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proven ways to get your post read

80% of your readers don’t finish your posts.

To be more specific, the average visitor reads 28% of an article, at most.

how much readers read

Why it matters?

Because it lowers your dwell time (the time visitors spend on your page) and ultimately affects your ranking.

The bad news is, it’s not just about content quality.

The good news is: there are tried and tested tactics that helped bloggers skyrocket their posts time on page!

time on page

 

Keep reading: we studied what content experts do and put together a list of 5 proven tactics to get your visitors read your posts till the end.

In a hurry? Check out the slideshare version of this post! 

1 – The Single, Most Important Thing To Get Your Readers Started

Titles make readers come to your blog, intros makes them read your posts.

Titles make readers come to your blog, intros makes them read your posts. Click To Tweet

You may be wondering:

How badly can an intro affect my retention rate?

Check out this case from Wilson Hung, published on SumoMe blog:

readers churn

After only 140 words, 32% of visitors have already left my article!

Believe it or not, this happens a lot, and if you want to keep readers on your page, you need have a great intro.

A) Leverage Fear

Emotions drive actions, and fear is one of the strongest motivating emotions.

You can leverage fear following these steps:

  • State the fear (or cause of fear)
  • Illustrate the fear
  • Transition to your solution

Here’s an example from Quicksprout

leverage fear

 

Above, Neil highlighted entrepreneurs’ biggest fear: building something nobody wants.

Then transitioned it into a solution, which motivates the visitor to keep reading and learn more.

B) Use the AIDA technique

The AIDA is one of the most famous copywriting formulas: it’s incredibly versatile and it plain works.

Here’s what AIDA stands for and how to use it.

Attention: attract your reader’s attention with a bold surprising claim.

Your goal is to create high expectations and data is one of the most effective ways to do that.

Take this post for example:

80% of your visitors don’t read your posts till the end.

If you are a blogger, this number will sure grab your attention.

Interest: step two is generating interest by saying more about the topic.

Don’t give away too much, just enough to make your readers interested.

Using our previous example:

Why it matters? Because it lowers your dwell time (the time visitors spend on your page) and ultimately affects your ranking.”

Desire: here’s where you make clear to the reader why he should care about your content.

The good news is: there are tried and tested tactics that helped bloggers skyrocket their posts time on page!”

Action: make it clear what your reader is supposed to do to apply what you thought them (either at the beginning or at the end).

You can read more about intros in this post from Neil Patel.

Let’s now move to the next tactic.

2 – The Inverted Pyramid Approach

Data about reading patterns show that readers pay attention to the first 3 paragraphs or content blocks on a page: visibility drops drastically after the 3rd position.

neilsen group

 

Your goal is to structure your posts in a way so that you best points get listed in the first sections of your posts.

To do that, use the inverted pyramid approach (or frontloading): a journalistic approach used to earn readers attention quickly, which implies offering the most important information before filling in with secondary details.

Frontloading

 

[source]

To improve readability you can apply the principles of frontloading:

  • At the post level: work on your post introduction: make it clear but interesting (add copywriting hook).
  • At the paragraph level: make your point after the opening of each paragraph, summarising what the paragraph is about.
  • At the sentence level: ditch the passive voice, place the most important information at the beginning.
[source: Neil Patel]

Writing a great intro and frontloading will help you keep your readers stick around.

The problem is: readers don’t exist anymore.

Bad news for content creators: readers don't exist anymore. Click To Tweet

Here’s how expert copyrighter Gary Korisko puts it:

You know as well as I do that it’s not exactly uncommon to be lured in by a compelling headline, click through to the article and find weak content. Because of that, readers have become expert scanners. We’ve all learned to scan content and determine if it piques our interest in mere seconds. If it doesn’t grab us, we bounce – plain and simple.

Your challenge is to turn scanners into readers, and the next two tactics will help you to make that happen!

3 – Stop Wasting Your Subheads

According to the Nielsen Norman Group it takes around 10-20 seconds for a reader to decide wether an article is worth reading or not – or whether they should bounce.

readers habits
And in such a short time frame, a good post and a great one look fairly similar: it’s just not long enough to “win hearts and minds and create that endless stream of traffic you’ve been dreaming of” – Gary Korisko

But there’s a secret tool that far too many bloggers overlook.

The Subhead.

A powerful weapon you can use to catch your readers attention and make them want to read more.

First off, 3 types of subheads to avoid:

1) Plain label subheads: they are used simply to name sections. They are boring and don’t generate user’s interests.

For instance, if the paragraph you wrote is about the importance of headlines:
– Why headlines are important: boring.
– The Simple Secret to Hooking your readers: hooking.2) Spoiler subheads: give away the main point of the paragraph. They don’t stop skimmers, but help them go faster and bounce earlier.

For instance, if the point of the paragraph is that headlines should generate curiosity:
– Use headlines to create curiosity: spoiler.
– The One thing that every great headline has in common: interesting.3) Cryptic subheads: avoid being “too creative” or you’ll end up being more confusing than compelling and get your readers wondering “what the hell is he talking about” instead of “I want to read more”.

For instance, if your point is subheads should act as a lure, you might make an analogy with fishing…or not!
– Don’t forget the warm! : confusing.
– The most powerful way to get more clicks. : enticing.

So, what are the ingredients of great subheads?

There are 4 main elements of killer subheads:

  • Curiosity
  • Surprise
  • Personality
  • Emotion

Every good subhead should, at the very least, create curiosity for readers and compel them to continue reading.- Gary Korisko

The truly great ones usually have at least one or more of those other qualities too.

Below, Gary’s 5 step process to create great subheads:

write great subheads

4 – Turn Serial Skimmers Into Avid Readers

Subheads are just one way to stop skimmers and turn them into readers.

Below two additional killer tactics from expert content marketer Brian Dean.

1 – Bucket brigades: “mini-moments of seduction” that keep people on your page.

Bucket brigades are words and phrases you use to hold something back from your readers, with the promise that if they keep reading, they’ll get rewarded with what they want to know.

When to use them?

Whenever you have a section where someone may get bored and leave, add a Bucket Brigade.

Example:

bucket brigades

7:29 minutes.Brian Dean

time on page spike

Using bucket brigades, managed to raise the average time on page for the post above to

Here’s Brian’s personal list:

bucket brigades list

 

And a few more from Demian Farnworth, from Rainmaker Digital.

bucket brigades 2

 

These are just examples: get creative and create your own ones, what matter is compel the reader to read more.

2- Block quotes: whenever you quote someone, put the quote in a box or highlight it.

This will attract scanners attention and will make them stop to read the quote.

quote box

 

There’s more.

They act as evidence in your post and help you win your readers’ trust: by quoting industry experts you can in fact create the impression of a solid research based post.

You know know how to build skimmer-proof content.

Skimmers will stop, switch to read mode and finally start consuming your content.

After all this effort, the last thing you want is them to read a few words, get bored and leave.

In the next paragraph you’ll find a step by step process to write content your readers will love.

5 – Speak Their Language And They’ll Stick Around

There’s only one type of content readers want to read: content that speaks their language. Click To Tweet

Speaking your readers’ language, helps them understand and connect with your content improving the whole reading experience.

There’s more.

It improves your keywords game too, since those words are the same your prospects type in search engines.

Here’s a simple, step by step process to find the exact words your readers use and use them for your content.

A while back, Content and SEO expert Brian Dean wrote a post titled: “Why Google Hates Your Site (Hint: It Has Something to Do With TrustRank” and used a keyword his competitors wouldn’t bother targeting.

The keyword?

Google hates my site

google hates my site

 

The strategy worked great, and as Brian himself admits, he didn’t pull the keyword out of thin air.

He saw a LOT of people in SEO forums asking things like:

How can i determine if google hates my site?
Can anyone figure out why google hates my site?
Google hates my site! Why?

and thought that, if people post something in a forum, they must search for the same thing in google.

So he decided to use a variation of that keyword on its post.

Here’s Brian’s 2-step process you can use to find how your readers talk and leverage it to write content that resonates with them:

Let’s say your primary keyword is organic vegetable gardening.

1 – Search in Google with inurl:forum + “organic vegetable gardening”.

forum search

 

This will bring up a bunch forum threads around the topic of vegetable gardening.

2 – Skim the first few threads that you find and when you see a phrase that seems like a good fit, search for forum + “phrase” in Google. (in Brian’s example the word is “building my raised bed”).

forum search 2
If a lot of results pop up (like in the example above), add those words and phrases to your post.

use forum results for posts

 

And you’re good to go.

Bonus: How To Make Early Leavers Count

Implement the tactics above, and you’ll see a spike in your dwell time.

Granted!

However, having your readers hang on your page is just a mean to an end.

Your final goal is (or should be) collect their contact information.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because, no matter what you do, some of your readers will leave before getting to the end of your post, and not placing your CTAs strategically can cost you dozens of new leads.

Here’s what you can do to get your readers information before they leave:

1) Use pop ups

Use pop ups and scroll boxes asking for your readers email.

Set them to pop up before the reader exits the page or when he reaches the point of the article when readers usually leave.

Here’s a great example from the SumoMe blog

scroll box

2) Use content upgrades

Content upgrades are free “bonuses” you give to your visitors in return for their email address, or a referral.

Normally, you only see content upgrades at the end of an article, but if you have more than one bonus material to give away, you could include several content upgrades throughout the article, like in the example below.

content upgrades

 

[source]

These are two simple techniques you can use to boost your blog lead generation potential.

You can read more about the topic here.

One last thing.

These findings are based on average readers habit, and can only give you a general idea of how to improve your content’s read rates.

Each business is different and you need to tailor your marketing strategy based on your specific circumstances.

And the best way to do this, is measure your readers behaviour.How?

We use Content Analytics, a free tool that tells you:

  • Average read % for every one of your blog articles
  • A visual scroll map of your visitors
  • Where your visitors stop reading

content analytics

 

Super useful information you can use to make your posts even more sticky and never miss on conversion opportunities.

Conclusion

If you’re reading this, kudos!

You’re a true fan and we thank you for that.

You now have everything you need to design posts that turn skimmers into readers and keep them engaged till the end.

On to you: how do you keep your readers go all the way through your posts? Tell us leaving a comment below.

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This post has 14 Comments

14
  1. Good stuff. I’m a fan of Brian Dean and definitely agree he demonstrates the skills to increase dwell time. But… (1) I never understood why his dot, dot, dot technique should be called “Bucket Brigade” and (2) I believe in writing tighter.

  2. Thanks for the comment Barry! As for Brian, 1) it’s kind of a marketing strategy of his, he basically comes up with new branded keywords (bucket brigades, moving man tactic, skyscraper technique) so he can get an edge over the competition. 2) Yeah, all his blog posts are over 4k words…he really goes into details and that’s what made his fortune: you are not reading posts, but step-by-steps guides on how to get 1 thing done. But yes, I too believe in “the shorter the better” approach.

    By the way, loved your post about lead magnets!

    I suggest our readers check it out: http://feldmancreative.com/2016/05/what-is-a-lead-magnet/

  3. This was a really great read, thanks Davide! I love the “Bucket Brigade” – people just don’t have the time to mess around reading, they want to know what the lesson is fast, so that they can go ahead and put it into practice! 🙂

  4. Great stuff! . . .

    Question: did you mean to say “readers” instead of “writers” (1st sentence of section 4: “4 – Turn Serial Skimmers Into Avid Readers
    Subheads are just one way to stop skimmers and turn them into writers.”)

    1. Thanks for your reply Wan, we hope you can find more useful articles on our blog. Feel free to also share any doubts or ideas.

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