We’ve all heard the statistics before: According to the Nielsen Norman Group, viewers typically leave a website within 10 to 20 seconds. You won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. How can you possibly make your content engaging enough to keep people’s attention so they’ll read your content?  If you’re like most small business marketers, you work hard to create good content so that people will visit and stay on your site long enough to learn a bit more about who you are and what you have to offer, but the challenge seems overwhelming if you need to accomplish all that in 20 seconds or less. Here are a few simple steps to make your content more readable and hopefully, keep people interested enough to get all the way through your content piece.

Use subheadings in your content pieces

Remember when you used to create outlines in school?  Same concept, more or less. Instead of creating one long piece of content, break it up so that people can easily skim it and find the relevant parts. It also makes your content less intimidating if the reader sees breaks in the content. Bold the subheadings to make it even easier for readers to see the breaks and navigate more easily through your content piece.

Make your paragraphs short

short paragraphsKeeping in mind the short attention span that readers have, make sure your paragraphs are fairly short. If you write a content piece and find your paragraphs are a bit lengthy, go back and review what you wrote. Perhaps that paragraph can be broken down into two paragraphs, or you can pare back your content with less flowery language. Again, you want to keep the reader’s attention long enough to absorb what your content is about. More isn’t better; better is better!

Use lists to make your content even easier to skim

First of all, people love lists! It’s like you did all the work in finding great content, and then you trimmed it down to an easy to read list. The New Yorker wrote an article a few years back explaining why people love lists so much. Lists appeal to our general tendency to categorize things. We feel better when the amount of conscious work we have to do in order to process something is reduced. Adding a list to your content makes it inherently attractive to the reader. As a matter of fact, content pieces that are all about lists, like The Ultimate List of Social Media Ideas for Small Businesses make the content piece even more enticing. Lists also:

  • Make a great impression
  • Give readers a chance to rest their eyes from having to read a lot of text
  • Keep readers from getting bored
  • Motivate readers to read the entire content piece

See?  Wasn’t that list helpful?!

Add images or video to your content piece

videosWe must add this reminder in our blogs every few weeks:  people consume information in different ways. Some learn by reading, some by listening, and some are more visual. Appeal to a reader’s visual side by adding images or infographics. Add the auditory aspect by adding a video within the content, assuming it’s relevant to the content piece. It’ll also keep the readers from getting bored because now they’re doing more than just reading; you’ve engaged a different part of their brain by giving them a picture to look at or video to watch. This is a great way to make your content more readable!

Highlight important points in the text

Slightly different than subheadings, highlighting important pieces in the content can be done by bolding interesting facts or italicizing a phrase for emphasis. If someone is simply skimming your content, these highlighted chunks of text stand out and catch their attention. Don’t overuse either technique; only use when and if it makes sense to highlight important content.

Use reader-friendly font

fontsNow is not the time to get overly creative with your font choices. Don’t use font that is too small (try for 12-point font size at a minimum) and keep to the more traditional, easier to read fonts such as Calibri, Arial, Times or Verdana. Here’s a list of 15 reader-friendly fonts to use for websites; assuming you’re posting your content online, any of these are safe.

There are many ways to make your content more readable. While you don’t have to incorporate every suggestion in every content piece you write, sprinkling a few of these tactics in each piece will engage your readers and make your content marketing efforts more effective.

Patty Hughes
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