How to write for the distracted modern reader: 15 ways to master that

How to write for the distracted modern reader: 15 ways to master that

May 19, 2017 | Misha Singh

How to write for the distracted modern reader: 15 ways to master that

 

This blog will take a good reader around seven minutes to read. Why am I telling you this? Well probably because if you were the average reader, you wouldn’t waste more than 8 seconds on any web page. And woah, I caught your attention because I mentioned this will take than 7 minutes to read. Now that we have got your attention, let me come to the actual news. 

The average human attention span has declined from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds now. This is much shorter than the attention span of a goldfish (at 9 seconds)! This was revealed by a 2016 study by Microsoft Corp. that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored brain activity of 112.

Juxtapose that with the way people consume content online and on mobile and you’ll see a further drop in the attention span. With unlimited content and limited time, you’ll see that 50% of mobile users will abandon of web page if it takes more than 10 seconds to load, and 60% won’t return to the site. 

Further, multitasking with social on the side means that there is something very eager to pull you away the second your content becomes less interesting. Did you know that half of all pageviews are under a minute in length.

Now comes the tough part on what you do about it. As a marketer, you want your content to work for you. At the same time, it is important not to overload the user with information. Here are some ‘quick’ tips to write for people with short attention spans.

 

1. Use adjectives / superlatives like ‘short’, best’ ‘most’ or ‘quick’ in the title

 

A blog’s title plays a major role in telling the user if it is worth investing time in reading the whole blog. It is an important factor that will also drive traffic from search when you are competing with other blogs on the same / similar topic.

When searching for running shoes, Google’s first three search results follow this rule. And that rule is that Google wants to deliver the ‘best’ content to you in the ‘fastest’ way.  The wikihow article even provides part of the answer within the search result itself. 

Want to know more about what Google wants from you content?

Read this completely free ebook and get an in-depth understanding on content writing for the world’s largest search engine. 


2. Do a list
A listicle or list article works wonders in the online world. Because there are a finite number of points to read, the mind works more in a countdown mode knowing that it will reach the finish line soon.

Take a look at the homepage of Buzz Feed and you’ll know exactly what we mean. Almost every other article is a numbered list and all of them work like perfect click baits. Even a list with an odd number like ‘37 photos that prove that Bae is the real queen’ works because of the nature of the list. 


3. Write for ‘you’

 

Addressing your reader directly as a single person instead of a generic group can help them directly realise what they will gain from reading the article. You’ll find several articles titled “10 things you should know about xyz’. Inquisitiveness on what ‘you’ should know makes it easy for someone to click and read the article.


4. Give an approx ‘reading time’ for the article

One of the key things you note when you load a video is its total run time. Knowing how long it will take binds the mind into a finite timeline for the activity. Just after the article headline, mention an approximate reading time required for the article. For example “6 minutes read” seems like something that can be done during a coffee break. This blog is a 7-minute read, which safely falls under the avg. human attention span!


5. Use images to replace a thousand words

 

Written content is important for two reasons – it gives out details and search engines love it. If you were to post an image or infographic, it can do an amazing job too. For example, while your content can talk about all the efforts and research, your infographic can give out the actual data. Again, the ‘finite’ nature of the content makes it easier to fit into our timelines. Images, especially viral and controversial ones can do wonders in attracting traffic.


6. Improve your page speed

All that magic that you have planned with your content will collapse before take off if your page takes too long to load. Page speed is one of the key determining factors of your bounce rates. Because this matters to your whole website and not just the particular page, you’ll have to use multiple measures to improve your page speed.

What is your current page speed?

Know it here They also share a number of ways to improve it. While it may be difficult to follow it all, you can easily do the following
If heavy images are increasing your loading time, compress your images without losing quality using Shrink-o-matic. If you use Wordpress, use a plugin like BWP Minify to automatically optimize your media uploads.

And while we are on the topic, it is absolutely imperative that your website is mobile responsive. If it isn’t, it will get the ire of both users and search engines.


7. Say it with a video

 

While images do work, a video works better for your overall content marketing. It is all about grabbing attention and keeping the engagement going. Research shows that landing pages with videos have a 64% improvement in conversion rate.

How-to videos can give your audience a better understanding about your product and your visitors can be guided to the next step of becoming your customers. And here’s something that’ll surprise you – 92% mobile consumers share videos with others! Which means, not only do they watch and pay attention, they get their friends to do it too.


8. Be absolutely authoritative

 

While these facts may seem contradictory, both of them are true. When people want in-depth knowledge about a topic they will read an authority blog even if has 5000 words. Writing original, useful content is the best way to grab attention from your readers. Take a title like this: How to Give Your Content Wings: We Analyzed 11,541 Viral Articles from 2016 to Uncover the Secret Formula

Anyone clicking on this is looking for a structured analysis of the research. Even if the content of the blog is 3000 words long, it is amazing for a reader who really has no other way to get access to such valuable data. 


9. Use sub-heads for power skimmers

If you aren’t using a list, it is a must that you use prominent sub-headings. This allows the ‘power-skimmers’ to move straight to the point that interests them. It also provides a visual break in the content taking away the monotony from reading long-form content. 


10. Pay extra attention to font and styling

 

Have you noticed what grabs your attention? Something that ‘attracts’ you instantly. Think hot pink v/s dull grey. Colours play a huge role in our everyday life and even influence our moods. But what if I told you that 85% shoppers base their product purchase decision based on colours! And it isn’t just colours. The right fonts and overall styling go a long way in ensuring that your hard-earned page view doesn’t turn into a bounce. 

For content, clean (white) backgrounds with clear fonts work best. They render well both on desktop and mobile.  


11. Integrate easy social sharing

Think of that hard-earned visitor who likes what you’ve written. And now think of them leaving without an action. How they would love to become the first in their circle to share your content! And how sad they’ll be if you don’t give them an easy way to do it. 


12. Pay attention to meta description, synopsis and takeaways

While a good title is mandatory, a little preview of the blog / article in the form of meta description or synopsis is the final hook that will grab your audiences’ attention. Ask book authors whose sales work (or don’t) because of this singular reason. The ‘teaser’ of sorts does the job of enhancing the ‘adjective’ in your title to tell your audience ‘how’ amazing the article/blog is.

And last but not the least, summarize the takeaway in two sentences so that all that has been read in the past 6 minutes ends on a memorable note.


13. Customize your remarketing tactics

Your customers are on multiple social channels, on their favourite websites, on search engines and elsewhere. It’ll be good to be on their radar on as many channels as possible so that there is at least one sure way of your content reaching them. Also, people consume content differently on different channels. In search, the ‘intent’ is very clear. In social, your content is among a sea of content pulling the user’s attention in different directions. 


14. Ask your users
What would be better than giving your users exactly what they are looking for! The answer isn’t too far away. Look at trending topics in Google and search terms with high volume. You’ll have to do the additional research on what is already written about the topic and see how you can contribute with an angle that hasn’t already been covered.

You can also run a poll on your popular social channel asking your users about a problem area and eventually write something that outlines the solution for them.


15. Speak first and sell later

Remember how you hate the nosey salesman who refuses to stop following you around a shop. Even if you like something, all you’ll want to do is put your purchase aside and head straight for the exit. The same goes for your blog visitors. We all have to sell. But we don’t have to be the nosey salesman. Instead serenade them with what they love. And then make them a simple offer they can’t refuse. Follow the 80/20 Facebook rule for content too – 80% of really useful info and 20% of subtly-salesy and you’ll be on track to keep your customers happy and sticking to your website.

If you are reading this right now, we hope you have read the whole article and enjoyed it. We would love to hear back from you what works for you and what does not from the above list of points. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below so we can add to our blog. Happy reading! 


Also before you rush out, we hope you get the time to sign up for our free ebook


Author

Misha Singh

Misha is a media graduate and a grammar nazi. Nearly 4 years in the field of editing, she totally loves what she does. She is a media enthusiast, a thinker and an eye for detail person. With great love for cooking, she is a perfect host. She likes to keep it simple and precision is her signature mark.


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