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How to optimise your content strategy for short attention span users

How to optimise your content strategy for short attention span users

It all started with a 2015 Microsoft study that revealed the human attention span was shrinking – fast. Time Magazine even headlined the story: “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.”

Some scientists have since claimed that our attention spans aren’t necessarily shrinking, but that our focus is ‘task-dependent’.

This theory claims we aren’t necessarily less able to pay attention, but that we simply don’t because we are focused on several tasks at once – different websites, email, social networks, the music in our ear buds and so on.

Whether your readers have become goldfish – who have never been shown to have super short attention spans, by the way – or they simply care more about their Instagram feed, however, is irrelevant, from a content marketing perspective.

That’s because the facts around bounce rate and time on page are undeniable – users are spending less time viewing our content than ever before. So what can we do to bring them back in?

The importance of writing for time poor readers

So, how much time do our users have for us these days? Unfortunately, not much. A recent report has found that more than half (55 per cent) of users read blog posts for 15 seconds or less.

Even ‘popular’ posts are likely being skimmed or not read at all – 59 per cent of readers admit to sharing articles on Twitter without reading them,

Fortunately there are things marketers can do to optimise their content for readers who don’t necessarily want to spend long on page. We take a look at four:

1. Ensure your site has fast load speeds

Google research has shown that 53 per cent of users will abandon your website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

That’s why the search giant has been all about speed in recent years – giving preferential treatment for AMP (Advanced Mobile Pages) and announcing page speed as a ranking signal in both mobile and desktop searches.

Speed is critical to ranking, but it also follows naturally that if people are leaving your page because it’s too slow that they also aren’t spending any money there. A study by Gomez found that when retailers reduced their load time from eight to two seconds they saw a 74 per cent increase in conversions.

2. Aim for position zero, but understand its limitations

When it comes to search rankings, the only thing better than position one is the coveted position zero – Google’s spot for featured snippets that provide an answer summary to a user query.

In addition to earning you the top spot, a featured snippet also lands you elsewhere on the SERP, giving you two pieces of prime real estate on page one.

Further, scoring a featured snippet can also boost your CTR up to 114 per cent.

Here are some pro tips for earning position zero:

  • Answer questions – the queries that result in snippets tend to include the words ‘how to’, ‘what is’, ‘how do’ or ‘how does’,
  • Check the ‘People also ask’ section and try to discover un-snippeted questions,
  • Do plenty of keyword research to see if certain keywords lend themselves better to snippets than others.
  • Use bulleted lists and keep the answer summary short and to the point.

image of snippet

That said, position zero isn’t everything. If your content is weak once users do click-through, they’ll still quickly bounce back to the SERP.

It’s also important to note that featured snippets only show up for certain searches. You’re more likely to find a snippet when Googling a recipe or instructions, for example, than you are when looking for other kinds of information, such as the benefits of your particular product or service.

3. Assume your reader will skim … because they will!

If you’re still reading, we’re ecstatic as that means we’ve fared better than that 55 per cent of web pages we mentioned above.

A wide body of research supports the fact that online users are not reading your content:

To write for skimmers, make sure you frontload your content with the most engaging information and images. This will help keep them on page.

Make information clear, concise and consumable. A great way to do this is through the use of bullets, lists, tables, chart and infographics.

It’s important to note, however, that slashing word count isn’t necessarily the answer. In fact, longer content tends to perform better in search and lead to more time spent on page as long as it is interesting, engaging and well organised.

heatmap capture

In addition to spending more time on the top and left-hand side of a page, users also prefer to read in an F-shaped pattern.


4. Design your site for fast navigation

Users come to your website to check out products and services, get information and look at videos, pictures and graphics. Essentially, to consume your content.

It’s essential, therefore, that content is clearly organised and easy to navigate. By giving visitors the information they’re looking for right away, you’ll keep their attention longer.

Poor web design is the number one reason people mistrust or reject a website, according to 94 per cent of respondents in a Tyton Media survey.

What are visitors looking for? According to Tyton Media, they want to quickly see the following from the homepage:

  • Information about the company’s products or services (86 per cent),
  • The company’s contact information (64 per cent)
  • ‘About us’ information (52 per cent).

Pages should also be obviously labeled, so there’s no question what information a click will lead you to. You should also make sure that the information pool continues to get deeper as users move through your site.

For the best UX, consider your content marketing strategy before rebuilding or designing your website. What information does your audience want first? What do you want them to see first? Ask yourself these questions and then design your site accordingly.


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Natalie Fortier About the author