I first started out as a freelance writer working for a website broker. My entire job was to create conversion articles designed to get a reader to click on our affiliate links and buy a product. It was repetitive humdrum work, but I learned a lot about what it takes to capture the attention of the average internet reader.
It was repetitive humdrum work, but I learned a lot about what it takes to capture the attention of the average internet reader. At first, I was a little miffed by how particular my editors were about the format of the articles, but I quickly fell into the routine, and it became second nature to me.
Why People Don’t Read Your Posts
I don’t claim to be an expert in the human psyche, but there are a lot of very predictable things about the average internet user that you can use to troubleshoot why your posts aren’t getting much engagement. If you’re seeing things like unusually high bounce rates (over 60% is generally a not-so-great number), then it may be time to figure out why your posts are scaring people away from your site.
Attention Span is Everything
First and foremost, let’s get the golden rule of content creation out of the way: get to the point already.
This is an age of instant information, where a load time of 6 seconds is crazy unacceptable, and people will not wait longer than they have to to get the information that they need. Make your content rich, but make the critical information fast and easy to find at a glance.
Last year, Time reported that the average attention span for the internet user is 8 seconds.
We’re too busy, we’re too easily distracted, and bottom line, most audiences will not sit still long enough to stay on your page and read through your post (let alone make a purchase), so give them a reason to stick around, and fast.
Make Your Titles Accurate
I’m all about using some keyword research to boost the Google-juice of an article and get it to more readers, but to a certain point. You need to ask yourself, Are the headlines you’re using an accurate depiction of the content of the posts?
If not, you could not only be bouncing users like crazy, but irritating your visitors, and negatively affecting your subscription rates (nevermind your conversion rates).
By all means, use SEO-friendly titles, but keep your headlines accurate and relevant, or you’ll just be shooting yourself in the foot.
Break Up Your Text
There is no greater turnoff in the world of instant information than a gigantic, endless blob of text.
We know you have a lot to say, we know you’re brilliant, and we’re sure there’s great information in there, but man, we ain’t got all day. Sure, you want people to read your articles and get the full weight of what you’re trying to say, but most people are skimmers, and it’s as simple as that.
Break up your posts as much as you can with a few formatting standards for your posts:
- Use bulleted lists like this, whenever applicable
- Keep paragraphs to less than five lines
- Bold key points, but don’t over-bold. This is where you keyword research will come in handy.
- Use relevant images intermittently – two per 1,00o words is a good rule of thumb.
- Use subheadings to make content easy to skim.
Use the Appropriate Tone
Generally speaking, a conversational tone is the norm these days – it appeals to a wide variety of audiences, and flows nicely, no matter the topic. Add a touch of authority, and you can generally reach and engage just about any reader.
However, keep in mind that not all audiences respond the same way to how you write, so identify your audience, get into their mindset, and then determine what kinds of articles they’re most likely to read. Here are a few examples of the same sentence, rewritten for a few different audiences:
It’s not rocket science, but you won’t get far without figuring out what it is your customers need before trying to sell them something.
Though it may go without saying, it’s important to understand the needs and problems your customers face, before attempting to devise a marketing strategy to improve your conversion rate.
Sales is about more than just moving a product, it’s about giving your customers a solution to a problem your product solves for them. Once you address the problem they have and how your product effectively solves it, you can start building a marketing plan around that model.
You’ll notice that the first quote is very casual and conversational, whereas the next one is more formal, and has some basic technical terminology that not all readers may be familiar with.
The third example in this set is crucial, because it identifies with an audience that may not understand the basic concepts at hand, but still has an interest in the topic. Which brings us to our next point…
Make Sure Your Readers Know What You’re Talking About
This one can get tricky – on the one hand, you don’t want to lose bored readers that are already familiar with the topics you’re covering, but on the other, readers are just as likely to leave your page if they don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
See what you can find out about your readers, and determine who exactly you’re trying to reach with your content. If your audience, or target audience, is predominanty a group of people that are new to the subject you’re discussing, then it’s important to make your content accessible to them.
You can do this by explaining topics as you discuss them in your posts, in the most basic terms possible. I find that beginner guide style articles are perfect for this, and great for referring people to products they may be interested in (example: What is a Garlic Press? (And Why Do I Need One?).
If you’d rather keep your articles shorter and more focused, create separate posts that you can link to in other articles, so that your readers have somewhere to go on-site to learn more about the topic you’re covering. Make sure to include this link in an obvious way, like, To learn more about processing garlic, read my article on garlic presses.
Watch for Trends
When all else fails, keep an eye on posts in Google Analytics. Though some posts will perform better than others simply because of the content they contain, you can also keep a watchful eye out for patterns in the format of your posts versus their bounce rate. Take a peek at them once in a while, and see if you notice some performing better than others.
You can’t always predict what your readers are going to do, or how long they’ll stick around, but one thing’s for sure, the longer they do, the better job you’ve done.
What about you? What’s your biggest motivator for clicking off an article?