Jakob Nielsen is the guru of the internet reading and website usability. Jakob’s research helps us learn how people consume content online. Knowing this means that we can improve the usability and stickiness of our own sites and increase the readership and revenue. Let’s take a look at how users spend their time online. You must consider this when creating your content. Internet is a user-driven medium where users feel that they have to move on and click on things. Users are engaged and want to go places and get things done. People want to feel that they are active when they are on the web.
Blogging in general is a numbers game, the more the merrier – but what’s the point of spending all this time and energy driving traffic to your content if no one is sticking around to subscribe, buy, learn, engage, comment, irritate , or just quietly judge. The bounce rate is your enemy – number of visitors that bounce back instead of visiting more pages on your site. The importance of making your content as sticky as possible is a topic often overlooked in the desperate race to outdo the next blogger in the traffic generation game, and I think if we devote even a fifth of the time we spend on marketing to making sure our site was engaging and interesting, we would get a much better return on our investment in the long run.
People scan, they don’t read
Modern life is hectic and people simply don’t have time to work too hard for their information. Google has made search so easy which means that the easier it is to find places with good information, the less time users will spend visiting any individual website. Each site has to compete with millions of other websites for the user’s attention. Users don’t know whether particular site is the one they need or whether some other page would be better so they are not willing to commit the investment of reading the page in the hope that it will be good. Instead of spending a lot of time on a single page, users move between many pages and try to pick the most tasty segments of each.
These factors contribute to the fact that when on a particular website, people rarely read web pages word by word. Instead, they scan the content, picking out individual words and sentences. 79 percent of Jakob Nielsen’s test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. This is because reading on a screen is slower than reading on paper. It is a very important fact for anyone producing content online.
- 79% of Internet readers scan pages instead of reading every word
- Only 16% of readers read every word
- Most web readers only absorb 75% of your page’s content, even if they read the entire page
Ways to employ scannable text in your posts
Use images and subtitles, lists and bold points. This is actually a subject owned by the ‘How to write a compelling post’ camp but the same applies for overall stickiness. The easier it is for a visitor to scan through the information, the more chance they will stay engaged. Remember that at least 50% of your new visitors come directly to your posts, so prettying up your front page is useless if your post doesn’t invite them to find it in the first place.
The first point I mentioned above is that 79% of Jakob Nielsen test users always scanned any new page they came across and never read word by word. As a result of this, bloggers have to employ scannable text in their posts to make their posts most immersive. Let’s look at how this should be presented in your content creation:
- Low word count. Don’t write too long posts, word count of 500 or so is enough. Note the recent long form content trend through.
- One idea per paragraph. Split the post into paragraphs and concentrate on one point per paragraph.
- Sub-headings. Entitle each paragraph with relevant keywords.
- Highlight keywords and paragraphs. Highlight important parts of the posts, keywords in bold are also good for search engine rankings.
- Bulleted or numbered lists. Split your content, include bulleted lists or numbered lists.
- Start with the conclusion. Make the reader excited to read the whole post.
Ways to make your posts sticky
The second point is that people don’t have time to work too hard for their information. It is very easy to search on Google and it means that users spend less time visiting any individual sites. To avoid this and improve visiting time, the site must be made sticky. To make your content work for you, keep it short, keep it informative and punchy. Get to the point as fast as you can. Online readers are turned off by large blocks of gray text. You could be able to write as eloquently as Mark Twain, but if you don’t get to the point your talent is lost on your readers.
- It’s not all about the home page. Bloggers tend to focus on their home page too much, but don’t realize that every URL is a potential starting point to a visitor. This is especially thanks to the spread in social media and traffic from search engines which tend to drive people deeper into your site. Your home page should be optimize but don’t neglect the rest of your site.
- Produce good, useful and original content. This will convince the user that your site is worthy their attention. This is how you do it.
- Make it easy to find your content. If you want people to stick around, make it easy for them to find your content – but more importantly, make your content logical! If you have 657 categories and every post is listed in 346 of them, chances are no matter how easy you make the navigation, I’m going to get cranky with the apparent randomness of the posts that I will leave – never to return. Simplify and focus your site.
- Make it easy to find even more good stuff. Use internal linking. Link to your other posts within your new content, and link to relevant articles on your site, link to most recent articles, and to most popular articles from every post. Don’t be afraid to link away from your site as well. If you can link your readers to new useful information each time they read your content, they will return to find out where the best information is.
- Encourage users to return. Publish regular content, provide opportunity to subscribe, be active in social media. A key to making your content work for you is making sure your readers come back. At the end of each post ask for your readers to comment with their thoughts on your post, engage with them. Just do something that will make them feel involved with your writing.
- Pick a good title. In any form of writing content for websites, a catchy title is a great way to get readers interested. Make sure it conveys the message you want your content to show. It also wouldn’t hurt to include a few keywords in it. See more here.
- Social proof. You wouldn’t think to associate average site time with social proof but now that you’re thinking about it it makes perfect sense doesn’t it. If visitors see that your site is popular, frequented a lot, and/or is current and active then there is a greater chance they will stick around. If your current posts is crap then instead of leaving they will think, if all these people are here then there must be other good stuff around, so I’ll stay. Social proof in this instance is not restricted to the feed and Twitter follower numbers either, a lot of comments/ RT’s and general sharing works too.
- Introduce yourself right off the bat with a welcoming message and smile. Whether you put this in the sidebar or in the navigation, does not matter, so long as you can ingrain your personality into the page from the moment they arrive. Your site is unique, but only because of YOU, so make sure your prospective subscribers see this as soon as possible.
- Plan your content. If you are wanting to write a post about the best ways to start an online retail business, you would need to write pages and pages to cover the topic thoroughly. Instead, plan for multiple posts on the topic. Link the pages together to create an article series. This will make your readers return for new information.
- Be consistent. If you write in a certain style, then make sure everything lends itself to that style. Don’t go talking about how you hate social media because you are so outrageously awesome and then go and promote twitter tools in your sidebar, for example. Obviously the content should be consistent, but not necessarily consistent to the theme of your site.
- Make your visitor feel at home. Call me old fashioned, but I like my navigation bar at the top with links to contact, about, services, etc. and I like the sidebar to contain the latest posts and archives, at the very least. You can do whatever you like AROUND these factors but just make sure you include them. People like familiarity.
- Eliminate the dead ends. Monitor your content performance and the bounce rate through your analytics to detect the dead end articles. There are bound to be certain articles that have high bounce rate. Think about how you can improve those articles in order to get people more engaged with the content and more probable to click and check out more of your articles.
Following the guidelines above is a great starting point in creating engaging content. Keep all of these in mind when creating your new post and use them as a checklist before publishing. After doing this for a while you will learn to recognize what works well for your audience and it will become an automated process before you publish