I won’t be surprised if you've never heard about the dual readership path before. It’s a hush-hush copywriter trick we use to make sure our copy is read from beginning to end. Don’t tell them I told you the secret.
95 to 99% of readers are going to skim your copy. They are not going to read it all. Even if they don't skim, they're not going to get all of the information in the first go.
There’s a very small subset of people who will read every single word and digest it.
Most people are going to skim or scan content, until something catches their eye. Only then are they going to go back to find the information they want.
The dual readership path is how we trick that eye to notice certain things.
Techniques copywriters use to make you read from beginning to end
Have you ever noticed when you read sales copy, there are bolded sentences? That’s because the writer is trying to make the reader focus on certain words.
The only way to retain a reader determined to skim the text is to make them believe the content is worth reading. Subheadings act like a table of contents. They let the reader see what will be covered in the copy. If just one subheading catches the reader’s interest, well done.
We can also draw the reader’s eye to the most important part of the copy, which is the call to action. This can be written in bigger text.
Other conventions we can use to catch the reader’s eye include images, arrows, underlines, highlights, and much more.
You might be asking why any of this matters. It matters because you need the reader to take action.
For them to take action, they need to read the copy. For them to read the copy, something in it needs to catch their attention.
The dreaded wall
If you hit somebody with a wall of text, they are going to click away. Their eyes don't want to deal with it because they need a break.
We are in front of screens 24/7, and the last thing we need is to be in front of a screen that makes it difficult for us to consume the content.
Not only is a wall of text harder to read, it creates the feeling of too much content to digest. Am I the only one who associates large blocks of text with academic tomes?
“But … But everyone reads Kindle books. Surely, hard to read text is not a problem for them.”
You’re right. There are people who are all too happy to stare at their kindles for hours. The difference is kindle books are mostly read for fun, unlike your sales copy.
We want to make it as easy as possible for our readers to digest the information we’re presenting. We need to get rid of the obstacles in our way, and one of the major obstacles is them reading our copy if it's badly written.
Video is not your savior
“But Alyson. I use videos, not written copy. So it’s Jaime and his pen over there you want. We’re good here.”
No you are not. It’s not everybody who prefers video.
I'm one of those who are not video watchers. Many people browse Facebook, and even watch videos with their sound turned off. I do that a lot.
If I start playing a video on my phone, my four year old is going to want the device. That’s why I leave the sound turned off, and rely on the captions to tell me what the video is about.
From not wanting to disturb others on public transport to bandwidth issues, I’m sure there are numerous other people with many reasons why they don’t watch videos.
How to apply the dual readership path to your copy
“I get it already. This dual readership path stuff is important. But how do I go about it?”
Here is how I do it.
I firstly type out everything in font Tahoma size 12. Then I go back and look for important information in the text.
I find and bold the important information, which could be a short paragraph. Then I find even more important information out of that bolded section.
All the important information is bolded. I go and find the even more important stuff, and those become call outs, or subheads.
Different techniques can be used to make text stand out. I changed the color and made it bigger. I sometimes italicize, change the font, and so on.
To check if you’ve been successful, ask yourself a simple question. Are readers going to get the full picture by only reading the parts that are bolded, highlighted, underlined, sub headed, and cosmetically enhanced in some way?
If the answer is yes, awesome! You're done. Yes you.
If the answer is no, then go back and do it again.
On the other hand, if the answer is “of course they will, because I just did it to the whole copy.” Then we need to have a much longer conversation.
We don't want the whole thing, because that defeats the entire purpose.
Let's say I'm sending you a birthday party invitation.
I'm going to say Allison turns 21 on October 6 2020. She will be hosting a party, which sadly is not going to happen, because you know … 2020.
Location is my address.
RSVP to my email.
Here’s what will go down at the party. We’re gonna have food and cake. I'm going to have pin the tail on the donkey. We can also throw in a bounce house.
What is the most important information here?
Allison turns 21 is the headline. That will be nice, big, and bold.
But the rest of the important information is the location, date and time, and the RSVP instructions. Everything else is extra information.
Simply by reading the highlighted text, readers will know I’m hosting a party. They will even know where and when it is, without needing to read the entire invitation.
A long form sales page will naturally be longer. There will be way more information.
Things you want to highlight in sales copy include:
- Sentences where you're empathizing with the reader.
- A potentially positive future.
- The call to action.
Check out some of the landing pages we've done for System to Thrive.
You can see exactly how we've done it. We've taken the information and we've put it together in such a way that if all you do is skim or skim for 3 seconds, you still have the gist of what we're offering and why you want it and what to do next.
That's your goal with a dual readership path.
Getting your blog read from beginning to end
The dual readership path is directly applicable to content writing as well.
We don't want people to skim our 1800 word blog post, but they're going to anyway. So why not make it easier for them to get the value you're offering.
A lot of people are going to go back, and they're going to reread your stuff, once something catches their eye.
Remember many people are reading your copy on mobile devices
Another thing to watch out for is the wall of text. I’ve already touched on it.
Over 50% of your traffic is on mobile, and that's not including tablets.
So it's important to look at how the mobile experience is. Are they scrolling with no line breaks? Obviously not.
Stick to short paragraphs, even if it means splitting a single idea over several paragraphs. How they are going to look on a small screen is more paramount.
Julie, a copywriter friend of mine once told me You want the text to look like little mountain peaks. There should be different lengths of lines throughout the copy.
That's a good way of checking if you are creating a wall of text.
The wall of text is probably one of the two biggest things I fix on behalf of my clients.
Saying goodbye to copy that doesn’t get read from beginning to end
You can have the best offer on the market. Your wordplay can be poetic enough to make Shakespeare himself weep. But if it’s not being read, you’ve wasted precious time.
If you are not sure your copy is being read from beginning to end, you can book a call with me for actionable advice.