Only 17 years ago, in 2000, the average attention span was recorded at 12 seconds. Now, it sits at less than that of a goldfish—at around eight seconds.
Is technology to blame for our decreasing ability to concentrate? Yes, most likely. But we're not simply just bored... we're also impatient.
Everyone loves a good story but, online, it's no secret that most of us read only the headlines. So much so, that eight out of ten of us don't even get past the first sentence; and, if we do, half of us won't finish reading the content.
So why don't we scroll down?
Quick and easy access to content online is something we're all guilty of taking for granted. If we can't have it all right now, why should we bother, right?
The volume of information available to us online, combined with the way we consume content, plays a major role in why we've become impatient readers; having countless articles, blogs and guides online at our fingerprints has led to generations of readers who constantly switch between content.
For content creators, in particular, this new approach to reading has created a new set of challenges.
These 12 tips will help you win over impatient readers
If you're looking for ways to encourage impatient readers to engage with your content, take a look at these top tips.
1. Focus on your headline
Headlines should be attention-grabbing, but they should also accurately describe what readers can expect from the content. You don't want to mislead your audience.
Think about the length of your headline, too; a long one is less likely to entice readers, but a short one may not offer enough detail.
2. Keep introductions short, engaging, and on point
If your introduction doesn't capture your audience's attention, they won't feel inclined to read to the end of your content. What interesting facts or new knowledge can your readers expect to learn from reading your content? Use your introduction to show readers that your content is valuable and thought-provoking.
3. Ask your readers questions
By asking your readers questions in your content, you'll not only capture their attention but also encourage them to keep reading in order to find the answer. Asked correctly, questions also help readers relate to the content and to you, the writer, spurring them on to read future content you create.
4. Include quotes and statistics
Articles that feature quotes from industry experts and thought leaders will stand out to your readers as more authoritative than an article based entirely on your own thoughts and opinions. Statistics also help your copy to become more concrete—more reliable and credible.
5. Make your copy easy to read and to digest
Use subheadings, one-sentence paragraphs, and short sentences to enable readers to scan your content. A text-heavy article or blog post can be daunting to readers and put them off from reading the entire article. Try not to overload on information, either; readers often relate better to snappy content than academic essays!
6. Embed hyperlinks, but don't overload the article
Linking out in your article will add credibility to your points, but not when there are too many hyperlinks: Your readers might be more tempted to click out to a new piece of content than continue reading yours.
7. Use relevant images, and do so responsibly—and contemplate your captions!
Engaging with your audience visually is often considered a solution for capturing attention; sometimes, the image alone—not the headline—successfully draws the reader in. But if your readers need visual stimulation, then it's crucial that each image be relevant and understood in context.
Photos and their captions can enhance your article; that's true. But, recently, there's been a flurry of discussion about how images can fuel fake news. With the use of a misleading caption, or no caption at all, the reader can assume falsehoods based on an image alone.
Also, if you want to use an image that isn't yours, make sure you get permission to use it, and credit the owner.
And, most important, make sure the image is relevant to your article: Don't use an image solely to trick readers into clicking on your content.
8. Find a unique style and tone of voice
As a brand or content owner, the way your articles are written should be unique to you. If you're writing for consumers, your tone should probably be more informal and light-hearted than if you're writing to a B2B audience. Make sure the way you write is appropriate for your readers.
9. Be social-media-friendly—and mobile-friendly, too
Readers often share instead of scroll, so consider how your content will be presented across each platform to entice new readers. Headlines and images are particularly important on social media, so make sure your content will stand out on your audience's newsfeeds. And, of course, if your content displays badly on mobile, readers are unlikely to read to the end.
10. Make your call to action clear
What is the purpose of your content? Whether you want your readers to share your content, subscribe to email updates, or simply like or follow your page, make it clear. Remember, if you don't ask, you won't get! However, be wary of spamming your audience with your CTAs: Readers are unlikely to comply if they feel pressured.
11. Incorporate storytelling
Storytelling is one of the most effective tactics to help your audience relate to you and your business. Humanizing a topic and making it more personal will encourage people to read on: They will feel that they can relate to your topic on an emotional level.
12. Sometimes, the most interesting content will create more questions than answers
If your headline asks a direct questions and implies that the answer will be found within the article, then make sure you provide answers—otherwise, you risk frustrating your readers and putting them off from reading future content. However, by leaving some questions unanswered, you'll stir a curiosity in your readers and leave them with something to reflect on.
How do I keep my audience reading?
Perhaps the solution isn't necessarily in the format, language, and images used in an article but in the mindset of the reader. Therefore, it's vital that you—the content creator—research into your audience and fully understand their interests to ensure your content will connect with their wants and values.
Of course, your topic needs to be interesting, newsworthy, or otherwise engaging. A snappy headline may get the initial clicks, but your readers won't engage until the end if the information doesn't meet their needs or takes too much effort to digest.