Mere seconds. That’s all it takes to lose the attention of someone who comes to your website. Remember, your competitor is just a mouse click away.
You see, we online readers are a fickle bunch. And we’re in a hurry. It takes a lot to grab and hold our attention.
Reading something online is a lot different than picking up a book, magazine, or a newspaper.
Unlike with traditional media, the Internet literally puts a wealth of information at a reader’s fingertips. That’s why I stated earlier that your competitor is just a mouse click away.
It takes a special kind of writing to grab and hold your reader’s attention when you publish your information online. In this post, I share five elements that will help you keep your readers focused on your story.
Element #1. Engaging Headline
Your headline is the first part of your piece that most readers will see. It’s also the part that is most likely to be shared on social media sites.
It has to be good to grab your reader’s attention.
There have been dozens of posts on how to write a great headline, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. I’ve already published a great list of five articles to help you write better headlines. You can find that post here.
Some more recent headline writing resources include:
- From Kevan Lee on buffersocial, How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headline.
- From Neil Patel on QuickSprout, The Formula for a Perfect Headline (infographic).
- From Andy Crestodina on Orbit Media Studios, How to Write a Headline That Won’t Get Ignored: 7-Point Checklist.
All in all, that’s eight good resources about writing headlines.
Remember, the biggest mistake freelance writers make is not spending enough time crafting a headline. Don’t be afraid to tweak your headline until you get it right.
But a good headline isn’t quite enough to hold your reader’s attention if that’s all there is.
Element #2. Great Lede
Your lede is the first paragraph of your piece. After the headline, it’s often one of the first things your reader sees. The lede may also be picked up by social media when your post or article is shared.
Offline and in news stories, the lede is often a summary of the article.
The trick to writing a lede is to get your reader interested without giving away so much information that they don’t need to read your piece.
Here are some common types of ledes:
- Summary. As I’ve already mentioned, this type of opening is common for news stories. It’s especially effective for current or startling pieces.
- Question. You’ve seen this one before. Asking a rhetorical question can be a great way to get your readers involved.
- Word Picture. A description that puts your reader into the story is an effective start for an article or blog post. For an example, take a look at how I opened this post.
- Teaser. A teaser lede starts out with a short, and often startling, phrase to capture the reader’s attention.
Of course, there are many other types of ledes. What works best for your piece depends on the audience and the publication.
Element #3. Good Image
Images are a great way to attract readers to your post. In fact, according to this post 6 Powerful Reasons Why you Should include Images in your Marketing – Infografic (from jeffbullas.com), “Articles with images get 94% more total views.”
94% more views. That’s significant.
A good image is one that’s related to your topic, but is still interesting enough to catch the reader’s eye.
You have four choices for finding images for your blogs and articles:
- Use a stock photo. There are many sites where you can buy a license for the use of a royalty-free photo. (Read the license agreement carefully.)
- Use a free photo. You can find pictures on a reputable free photo site or use one with a Creative Commons license. If you choose Creative Commons, read the license agreements since some Creative Commons licenses have restrictions.
- Hire a photographer or artist. If you’re fortunate enough to have a large budget for your publication, you can hire a photographer or graphic artist to create unique, custom images for you.
- Create your own image. If you have knack for photography or are handy with a graphic design tool, you may be able to create your own simple images.
The one thing you do NOT want to do is use an image that you found through Google Images (or any other search engine) without permission. Seriously. Don’t make this mistake. Remember, most images that you find online are protected by copyright.
Element #4. Scannable Content
What you say is important, but so is how it looks. This is especially true for online content, which should be scannable.
Your online reader is in a hurry and there’s lots of competing content online. If you don’t format your content for the online reader, you will lose their attention.
To learn more about writing scannable content read What Is Scannable Content and How to Write It If You Publish Online.
Element #5. Relevant Subject Matter
Finally, to really capture your reader’s attention, make sure your content is what they are looking for. Usually means one or more of the following:
- Information the reader needs to know.
- Information they want to read.
- Material they find entertaining.
But you won’t know what’s relevant to your reader until you understand who they are. That’s why it’s important to know your audience.
Did I miss anything? How do you hold your reader’s attention?
Share your thoughts in the comments.