When visitors arrive on a page on your website, you want them to instantly find a reason to stick around. You want to engage them. You want to draw them into your copy.
When a visitor is hit with big paragraphs of copy, however, the visitor is not engaged. So how do you deliver your content without hitting visitors with paragraphs of copy?
There are those who believe they have a brand-new solution to this challenge, specific to websites, that they call ”chunking” (an unappealing — and unappetizing — term, to say the least .. .)
But Direct Marketing has, for about the last 3 or 4 decades, referred to this technique as “nesting short copy within long copy.” And we effectively use this technique across print ads, direct mail, websites, email messages — yes, virtually anywhere a prospect might turn his or her gaze. Because it turns out that prospects don’t view content differently just because it’s a website.
We know that visitors to a website (as well as readers of magazines, newspapers, direct mail, and email messages) SCAN, rather than read line-by-line, word-for-word. To attract the scanning visitor, you want your content to look easy to get through. So how can you break things up, so it looks more “friendly”? Here are 7 ideas — some purely design-related, and some copy-related:
1. Box some elements. Take your special offer, or a key benefit, or a new testimonial from a big name, and physically partition that section off from the rest of your content in a box. Not only does the box help to emphasize what’s in the box, it gives the eye some visual relief by breaking up the page.
2. Use horizontal or vertical lines to further break up your page. If you’re not making use of the right column for special offers, your unique engagement elements, a feature on your newest products, or your latest tesitmonial, consider adding a right column area. Consider creating a “main stage” area at the top of each page that is visualy set off from the bottom of the page.
3. Consider the use of “pull quotes” — pulling some key points out of your copy and emphasizing them, by repeating those words larger than the rest of the content, in an area within the content.
Or center some key points on the page, and change the font for emphasis and to break up the page.
4. Re-organize your content into Question-and-Answer (a la FAQs). Visitors may read an entire page of question-and-answer and not realize they’ve read an entire page of copy. When you rewrite your content in a question-and-answer format, it tends to help you write in a more convesational format — exactly the way someone would really ask and answer the question. And conversational writing is always easier to read.
5. Banish long paragraphs. Break things up to be sure the prospect isn’t met with a page of big, hulking paragraphs. Few prospects will wade through that type of copy to find out if you have what they’re looking for. Make your paragraphs a few sentences long. They’ll look friendlier, and it’s also likely that comprehension will increase as well.
Consider making some paragraphs very short – a one sentence paragraph can really emphasize a key point.
6. Use bullet points and numbered lists.
Bullets help emphasize your key points and are easy to scan. And most people love numbered lists.
7. Learn to love subheads. The scanning reader LOVES well-written subheads — it’s like an outline of your key points. What does a well-written subhead look like? Well-written subheads should be long enough to tell the scanning reader what the paragraph or section is about. With subheads loaded with specifics, you can help the scanning reader zero in on exactly what he or she is looking for. Subheads can also point out something the reader might not have realized about your solution, tell them something they didn’t know, or get them thinking about a problem they hadn’t realized they had.
How do you know you’ve done this scanning thing right? If you read only the things on your page that stand out — your headline, subheads, bullet points, etc. — do you learn ALL of the key points you want each prospect to discover? Then your scan-able copy has done its job.
Have you seen some websites, print ads, direct mail, or email messages that still haven’t gotten this “Scan-ability is Key!” message?