prime opportunities for keyword optimization. Search engines follow hyperlinks, focusing on the words within them to prequalify landing pages (the web pages that are reached when the hyperlinks are “clicked” on).  So including keyphrases in your hyperlinks can help reinforce the relevancy for those keyphrases, which is a smart SEO strategy!

As with keyphrases themselves, be mindful that you don’t overwhelm the reader with too many keyphrase-rich hyperlinks.  If your site reads like one giant hyperlink, with underlined keyphrases jamming up the copy, your reader is likely to click off.  Too many keyphrases/hyperlinks have the same overwhelming effect on visitors as too many choices.  With practice, you will learn to balance your online writing both for reader-friendliness and for search engine optimization.

That’s all for today — thanks for visiting!  Looking forward to next Monday, as we’ll delve into keyphrase editing, and the fastest way to “SEO” your existing web pages!  See you then!

2 replies
  1. Domenick says:

    Ha, read it out loud, Seriously! Funny but true, especially for someone like me who is not the best writer. I do read my writing out loud and sometimes I’m like, “yeah, that really doesn’t sound right.”

    Great tips, sub-headliners, short paragraghs, economy words.

    Good post Laura.

  2. Laura Crest says:

    Thank you, Domenick! Yes, however skillful a writer you may be, it is surprising what you catch when you read your copy out loud! ( I do it all the time – and almost always catch some sort of error or redundancy). Appreciate your comments!


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