Forget Short Attention Spans: Make Your Readers Stay No Matter What

Writing online is different. It is far more different from writing offline (for print or other media).

This difference is mostly because of the short attention span of people while they are online. Plus the many amounts of distractions they can encounter online.

Imagine you buy a book and start reading it. Let’s say you take the book with you to bed every day and read it for 30 minutes.

Depending upon the size of the book, you would finish reading it in a week or in a month.

bounce rate on blogs

But while you’re reading the book for 30 minutes every day, you’ll only read the book.

You won’t pop into Facebook to check on your friend’s updates, you will not check this-one-email of yours, you won’t be responding to 4 chat messages from 4 of your different friends and so on.

You will only be reading the book.

With a print book, it is easy to keep people focused for the amount of time they’re devoting to read the book.

Just imagine the same people reading your blog posts.

They have many things going on in their background and foreground. They have too many distractions.

And they’re way too busy then you could even imagine.

Hence they say that the attention span of people on the web is about 3 seconds.

That’s all you’ve got to convince them and make them stay!

I know, that’s really challenging.

The “Why”: Why Should We Worry About Making Our Readers Read The Full Content?

What if they read only the first sentence or the first paragraph of your post? Why should you make them stay until the end?

Here are few possible reasons (I might be missing some; feel free to add them in the comments!)

1. You have your call to action mostly at the end of the post.

2. People will only be enticed enough to respond to your call to action only if they read your entire post.

3. Google is watching people’s activity on your site and if they don’t stay longer, that counts as a black mark. For instance, the metrics like bounce rate and average visit duration.

4. You have put your sweat and blood to create that awesome post and you absolutely want your readers to read it fully *sigh*.

How To Know What Your Readers Like?

Making your readers stay until the end of the post is an art.

It is not magic, but magical. You initially never know how to keep your readers – true story. But as you start building up your presence it will be quite easy for you to get a hold on this.

To start with, let's do this.

Go to your Google Analytics Dashboard. On the left, you will see a little module called “Content” > “Site Content”. Expand it and look for “Landing pages” and click on it.

Now you will get a list of top landing pages on your blog.

If you look carefully you will see a column titled “Avg. Visit Duration”. If you click on it, you can sort your pages based on average visit duration.

Find out those pages of your blog where people spend time the most.

Take a look at those posts and see what features are common; or what features could have attracted people to stay longer.

Bear in mind, though, this factor (the average visit duration) is not just affected by one factor. People could have simply stayed till the end because they were looking for the same thing (that you were dealing with in that post).

But there could still be other parameters, too!

Yet, if you find a list of posts on a particular category where people stay longer, this means that your audience love posts on that category; so start posting more useful content in the same category.

On the other hand, if you can’t find a common “category” or a topic in those posts, then there is something else in those posts that keep your audience.

It could be your writing style, the structure of the post or something similar. Find it out. And make more like those.

Alternatively, you can also use your own instinct to find out what people want.

Go to popular blogs in your niche and see what posts make you stay until the end.

Have you recently read a post from Problogger.net till the end? Why did you do so? Find out what made you stay. Use that in your posts. Simple.

Why Not Social Count?

I could have simply told you to find out those posts from your blog that have more social shares. But the posts that get shared a lot doesn’t mean they’ve made your readers stay until the end.

Some posts simply get shared because the heading is good. For some, the image in the post might be good.

And I don’t need to mention that most posts get shared immediately after your readers scan your posts, click the share button and then move away.

Write Easily Digestible Posts

If you give your readers too much to chew, they’re surely going to leave.

Remember, as I said earlier, the online world is busy and the mindset of people is different as well.

They want easily consumable content.

How to make your posts easily digestible?

Focus on one problem in your posts.

Instead of reaching out to hundreds of perspectives/solutions for a problem, take one and go deeper. Explore one or two things in detail. Don’t give too much.

Use Eye-catching Images And Screenshots

I cannot stress the importance visuals when it comes to online content. If you take a look around in your social media profiles, you will find that visually appealing content goes viral (even for no reason).

Visuals add spice to your content and they give that nice treatment your content deserves (given that your content is worthy in the first place!).

And, don’t get off-track here – I am not telling you to add loads of images on your posts so that people will keep their eyes hooked on to them till the end. That’s not your goal.

And yes, although your images could get a lot of shares and pins, that’s not your goal again!

But images make it easier for people to stay on your posts. That’s it.

And if you are doing tutorial kind posts, make liberal use of screenshots; otherwise, people won’t get what you are talking about and they might leave because your post is not understandable.

Use Varying Patterns

Monotonous posts are boring and people tend to jump off! Your post needs to be entertaining and sporty enough to keep them longer.

For this, you can introduce “foreign bodies” in your posts. What are they?

Quotes, highlighted text, bold text, underlined text, texts in boxes, lists (ordered or unordered), etc.

All these can add variety to your post and will help readers from getting bored!

Break The Post Into Sub-Headings

This one is very important. You really have to break the post into easily digestible pieces so that your visitors can take one bite at a time.

If you put the main points or the outline of the post in terms of headings and subheadings, your readers can still consume the post even if they just skimmed.

You have to make your post digestible both for those who are willing to read it in full and to those that only wish to skim.

If people are trained that your posts are easily digestible, they will stay until the end.

Also, make sure you break the post into short paragraphs with one or two lines per paragraph.

It makes it easier on the eyes and to grasp. Avoid long paragraphs and large blocks of text in any case.

Don’t Make Your Post Too Long

Many bloggers often have wrong notions about how long their blog posts have to be. They simply think that writing long posts are good.

Don’t get me wrong here – writing long posts are good both for your readers (when you discuss a topic in-depth and provide useful and actionable tips) and for SEO (yes, longer content ranks better).

But don’t make a post long just for the sake of it. If you can tell what you have to tell in just 400 words, be it. Or if you really need 4000 words, so be it (for longer posts make sure you use the tips above to make them digestible).

Don’t simply beat around the bush.

Check this post out for additional discussion on this – What Should Be The Length Of Your Killer Post?

However, I understand that some posts really need to be long. In that case, make the post look shorter by either writing a series or inserting page breaks (as I’ve done with this one).

Takeaway

Writing posts that keep people hooked on to your posts till the end is really a challenge, given the noise and distractions in the online world.

But if you can do it, you’re golden!

It takes a bit of practice but is totally doable. I hope these tips will help.

Make sure you apply them, OK? ‘Coz reading only gives you knowledge while taking action will give you results. And I bet you are in need of the second one badly!
On the day this post was published, Jane delivered a beautiful baby girl and so she won't be responding to the comments for a while. Congratulations, Jane, to you and your growing family!

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Jane,

    Great post with actionable tips! I agree keep readers on the post till last is more than art and only few bloggers online is master in it.

    But, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do that all they need to learn some writing skills, reading those masters posts such as (Neil Patel, Biran Dean, Sue Ann and of course you.)

    I already follow all the tips which you have mentioned that is why sometimes I don’t care about keyword. All I do care about my readers and always want to provide them best content available online.

    I see a common mistakes newbie bloggers do they use complex words, they think that will represent them a smart blogger to their audience.

    I would like to suggest they use as simple as simple words and short sentences.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post. 🙂

    Regards,
    Umesh Singh
    Umesh Singh recently posted…The Blogger’s Guide Using Emotions in Blogging That Win Hearts and MindsMy Profile

  2. Keri Vandongen says

    I like the way you structured your post, Jane. Another plus for easy reading. You began with strong rationales, insights your readers might not have thought of, and shared valuable takeaways – including a great CTA.
    I agree that thinking about what appeals to readers before and while writing is key. Including all 3 content elements: interesting, informational and educational- may raise the value.
    Offer rewards, I.e. email mentions for some blog comments that show you’ve read the post, guest blog opportunities, randomly pop over to their blog and maybe share a post, give free advice, ways to give you value before a request (ie a social share).
    A THANK-YOU to Sue for NOT having pop ups interrupt reading her fabulous posts!:)
    ~Keri

  3. says

    Hey Jane,

    I totally agree with your point of the post getting shared and the concept related to it. It’s not necessary that you have your captured your readers forever.

    You have to put some efforts. Craft your content including the attractive headlines, sub-headlines and more.

    People require an engaging content which can be generated with the help of screenshots.

    There are many things which can be done to capture your readers.

    ~Ravi
    Ravi Chahar recently posted…10 Secrets of Successful Blogging Which Can Give You A Direction.My Profile

  4. says

    Hi Jane, great post.

    Understanding the psychology of the readers plays the major role here.
    #1. The readers read the text below the each of the subheads in your content more attentively. So, I can say that for visitors to stay long on your site and read your content crafting introductions to the subheadings as carefully as you craft main intro of your blog post is important.

    #2. People tend to also read the text immediately preceding any captivating image more focused. This is is also worth a note.

    #3. I liked the idea of your varying patterns. It’s great. I use plugins like Thrive content builder on my blog to include content boxes, quotes, and interactive bullets. I noticed my dwell time spiking up nowadays.

    #4. Another point is to dig up the Analytics data. It will show you the interests of the visitors of your blog. Example, most of my blog readers are interested in photography (shutterbugs) along with digital marketing and blogging. So, with this data, I can tailor my content so as to appeal my audience according to their audience and keep them hooked to my site.

    Cheers,
    Akshay~
    Akshay Hallur recently posted…Top 5 Best Free WordPress Migration Plugins for Migrating Your SitesMy Profile

  5. says

    crafting introductions to the subheadings as carefully as you craft main intro of your blog post is important.

    #2. People tend to also read the text immediately preceding any captivating image more focused. This is is also worth a note.

    #3. I liked the idea of your varying patterns. It’s great. I use plugins like Thrive content builder on my blog to include content boxes, quotes, and interactive bullets. I noticed my dwell time spiking up nowadays.

    #4. Another point is to dig up the Analytics data. It will show you the interests of the visitors of your blog. Example, most of my blog readers are interested in photography (shutterbugs) along with digital marketing and blogging. So, with this data, I can tailor my content so as to appeal my audience according to their audience and keep them hooked to my site.

    Cheers,
    Akshay~
    Akshay recently posted…Top 5 Best Free WordPress Migration Plugins for Migrating Your SitesMy Profile

  6. says

    Hi,

    When it comes to capturing blog readers for lifetime, nothing can be counted as evergreen, because everything changes, updates or get perished with the time and same in case of online content.

    There is the need of continuous efforts that make the readers stay by analyzing what brings them to a blog and what keeps them stay on their blogs.

    Call to action is always a good idea.

    Thank you for sharing these helpful tips.
    Gaurav Kumar recently posted…10 Reasons Why You Should Buy a DomainMy Profile

  7. says

    Hello Jane
    Great post! Very relevant and well written. Some of your tips have inspired me to make a couple of changes thanks. I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this article and use it as a checklist. Thanks for sharing
    Darrell Harris recently posted…51 Things to do that Will Make Your Website SoarMy Profile

  8. says

    Great tips! I am a relative newbie and wasn’t even familiar with the “Landing Pages” report and I can already see some trends! Thanks so much!

  9. says

    Hey Sue and Jane,

    Making your posts digestible, actionable and easy on the eyes is very important when it comes to your readers staying longer.

    The key goal is for your readers to get something out of each topic that you write. You not only want them to stay longer but also give them a reason to keep coming back to your blog.

    You can get ideas of what to focus on from reading other blog posts as well as checking your stats on Google Analytics. These will give you some type of direction of where to go.

    I’ve also had readers ask me to write on certain topics which has helped keep my following.

    Thanks for sharing Jane! Have a good one!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…9 Tips For Introverted Solopreneur Bloggers To Create Productive GoalsMy Profile

  10. says

    Hey Jane,

    Indeed, we should always try to focus on single specific problem in our posts and need to fix them with deep analysis. Most of blogs which are floating on internet, they are not able to provide specific solution for specific type problem. Visuals items such as images and screenshot are really helpful to engage our reader with post. Generally, I also follow this rule to break paragraph in every two lines, it is absolutely helpful for reader to digest whole post easily without getting bored. Eventually, thanks for sharing your amazing ideology regarding above topic.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar

  11. says

    Capturing the blog readers is really an art rather than technique. I consider giving a good valuable informative problem solving information works good.

    Apart from that you can give free ebooks, webiniars to engage them and make them the regular readers.

    Why readers come to your blog? Because they need information.

    Why readers need information? Because they face some problems.

    So the root is the problem. Instead of focusing the root if you focus the fruit then it may not give you the benefit.

    Create a great content having intention to solve problems. Then leave the rest.

  12. says

    100% correct. People don’t seem to realise that the world can manage without another blog post with barely 300 words, a load of social buttons and a sign up box…

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