The average internet audience has a VERY short attention span. As a basic rule of thumb, people go to websites looking for information, but during most visits they scarcely read anything on a page. We’ve gotten used to absorbing small nuggets of content, which is why bite sized social networks like Tumblr and Twitter work so well. But as a publisher, this information ‘grazing’ attitude can make it difficult to get your viewers engaging fully with your site.
It’s extremely rare for someone to read your text in a word-by-word manner. In fact, most visitors will never get past the first paragraph of a blog post – (so if you’re still with me now I’m doing well).
According to research findings from a Nielsen study that tracked the eye movements of participants as they navigated web pages, we scan content in a F-shape pattern, which has three components:
- Firstly, users tend to read in a horizontal movement, initially scanning the upper part of the page that forms the F’s top bar.
- Next, they glance down the left hand side of the page, followed by a secondary horizontal movement, (which makes the F’s lower bar).
- Finally, users continue down the left side in another vertical movement, (forming the F’s stem).
The implications of this F pattern mean that publishers need to be strategic about the layout of their pages if they want their audience to get the maximum impact from both their content AND their advertising placements.
Here’s 7 quick tips on how best to format your blog posts.
1) Your first two paragraphs need to contain the most important details:
Information foraging theory suggests that web users behave like wild animals hunting for food. It may sound like a joke, but the idea is that people follow the ‘scent’ of information, deciding to continue down a path only if the first content they encounter indicates that there will be further value below.
Many readers will never get past the first two paragraphs of your text so you need to deliver the impact of your blog post early if you want people to keep reading. But don’t try and cram too much in at once, large blocks of text will put people off reading, so keep your paragraphs short.
2) Dominant headlines draw attention:
Eye tracking studies have revealed that big headlines are usually the first thing that viewers see upon entering a page. It may sound surprising but research has shown that in many cases, a bold title is even more likely to draw attention than photos or images.
Readers like to be able to pick and choose which parts of your content they engage with and by breaking it up into sections with clear headers and bullet points, you make it easy for them to digest the information that is of interest without them having to plough through reams of text.
You need to grab your visitors’ attention quick though. Most viewers will spend less that one second looking at a headline, often only reading the first part, so front loading your titles with the most interesting and provocative words is important. You need to sum up the gist of the information below in a single sentence.
3) Keep your value above the fold
Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the fold, (the portion of a page that is visible without any further interaction). If their initial experience captures their attention sufficiently, they will scroll down, but on average only 20% of a viewers time is directed lower down the page. If you want to grab your readers, you need to ensure that your value proposition is immediately visible.
4) The left side of your web page gets the most attention.
In most cases we read content from left to right, so it’s not surprising to learn that Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half. It’s worth bearing this in mind when deciding on they layout of your site, particularly if you want to include links to allow readers to navigate to further content.
5) Keep your images real and relevant.
Often the images used in web pages tend to have the effect of distracting visitors rather than delivering any significant extra value to a blog post. Nielsen’s research revealed that viewers have become so accustomed to generic stock images that their eyes automatically avoid them.
A well chosen picture can have a big attention grabbing effect but small fuzzy images and obvious stock imagery will do the opposite. Publishers should go for good quality photos, featuring front facing portraits and avoid using anyone who looks too much like a model as photographs featuring “normal” looking people have proved far more likely to draw attention.
6) The position of your ads DOES make a different.
Most serious bloggers are monetizing their blog with some form of advertising, but if you want to get the best CTR possible, the position of your ad is key.
Heat mapping has shown that ad placement in the top left of a page tends to be the most effective. However ‘ad blindness’ can become a problem if your regular visitors become used to seeing ad content in the same place, so it’s worth rotating your ads in various placements.
Obviously, popular content attracts the most eyeballs, so placing your ads next to a widely viewed blog post will increase the likelihood of someone clicking. Ad’s placed at the end of an article can also perform well for bloggers that have a regular and loyal audience, because the reader assimilates the ad as a continuation of the content, and is drawn to learn more.
7) Don’t flood your page with ads.
If you are a blogger it’s definitely a good idea to have ads on your site, but be careful not to go overboard. Keep away from intrusive ads such as auto play ads, pop-ups and pop-unders as this will make you look like a spam site and make your users run away!
To find out more about what ad options are available to bloggers hoping to earn revenue from their sites, check out the Viral Ad Network.