Why People Scan Content And How to Get Their Attention?


Don’t you just hate it when you see people liking and retweeting your posts like crazy without actually reading them? It’s the worst. You see 200+ likes, 40-50 RTs, you get all excited, but then you open your analytics see the devastating truth – only 10-20% of all these people actually opened your link and got to the bottom of it.

I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing really bums me out.

Everyone knows that most people scan content on the Internet, instead of actually reading it. Even though they tend to open links and share them on the social media profiles, they don’t really engage with them. Instead of reading word for word what’s already in front of them, all they do is scan the content and look for highlighted information. Headlines, bullet points, underlined words that carry a link within them – these are the things that attract the most readers attention.

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While social media shares clearly increase the amount of traffic to an article, that doesn’t necessarily mean that more people will actually read it. You’ll get high visit numbers, but no real engagement. That’s why most experts call these social shares “vanity metrics”.

So, Why is This Happening? Why are People Just Scanning Content?

There are many reasons, actually. In a lot of different surveys, most people wrote down “lack of time” as the no.1 reason for why they scan content. Although I think this is undoubtedly true, I think that information overkill also plays an important part here. Wherever you turn, you’re constantly exposed to all sorts of different content. Everyone out there is trying to sell you something or make you take a free sample, trial or a test drive. It tends to get a bit overwhelming.

Although Google loves posts that have 2000+ written words within them, latest research has shown that, in this day and age, the average attention span of an adult person is no longer than 8 seconds. Yes, you read it right. Just 8.

This means that you cannot afford to waste any of your time on long and boring examples, metaphors and allegories. You need to clearly communicate your message with your audience and get right to the point, without any unnecessary distractions.

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How to Steal Those 8 Seconds?

There is a great number of different tricks that most brands and online marketers use to make people acknowledge their messages. Here are just a few more popular ones:

1. Create List Posts with Attractive Headlines

Why? – Well, because by adding a number to your headline (3 Goal Setting Tips To Help You Win In Business, 4 Reasons Why Your Online Business Should Have An Article Marketing Strategy, 5 Charlie Chaplin Quotes That Encourage You To Go Forward, etc.) you’re basically promising your potential reader that there’s no nonsense in this post, only hard facts.

When exposed to such a format, the thought process on the receiving end of this type content goes something like this: “Hmmm, “4 Reasons Why Your Online Business Should Have An Article Marketing Strategy”. Only 4? That shouldn’t take me a lot of time to read. I’ll give it a whirl and go right back to what I was already doing.

Distributing your information within all sorts of different, but relevant list posts is an extremely effective content marketing tactic. There’s a certain psychological hook behind this format that makes the recipient think that it will only take him a couple of seconds to scan the tips and learn somehow to become better at his job, smarter, skinnier or even a better human being.

2. Visualize Your Content

Everyone knows that visual content is huge today, especially on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to sink your messages into your audience’s heads. Great and compelling images have the power to distribute information and emotions in a matter of seconds. It’s like a steroid for your copy.

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If you haven’t been orbiting aimlessly in space for the last ten years, you know that above mentioned brands are extremely present in our everyday lives. Wherever you turn, they are there. Left or right, everything you see around you has probably already been (at one point in time) photographed and posted on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest.

Years ago, it was all about long textual posts. You had to write 2000+ word-long drafts in order to get someone’s attention online. Nowadays, it’s all different. The overnight success of such sites as Buzzfeed and Upworthy stands as a testament that the most popular search engine in the world is growing and changing.

3. Speak Their Language

No one likes to feel like they’re being sold to. In this day and age, no matter how we think the marketing industry has evolved, we still come across those ads, banners and blog posts that make us bash our heads with anger against the wall. Today’s shoppers are insanely experienced and educated. Whatever they looking for, they know that they can it from 50-60 distributors at any given time. They know that almost anyone in that particular niche is going mercilessly head to head for their dollar.

That’s why to win in business in today’s world it’s not nearly enough to just offer great products and services. No. You need to reach to your customers and connect with them on a whole new level. You, as business, need to know who your customers are, what they like, what they dislike, where they hangout and how to speak their language. You need to offer them content that relates to them.

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If you’re selling skateboards online, you can easily assume that your clients are teenagers who use a lot of slang in their everyday conversations, so it’s not quite smart to try to push on them dull corporate content. Use terms that resonate with your desired customers. Don’t use big and pompous phrases where they’re not welcomed. Don’t try to impress your colleagues with your English – try to impress your customers instead.

4. Join Your Community, Participate As Much As You Can, Don’t Just Push Your Content On Everyone

If you don’t really converse with your current and future shoppers, you’ll never really get to know and figure out how to maximize your marketing efforts. Engaging your customers in any way, be it through blog posts, comments or just random tweets or forum posts, is of crucial importance in raising your brand awareness and showing the human side of your company. If you create a positive impression, your brand will stick out of the crowd and thus help your consumer easily see that content is worth following and actually reading.

Most business owners today make the same mistake of looking at their customers and leads as nothing more than just dollar signs. They completely ignore the fact that they learn a lot of them.

Both positive and negative feedback can be of great value to any type of business. It’s gives us insight on things that really are performing. That’s why I constantly encourage all my readers to post as many comments as they want to our blog. Just like them, I try my hardest to follow up on content of brands I personally like and share my experience with their material on all sorts of different channels.

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Engaging company and industry leaders in the conversations have been of great value to me. These kinds of chats helped me create various opportunities to get in touch with experts whose opinions truly mean a great deal to me and get a ton of different ideas with perspectives about subject that at one point seemed unclear to me.

Creating engaging stuff for people who are constantly bombarded with a bunch of different ads, banners, blog posts and proposals requires a lot of research and hard work. In order to stay relevant and worth their precious time, you need to know your targeted audience on a more personal level. You need to anticipate their intent and constantly create relevant and easily digestible content.

Digital copy is continuously evolving and people’s attention is constantly decreasing. In order to keep swimming in this digital sea, you’ll need to offer your site visitors more content that is readable and informative, rather than text that is purely with written SEO goals in mind.

Quality, not quantity” – that’s your new mantra. Keep repeating it and you’ll be fine.

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest blog post. If you have anything to add, feel free to write what’s on your mind in the comments section below.


That’s it for now,

See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.

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