Winning the Battle for Reader Attention

by Aug 29, 2019Blog, Content | Social Media | Email

In today’s over-messaged world, it is hard to attract and hold the attention of your readers. Whether you are writing a blog, building a web page, sharing content on social media or sending an email you have to fight for attention.

So what do you do when you have content you really want to readers to pay attention to? In today’s post I have created a collection of some of our best resources on the topic.   From subject lines to content structure you will find great tips here.

Grab Attention with Your Title

There are lots of approaches to writing great headlines.  Over the years I have tested quite a few.  There are the pain and gain headlines, which tap into the issues your readers are most concerned with and either promise a chance to remove an annoyance, or an opportunity for improvement.

Headlines That Make Readers Care

I also love the headlines which shock and surprise. The edgy approach is designed to grab attention, but you have to know your audience.  Will they get the joke or be turned off by whyat they perceive to be downright shocking.

One of my favorite examples is a headline from the a NY Post article written in 1983,  Headless Body Found in Topless Bar.  It is a great story, and a terrific example of shocking headlines.

Headless Body in Topless Bar

Web pages need great titles too.  This is more than just a creative writing exercise. You need to think about how that title will be displayed in search results.  It needs to be the right length (50 – 60 characters).  If it is too short you are missing the opportunity to share information. If it is too long the search engine will truncate the best part of your title.

Page Titles for Every Occasion

Email readers also love a short headline. Remember you are competing with dozens, and maybe even hundreds of entries in their inbox.  So if you really want to get someones attention, make personal.  Alter the email to contain relevant details or even just their name in the subject line.

Best Email Subject Line

Support your title with well organized, scan-able content.

Getting someone’s attention is a great first step, but keeping it is even tougher. Your readers are pressed for time, and don’t want to study a 1,000 word blog post.  Sure, it would be great if people read every word, but it just isn’t going to happen.  You have two choices, pander to the low attention span, write 300 word blog posts and move on.

Unfortunately,  search engines love this deep, rich content.  And if someone really wants to dive into a topic, they want to read something with some meat on the bones.  But don’t despair, you can serve both audiences if you are willing to break your online content into little bites, short blurbs with headlines make it easy to scan down the page.  A good example is the way this post is written.  If you have time you can read all 700 plus words, or simply focus on the part of the content that is most relevant to you.

Buzzfeed has mastered the art of holding our attention. With catchy titles, and content broken up with subheads, and lists, you can lose hours browsing on their site.

How to Write Scannable Content

Lists work when they aren’t over done.

There is something magic about numbers in titles. When they are are small (3 ways to do this, 5 things you need to know) readers feel comfortable diving in.  When the number is really big (101 Chicken Recipes) readers assume they can scan down and find something useful.

Numbers draw people in.  The challenge for you as a writer is to put enough weight in the content to make the list interesting.  If you promise five points, you can’t get tired after three and just phone in the last two items.  Instead make your list, count how many high quality points you have, and then create your title.

Also, you need to resit the temptation to use numbers in every single title.


Share the snippets

One of the side benefits of breaking your content into smaller bites is having multiple talking points for your social media. Instead of sharing the title over and over again, use the subheads to attract the attention of different audiences.  Even consider creating different social share images for each section of your article.

Learn More

If you are intrigued and want to learn more writing and blogging tips.  Join our Facebook Community .  We will be talking about  this and so much more every week.