It’s a well known fact that people reading text – particularly online – tend to skim or scan it rather than read it word for word. By skimming or scanning (although those activities are not identical), we basically mean dropping your eyeline down through the text and picking out the main words and phrases that tell the story of the article/blog post, without reading it word-for-word.
(For a list of the top 10 most helpful articles on blogging for business as chosen by our readers, click here)
Often, people use a speed-reading technique to achieve this. Techniques such as those are designed to help people wade through lengthy blocks of text that often have few if any breaks in them. Thankfully in the business blog world we don’t need to bore people – or search engines – with junk like that. We need to make sure our text is easy to absorb if we want to be appreciated, and if we want our business messages to be acted upon.
Do yourself a favor in your business blogs: make it even easier
For starters, avoid writing blocks of text longer than two to four sentences per paragraph. This might seem rather choppy for a printed newspaper article and utterly inadequate in an academic paper (trust me, occasionally I edit my son’s university essays for him and some of his paragraphs are longer than the Mont Blanc tunnel). However in online articles a.k.a. blog posts this seemingly short length, is merely an acceptably digestible chunk.
Avoid long sentences in general, but in particular try to vary the length of your sentences from average length to short. Short sentences get attention. And it’s OK to start them with an “and” or a “but,” because we’re no longer in the 19th century. But to please me, don’t forget to put a verb in them, OK?
Crossheads – the most useful device in the business blog writing toolkit
Crossheads, or sub-headings as some call them, are a gift from the Gods when it comes to skimmers and scanners. For them to be able to flip down an article just by reading the main title/headline plus the crossheads is an absolute joy for them and a bonus for you, because it helps get your message over. Quickly. And that’s what really matters now that we don’t have time to read content at leisure and retain its meaning.
So, you need to devise crossheads that encapsulate your main points at appropriate stages of your text. Use your judgment here: too many will make your article look like a list of bullet points, and too few will take it back into the realms of long blocks of unbroken text.
You may have observed how I use crossheads in my articles here on HTWB … usually they a) tell the bones of my story when you skim/scan through and b) they appear at intervals that neither clutter nor bore you. (I hope…!)
Search engines like crossheads in business blogs, too
We all know that SEO is still important if our stuff is to be found and appreciated by Google et al, but the bad old days of stuffing keywords into text like you stuff a turkey in the Holiday Season thankfully doesn’t impress Google any more. However, let us not forget that search engines, not wishing to detract from their awesomeness, are still machines that go “hey, yeah!” when they catch on to a well-placed keyword or two.
Where better to provide them with exactly that type of keyword, than in your crossheads…quite genuinely, logically, and without any doubt acceptable to the current Google algorithms – provided that their usage in context makes sense.
Another win for crossheads
How do you feel about using crossheads in your business blog writing? Do you use them? If not, why not? Please share!