We like to think that we have people’s undivided attention, don’t we?
But, as we all know, there’s stiff competition for attention – online, and in real life. We get distracted. Distracted by phone calls, WhatsApps, bosses, Facebook news feeds…The list goes on. We have five to ten (or more) tabs open at the same time. So it’s not hard to imagine that our readers have similarly taxed attention spans.
How do you get them to devote one to three minutes to reading your article? How do you get them interested in your website?
Here are some tips.
1. Write a headline that connects with readers’ needs and concerns.
People read because they’re looking for information that helps them. So show them what they’re getting early on. Avoid sensationalism too, if you value your credibility.
You don’t have to write your headline first. You can write it last, after analysing and refining your piece. And ensure that your article is helpful. Please.
2. Write for your readers.
Not for yourself. Don’t make it about you. That’s boring. Sure. Use personal stories. But don’t make it a journal entry. Make it relatable.
3. Write a sentence that gets the reader to want to read the next sentence.
Make each sentence play a role. Whether it’s giving new information, or injecting a spike of energy. Keep doing that, and voila…you’ve just increased the probability of someone reading your article until the very end.
4. Surprise your readers.
Say something unexpected. Something witty or funny – if you’re witty or funny. Or say something about a popular topic in a way that they’ve never looked at it. This way, it’s as if they’re reading about the topic for the first time. This way, instead of them saying, “Duh…we already know that”, they’ll say, “Waaayy…I never thought about it like that.”
5. Write for readers’ reactions.
Imagine when they might nod, chuckle, or subconsciously say…this is worth reading. This will help you to decide which words to use, where to move around sentences, and how to punctuate your flow.
6. Decide where your hooks are.
You can go crazy trying to figure out where people will read first. Most of us skim documents before reading. We look to the start of sentences, the first paragraph, and the end of a document, before moving back up. So how do you hook us? See numbers 2 and 4. And do it quickly and concisely.
Oh…and when it comes to short vs. long-form copy, short doesn’t always win. People still read long articles, providing they’re interesting and well written. Still, always aim for conciseness. Review your article. Your writer’s gut will kick in, and you’ll know when to cut the word count.
7. Use short, simple sentences.
There’s a reason Rihanna has us dancing to each of her songs. If you google Rihanna’s songs, you’ll find that many of them don’t have that many lyrics. Just repeatable lines that are easy to remember and sing along to. When you write, make it easy for people to remember what you said.
8. Have a banging introduction.
Duh! We know this. Right? But go back to the last article you wrote. Ask yourself: “Is my intro awesome? If I was the reader, would it really interest me? Or does it follow the same run-of-the-mill openings we see everywhere?”
9. Close with a bang too.
Hey…if they don’t remember everything else you wrote, at least they’ll remember the last thing you say, or how it made them feel. Plus, a good closing brings your piece full circle.
10. Become the reader.
Read your article in different channels, so you see it with fresh eyes. I usually read articles on my phone, because I know that my brain automatically goes into rush mode. I turn into the reader who doesn’t know me, doesn’t care about what I go through, or how much time I spent writing. I become a stranger to my work, able to objectively critique myself. Note: you have to let go of your ego to do this.
So are you ready to capture people’s attention? Put some of these tips into action.
Got a question about business writing and copywriting training? Email karel @ livewiredgroup.com.
Image via fastcoexist.com