It’s pretty insulting if you think about it.
You spend hours or even days pouring your soul into a blog post. And your “readers” move on with hardly a second glance.
Imagine something like that happening in the offline world. How would you feel if you spent all that time putting together a detailed report, and your boss flipped though a few pages before tossing it in the waste basket?
Now imagine that it’s not just your boss doing that, but hundreds of people. That’s what’s happening when your time on page analytics look like this:
It’s not entirely your fault. You’ve been following bad advice. In this article, I’m going to let you know what you’re doing wrong and what you should do instead.
Why you’re practically begging people to leave quickly
You’ve probably been told to make your content scannable. This is about the worst thing you can do if you want people to spend time on your page. Think about it. How long does it take you to scan an article?
Instead you want to give the perception that your content is scannable. Let me explain.
Most readers try to skim marketing content rather than investing the time to read it. They look for the points that stand out, such as subheads, callouts and images to get the gist of your article. If your reader can successfully do this, then there’s no reason to actually read it. You obviously don’t want that.
But if your article is a wall of text, it will look like too much work, and people won’t read that either.
What you need to do is give your content the appearance that it is scannable and use those elements to draw readers in.
Let’s take subheads as an example. Most articles use them to introduce a new point or section of the article. They are informational. Instead, try to treat them like headlines of their own. The goal is to get people reading the copy that follows.
When I wrote this article about ways to get more mileage out of existing content, I could have used subheads like:
Syndicate articles on other websites
Repurpose content for other formats
Instead, I crafted these messages that tease a benefit:
Get published on multiple sites without guest blogging
Double your content creation in half the time (or less)
See the difference? The first set of subheads gives the story away. The second set piques your interest and you can’t help but read on.
Take a similar approach with your images, captions and callouts. The job of each is to get people to start reading. Don’t you want to dive into the article to find out how Brian Dean accomplished the results shown in these charts?
The opportunity most blogs miss
Your content can be like a magnet. If it’s compelling and valuable, it attracts readers and makes them stick. But magnets have another side that repels objects with the same magnetic pole. That’s the side most blog posts start with.
How often have you seen an article that begins like this?
Or this one?
These examples push readers away before they even have a chance to get into the article. People’s attention spans are minuscule these days, and you only have a few seconds to grab them.
But when you do, you can suck them in before they realize what’s happening. That’s why I often spend more time on the introduction than any other area, even the headline.
Here are a few ways to make your opening magnetic:
Make an emotional connection. Take a look at the intro to this article you’re reading now. Can’t you just feel the frustration, and perhaps a little bit of anger, build? Didn’t that emotional investment make you want to continue on? You don’t want to walk away feeling like that.
Anger and frustration aren’t the only powerful emotions you can use. Fear, greed, envy, guilt, pride, love and hope can all be used to engage readers from the get-go.
Tell a story. Facts and figures are boring. They are easily forgotten. But stories can bring information to life. We can visualize them in our minds’ eye. We can relate to them. We feel empathy for the people in them.
Tell me you don’t get sucked into Alex Turnbull’s story on how his first business almost failed before it even got started in this article:
Build curiosity. Remember, your objective is keep people reading. Adding a little mystery or suspense is one of the best ways to this. I’ll share some specific tactics and examples for this a little later because it applies to more than just the intro.
Make your first paragraph short. Your introduction is the main entry point to your article. It’s vital to eliminate barriers at this point, including long text.
Which of these would you rather read?
How the world’s best blog writers keep people reading
The intro isn’t the only place you can lose readers. You need to keep their attention throughout the article. Bad advice causes problems here, too.
You see the data that long-form content performs better than shorter content. And it makes sense. More content takes longer to read, so your time on page should go up. But that’s only true if people read the whole thing.
By focusing on length rather than value, you increase your risk of pushing readers away. So what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Take this article for instance.
Many writers would have included a section in the beginning about the benefits of keeping people reading your article. But you already know the benefits. Otherwise you wouldn’t have started reading this article in the first place.
What you want is to learn how to do it. You want strategies and tactics you can put to use. So instead of telling you things you already know, I delve right into the good stuff and don’t let up until you reach the end.
Unfortunately, providing helpful information is not enough to hold attention today. You have to build intrigue. That’s where these tactics come in.
Grease Slide Copy
The end of a paragraph. The conclusion of a thought or message. A definitive statement. There are several natural stopping points throughout every article. These call for grease slide copy.
These phrases go by several names. Brian Dean calls them bucket brigades. Joseph Sugarman refers to them as seeds of curiosity. No matter what you call them, they are a great way to move readers through your content.
They do two things:
First, they build anticipation by delaying the information ever so slightly. In fact, the sentence above is a good example. You want to know what those two things are, so you are compelled to keep reading.
Second, they provide a bridge from one paragraph or message to another. Look at these examples from one of my articles:
Notice how you slide effortlessly to the next paragraph?
Here are a few other words and phrases to try:
- Let me guess
- Be honest
- Admit it
- Get this:
- Then it hit me
- Or is it?
- Let me explain
- Here’s why
- Here’s the thing
- Here’s the best part
- You’re probably thinking…
Insert one of these phrases anywhere people may lose interest or feel like pausing.