So, content is king, right?
But how many times have you written that really powerful piece of web content but no one cared to read it talk less of sharing it!
Yes, content MAY be king, but the truth is, no one wants to labor on a piece of content and all it achieves is a few visits now and then. Such a situation is not only frustrating but demoralizing.
But, not to worry, there is help.
There are some very exciting findings about website reading patterns and usability which, if used well, can help you create content that people will be eager to read and share. In this article I want to draw your attention to these findings and how you can use them to up your game.
So, let’s begin by looking at…
How People Read Content Online
Back in 1997 Jakob Nielsen and John Morkes discovered through a study that 79% of people online will scan your web site while only 16% will care to read it word for word!
“They don’t. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”
Now, you say, that was 1997! But the truth is, that has not changed today. In fact, with more and more people using mobile devices to access the internet and with so much more taking people’s time, you can be sure that more and more people NOW scan rather than read your content.
And of course, the W3School agrees with this finding. In an article titled: “Web Site Design” they affirmed the fact that users scan rather than read through a web page:
“A typical visitor will NOT read the entire content of your Web page!
No matter how much useful information you put into a Web page, a visitor will only spend a few seconds scanning it before he/she decide whether to leave or to stay.
Be sure to make your point in the very first sentence of the page! After that, try to keep the user occupied with short paragraphs, and new headers down the page.”
From these and many other findings it is clear that that writing content is not enough of itself. Getting people to read that content must form a BIGGER part of your content writing plan.
Here are some suggestions on…
How to Get More People to Read Your Content
1. Improve Your Website Load Speed
It is interesting to know that while websites’ load speed has increased significantly in recent times at about 7.72 seconds on average, website users on the other hand expects your website to load within the first 2 seconds!
To prove how important this is, Amazon and Walmart did separate tests and the results were instructive. While Amazon reportedly increased revenue by 1% for every 100 milliseconds improvement to their site speed Walmart increased conversion by 2% for every 1 second of improvement on their site!
It doesn’t matter whether you are blogger or ecommerce site you need to take a cue from these two online giants. Use the suggestions on Yahoo! Yslow and Google Page Speed to improve your site load speed if you want more people to read your content.
Also hosting your website on a CDN webhosting platform can also be of great help when it comes to improving site load speed.
Besides, you should use a small number of quality, optimized graphics, and keep your page content down to two, or at the most three MS Word pages.
2. Write In Inverted Pyramid Style
What is the inverted pyramid style of writing? It is simply a turning around of the usual writing style where you start with an introduction, background information, findings and then finally presenting your conclusion or recommendations last.
When you write your web content with such a style it means your website visitors will need to read a lot of information before they reach your conclusion and recommendations – a BIG reason for them to abandon your content in a matter of seconds!
It is advisable however, to turn this around and write your summary first, and then add the details. Doing this will help in getting their attention quite early and will be able to convince them to scroll for more of your content.
3. Write Scannable Text
This is the suggestion of both Jakob Nielsen and John Morkes and the W3School. If 79% of online users will only scan your web content then that is what you should give them. A simple way to do this to write in short sentences and paragraphs, and break up excess information into different pages.
Here’s what Jakob Nielsen and John Morkes recommends:
• Highlighted words
• Meaningful sub-headings
• Bulleted lists
• One idea per paragraph
4. Be Less Promotional And Subjective
The tone and style of your writing has a lot of influence on how people will read and use the content. When Nielsen and Morkes measured the effect of different styles of writing on five versions of the same website the following versions had the following improvement in per cent according to their test readers:
• Concise version with about half the word count as the control: 58%
• Scannable layout with the same text as the control but easily scanned: 47%
• Objective language using neutral rather than subjective, boastful or exaggerated language: 27%
• Combined version using all three: 124%
From the above it is clear that planning your content and approaching it from the angle of a “helper” rather than someone peddling some goods will greatly improve the readership.
5. The Eyes Have It!
Another finding that should interest you here is the findings of a study called Eyetrack III carried out in 2003 and 2004 by Eyetrack. Though the study was for news-type sites, but the findings are also applicable to bloggers and small business web site.
From the study it was discovered that online users followed our left-to-right Western Culture writing style. The study found that the eye pauses and reads the first few words of a dominant headline first, especially when that headline is in the upper left and sometimes the upper right.
Readers will usually stop reading at five headlines regardless of the number used, but an unusual keyword will often get people to pause. Curiously, they also found that smaller type encourages reading while larger type encourages scanning.
All of these points to the fact that you should put your most important content (graphics, logo, company name, texts images, etc.) at the top left quadrant.
Besides, a headline in the top left quadrant could be of great help in keeping your reader on your page for longer than a minute. You should also know that the first three words of your opening headline are the most important therefore, put them to the best of use.
6. How Credible Are You?
Another thing that Nielsen and Morkes uncovered in their study is the fact that people are looking for credibility when they browse through web content. Some of the things that will raise your credibility are high-quality graphics, good writing and using outbound links.
Your website visitors want to get straight facts and not some exaggerated claims. Please if you are not a good writer the best route to take is getting a professional web content writer to write your web pages for you.
Getting more people to read your content is more about writing concise content that is scannable. Your content should be written in an objective style that is straightforward and friendly. Beyond being useful your content should be accurate and should be heavy on both breadth and depth. Aim to be a voice indeed instead of another noise on the net.
Over to you: How are you getting more people to read your web content? Share with us in the comments below.