According to a recent study, humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Marketers were already challenged to stand out in an industry over-saturated with information, and now they have only 8 seconds to do so.
Most people reading this are actually skimming it. They're looking for the parts that are relevant to them, wondering, "how can this benefit me?" The marketer's job is to make finding that information as simple as possible. If we view the blank page as a canvas, we must paint a visual picture with our words, and I don't mean that in the "show instead of tell" kind of way. I mean it literally. How can you place your words strategically to keep your reader's eyes moving down the page until the very end?
1. Make it easily digestible
If your content is too wordy, people will quickly lose interest. To make it easier to read, keep each paragraph short and sweet. Give them information they can use right up front.The ideal blog post will be approximately 1,000 words, and a good rule of thumb is to have an introductory paragraph, about five paragraphs to support your topic, and a strong summary. To make it even easier to read, use shorter sentences, and feel free to break some structural rules here. Start sentences with 'and' or 'but' if you need to. Avoid long, descriptive terms - this isn't a poetry contest. Keep it simple, and your readers will reward you by sticking around longer.
2. Make it visually appealing
Just as restaurants use strategic ambiance to encourage their guests to stay for a specific amount of time, bloggers need to guide the customer's eye to keep them engaged. The key here is to use headers and sub-headers to divide the content into scannable sections. Most blogging platforms come with the options of using H1 and H2 formatting options. As a general rule, H1 is always the title of the post, and H2 is for sub-headings, with each subsequent H-header going down in size (though this is a rule I will break if it makes for a better visual presentation).
A quick check to see how visually appealing your post is is to copy and paste it into a Word doc and zoom out to about 88%. This will give you a good "bird's eye view" of your piece, to see how it appears as a whole. Make sure everything looks evenly spaced, the images are the right size and show up in regular intervals, and the headers/sub-headers transition nicely.
As far as line spacing goes, it's ok to be a little dramatic. A sentence carries a little more weight if it's separated from the others.
3. Make images work for you
Speaking of images, make sure you're using them. Articles with images get 94% more views, so unless you're specifically trying to avoid attention (in which case you're likely not a marketing blogger), there's no reason your posts should be missing images.
Make sure the images are relevant to your topic, at least in a vague way. Image selection can be challenging when you're relying on other people's photos, but I, for one, am not a photographer. I wish there was a site that provided really cool images that were free to use (please drop me a note if I'm missing something), but until then it's easy enough to find images on Google (make sure they're are labeled for reuse).
According to a study by BlogPros, the sweet spot is one image for every 350 words.
4. Make it relatable
One of the easiest ways to keep your reader's interest is to connect with them. Let them know they're not alone, even if it's about something as non-emotional as filing their taxes. If they can see themselves in your words, they will stick around. A great way to do this is by starting your post off with a story. Use a personal anecdote to show them how your topic can help them in their daily lives.
And don't forget you're writing a blog, not a white paper or a press release. Allow yourself to write "colloquially," or "write how you talk." This can be a challenge in business writing, but think about how you would explain something to a friend, and write like that. With blogging, you're allowed let a little of your personality show, so take that opportunity every chance you get - it will help keep your creative soul alive.
5. Make it shareable
One of my biggest pet peeves is not being able to share a great blog I've just read. This should be the most straight-forward part of your reader's experience. Share buttons can be subtle, but make sure you include them somewhere on your page. The major players will change over time, but these days the very basics are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Here are a couple of links to easily embeddable share buttons for your webpage or blog.
- Share This (straight to the point, easy to follow, create your buttons)
- The ultimate cheat sheet for creating social media buttons (more than you've ever wanted to know about sharing buttons, but if you need a primer, here is where to start)
- I just wanted to point out that bullet points are also a great way to draw your reader's eye 🙂
In a nutshell, appealing to the new 8-second attention span is easy if you follow the simple rule we're taught in middle school: K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). Make it easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to tell their friends about, and most people will make it all the way through your blog post, and might even enjoy it.
Looks like it's time for another image, so I will leave you with a beautiful infographic of the perfect blog post, brought to us by BlogPros.