You’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again: the average web reader has a very small attention span. In fact, according to Nielsen’s research on eye gaze patterns, most readers won’t make it past the first paragraph—regardless of the fact that you’re a rock-star writer. Throw distracted, complex, or dense content into the mix, and there’s a good chance your reader won’t make it past the first sentence.
So, how do we defy all odds and keep our readers engaged from start to finish? Paying attention to these five focus tips will help:
1. Think about Reader Value
When writing, if the first question you ask yourself isn’t “What’s in it for the reader?” you’re doing something wrong. In fact, every sentence you write should play into your overall goal for the piece. According to Search Engine People, the goal of successful content is:
- To inform
- To teach
- To inspire
- To entertain
- To converse
When you’re writing, ask yourself if you’re reaching at least one of those goals. More importantly, ask yourself if the reader will find value in what you’ve written.
2. Proofread for Simplicity
Writing simple sentences isn’t as simple as it sounds—but it can make a big difference in your writing. The great thing about the process is that it all comes down to proofreading. So, if you have the tendency to be long-winded, make sure you read through your writing to catch unnecessary words and sentences.
3. Focus on a Target Audience
If you approach a topic generally, your content will be just that: general.
By identifying a target audience, you’ll be able to create content that is focused and specific. Ask yourself about demographics and psychographics. Specifically, answer these questions:
- What age, gender, and income level are you trying to reach?
- What are the interests and hobbies of your target reader?
Your target audience will have a drastic impact on the focus of your content. For example, if you’re writing about pool construction, your target audience could be families, singles, businesses, etc.
Outlining your audience will help you move beyond the realm of general topics and into the world of engaging ones. For example…
- Keeping Your Family Safe | 10 Child-Proof Pool Ideas
- How an Onsite Swimming Pool Can Motivate Your Employees
- Update Your Bachelor Pad with These 4 Pool Designs
Those sound a little more focused than, “Everything You Need to Know about Swimming Pools,” right?
4. Deliver on the Title’s Promise
While we’re on the subject of headlines, I’d like to stress the importance of delivering on the title’s promise. If your piece is titled “How an Onsite Swimming Pool Can Motivate Your Employees,” the content better focus on just that.
What this comes down to is authority—if your reader finds your title and clicks through, they’re trusting you to deliver. When the focus of a piece isn’t correlated to the headline, you’ll lose credibility in the reader’s eyes.
5. Evaluate Sentence Relationships
When it comes to keeping your content focused, the relationship between sentences is crucial.
For example, which of these paragraphs better represents the focus of the article, “Sports Teams and Orthopedic Surgeons”?
“Sports teams will often have an orthopedic specialist to look after players. Orthopedic surgeons will usually specialize in one part of the body, such as spinal treatment or knee replacements.”
“Sports teams will often have an orthopedic specialist to look after players. Having a physician on-hand means the team is better prepared for ACL injuries, labral tears, concussions, spine disorders, and other sports-related medical conditions.”
The second paragraph should be the clear winner here. While the first example has valuable information, it’s not as focused as the second. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that each sentence follows the point of the previous one.
If our message is too complex, distracting, or dense, we don’t stand a chance of getting our point across. While creating focused content isn’t easy, it’s possible.
What would you add to the list of tips?