Oh I’m sure you’ll agree:
It’s damn hard to attract readers to your content.
But getting them to keep on reading is even harder.
Look, the data says it all:
55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage.
And given the most up-to-date research on our attention span though, I suspect that this number might in fact be much lower.
Ten years ago however, the average length of stay was 96 seconds.
It means that because of our busy lives we have less and less time to focus on consuming content.
And that’s pretty bad news for anyone who uses content to attract visitors and build an audience.
From what I hear from Massimo, you guys spend at least a couple of minutes reading my posts here on AdEspresso.
Just take a look at these few examples:
So how do I glue my readers to the copy?
It’s simple, I use various writing tricks.
And in this guide I’m going to show you exactly how to write copy that keeps readers glued to a page.
Trick #1: Show Emotions
No, I’m not talking about using emotional appeal in selling. But I agree that it works too.
Emotions have a direct impact on the consumer’s decision-making process. After all, our emotional thinking works faster than rational. As the guys at Branding Strategy Insider put it:
“The emotional brain processes sensory information in one fifth of the time our cognitive brain takes to assimilate the same input. “
But emotions are also powerful attention grabbers too.
In fact, we are practically wired to pay attention to them:
Negative emotions for instance are indicators of dangerous situations. Positive emotions on the other hand reassure us of our safety.
And how to do it. Take a look at this screenshot (this is one of my older pieces here on AdEspresso):
Emotions, especially if used together with a story or picture that relates directly to the reader’s situation will align them with your words and keep them focused on the copy.
Trick #2: Get the Reader to Agree with You
This is a hack I picked up from Henneke Duistermaat’s fantastic writing course. You can sign up to it through the banner here.
It’s based on of the most powerful persuasion tricks.
Sometimes the best way to grab someone’s attention is to first get them to agree with what you say.
Dr. Robert Cialdini calls it the “Consistency Principle”. And its mechanism is in fact pretty simple:
Deep within we all desire to be consistent.
It means that once we agree to something, we’re more likely to follow it through.
“Like the other weapons of influence, this one lies deep within us, directing our actions with quiet power. It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done (source).”
In other words, we aim to live up to what we have publicly committed to do.
How to use this in writing?
Use what Henneke calls a “subtle nod” technique. Start with a question, or a statement a reader is likely to agree with. And follow it up with a direct nod from them.
Here are some examples of how I use it here on AdEspresso:
Trick #3: Ask Questions
Did you know?
We’re wired to spot questions.
From our time at school to adult life we learn to tune out to any noise around. But the moment you hear a question your attention immediate focuses on the source.
Including questions in the copy therefore is bound to catch a reader’s attention.
You are far better off to ask a question somewhere half way through the post, where the reader’s attention on the copy is beginning to wine.
According to Slate, most of their readers read about 50% of the article. Unless the content is a video or a photo, most people won’t see it.
One way to get a reader to keep on reading is by asking them a question around a point where they might be considering dropping off the page.
By arousing the reader’s curiosity you’ll be able to keep their interest on.
What should you ask about?
- Ask questions that uncover your reader’s pain points:
“Are your readers bouncing off the page like mad?”
- Paint a mental picture of the rewards your product or advice can bring:
“Do you want to keep your visitors longer on a page?”
- Use questions to “speed up” the transition:
“Are you ready?”
“Ready to get started?”
Trick #4: Show That You Understand the Reader’s Pain
Your reader is naturally skeptical.
She ignores most of the advice and information she receives.
You can call it her defense mechanism. And you have it too. Without it we’d all be endlessly moving from one idea to another without focusing on anything in particular.
Or getting anything done.
And so, part of your job when writing is to overcome this and prove that your ideas matter.
Tell a story.
This is an overused copywriting advice.
But it works.
Just take a look at what Emu Joy did on their product landing page. Instead of boasting about it, they tell a personal story that connects with readers.
Or use images to tell the user how they feel.
You know, sometimes telling a story word by word would be too much. Simply.
If that’s the case, use images to communicate emotions.
Here’s one example how I do it:
PRO TIP: Position your images around the middle of the piece. Your readers don’t read the entire content. It’s a very well known fact these days that readers scan the content in an F shaped pattern. Here’s a description from this Jakob Nielsen’s study:
- “Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar.
- Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
- Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem. “
By placing visual elements, ideally animated gifs, around the vertical movement path you could recapture the reader’s interest and get them to focus on the content again.
Trick #5: Use Bucket Brigades to Maintain the Flow of Your Content
Disclaimer: full credit to Brian Dean from Backlinko for pointing the bucket brigades technique.
Imagine how hard it was for our ancestors to put out a simple fire.
There were no fire trucks, hydrants or any other sophisticated equipment.
Instead, to get the water to the fire people had to form a line from the hydrant to the blaze and pass buckets from one person to another.
These rows of people were called Bucket Brigades. And their greatest challenge was maintaining the flow of buckets to get the job done.
Why am I mentioning this? Because maintaining the flow of the copy is one of the most crucial elements of good writing. That’s what engages the reader so that she becomes oblivious to the passage of time.
And here’s something you probably won’t believe:
This copywriting technique is also called Bucket Brigades.
Bucket brigades are words and phrases such as:
- that’s why,
- in addition,
- you see,
- here you go,
- here’s how
They aim for one thing only, to ensure that your reader stays with you. And if you do it well, she won’t even be aware of it.
How to use this technique? I typically use Bucket brigades to launch into a new section or a new thought. Here are some examples:
And there you have it…
…5 tricks that could help you get readers to the bottom of the page.
What about you?
Are you using any other tricks to increase the reader’s engagement? Share them with me in the comments.