When was the last time you read a blog post all the way to the end?
I’m talking every word, every headline, every semi-colon.
… Have you ever done that?
What makes you think your Reader will?
Roughly 60 percent of Americans never go past the headline when “reading the news.” (And yet, for some reason, everyone seems to have an opinion …)
The average amount of time reading a blog post is somewhere between 37 and 96 seconds, depending on which study you cite.
What if … what if no one is reading our blog posts?
Blogging: Is It a New Form of Writing?
If I can wax philosophical for a moment … I think blogging is kind of revolutionary.
It’s a totally new form of writing, almost unknown throughout human history. The first writing cuneiform showed up more than 5,000 years ago; blogging, about 27 years ago (1995, to be exact).
- In Medieval times, you paid a scribe bookoo amounts of money to sit, trace and doodle a book. Today, with the help of Elementor page builder, a total newb like me can build a halfway decent web page in 20 minutes. Our UX is only limited by our imagination, not by printing presses or inkwells.
- Unlike paper-published works, blog posts are built in phases, not drafts. A post can be edited, overhauled, resurrected, or even deleted after months or years after its publication. Can’t do that so easily with a book or an office memo.
- Blogs are, of course, accessible anywhere. The instant gratification of the Internet is still something our puny human brains are reeling from, I think, and we won’t understand it’s full impact for many, many years to come.
If you’re serious about writing for a living, you need to click over to the Purdue OWL, which is a superb FREE resource for professional and academic writing.
I love the OWL. But I find it so interesting that the OWL hasn’t yet published any blog-specific instructionals. 5+ million blog pages are published every day, and yet the OWL has more advice on writing letters of recommendation than writing a blog post.
I, obviously, am stepping up to fill the void.
The Hard Truth: No One Reads Your Blog (All the Way)
I think the defining characteristic of blog writing is that no one has to read it in any order (or even at all).
Think about it – how many other forms of writing allow you, the Reader, to just arbitrarily skip over stuff?
- If you don’t read your work emails all the way through, your boss summons you to the corner office because you missed an important assignment.
- If you don’t read a recipe all the way through, you get mud. Or crackers.
- When was the last time you skipped Chapter 5 in a novel, or ignored the second line in a haiku?
And yet Readers rarely read a blog post from top to bottom.
A blog post is an informational buffet. Except for your hungriest readers, everyone else will only sample what they think are your tastiest morsels. The rest gets ignored, destined for the garbage.
Readers are constantly fighting distraction. There’s social media to check, emails to read, ads to click, YouTube videos to surf. As a blogger, you’re constantly playing King of the Hill – there’s always something/someone trying to knock you off your throne and steal the Reader’s attention.
The closest comparable form of long-form writing I can think of are newspaper reports, where the number one rule is don’t bury the lede. Reports follow the inverted pyramid: Get to the facts (5W’s + H) up front, that way if the Reader skips ahead or abandons the article, they’ve at least groked the essentials.
Which leads me to our Big Question: How do we write for an audience that’s chomping at the bit to get goin’?
Scannability: The Secret Sauce to a Good Blog Post
You can’t convince a Reader to stick with you until the end. Some will; some won’t.
But you need your content to retain its value even if someone skips half your stuff. This can be painful to acknowledge. Why would a Reader skip over Paragraph 7? That’s the good stuff! Its – it’s sheer genius! What are these peons thinking??!!
Tough cookies, my friend. In the words of Rafiki the Baboon, “You can either run from it, or learn from it.”
The operative word here is scannability. A blog post should be formatted and organized so that the layout highlights major points, calls to action, and critical commentary.
You want the Reader to effortlessly absorb info through visual osmosis, not concentrated study. If they’re breakin’ a brain sweat, you’re making them think too hard!
Tips and tricks to make your blog posts more scannable include:
- Transformed text (bold, italicized, different color, etc.)
- Bullet point lists
- Tables and charts
- Supporting multimedia (photos, videos)
Each of these tools deserves their own article, which will come in good time. I just want to get you thinking about blogging as a new form of writing, as far removed from the 5-paragraph essay as a recipe book is from an Associated Press report.
Case Study: Yours Truly!
And one day, I will take my own advice, and apply these principles to FLUB.
Take this article, for example.
Things I think I do (somewhat) well:
- Bolding critical inline statements
- Italicizing emphasized actions
- Occasional bullet point lists
- Short, punchy paragraphs
Things I don’t do well:
- No images or multimedia
- Probably too much head-in-the-clouds expository philosophizing
- Not enough interlinks
- Very poor SEO
I’m sure you can think of a few more. Be kind, please.
* * *
The next time you write a blog post, if you catch yourself typing paragraph after paragraph in an unbroken wall of text, Jericho that thing! Knock down those paragraphs into rubble!
Build blog posts for maximum scannability. Even if someone spends 37 seconds on your blog post (God forbid), make sure they learn something. Or better yet, click something.