If you create content, you already know that some people don't ever see it and that sometimes those who see it never click on it. But did you know that even those who click on it don't read the whole thing? Consumer surveys have found that, on average, any person who looks at your content reads only 60% of it. Why? No one knows for sure, but the two biggest probabilities are that 1) people have short attention spans or 2) your content is boring.
If you're in the technology industry, readers might even read less than 60%, and it’s probably reason #2 – your content is boring. They don’t call it “technobabble” for nothing!
So how do you keep your readers interested enough to read more than 60% of your stuff?
It stands to reason that content that’s boring to you isn’t boring to the people who need it. Even if I didn’t love grammar (which I do), I would have to read grammar tips at least on occasion, since it’s relevant to my job.
So write your content to be genuinely helpful. Learning the difference between “lie” and “lay” may seem boring, but if your content helps someone actually learn the difference between “lie” and “lay,” it will be interesting because of its helpfulness.
Change Your Language
Most of the time, simple is better. Content creators agree that you should be writing at a third-grade reading level – so leave the business jargon at the office.
This can be difficult in the technology industry, especially when it comes to acronyms, as they are neither interesting nor helpful. If someone comes to your blog to learn how to install Windows 10, using acronyms like OS and EULA will send your readers running.
Here’s a bad sentence: “Before downloading the OS, you'll have to agree to the EULA.”
Here’s a better sentence: “Before downloading the operating system, you’ll have to agree to the end user license agreement.”
Here’s the best sentence: “Before downloading the operating system (Windows 10), you’ll have to agree to the end user license agreement (that document you never read, but you have to click to agree).”
Have a Sense of Humor
A humorous tone, a joke, a silly pop cultural reference – all are positive ways to make your writing more interesting. (The bonus is that it makes it more interesting for you too.) As long as you don’t detract from the overall content meaning, a little humor can go a long way toward keeping your readers’ attention longer.
So here’s my humor: if this sentence isn’t part of the 40% you skipped, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a work-safe joke.
The more interesting a topic is, the more time people are willing to devote to it. Obviously, the opposite is also true. Word count is overrated – if you can say something in 20 words instead of 100, do it. When a piece of content is needlessly long, people lose patience. If it’s a topic they find boring, they lose patience even faster.
Being brief also makes your content easier to read. When you aren’t worrying about word count, you can remove fluffy adjectives and fancy vocabulary words (third-grade reading level, remember?).
Make Your Content Look Appealing
Sometimes, even if your content isn’t boring, people won’t read it because it looks boring. In fact, the same studies that told us about readers only reading 60% of a piece of content also tell us that the exceptions are usually posts that are made up entirely of pictures.
So if you’re describing a technological process, like installing a piece of software, include screenshots of the steps people need to take to complete the task. It will make the content look less boring AND shorten the piece (make it brief) AND make it more helpful. Triple whammy.
Find a Different Medium for Your Content
I think most of us would agree that reading about software implementation, while sometimes necessary, is pretty boring. In the example above – a step-by-step guide to installing a piece of software – you made the content more interesting as well as more helpful with the addition of pictures.
Would it be even more interesting and more helpful as a video?
With short attention spans, an over-abundance of content, and lots of distractions, creating content interesting enough to grab readers’ attention is a challenge across the board. Some industries have it harder than others, of course, but even those industries, if they follow our advice, can make killer strategies that have people reading more than 60% of their content.
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