I put a LOT of time into my articles. Probably too much to be honest. I write and write then edit and edit. I read each article several times to be sure I’m using the correct there/their/they’re to avoid the grammar police.
Whether you’re writing text for an article, a sales page or a page of your website, you want your visitors to get something out of it. If it’s an article, you may want them to get value out of it so they sign up for your newsletter. If it’s a sales page, you want visitors to get the main selling points of your product or service so they purchase. If it’s a page of your website, you may want visitors to keep scrolling or clicking to other pages.
Determine what that something is and keep the following information in mind.
THE HARSH REALITY OF YOUR WRITING
I’ve noticed on several occasions when going back to update an old article, that I’ve made some pretty obvious mistakes. And aside from one harsh critic mention here, nobody has left any nasty comments about my mistakes.
Which tells me either people don’t care enough to point them out OR that…
VISITORS AREN’T READING ARTICLES WORD FOR WORD
You want the people who visit your site to read every word, as I know you put a ton of thought in and carefully chose each one, but the fact of the matter is; aint nobody got time for that.
I have a bit of FOMO when it comes to reading articles and I’m always worried I’m going to miss something important. For that reason, I probably read a bit more content than the average site visitor does.
But I’m not the norm and as I get busier and learn more about my business, I realize how important it is to get your message across in as few words as possible.
That’s not to say you should be writing short articles; longer posts tend to get more attention. However, you need to be putting the emphasis on the right words so that people are enticed to read more.
The first step is to find out how quickly you need to get your message across.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR READERS’ HABITS
Through Google Analytics I can see that the average time spent on my articles is under a minute. Unless there are some insane speed-readers out there, that is NOT enough time to read all the precious information I pack into an article.
If you have Google Analytics set up for your website, follow these steps to find out the average time visitors are on one of your articles:
- Login and go to your dashboard (so you’re under “REPORTING”)
- On the left hand side, scroll down and click on “Behavior”, then on “Overview” when the menu drops below it.
- If you scroll below the graph, you’ll see a section that lists 10 of your pages.
- Click on the url of one of your articles
- On the next page you’ll see a column “Avg. Time on Page”. This is the average amount of time viewers spent on that particular page
It’s probably less time than you would think huh?
This information can be useful for helping you tweak your articles or to determine how long you delay your pop-ups from appearing.
If your page is full of text but readers are on there for a very short period of time, it means you’re not doing a good job of grabbing their attention. You need to either follow the advice in this article to highlight the important points or tweak your information to provide more value.
If you have your pop-ups set to appear in 10 seconds but the average visitor is only on your site for 5 seconds, that pop-up won’t be doing you much good.
Tweak and test a couple of pages on your website while keeping an eye on your analytics. If times increase and bounce rates go down, you’re doing a good job.
*Bounce rates tell you how many people come to a page and then bounce right outta there. A high bounce rates tell you, and Google, that you’re not providing enough value on that page to entice visitors to check out more of your site. A low bounce rate means that your visitors find value and want to see what else you offer on your site.
HOW TO ALTER YOUR ARTICLES TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE
If you’re confident you’re providing value in the content of your pages but you want to improve the average time visitors spend on them, try adjusting your writing style or formatting.
I’ve changed my writing style a lot over the years and am still learning and adjusting. I used to think long paragraphs showed the reader there was lots of content and value. But now I know it looks daunting and makes it hard to pick up the key points that usually sit at the beginning and end of a paragraph.
These are some formatting options that will break up your content and allow you to highlight the important points you don’t want your readers to miss.
There should typically only be one Header 1 on a page and if it’s an article, it will be the title. It should appear at the top of your page and be the biggest font size on the page, likely bolded and perhaps a different color.
You can have multiple Header 2’s on your article page. These should be the main points you want to get across. If someone came to your page (an article, a sales page, a website page, etc.) and they only read these headers, do you have get your point across?
Make these powerful. Use keywords you know your reader will want to hear and make them teasers so they feel like they need to read more.
You may or may not want to make use of Header 3’s, depending on how much depth you go into. These will be important points that reinforce or break down the ideas explained under a Header 2.
I like to go through each section of text and bold the really important points I
want the reader to notice. Too much bolding and your reader won’t pay attention to the bolded text so be selective.
The eye automatically stops at bullet points. They’re usually:
- Important snippets of information
- To the point and not too wordy
- Easy to scan
- Organized so they drive home a message
If the text in your bullet points is a bit longer, you can take the effectiveness of bullet points even further by adding
- bolded text – to the beginning of a point.
I like to keep my paragraphs on the shorter side. I’m not sharing formal advice, just what I’ve found to be the most effective. Shorter paragraphs are easier to read and help get the one main point across.
If you’ve done a good job with using each of the above elements, the reader will have gotten value from your article/sales page/website page, even if they simply skim over it.
HOW TO TEST YOUR PAGE FOR READABILITY
If you want to get a good idea of the points that are going to get picked up by your readers, you can follow the steps below to get in the same mindset:
STEP 1 – DRAFT YOUR FINAL COPY
Make your rounds with the article and be sure you’re in a good place with it. Grammar and spelling mistakes have been fixed and there’s no need to look for those anymore.
Then take a break from the article or copy once you finish compiling it. If you can give it a full day so you get a chance to sleep on it, even better.
STEP 2 – FIND A DISTRACTION
Come back to it with fresh eyes and a slightly cluttered mind. You could open the document on a lunch break or better yet, in the middle of switching tasks. You want to be in the same mindset your reader is going to be in. Which is likely busy and maybe a little bit frantic. After all, if you’re selling the solution to something, they may have come across your page in a panic or out of frustration.
You could also open up the document on your phone and read it while you’re on the bus, in a busy restaurant or sitting in front of the TV.
You definitely don’t want to be laser-focused when you’re reading your text again. Because that’s most likely not how your readers are going to be.
STEP 3 – SKIM OVER
Now quickly read through the article. Not word for word but the way you would scan a document you wanted to get the gist of. What’s the feeling you get? Are you confused? Are your most important points being explained in your headers, bolded text, or bullet points?
Those are the areas the majority of people are going to read. The long paragraphs of text that go into those crucial details you’ve spent hours trying to word perfectly are likely going to get brushed over.
Personally, I read headers, bolded text, scan bullet points, and the first and last sentence of most paragraphs. If a point grabs my attention, I’ll slow down and take in more from that paragraph and if it doesn’t speak to me, I keep moving.
STEP 4 – ADJUST
If you found your main points weren’t standing out enough or important information was getting lost in the middle of paragraphs, add some headers, bold a few sentences, put info into bullet points or break your paragraphs up a bit more.
Make the changes and as mentioned above, watch your stats to see if your changes are making a difference.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!