Site visitors rarely want to view just one page on your site, except in the case of landing pages or single-page sites.
If people actually want to get something done on your site, they will generally work through two or three different pages before taking an action.
So here is the question of the day: How well do your pages work together?
Or to put it another way: How strong is the transition between your pages?
As online writers we focus a lot of attention on getting individual pages well written.
But when it comes to actually using a site, from the visitor's point of view the greatest point of indecision usually comes at the end of each page.
You may have written some wonderful content which holds a high percentage of readers right through to the end of the last paragraph.
But then what?
If you look at your site statistics you'll find that plenty of visitors leave after they have spent just enough time to finish reading the page.
Why didn't they click forward?
Because you didn't build in a compelling transition to the next page.
Overcoming end-of-page friction is a key skill
In the world of direct mail, copywriters face the same problem when writing a multi-page letter. They know that they will lose the attention of many readers at the end of each page.
It's a natural break from the reader's point of view. I might read page one of your print letter, but unless you really hold my interest I won't bother turning the page and reading page two.
So what do direct mail copywriters do? They use simple devices like running a sentence from the bottom of one page over to the top of the next.
If it's a good sentence, it will pull many readers over to the next page.
Online, things are a little different. It doesn't make sense to break a sentence between one page and the next, because you don't run out of space on the page, as you do with print. Your page isn't a fixed height of 11 inches.
How to build enough momentum to overcome that friction
When you approach the end of one page, and you really want people to move on to page two or three in the process, you have to start building momentum a couple of paragraphs in advance.
In other words, let people know that the page they are on doesn't tell the whole story.
Better still, let them know that the best information is yet to come. Pre-sell page two of the process before people finish reading page one.
This may sound like common sense. But all too often a page ends with a bang at the end of the last sentence.
The key here is that it "ends." And that crisp, clean ending serves as an invitation for your readers to stop right there.
That's a mistake. You don't want them to stop there, you want them to go to the next stage in the process by clicking through to the next page.
So you need to leave the page copy open-ended. You need to leave the promise at least partially unfulfilled. You need people to WANT to click through as soon as they finish reading.
All too often we write pages in isolation. What I try to do is either print out (if they exist) or at least describe for myself the content of the pages that are likely to come before and after the one I am writing.
That way I can write the page not only to serve its own purpose, but also to work well within the broader reader experience.
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