The odds are against us.
As bloggers we don’t seem to have much chance.
People rarely read web pages word-by-word.
You know that, don’t you?
On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely. ~ Jakob Nielsen (source)
79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. ~ Jakob Nielsen (source)
You’re working so hard to come up with interesting ideas. You write entertaining blog posts. You tighten your text. Your content is valuable.
But how can you defy those odds? And get people to savor your blog posts – sentence-by-sentence, and word-by-word?
You may feel it’s an impossible task, but today I’m sharing 3 simple tricks to turn hurried scanners into attentive readers.
1. Be competitive and compelling
Your blog post is not simply competing with other blogs. Your blog is competing with life. With phone calls. With grocery lists. With a birthday party, the laundry, or the latest news.
Imagine your readers hurrying to catch a train … and you’re on the platform reading your post. Your headline is written on a banner behind you.
Is your headline so good that people will stop? Is your blog post so valuable that they don’t mind missing their train?
Compelling headlines give readers a specific promise. They tell them exactly what they’ll learn. For instance: How to Use the Persuasive Power of Mini-Stories in Your Sales Copy or How to Turn Bland Text into Sparkling Online Content.
Readers don’t want to waste their time with another blah-blah post.
Know exactly what your readers want to learn. Promise a specific lesson in your headline and deliver it in your blog post. That’s your first step to keep hasty people hanging on to each of your words.
2. Use the immense power of white space
Worrying about picking the right word?
Concerned about grammar?
Umming and ahhing about a semi-colon or a period?
It’s easy to worry about words and punctuation, and forget about your secret weapon: white space.
White space helps your readers glide through your post with a smile on their face. It makes reading feel effortless and enjoyable. But a lack of white space makes readers feel like they’re wading knee-deep through mud. It’s hard work. Without a chance to rest their tired eyes.
So how do you use the immense power of white space to keep people reading on?
- Use one-sentence paragraphs at the beginning of your post because you make your readers feel your post will be a quick and easy read.
- Include bullet points to increase white space – consider adding white lines in between your bullet points like I’ve done here.
- Use a maximum of 6 lines for each paragraph; and use one-sentence paragraphs to make certain statements stand out.
Before hitting publish, scroll through your blog post and review the amount of white space. Do you have enough white space to make reading pleasurable?
3. Entice wandering minds with seductive subheads
Your reader’s eyes are glazing over.
He’s thinking about his Easter weekend. A romantic meal. A good bottle of wine. What’s the weather forecast? Will he be able to get on his bike? And when’s his next vacation?
In his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman states:
A reader’s mind typically wanders anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the time while perusing text.
The odds ARE against bloggers.
How can we tempt wandering minds back with seductive subheads? It’s quite simple. You either need to arouse curiosity or promise a benefit to reading the next section (or do both).
Below follow a few subheads that arouse curiosity. These subhead examples are from a post about beating writer’s block:
- Curse like a sailor
- Embrace messiness
- Goof around on Facebook
- Take a cigarette break
- Read health magazines
These suggestions seem a little weird, don’t they? Do they arouse your curiosity?
Instead of writing wacky subheads, you can also promise a benefit and turn your subheads into mini-headlines. These are from a post about email marketing:
- How to create emails that are eagerly anticipated
- How to get your emails opened
- How to write engaging emails
To review your subheads, write them down on a sheet of paper. Do they arouse curiosity or promise a reward for reading on?
The truth about captivating busy readers
Time and time again blog readers are disappointed. By re-hashed blog posts. By blah-blah content. By hypey headlines and posts that don’t deliver.
You and I have to stand out by delivering valuable content. By turning up week-in week-out. By rewarding our readers with useful tips. A touch of humor. And an enjoyable read.
Above all, we need to build relationships.
Create a bond with your readers so strong that they don’t want to miss any of your words. They’re waiting for your email to tell them your next post is ready. They crave “hearing” your voice.
In a hectic world, we make time to listen to our friends. We trust them.
Be a good friend to your readers.
Recommended reading on writing for busy people:
9 simple tips for writing persuasive web content
A no-nonsense guide to online headlines and subheads
How to write heroic bullet points
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