You have approximately 7 seconds to capture the attention of your website visitors
At the Get Stuff Done workshop, I pay somebody from your ideal market, one of your ideal clients, to come in and give you feedback on your website and they get 7 seconds to do it.
You open up the website, I start a timer for 7 seconds and then you have to close your website as soon as the timer goes off. You close that laptop, turn it around so they can’t see it and then ask them some questions about your website.
When we do this, everybody ends up frustrated. They’re like, “Oh my gosh, that was so short” or “Oh, that was not very much time.” You might hear 7 seconds and think that’s quite a while. It’s really not though, it feels so quick. And yet, statistically, that’s how much time you have to capture the attention of your ideal client so that they want to keep reading your website.
Even if they do keep reading your website, most people are only going to read approximately 20% of the words that are on that page.
These two statistics are so important and yet every single time I work with a client on building a homepage or building an about page or writing their sales page, I get paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs of text.
People are not reading every word on the blog posts you write
There is a myth out there where we believe that people are going to actually read what we write. It IS a myth! People aren’t going to read everything you write. So let’s talk about what you can do about it.
There are studies out there that have used, what’s called, eye tracking software to figure out where people spend the most time on a website. Researchers set up a camera and people read websites and the software can track where their eyes go and where they stop.
Then they create these heat maps of data answering the question, “where did most people spend the most time?” These heat maps come out in the shape of an F.
People start reading your website left to right. At the very top of the F, people read all the way across your page at the very top. And then they move down a little and they go across about halfway, where the second line on the F is half as long. And then there’s no more left to right movement. Most people just go straight down the left side of the page.
Why do we get this F shape? It’s because people don’t read your website, they scan. They are looking for a very specific piece of information. They’re looking for an answer to a question or a solution to a problem.
Think about the way that you use the internet. You go online to Google, you type in your question. You find an article that looks like it could help, you click on it, you kind of scan it and think ‘that one doesn’t help.’ You hit the back button. You look at the next article article, you scan it, you think, ‘okay, this one might be a little bit more helpful.’ Then you start reading it a little bit more.
This is how we use the internet. This is how your visitors are using the internet. They are looking for a specific piece of information, an answer to their question or a solution to their problem. They aren’t there for casual reading. This isn’t a fiction novel that they are enjoying and going to devour every single page. They are there because they want an answer to their question or a solution to their problem.
What are you trying to accomplish with your website?
So what does this mean for you as the creator of your website? The person who is writing the words on the page? Well, I have 12 tips for you, but before I get to the tips, I want you to understand what we’re trying to accomplish with these tips.
You’re never going to get the majority of the people who come to your website to read and devour every word on that page. So that isn’t our goal. Truly our goal is to help them find the answer to their question or the solution to their problem. We want to make it easy for them to find that one nugget of information that is exactly what they are looking for.
12 ways to write blog posts people will actually read
#1 – Talk to your website visitors like they’re five
I mean, it, I want you to dumb down your language.
- If you’re a life coach, stop using phrases like ‘change your story.’ People don’t really understand exactly what that means until, and unless, they’ve actually worked with you. Sometimes we use the words we’re now using at the end of this process, how we’ve transformed and changed to become better or learn something. And now we start to use those words instead of really speaking to people like they don’t know what you know.
- If you are a photographer, stop using the word aperture.
- If you are a business coach, stop using the phrase ‘lead magnet.’ Speak to your people like they are five. How would you explain to someone what a lead magnet is? This is very, very important for making your website visitors feel like they belong on your website. You don’t ever want them to feel like it is over their head.
In addition, you need to realize that if you want to prove your literary greatness, then you need to go write a book because that’s not going to happen on your website. Online writing is not some great literary work. It needs to be simple and easy to understand.
#2 – Use your ideal client’s language
Sometimes it’s very difficult for us to get out of our own heads and think of different words. I use the word lead magnet all the time as part of my vocabulary. It is a word that I completely understand. So sometimes it is very difficult for me to remember that my clients, my website visitors, don’t understand it.
It’s hard for me to know which words they don’t understand. I learn this constantly, more and more and more every day, as I work with more and more clients. I’m like, “oh, that doesn’t make sense to you. I need to simplify it even further. Oh, okay.”
This is important. You must simplify things. The easiest way to do it is to use your ideal audience’s language. How do you do this? Well, you go through your comments on your Instagram feed or your Facebook group. You look at books on Amazon, from people who talk about topics similar to yours and look through the comments. You go to websites like Quora and you look at the questions people are asking.
You’re looking for three things:
What problems do they have?
What is negative about their life?
What do they wish was different?
Number two, what do they want their life to look like? What does the ideal solution look like to them? And what excuses do they have? Find that language and use it on your website; that is going to help you talk to your audience like there are five.
#3 – Tell them what you’re going to tell them
What do I mean by this? Remember that F shape of how people read right at the top of your page? You need to tell them why they need to read this? What are they going to get out of it?
I don’t mean you’re going to list out the five topics you’re going to cover. I’m going to cover this and this and this and this and this. No. How is their life going to be different?
For example, at the very beginning of this blog post, I mentioned some somewhat scary statistics, 7 seconds to capture people’s attention. And even then people were only going to read 20% of what you write.
So maybe you were thinking, “I’ve got a problem.” And then I tell you that I’m going to tell you how to fix it. You want to create that type of curiousity at the beginning of something that you are writing. It’s going to drive people to continue reading or at the very least to continue scanning.
You need to tell them how their life will change, if they read the article you have written, right at the beginning.
#4 – Cut your words in half
Once you have written out your article, your website page, your blog post, your homepage, your about page, any of it – I want you to go back and cut your words in half.
I almost said ‘quite literally.’ My husband hates it when I use that phrase incorrectly, because you can’t actually cut a word unless you print it out first, but I want you to reduce the number of words on that page by half.
Delete half the words. This is so important. People aren’t going to read all the words anyway. They aren’t. So what are the most important ones? What are the ones that they must understand? That’s what you want on that website page.
#5 – Separate all the words on that page into different sections and subsections using headings
Think of your article or your homepage, or whatever, like an outline and it has different sections. Each of those sections should have a heading that summarizes what’s going to happen in that section, so that you’re helping people decide if they should read that section or not.
Inside each section, you should have subheadings. Those subheadings are going to help people know if they want to read that paragraph. You need to have headings and subheadings.
#6 – Use one to two sentences per paragraph
If they’re really short sentences, maybe three, but one to two sentences per paragraph. You do not want to overwhelm people with huge blocks of text; people skip huge blocks of text.
They’ve done these eye-tracking studies and people will skip over if you have a large 7 sentence paragraph. They won’t read it at all.
#7 – Use short sentences
Typically, if you are cutting your words and deleting half of them, your sentences will very naturally become shorter. You will take out the filler words, the extra words, that really aren’t helping your people.
#8 – Keep the most important info at the beginning
Beginning of your page, each paragraph and each sentence. Remember people read left to right, right at the top. So make sure your most important info is right at the top.
We talked about what that should be. What are they going to get out of reading this article? Then they continue down the page, just reading the left. So you want the most important info to be on that left side.
#9 – Increase the white space on your website page, every single page
So what is white space? It’s breathing room. I want you to think about if you were to go to a concert and there’s just so many people around you and they’re all crowding you, you don’t have any breathing room and it causes anxiety and it makes it really difficult for anyone to find you.
You’re trying to make it easier for people to find the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems. So we want to have breathing room so that they can easily find what it is that they are looking for. And so that we can decrease their anxiety level as they read through our webpage.
How do you increase white space? Increase the spaces between paragraphs and increase your line height inside your paragraphs.
#10 – Use bullet points
If you have more than two things in a list. in a paragraph, or even in a sentence – split it out and put it in bullet points. This makes it far easier for people to scan and find the solution to their problem or the answer to their question.
#11 – If you quote someone make it look different
Indent it, bold it, make it a slightly bigger font, do something with it so that quote is pulled in and indented. It makes it more scannable. It makes it easier for our eyes to scan through, read and find things.
#12 – Use bold sparingly
Do not bold your whole page. Do not bold something in every paragraph. The reason we bold things is to make it stand out. And if you have bold all over your page, nothing will stand out.
I want you to bold things, but I want you to use it sparingly and give a lot of thought to what you are bolding. And as often as possible, bold things that are in the areas your website visitor is not already going to read.
We already know they’re going to read the very top of your website, and then they’re going to read the left-hand side. We don’t need to call more attention to that. We already know that they’re going to do that and we’ve put important information there.
But if there’s an important information that you can’t get over on the left side of your website, or up at the top of your website, then put it on the right and then bold it. Put it at the bottom and then bold it. Call it out somehow so that they don’t miss that important piece of info.
All right. I’ve just given you 12 tips. I can feel your anxiety level increasing as you think “It already takes me five hours to write a blog post. Now it’s going to take me 10.”
How to implement these 12 tips when you write blog posts
Done is better than perfect and practice makes progress. Two of my very favorite sayings. You will never get better at this unless you start trying to do it. But you will never do it perfectly at the beginning and done is better than perfect. So pick one.
Pick one of the 12 tips and start implementing it for a month and then add another one and start implementing that one for the next month. Every rule that you implement will improve the readability, the scannability of your page. It will help people to find the answer to their question or the solution to their problem.
If you did that for an entire year, at the end of a year you would be good at using all 12 of them. But if you get overwhelmed and you decide not to use any of them, that at the end of a year, your writing will not improve.
Please do not think that you need to use all of them now, or that you even need to use all of them perfectly all of the time. I don’t, choose one and get started.
Why it’s okay that not everyone reads what you write
I want to move on to why it’s okay that not everybody reads what you write. You don’t need everyone to read your homepage or your about page or your sales page.
You just need those people you are meant to help to read it. That’s it.
There are lots of people who come to your website, who you aren’t the right fit for, or they aren’t the right fit for you. It goes both ways. There are types of clients that I don’t enjoy working with. And there are types of clients who don’t enjoy working with me. That is true.
The sooner that you can realize that, the better you are going to be able to hone in on who it is you are trying to help. The people who will read your website are those who come, they scan it, they find that answer to their question or that solution to one micro-problem. That builds trust.
Then they go back and they read the rest of the webpage or more of it. And it might even be on a different day that they come back because they’re busy and they’ve got kids, but you’ve caught their interest.
You want to make it really easy for them to find the solution to their problem or the answer to their question so that you build trust with the right person. With the person you will love working with and best be able to help.
The most important tip for getting people to read your website
Of the 12 tips that I just gave you, I believe the most important one is to use your ideal client’s language.
Find the words that they use to describe the problems in their life, what they wish their life was like, and the excuses they give for not making the change. When you use that language, you will be far more likely to capture the attention of the people who really need your help and who you will enjoy helping.
Using their words will resonate with them the most and you will be able to write blog posts people will actually read.