Does your content inspire customers to take action?
In a world where every item is begging for our attention (especially our phones!), how can you create content that not only gets your message across but also pushes someone to take the next step?
Our ability to pull up legitimate answers to our questions with a few taps on our phone (thanks Google!) allows us to make better informed decisions than even the kings, queens, and world leaders of the past.
Naturally, this presents a massive opportunity for businesses to serve their customers, but there's just one problem: if you don't follow some basic rules, no one will ever read your content!
Breaking these best practices can really harm your bottom line. Use these guidelines to create content that's optimized for readers' hectic schedules and short attention spans.
1. Whitespace Is Key
As most of us know already, mobile search volume have overtaken desktop searches, and the gap is still continuing to widen. Clearly people use their mobile devices at an ever increasing frequency to find the information they want.
One problem this presents to business owners, however, is that more customers are visiting their websites from smaller screens. For that reason, whitespace is key.
It's a headache trying to find your location in a paragraph after being distracted by the world around you. Mobile users have more distractions than a desktop user, so make sure to chop up long paragraphs to ease the reader's eyes. How much whitespace you add is really up to you.
I've seen some blogs that essentially put a blank line between each of their sentences. I think this is a little overkill since it greatly increases the amount of scrolling the user will have to do. Instead, try to strike a happy medium, and add a blank line between several sentences (as you can see I do here).
I know this is contrary to what most of us were taught in school. In the United States, teachers and professors used to teach essay writing of paragraphs with introductory sentences, and then supporting sentences to follow. However, that structure doesn't really apply to your web content.
Plus, adding whitespace makes your content easier to scan, which can actually lead to improved trust for your brand.
2. Keep Your Introduction Short and Manageable
Marketing studies have shown that many users eyes dart around in either an 'F' shape or a 'Z' shape whenever they open a new web page. You need to make sure that within that limited portion of screen real estate that they can determine if your content truly holds the answers they were looking for.
Part of this is keeping the introduction to a manageable length. I do acknowledge that the length on an introduction depends heavily upon the type of content you're producing. However, generally speaking, try to keep an introduction under 200 words long. More preferably you want to try to keep it in the 100-150 word count range.
I'd also recommend here that you take extra time to write well-crafted headlines. They're the promise of what's to come. They're also the thing that gets your reader to commit to reading the next line of text. A boring headline can abort their entire visit, so make it good.
3. Match Language to Your Audience's Reading Level
As much as I wish it weren't so, the web pages that cater to lower reading levels tend to do better for a couple reasons.
First and foremost, it's easier to digest. To draw a literary analogy, consider how much more popular the modern Harry Potter series is as opposed to something much more difficult to read, such as Shakespeare.
Because it's light and easy to digest, people can read it more quickly, which is crucial given that so many people want instant gratification and immediate solutions to their problems.
Additionally, consider that your content will appeal to more people if it's written at a lower reading level. But there does seem to be some disagreement among marketers regarding what reading level you should shoot for.
I've heard some folks say that a seventh grade reading level is ideal, but that's just an opinion. It really depends on your audience and what product or service you're marketing. In some cases, it may be appropriate to shoot for a higher reading level such as high school. To help measure the readability of your content, I recommend the Yoast SEO tool, but there are other alternatives available as well.
4. Write Articles and Pages of Content, Not Dissertations
The bulk of your content marketing needs to be long enough to provide useful information to your audience, and not filled with fluff. The quality of your content really is of utmost importance nowadays.
On average, people can read about 200 words per minute. Using that average, a typical 1000 word blog post will only take them five minutes to read. That's why you need to keep your articles tight and concise. That doesn't always equate to short, in fact I'd say the opposite is better.
This is a slippery slope, though, so be careful. Though it may be tempting to write more because you think more content equals more value, remember that the user may give up and get bored or distracted. Long form content certainly has its value, but if you're trying to regularly publish content that's 3000+ words because you think you have to, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. If that's your case, you can try a blended approach that sprinkles in shorter content too.
Long content is great, but only if it's chock-full of great information.
5. Write Casually
Writing for the web doesn't have nearly as many restrictions and rules as most types of formal writing. Because you're trying to reach your audience on a personal level, it makes sense to treat them like a friend. Instead of cramming your content full of stuffy and impersonal language, feel free to loosen your tie a write casually.
The biggest exception is journalistic and news reporting types of content on news-centric websites. But if you wanted to cover current events on your own personal blog or website, you can (and should) use common everyday language.
Feel Free to Be Yourself
If your content consists of titanic paragraphs and word counts over 3000 words, some of your visitors may not be reading your content. Metrics and tools (like bounce rate and heat maps) will help you determine how many people are actually reading your content once they land on your web page. Remember to keep these tips in mind when planning a content strategy to hold your readers' attention.