Easy-to-Scan Content

Google ranks each of our websites by applying a complex set of algorithms, checking it every so often and adjusting the search engine rankings. The spiders that go out to our sites and pick up statistics on many things, one of which is the length of time your visitor stays. Your website can encourage a “stay and visit” attitude with way the textual, visual and technical is constructed. (See “Easy Web Pages Writing” for details.)

One aspect of a well-constructed website is easy-to-scan content. Yes, scan! – The old-fashioned, move your eyes from top to bottom, quick as a wink, scan. Each visitor is looking for a word or phrase that holds promise to solving his current problem. Once the reader’s scan discovers words of promise he is inclined to read further and stay longer. If no such promise exists, click! He is on to the next site.

The question that remains is how can a site encourage one to “stay and visit?” One key way is in the text through:

reduced word count
short descriptive headings and sub-headings

These remain the best ways to make your webpage easy-to-scan. Well-selected and positioned words make the difference and your visitors will stay longer, increasing your Google ranking and attracting yet more visitors. Do this and you will create an ever growing circle-of-life for your website.

Reduced Word Count

“Life” on your website is all about your product or service and each of us want to share our volumes of knowledge about it. For me, the desire to share everything about my web-based writing services is high. Readers however, do not want to know what you all that you know, quite the opposite. They pop in and scan. Killian Crawford in Writing for the Web says that reduced “text... can interest impatient surfers and make them read what you’ve written.” Because visitors dislike reading endless reams of text on screen and scrolling up and down, reducing word count to clear yet concise content is the key. Writing your content and then editing to cut, cut, and cut with focus on preserving meaning and readability.

Work to achieve:
plain wording
clear meanings
short active sentences
point form lists
links to details.

Compare Articulate Professional Writers website to an alternative, entitled Not Exactly Rocket Science. Which is more scannable? Although the latter has nice pictures, the unbroken text makes it difficult to scan. Read more about concise, scannable text.

Short Descriptive Headings and Sub-headings

Banners, page titles, headings and subheadings break up the text. Along with reduced word count, scanning the page becomes even easier. Your visitor arrives and at a glance, bold typed headings immediately tell them if reading further is worth the effort.
Whether or not visitors realize it, they are also evaluating the professionalism of your site and in turn the credibility of your business. Headings and subheadings speak loudly for your ability to organize. Guests are learning to trust your competency. Short descriptive headings and sub-headings, if done well, can help convey this trust. (Read a little more about headings.)


While pages, headings and subheadings organize information, chunking pulls like information together. Smaller readable chunks remain meaningful but the reader content learns your message more easily and if she wants more. Articulate Professional Writers home page is a good example. A chunk, front and centre, explains briefly exactly what the business does. The “testimonial” on the right and the “contents” on the left, visually balance the page. More importantly, each chunk delivers, at a glance, crucial marketing information. On a larger scale, chunking of the entire website can be quickly scanned on every page by looking at the “Content” on the left. Chunking, along with other elements, ensure your site’s organization, scannability and readability - want to learn more about chunking?


With short copy, headings and chunking we achieve concise, clear, scannable content - what about the reader who is interested in further depth? Internal links allow people to hop to other pages within the site. External links let us jump outside to other websites. A link to another related website, as with external and internal links above, can provide details that serve the interested reader well. These links are what make hypertext possible.
Easy-to-scan content is easy to achieve. Clear but concise text, headings and subheadings, chunking and links. How does your website fair?

Recommended Reading
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Author's Bio: 

Author Bio - Bernice McLaren
As a writer, teacher, and artist Bernice is dedicated to helping others with writing. Writing is like a puzzle, a word puzzle that is challenging and fun. Bernice enjoy the idea of helping others succeed with words and ideas put on paper.
A mother of two daughters and the grandmother of three boys and a girl, Bernice spends her free time with family and friends, walking Jesse - her golden retriever, traveling, or cooking.
Bernice's favorite quote, from Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, is "You manifest that which is before you."