The average person's attention span is just 8.25 seconds long.
If you're a writer, then this statistic is rather depressing. You work hard to create high-quality content, only to find that many in your audience lose focus before they've even read your introduction.
Some people may choose to skim the remainder of your content, scanning to find the most interesting bits.
Others won't even bother to do that much. In fact, more than half of your readers are probably gone after just 15 seconds. Ouch.
But even though attention spans are getting shorter, long-form content is often recommended. Why? Because it tends to rank better in Google and get more shares on social media.
So how do you get people to actually read through everything you're writing?
Obviously, finding a way to capture (and retain!) people's attention is vital. Thankfully, there are methods and techniques to help you do so.
1) Start With a Strong Introduction
Do you share amazing facts and interesting opinions in the middle of your content? If so, that's awesome—but don't neglect your first few sentences.
A dry or tired-sounding beginning could ruin everything. Instead of being thrilled with what you share, your audience will never even read the exciting part.
Sadly, they'll be gone before they ever scroll down that far.
This is why you need to grab your audience's attention right away. Use your opening lines to pique their curiosity and convince them to keep reading.
How do you do this?
Well, you could mention the amazing story you're going to tell, give them a surprising fact or shocking statistic, or ask them a thought-provoking question.
Honestly, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
If you've got great content and know what your audience wants, then strategically placing an interesting bit of information at the beginning of your content shouldn't be difficult at all.
2) Keep Your Audience Curious (But Do Get to The Point!)
Have you noticed that most TV shows don't end with a complete resolution of conflict?
They leave everyone wondering what's going to happen next, rather than winding up every single loose end.
Why do they do this?
Because they want us to keep watching the show.
By leaving some things unresolved, they make us curious about what happens next. Instead of assuming that all of the characters live happily ever after, we're left with a feeling of suspense and a desire to see the next episode.
This strategy is solid, and it's one that you can copy to hold your reader's attention (Now, in excessive amounts this can actually be detrimental—more on that in a minute).
If you're telling a story, then it's going to be fairly easy to keep your reader's curiosity piqued.
If not, then you can accomplish this with other methods.
How? Drop hints of what you're going to mention in a few paragraphs, create intriguing subtitles, or focus on compelling conflicts.
But while you need to keep people curious, you don't need to string them along.
If you continually hint about something awesome while never delivering what they want, you're going to sound sleazy.
Get to the point, and promptly deliver the content you're promising them. If you're going to give them promises of something amazing, then you need to fulfill those promises promptly.
3) Make Your Writing Easy to Understand
The average person reads roughly 200-250 words every minute.
But when they start to read something technical, that rate plummets to a mere 50-75 words per minute.
What does that mean?
It means that you've got to avoid difficult copy. Most of the time, you're going to be writing for people with short attention spans. Write in an easy-to-comprehend style. Long words and complex phrases generally don't make you look smart—they just make it harder for others to digest what you've written.
Being a writer doesn't just involve throwing information at a paper. If that's all it took, then we wouldn't have a job!
Instead, our job is to make information easy to comprehend and digest. Writing in a friendly, conversational way is almost always the best way to accomplish this.
Use examples that others can relate to. Throw in a bit of humor, and let your personality shine through.
If you're able to take boring facts and turn them into something that's fun to read, then keeping your audience engaged isn't going to be a difficult task.
4) Pay Attention to Your Formatting
Would this post be easy to read if I took out all of the spaces between paragraphs?
Nope! If this were a single mass of text, it would be an imposing blog post.
Now, I know that most of you already understand the value of adding white space. But it's still possible to forget and write painfully long paragraphs, so a reminder isn't going to hurt.
Subheadings, lists, and graphics are also beneficial. Because they stand out from the rest of your content, these areas may help grab the attention of anyone who has started to skim your post.
How do I know this?
Mostly because I've been guilty of skimming articles in the past.
The intriguing headline may have convinced me to click, but that doesn't mean I'm committed to reading the content.
Unless I know that the article is relevant and useful, I tend to scan for relevancy and leave if I'm not interested.
But there are many times when an eye-catching subheading or graphic makes me pause.
If my attention is thoroughly re-captured, I'll go back to the beginning and everything in its entirety. This rarely happens when the content lacks subheadings.
Of course, even the most perfect piece of content ever is going to fail to engage some people. There are literally thousands of reasons why someone might quit reading. These can range from utterly mundane (their browser crashed) to ridiculously dramatic (their computer suddenly burst into flames).
Obviously, you can't control these sorts of things.
But what you can do is create attention-grabbing, easy-to-read content.
Hannah Callahan is a content strategist and copywriter who believes in creating high-quality content that is both relevant and engaging. When she isn't busy writing Hannah spends her time eating chocolate, reenacting the Civil War & WWII or reading. Would you like to read more of what she's written? Then head on over to her blog!