Who Decides to Read Your Blog?
In just a brief one-twentieth of a second–less than half the time it takes to blink–people make aesthetic judgments that influence the rest of their experience with an Internet site.–Kamakshi Tandon
REUTERS, Internet users judge Web sites in less than a blink
Jan. 17, 2006
We’ve got less than a blink to grab a reader’s attention. The reader clicks in. Looks. Decides and then . . . and then what? . . . Do they stay or do they leave? If they stay, did what they see lend our words more credibility or did it take some away?
Design, curb appeal, packaging — whatever you call it — it’s what brings customer-readers further into our businesses and our blogs. They recognize what works for them and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t, they’re gone so quickly that even our stats programs don’t know. Try the Blink Test if you want a baseline idea of what your readers are seeing before they blink.
What about reluctant readers, undecideds who decide to stay a little longer? What can we do to convince them to stay? Better yet, how can we turn them into fans?
Capturing the Attention of Reluctant Readers
In educational publishing, we use a euphemism, “reluctant readers.” It’s meant to describe kids who, rather than read, they turn away to find their inline skates or a shiny object online. To get those customer-readers engaged you don’t forget them, you off them something. As a product builder, they’re my favorite customers to write for and to write about.
Why am I talking about this when you write for literate adults? The interwebs offer so much that this information has become vitally important to every person who writes a blog. .
. . . You see, with no time and too much information to sort and process, we’re all reluctant readers and becoming so more and more. If you’re a skeptic, try reading the tax code –or any “have-to” document on your least favorite subject. You’ll wish that there were something more to see than long columns of endless text, something to break up the boring words.
If we want our customer-readers to stay long enough to hear what we’re saying, we need to offer an experience that’s irresistible. We’ve got to
- offer information that’s useful and makes sense to them
- appeal to their sense of fun, offers a beautiful experience, or moves them emotionally
- deliver it in ways that fit into the time their life has available
Irresistible is all about the engaging the folks who come in all three ways above.
Reader Support as Part of Your Brand
Those kids we call reluctant readers leave their inline skates to read what they’re madly interested in — books on extreme sports and the latest gaming websites and blogs — if they’re made right. As educators, we keep them using the research that show us how to construct information so that they’re reading faster and with more satisfaction.
You can use that same educational research to engage your customer-readers. Brand your blog as a worthwhile source of quality content. It’s one more way, that you can make customer-reader support a resounding part of your offer.
- Tell the story of the information. Quality is essential, but know that quality information can’t carry the load. If people only want information sources are plenty. The story of the facts, your experience or response to them is only where you are. It’s the story that gives connects people to the information. Give your words and your blog life, appeal, and meaning and you’ll be most of the way there.
- Use sub-heads liberally. Sub-heads break the text into shorter bits. Subconsciously that not only tells me what this bit is about. It also says I only have to read this far and then I get to breathe again. Our brains like subheads. Search engines like them too. The keywords are guideposts that organize our thoughts.
- Use everyday words. Everyday words keep the reader moving forward. Big words make us stop to consider them. Think about it. The word use is a fine one, use it. Do you really mean utilize? Use keeps me going. Utilize makes me stop to wonder whether you mean something other than the what use would have said. Anything that stops a reader works against your message being heard.
- Use one or two pictures, images, art, and color to enhance your message. Place them with care where add value to the text. Put images where readers expect to find them. If you’re not sure ask a customer-reader to give you feedback on how you’re doing. Design seems easy, but it’s not.
- Take the time to write something short. The point here is to make every word count. Be lethal. Remove every word that you don’t need. It’s amazing how many extra words you can find when your quest is to go looking for them. A few sentences ago, I turned this into two posts instead of one.
- Use typographic cues, such as bold and italic, to show what’s important. Be consistent and try not to make everything important. If you use underlined text to show what is a link, don’t use an underline for anything else. If you make everything important, then nothing is.
- Show up to let folks know you want them there. Write with room for them to add their view. Consider the questions you ask them. When they take the time to respond, let them know that you heard. Take time to answer back with your thoughts and if you can, ask another question.
Each of these points are about helping reluctant readers access your message in the easiest most straightforward way. When you support me like that I feel like we’re both smart.
Ever read something that made you feel like the writer was saying something you always thought? . . . or something that just made you feel smart for reading it? Bet you went back to see what else that writer had to say . . . . These are just a few more ways to a fan.
What makes an irresistibly readable blog for you?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!