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By On March 31 2020 Content Marketing With 0 Comments Permalink

Skimmable Content: 4 Simple Solutions to Make Blog & Email Content Skimmable in 2020

Admit it, you probably skim-read that headline. If not, there’s a good chance you’ll start skim-reading this intro. Because, let’s be honest, you clicked on this article for a reason, and you don’t want to wade through 2,000 words to find that one nugget of wisdom (there’s more than one, I promise).

What if I do this, does that get your attention? Hopefully, the answer is yes. Hopefully, the writing is so good, you don’t need to skim-read, but I don’t want to flatter myself. 

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself:

Why Is Skimmable Content So Important? 

Maybe you skimmed straight to that sub-heading. If so, welcome. The answer is pretty simple: as much as you’d love customers to read every last word of your email, blog post, press release, or newsletter and really engage with your brand, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average human attention span is now 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000[1]

This doesn’t necessarily mean people are worse at processing information (we’re still better at paying attention than a goldfish, despite rumours to the contrary). Rather, more factors are competing for our attention at any given moment. 

For example, according to Campaign Monitor, the average businessperson sends and receives 121 emails per day, while the average adult is exposed to 247 marketing messages per day[2].

Additionally, 70 million new blog posts are published every month on WordPress[3]

That’s a lot of messages competing for those 8 seconds of attention. The rise of mobile has also had a massive impact on users’ willingness to read longform emails or blog posts. 

However, most importantly, the average person now spends just 37 seconds reading a blog post, according to NewsCred[3]. At an average reading speed of 250 words per minute, this equates to just over 150 words – approximately 14% of an average blog post (1,050 words). 

Put simply, grabbing users’ attention is imperative. That’s where skimmable content comes in. Here are 4 simple ways to make your content skimmable in 2020. 

#1. Format Matters

If you want to create easily skimmable content, break your writing up into short, easily digestible paragraphs and use clear headings and sub-headings.

As tempting as it can be to try to cram an entire manifesto outlining your company’s values into an email newsletter, realistically, that’s only going to lead to one result: delete. 

Be Bold

Most importantly when it comes to formatting, be bold. That is, embrace the power of bold text.

According to Akshay Hallur of BloggingX, bold text has several benefits for both skimmability and SEO optimisation. Firstly, he says, “when you highlight a piece of content using text formatting tags, [users] slow down their reading speed and read in detail when they come across these speed-breakers”[4]

Moreover, he claims bold text has a secondary benefit, stating, ‘excessive use of heading tags hurts SEO. There should be at least 100 words below every heading tag, which is not possible most of the time. In that case, usage of bold tags instead of the header tags helps”[4]

Bold Text Best Practices

When it comes to using bold text, remember a few key points. Use bold sparingly to highlight important words, sentences, or phrases. The whole point is that bold text contrasts with normal text, so if an entire paragraph is bold, it defeats the purpose.

Further, use bold, not italics, for emphasis. 

Finally, ensure your blogging platform supports pre-formatted bold text. There’s nothing worse than writing an amazing article full of bolded text, only to publish it and realise that all your hard work has been undone, as the bold text has been erased. 

If in doubt, remember three simple formatting rules to make content skimmable: use short, punchy paragraphs, clear, easy-to-read headings & subheadings, and bold text to emphasise key words, phrases, or sentences. 

Key Takeaway:

Use bold text, short paragraphs, and clear headings and subheadings to make it easy for users to skim through your article or email while taking in the most important points. 

#2. K.I.S.S (Keep It Short, Stupid) 

We’ve all been there. You click on an article with an interesting headline, only to be greeted by an impenetrable wall of text. Long, boring paragraphs that never seem to end. I don’t have time to read this, you think. 

It’s all well and good to have an article or email newsletter brimming with well-researched information, but if you want to make content skimmable, follow the KISS principle: keep it short, stupid. 

Making Your Emails Shorter

When it comes to emails in particular, shorter is usually better. According to a thorough analysis of over 40 million emails by Hubspot, the ideal email length is 50-125 words, as emails of this length have a response rate of more than 50%. Their analysis also found that emails with approximately 20 lines of text, which equates to 200 words, had the highest click through rates[5]

A similar study by Sleeknote agreed that the sweet spot for emails is about 125 words. They found that response rates began to decline when copy was shorter than 50 words, or longer than 125 words, dropping off markedly after content exceeds 200 words[6].

Sleeknote also found that click-through rates decline for long copy compared to short copy. In their test, emails with short copy (95 words) had an average click-through rate of 40.2%, while emails with long copy (175 words) had an average click-through rate of 34.4%[6].

Finally, a study by AWeber found that the average email length is 434.3 words. However, more than 50% of emails contain 300 words or fewer, while only 11.4% contain more than 900 words[7].

According to Campaign Monitor, “limit body copy to easily-readable paragraphs, preferably under 60 characters in width”[8]

In summary, keep your emails short to maintain reader attention and maximise skimmability. Generally, 50-125 words is the sweet spot for click-through rates and engagement

Blog Post Best Practices

Blog posts are a slightly different story. You can read our full, in-depth analysis of the ideal blog post length here. If you want a quick summary, the average blog post length is 1,050 words, however, top-performing blog posts are generally between 1,700-3,000 words

Just because blog posts are longer on average, doesn’t mean the same rules don’t apply. In fact, if anything, these rules become more important.

While top-performing blog articles are generally long reads, we know that the average person spends just 37 seconds reading an article. This makes skim-reading essential. 

So, while people are unlikely to read all 3,000 words of a longer blog post, they still seek out these posts, as longer posts often indicate authoritative content and thought leadership. Therefore, it’s important to make blog content skimmable by implementing proper formatting and paragraph structure. This will ensure people can easily navigate to the particular information they are looking for, without necessarily having to read the entire article.  

Key Takeaway:

Keep emails short (50-125 words). Blog posts can be slightly longer (1,700-3,000 words), but don’t expect users to read the entire post, so use images, headings, bold text, and short paragraphs to make it easy for readers to skim ahead. 

#3. What’s the Point? 

Paragraph Structure

To make content easily skimmable, the first sentence of a new paragraph or subheading should make a clear, concise point, so readers know what to expect from the paragraph ahead. This also helps readers skip from paragraph to paragraph without feeling like they have missed any context. As such, your first sentence should do a lot of heavy lifting. Just like that one. 

You probably remember learning the PEEL paragraph structure in school. That is, point, evidence, explanation, link. Well, that still holds up today. 

Whether it’s emails, blogs, newsletters, or any other copy, ensure each paragraph makes a clear, immediate point. It might be tempting to spend 5 paragraphs explaining the history of your company and its values, but in all likelihood, you will lose readers’ attention. 

Campaign Monitor reiterates this point, stating, “most readers will skip any long-winded greetings or introductory text, so decide if it’s worth including. If an introduction is necessary, avoid adding any important information to this section”[8]


Subheadings are equally important to make blog posts and emails skimmable. By breaking up your overarching topic into smaller, intuitive segments, readers can easily navigate through your article or email, without feeling like they’ve missed out on important context. 

There’s nothing worse than skimming ahead a few paragraphs, only to feel completely lost. If this happens, you are likely to lose the reader’s attention and they will seek information elsewhere. 

To be clear: get to the point, make that point interesting, and make it stand out! Trust me, your readers will thank you. 

Key Takeaway:

Make your most important point at the beginning of a paragraph, as people skipping ahead are most likely to read the first sentence of a paragraph. This sentence should convey all the key information that paragraph will cover, and still be understandable for people skipping ahead.

#4. A Picture Is Better Than a Thousand Words 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, when it comes to making content skimmable, a picture is often better than a thousand words. 

This isn’t just a catchy saying, it’s a proven fact. Did you know, the human brain processes images in just 13 milliseconds. That’s 60,000 times faster than we process text[9]. If anything, the saying should be a picture is worth 60,000 words. 

This makes images an extremely valuable tool to make content skimmable. Why spend 200 words explaining something, when an image can clearly convey the same point in much less time? 

Much like bold text, images also stand out, and help to break up the visual monotony of a wall of text. 

Info on Infographics

In large part, this is why infographics have become so popular. In fact, a recent study by SEMRush found that 64% of marketing tweets contain either a static image or an infographic[10]. Likewise, Hubspot found that infographics can increase web traffic by up to 12%[11].

Given this, it should come as no surprise that blog articles with images get 94% more views than articles without images, while 32% of marketers say visual images are their businesses’ most important form of content[12].

Similarly, research shows that visuals increase a person’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, while 65% of users say they prefer emails with mainly images, rather than emails with mainly text[13]

If you’re still not convinced, then, according to Hubspot, “when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later”[11]

There you have it, break your copy up with images to maintain readers’ attention and make content easier to skim. 

Key Takeaway:

Use rich, engaging images to improve the skimmability of your email or blog post, as humans process images 60,000 times faster than text.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay