When Your “Readers” Don’t Read

Your marketing and sales content is valuable. But will anybody actually read it?

You made sure your content was crafted with care, so it's easy to intuit that your audience will read with care. But while some readers will indeed be thorough, the number may not as high as you think like.

A Poynter eye tracking study from 2007 found that just half of its subjects were methodical readers.  In fact, Zoltán Gócza's UX Myths website lists “People read on the web” as Myth #1.

Your content, therefore, needs to work for three different types of digital consumers.

Scanners need good subheadings

You might be scanning this article right now, perusing subheadings and topic sentences. That's normal.

"On the average Web page," reports the Nielsen Norman Group, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely."

Ideally, scanners should be able to get your message just by reading your subheadings.

Instead of "Challenge", try "Challenge: A Lack of Qualified Leads".

Instead of "Solution", try “Solution: Attracting Prospects With Quality Content”.

Bosses need good titles

Some people are too busy to read your content at all. These people may be the boss of the person you're targeting.

In this case, the mere existence of your content may be enough, especially if they believe that someone else has already read it. The only words that matter in this case are the words in the title, since that’s all the boss is likely to see as they scan the link or file attachment.

You don’t have to cram your entire article into your headline - but it can capture the core of your message and even include hard data if available.

For example, this headline is its own executive summary: 

Inventory Tracking Software Delivers 145% ROI

Meanwhile, this headline tells the reader almost nothing:

Case Study: ObscureCompany.com

Of course, it’s not always possible to include hard data in your content - but when you’ve got it, lead with it!

readers still need good writing

To be fair, those who take the time to fully read your content may be your most interested prospects. Therefore, it's still worth taking the time to perfect every word. 

Still, it's important keeping in mind that only a portion of your audience will read them all.


Scanners, bosses, and actual readers aren’t just your perspective clients. They make up your own company’s internal audience as well.

Your marketing team may pour over an entire case study looking for social media soundbites.

Your sales team may just scan a blog post for key talking points before a call.

Your boss’s boss may only read a collection of headlines for a quick glimpse of what your team is doing.

Your content needs to work for all potential audiences. In the spirit of UX Myth #14 , remember that you are not necessarily like your readers. In fact, they may not be reading at all.