Are You Missing Click-Throughs by Not Structuring Your Email Campaigns for ‘Scanners’?


How do you read email marketing campaigns that land in your inbox? Do you meticulously read every single word? Or do you scan them looking for things that might be of interest to you?

I subscribe to a lot of email lists as part of my role here at Campaign Monitor, it’s a vital part of my job. However, when I have an inbox full of them each week I tend to process them quickly, scanning each one and only diving in to read more detail if I find something that piques my interest.

When I was processing a particularly large batch recently, I started to think about my behaviour. Does everybody do this, or is it just me? And if it is a common behaviour, how do you create an email campaign that catches people’s attention and gets them reading your content properly?

In this post, I wanted to share some statistics and research about how people read email campaigns, and a few tips on how to structure your campaigns to appeal to scanners like me.

How people really read email campaigns

People consume online content very differently than print or other media.

Rather than reading an email like a book, left to right, word by word, research shows that the majority of people scan email campaigns in an F pattern.

Very few people will read every word, instead skipping over introductory paragraphs and scanning the body of the content looking for items that attract their attention. If they find a particular section that looks interesting, they’ll dive into reading that part.

Your window of time to capture their attention is short as well, with 51 seconds being the average time people allocated to an email campaign after opening it.

How to structure your emails to be read by scanners

With so few people reading your campaigns word for word, how can you create an email marketing campaign that gets your key messages read and remembered?

The key is structuring your email to appeal to scanners, using elements like headlines and images to capture their attention as they scan and draw them into reading your copy in more detail. Here’s a few tips to make it happen:

Break your email into chunks

Rather than having one huge block of text (which can appear very overwhelming), break down paragraphs into smaller, more easily consumable chunks. These lesser sections are much more welcoming and visually appealing for the scanning reader.

What are some best practices for breaking sections into chunks?

This Freshbooks campaign shows how small chunks of text with their own headline and supporting image make for easy reading.


Prioritize your messages

Think your messages should be placed (in chunks) from most important to least important? You might want to reconsider. The serial position effect, a finding of research by German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus, shows the first and last messages in a series are the ones we remember.

Based on this information, try these tips when structuring your messages:

Consider the copy design

We’ve talked about the structuring of email marketing campaigns for scanners in regard to general formatting and information order, but there’s also the element of the copy itself (i.e. font choice, spacing, sizing, etc.) Yes, words have design elements to consider, too.

When structuring for scanners, think about how the appearance of the words themselves help increase readability and comprehension.

Getting down into this level of detail in the word structure, you’ll gain deeper control of your email copy as a whole. Don’t be afraid to test new techniques and find out what’s most successful with your unique audience.

In conclusion

Unfortunately for us marketers, people are so overloaded with information these days that they do in fact scan emails, blocking out the stuff that isn’t of interest and only consuming what is.

However, by breaking down your messages into smaller chunks, prioritizing your information, and being mindful of how the words look within your message, you can create email marketing campaigns that accommodate scanning readers and increase your chances of getting your key messages read and remembered.

Have you found a formatting trick that helps make your emails more successful? We’d love for you to share it with the community in the comments below!

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