Forget Short Attention Spans: Make Your Readers Stay No Matter What
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Writing online is different. It is far more different from writing offline (for print or other media).
This difference is mostly because of the short attention span of people while they are online. Plus the many amounts of distractions they can encounter online.
Imagine you buy a book and start reading it. Let’s say you take the book with you to bed every day and read it for 30 minutes.
Depending upon the size of the book, you would finish reading it in a week or in a month.
But while you’re reading the book for 30 minutes every day, you’ll only read the book.
You won’t pop into Facebook to check on your friend’s updates, you will not check this-one-email of yours, you won’t be responding to 4 chat messages from 4 of your different friends and so on.
You will only be reading the book.
With a print book, it is easy to keep people focused for the amount of time they’re devoting to read the book.
Just imagine the same people reading your blog posts.
They have many things going on in their background and foreground. They have too many distractions.
And they’re way too busy then you could even imagine.
Hence they say that the attention span of people on the web is about 3 seconds.
That’s all you’ve got to convince them and make them stay!
I know, that’s really challenging.
The “Why”: Why Should We Worry About Making Our Readers Read The Full Content?
What if they read only the first sentence or the first paragraph of your post? Why should you make them stay until the end?
Here are few possible reasons (I might be missing some; feel free to add them in the comments!)
2. People will only be enticed enough to respond to your call to action only if they read your entire post.
3. Google is watching people’s activity on your site and if they don’t stay longer, that counts as a black mark. For instance, the metrics like bounce rate and average visit duration.
4. You have put your sweat and blood to create that awesome post and you absolutely want your readers to read it fully *sigh*.
How To Know What Your Readers Like?
Making your readers stay until the end of the post is an art.
It is not magic, but magical. You initially never know how to keep your readers – true story. But as you start building up your presence it will be quite easy for you to get a hold on this.
To start with, let’s do this.
Go to your Google Analytics Dashboard. On the left, you will see a little module called “Content” > “Site Content”. Expand it and look for “Landing pages” and click on it.
Now you will get a list of top landing pages on your blog.
If you look carefully you will see a column titled “Avg. Visit Duration”. If you click on it, you can sort your pages based on average visit duration.
Find out those pages of your blog where people spend time the most.
Take a look at those posts and see what features are common; or what features could have attracted people to stay longer.
Bear in mind, though, this factor (the average visit duration) is not just affected by one factor. People could have simply stayed till the end because they were looking for the same thing (that you were dealing with in that post).
But there could still be other parameters, too!
Yet, if you find a list of posts on a particular category where people stay longer, this means that your audience love posts on that category; so start posting more useful content in the same category.
On the other hand, if you can’t find a common “category” or a topic in those posts, then there is something else in those posts that keep your audience.
It could be your writing style, the structure of the post or something similar. Find it out. And make more like those.
Alternatively, you can also use your own instinct to find out what people want.
Go to popular blogs in your niche and see what posts make you stay until the end.
Have you recently read a post from Problogger.net till the end? Why did you do so? Find out what made you stay. Use that in your posts. Simple.
Why Not Social Count?
I could have simply told you to find out those posts from your blog that have more social shares. But the posts that get shared a lot doesn’t mean they’ve made your readers stay until the end.
Some posts simply get shared because the heading is good. For some, the image in the post might be good.
And I don’t need to mention that most posts get shared immediately after your readers scan your posts, click the share button and then move away.
Write Easily Digestible Posts
If you give your readers too much to chew, they’re surely going to leave.
Remember, as I said earlier, the online world is busy and the mindset of people is different as well.
They want easily consumable content.
How to make your posts easily digestible?
Focus on one problem in your posts.
Instead of reaching out to hundreds of perspectives/solutions for a problem, take one and go deeper. Explore one or two things in detail. Don’t give too much.
Use Eye-catching Images And Screenshots
I cannot stress the importance visuals when it comes to online content. If you take a look around in your social media profiles, you will find that visually appealing content goes viral (even for no reason).
Visuals add spice to your content and they give that nice treatment your content deserves (given that your content is worthy in the first place!).
And, don’t get off-track here – I am not telling you to add loads of images on your posts so that people will keep their eyes hooked on to them till the end. That’s not your goal.
And yes, although your images could get a lot of shares and pins, that’s not your goal again!
But images make it easier for people to stay on your posts. That’s it.
And if you are doing tutorial kind posts, make liberal use of screenshots; otherwise, people won’t get what you are talking about and they might leave because your post is not understandable.
Use Varying Patterns
Monotonous posts are boring and people tend to jump off! Your post needs to be entertaining and sporty enough to keep them longer.
For this, you can introduce “foreign bodies” in your posts. What are they?
Quotes, highlighted text, bold text, underlined text, texts in boxes, lists (ordered or unordered), etc.
All these can add variety to your post and will help readers from getting bored!
Break The Post Into Sub-Headings
This one is very important. You really have to break the post into easily digestible pieces so that your visitors can take one bite at a time.
If you put the main points or the outline of the post in terms of headings and subheadings, your readers can still consume the post even if they just skimmed.
You have to make your post digestible both for those who are willing to read it in full and to those that only wish to skim.
If people are trained that your posts are easily digestible, they will stay until the end.
Also, make sure you break the post into short paragraphs with one or two lines per paragraph.
It makes it easier on the eyes and to grasp. Avoid long paragraphs and large blocks of text in any case.
Don’t Make Your Post Too Long
Many bloggers often have wrong notions about how long their blog posts have to be. They simply think that writing long posts are good.
Don’t get me wrong here – writing long posts are good both for your readers (when you discuss a topic in-depth and provide useful and actionable tips) and for SEO (yes, longer content ranks better).
But don’t make a post long just for the sake of it. If you can tell what you have to tell in just 400 words, be it. Or if you really need 4000 words, so be it (for longer posts make sure you use the tips above to make them digestible).
Don’t simply beat around the bush.
However, I understand that some posts really need to be long. In that case, make the post look shorter by either writing a series or inserting page breaks (as I’ve done with this one).
Writing posts that keep people hooked on to your posts till the end is really a challenge, given the noise and distractions in the online world.
But if you can do it, you’re golden!
It takes a bit of practice but is totally doable. I hope these tips will help.