The human attention span is steadily declining. Sadly this isn’t conjecture, it’s an undeniable fact. From the year 2000 to the present day, our attention spans have declined from 12 seconds to a measly 8.25 seconds. This is an alarming statistic, especially for those creating written long form content. Because if you’re looking to capture and keep your readers’ attention until the end of your blog posts, then it’s getting harder to do so.
But marketers biting their nails can breathe a sigh of relief because there’s still hope. While it is true that it’s getting progressively harder to keep your audience reading until the end, there’s still a lot you can do to keep people hooked and hanging on to every single word. It’s just a matter of making the right tweaks to your content.
So while the average person may spend just 37 seconds reading through a blog post, there’s no reason that statistic has to apply to you. Let’s dive right in and look at 10 things you can actively do while writing your next blog post so that your readers remain actively engaged and don’t wander off just about a paragraph or two into your well thought out post.
- Introductions Are Everything
Before you worry about keeping your readers’ attention, you need to capture it. This means you need to get them interested right from the beginning and steadily build on it. To do that you need a rock solid introduction.
Start by presenting useful information right up front in a short concise manner. You need to get them interested as quickly as possible, you can always go into detail later on once they’re already hooked.
So hook them early. One way of doing this is to tell them the value you’re about to give them. Simply state what they’re going to learn by the end of the article. Another way is to use an alarming statistic or fact that they probably didn’t know. You can also begin with a relatable struggle or pain that moves your reader emotionally and makes them feel empathy immediately.
A great example of this can be found in this article by HealthyAmericans, an American mattress company. Notice how they start their intro with the relatable struggle of back pain faced by a vast majority of Americans. Quickly followed by pointing to how it can potentially affect sleep quality. Thus creating an incentive to keep reading as the reader needs to know what can possibly solve this common problem.
Finally if your article covers something that’s been written about extensively then make sure you highlight what’s different about your content right at the beginning. This way the reader is made aware of what they’re going to learn going in and feels compelled to stay for the value your content brings.
- Keep Your Language Simple
When it comes to writing, less is more. You might be tempted to use complicated terms, long winding sentences and difficult to understand phrases or expressions. But unless you’re writing for academic purposes or a very niche audience, it’s always a bad idea to do so.
Your language needs to be as simple as possible. You don’t want to alienate people and you won’t ever lose readers for being easy to understand. So avoid jargon, explain things with examples and aim to educate.
Keep your tone conversational and focus more on the emotions you want to bring out in your reader rather than the vocabulary you use. This ensures that you don’t lose your reader’s attention at any point because they’re always able to follow along at every step of the way.
- Formatting for Clarity
When reading text online, most people skim through and only slow down to read if they find something that catches their eye. In fact, from studies it’s been noticed that readers on average tend to go through web pages in an F shaped pattern.
This basically looks like a horizontal scan, followed by another horizontal scan lower down and a vertical scan down the left hand side of the page. Kind of like the letter F. While this may seem insignificant at first it has several implications.
For starters you need the first two paragraphs that make up the top of the F to have the most important, attention grabbing information. Secondly you need to make sure that subheadings, bullet points and headings all have important, attention grabbing words that hook your readers because that’s what they’re likely to see while skimming through your article.
Also make sure you always break up your text into small paragraphs of a few lines each. No one wants to be stuck reading walls of text with no white space. Use bullet points and numbered lists wherever possible for further clarity.
- Use Copywriting Formulae
Copywriting formulae are a great way to make sure you’re writing in a structured way. They ensure that you’re not ignoring aspects of the copy that are crucial to driving home important points with your reader. That being said, they won’t guarantee that your reader will stay but they certainly help.
There’s several copywriting formulae to choose from but it’s more important to ensure you’re addressing the reader’s pain and problems before you try using a formulae. So for this article we’ll stick to the tried and tested ones.
Pioneered by Elmo Lewis in the 1900s, AIDA is one of the oldest formulae around. The idea behind it is to Attract the attention of your audience, create Interest and Desire and finally encourage the reader to take Action. Most copywriting formulae that followed after are just rehashed versions of AIDA.
Another solid copywriting formulae that’s been around for a while is the PAS formulae. PAS stands for Problem – Agitate – Solution and it works beautifully because people are more likely to act in order to avoid pain than to obtain some kind of gain. It’s pretty straightforward, begin by talking about the problem, then agitate by going into detail and highlighting the emotions that occur as a result of that problem. Finally when your reader relates and feels a strong association with what you’re saying and their [personal pain, offer up a solution to save the day.
Apart from these two, there’s several other formulas that might work and it’s always worth experimenting until you find one that does the trick for you.
- Overcome Obstacles to Attention
No matter how captivating your blog post may be, there exist certain roadblocks that prevent your reader from finishing your article. These obstacles to holding your reader’s attention can be overcome, but only if you’re aware of them first.
- Information Overload: This one is tricky, while you want to deliver valuable information to your audience and provide value through your article, you certainly don’t want to overload them with information. This means you need to ensure that your blog post is structured to deliver information at a steady, comprehendible pace.
The last thing you want is to dump all the research and information you’ve collected on your reader, faster than he or she can make sense of it. Feeling overwhelmed can cause them to stop reading or take a break from your article and they may not return. Once you have their attention don’t risk losing it. Pace yourself and your writing so that your audience can follow along.
- The desire for Instant Gratification: While overloading your audience with info is one way to lose them, the opposite is also equally harmful. Your readers want to know what the headline promises them. Don’t beat around the bush.
When you can get straight to the point, do so and avoid any fluff. Your readers are more likely to stay glued to their screens if they don’t have to read any unnecessarily long introductions and paragraphs
- Distractions like notifications and pop ups: The majority of readers are reading your posts on their cellphones while online. This means you’re competing for their attention with several other apps, social media and message notifications that pop-up on their screens.
Notice this post by Lucky Magazine on “The Best Places To Buy Glasses Online”. To avoid the reader exiting the article to google related questions, the best place to buy for return policy, performance, unusual glasses, eco-friendly purchases and other categories have already been mentioned.
While there’s not much you might be able to do about this, you can certainly ensure that you don’t have any distractions on your own blog page. Make sure you disable any banners, pop ups or chat bots that might steal the attention of your readers. Try and ensure that there are no flashy ads either. Basically eliminate anything that’s competing with you for the attention of your audience. Make it as easy as possible for them to stay focused.
- Write for The Right Device – Desktop or Mobile
It’s crucial that you understand where exactly your audience is coming from. Are they reading from their mobile phones or from desktops? And what percentage of your audience is reading from each device?
Make sure that your site is mobile responsive. This will ensure that readers who are reading from mobile devices won’t get frustrated because they’re having trouble viewing your blog post. This is also great for your SEO. In fact, if you’re serious about understanding your audience and how you can improve technically then you can even explore some content marketing tools to make sure you’re optimizing your content as much as possible.
The format of your article should also be written to reflect where the majority of your readers are consuming your content from. Remember the F shaped format discussed above and utilize it to make sure you’re keeping your readers hooked.
- Use Internal Cliff Hangers
Cliffhangers are a great way to keep your audience interested. They usually rely on suspense and as a result they work like a charm. But cliffhangers don’t have to be major, they can also be used on a much smaller scale within the article you’re writing to entice the reader to keep going.
Internal cliffhangers typically rely on tiny statements that stir up emotion in the reader. Some of the emotions they play around with are curiosity, doubt, amazement, humor or even simply just making a bold statement or laying down a challenge to see if the reader will stick around to see if you meet the claim.
Use internal cliffhangers through your writing to keep the reader excited. Some common internal cliffhangers you may have read but never noticed are:
- For example
- Let me explain
- Here’s what I mean
- Here’s why
- Sounds silly? It’s not
- Case in point
Notice how all of these phrases evoke a sense of curiosity or suspense. You’re waiting for something to happen and because of human curiosity, you’re more likely to keep reading until you find out exactly what’s supposed to happen.
- Respect Your Readers
Just like in real life, when you’re having a conversation with someone you want to be respectful. Think of what it feels like to have a conversation with someone who’s condescending and clearly doesn’t respect you. Well it’s the same for your readers.
Being able to educate, inform and offer value without oversimplifying and appearing condescending is a skill that’s underrated. You don’t want to treat your readers like they’re stupid. At the same time it’s imperative that you actually explain what the headline promises and make them understand the concept they’re trying to learn.
Don’t talk down to your readers and understand that they may not all be on the same level. If you’re hesitant to oversimplify something because you feel it might come off as condescending then just link to a resource that your reader can use to educate themselves at their own pace. This isn’t something that’s only important when you’re starting your blog, this is something that you need to continually remind yourself about even after you’re a well established blogger. Treat your audience with respect and they’ll continue to look up to you.
- Structure Matters
The structure of your article is determined in part by sentence length, tone and flow of your writing. Let’s take a look at these in detail.
1. Sentence length
Sentence length is one of the most crucial factors when it comes to keeping your audience interested. Since readers online usually skim through articles, you should keep your sentences short to avoid losing them. If your sentence is too long then they’re likely to stop reading. Under 25 words a sentence is a good target to shoot for with an ideal length of 16 – 20 words per sentence.
The tone of your article will paint a picture in the minds of your reader. It’s the voice in which they imagine you’re addressing them. It’s the attitude of the writer towards the reader and subject of the message. This is why it’s important to adopt a tone that’s consistent with the kind of article you’re writing. If you’re writing something motivational you want to sound strict, kurt and disciplined. If you’re writing something that aims to educate then the ideal tone would be kind and informative like a teacher or parent.
Vary the length of your sentences so that it’s a good mix of both short and long sentences. This creates a nice flow. More importantly it keeps the reader engaged. Too many short sentences and it feels abrupt and unpleasant to read. Too many long sentences and it becomes difficult and boring to follow along. A nice mix of sentence length creates the best flow to retain attention.
- Have a Killer Call To Action
If you’ve successfully retained your reader until the very end then chances are they’re excited about what they’ve learned from the post. You want to channel this because you’ve worked hard to create engaging content so don’t let it go to waste.
So if you’re trying to build brand awareness, make a sale, generate leads or create a clear path to a product then using a call to action is a great way to capitalize on the excitement you’ve built up in your reader.
You want to use authoritative language here and start with an imperative such as “click”, “join”, etc. Adopt a low risk but high value approach but not pressurizing the reader. Be as persuasive as possible without being salesy and try to create a sense of urgency or FOMO when you write your call to action. Finally make the CTA button clear, bright and easily visible. It needs to stand out on your page.
Oh – So You’re Still Here? Great
Attention is the currency of the internet. Everyone’s fighting for the consumer’s attention every second of the day. But you don’t need to get lost in the sea of content. Simply take a moment to strategically plan out how you intend to capture and retain your audience’s attention.
You don’t have to use every single method mentioned here but try combinations and see what works best and if you use more than one, you certainly can’t go wrong. Now what are you waiting for? Start working on that blog post and don’t forget to double check, to make sure that you’re doing at least a few of the tried and tested attention retaining tactics you just read.