Do you feel like a goldfish?
When you look in a mirror, do you see a goldfish?
Are you wondering why in the name of all that is holy, I’m asking you these questions?
Well, here’s why. Did you get this far? Are you still here?
If you are, then you may not be a goldfish. Or you’re an interested goldfish.
Ah, now we’re getting to the point.
Attention Span of a Goldfish
Read this carefully: The average attention span for most online readers is about 5 to 7 seconds. I’ve seen it referred to as the attention span of a goldfish.
What does this mean for you, when writing content, be it for your blog, emails or social media posts?
It means you have about the attention span of a goldfish in which to instantly grab your readers’ attention before they head off to the next shiny object as they scroll twitter, the Facebook newsfeed, or their email inbox.
And Yes, I Do It Too
Now, I’ve never thought of myself as having a flittering attention span, but I do know this: If I open an email, even from someone I trust and whose opinions I value, and see wall-to-wall text to the bottom of a loooooong message, you know what I do? I click off. Oh, hell, no. Not now. Maybe later.
I might hang with it if the headline immediately grabs my attention and the subject is of interest to me at that moment. Otherwise, it’s bye-bye. Catch you later.
Don’t Make People Wade Through A Forest of Words
Same goes for long articles and even Facebook posts. Make me read too much text, without grabbing my attention quickly, and I’m gone. I will never reach the end of that post.
But I have so much to say, you’re thinking. How can I convey what I want to say in a few short words? How can I get people to read my stuff?
Well, I have some things to say about that.
It’s Not Easy, But It Is Possible
Now, before I go much further, I’ll tell you, I’m often one of the worst offenders. I can be very wordy, if I’m not careful. I’m working on it, disciplining myself to cut to the chase. So I get it. I really do.
Here are a few of my own tips to help you out:
1. Write a great headline.
Now, this is easier said than done, especially if you haven’t really learned what constitutes a good headline. And even the best writers miss the mark from time to time. But you can hone this skill. Follow well-established freelance bloggers. See how they craft their headlines. Look for posts with lots of engagement. What grabs your attention? Follow those examples.
Read publications in your market niche and see what kind of headlines they use. Magazines are a great example. When you only have a small amount of real estate on the cover of a magazine, you better know how to use it wisely. Study these examples. They work. Use them as guides in your own writing.
How-to headlines are among the most popular. I use them a lot, for good reason. Lists also work well. “15 Ways to _________.” If the topic holds value for your audience, and they’re not forced to wade through lines and lines of text, they’re more likely to finish your article.
2. Make your posts and articles scannable.
Think about an email you’ve received that had no breaks, no sub-headings, very few paragraphs, versus one that contains many short paragraphs and sub-headings.
And by the way, some paragraphs can be one sentence long and some sentences contain only one word. Forget what you learned in middle school English class. You’re not trying to get an A on a paper. You’re trying to hold reader attention. Two very different goals.
Dense text is hard to read. It tires the eyes.
But content composed of short paragraphs, broken with headings and sub-headings, is easy to scan.
Think about the way you read an email. You open it and if the headline grabs your attention, you begin reading. But do you read every single word on the page? Probably not. You scan, looking for the point of the email. And if it’s written with lots of white space on the paper, it’s more easy to scan. Your reader is less likely to click off.
Don’t make your reader work too hard. They won’t do it.
3. Forget what you learned in middle school English class.
I know I just said that, but it bears repeating. We learned in school proper sentence structure, never to end a sentence with a preposition. Forget that. Not only is it unnecessary to follow these now arguably archaic rules, but look at this sentence: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put!” Not sure who originated this quote, but the point is, it looks and sounds ludicrous. Who talks like that?
Write like you talk, with personality and the ease of speech that we adopt in conversation. You’ll find it much easier to engage with your audience.
4. Keep your content as short as possible.
Unless you’re writing a white paper or treatise of some kind, where your audience expects to read longer content, strive to keep your content short. Long, dense emails are more often than not clicked off of as quickly as they’re opened. And if people are like me, they may save them as new, thinking they’ll read them later, only to finally delete them, realizing they never will.
This is not what you want. You want to grab reader attention quickly, and hold it.
You Can Do This
These are just a few simple tips you can use to help you get your emails and posts read, and acted upon. If you can learn to use them, you’ll see better open rates, and more conversions.
Keep it simple.
Grab attention with a great headline.
Make your page easily scannable.
Keep your content as short as possible for you topic.
Turn goldfish into attentive, interested humans.
If you need help with your content writing, why not hire me to help you out. I can help you build a stronger audience.