Have you heard the joke, “If a man talks in the forest and his wife isn’t there to hear him, is he still wrong”?
It’s a rather cheesy attempt at humor split off from the famous philosophical tree/sound argument. But it supports the point I’m trying to make: if you talk in the forest or a tree falls in the forest or you post on your blog and no one reads it, did it accomplish anything?
Unfortunately the answer will always be ‘no.’ I’m assuming you want to accomplish more than an archive of posts on your blog; that you’d like to accomplish something like spreading a message, encouraging an action or even providing a bit of entertainment. (The best content does all three!)
Let’s talk about how to place your content in a way that will encourage engagement, sharing and return visits. If not done correctly, this can cost you not just one reader but the lifetime value of that reader. As they say, ‘1000 engaged readers is infinitely more valuable than 10,000 silent ones.’
[bctt tweet=”If not done correctly, this can cost you not just one reader but the lifetime value of that reader.” username=””]
When a reader first lands on a typical website, their senses are confronted with dozens of options. There are navigation buttons—one or two horizontal lists of them, logos and ads, primary content and calls to action—all above the fold.
Color is usually splashed everywhere from logos, links, photos and ads.
A clear purpose is seldom obvious.
Open your website. Take 10 steps back and close your eyes. Open your eyes quickly and make a note of your first impressions. (Really. I’m not joking. The results will surprise you!)
Is it a flurry of activity? Or a single purpose?
Can you remove some color, options and/or busy-ness? Research shows that when there are too many options, people won’t make any choice. Remove the unnecessary content from this page, except for a clear call to action.
What was the last novel you read? Or self-help book or business book? There is something therapeutic about smelling / holding those pages in your hand and flipping through them. Or is that just me showing my age? 🙂
But did you know that online reading patterns are very different? It is far easier to read online with fonts that are at least 20 percent larger than in print. Did you know that we never use black type on your screen? It may look black but a good designer will never do that because the contrast on a screen is too high. Likewise, the background will rarely be a true white.
Notice how often I begin sentences with prepositions (about, if, because, then)? My English teacher would be rolling over in her grave! And sentence structure!! Oh my!!
There is no such thing as 5-sentence paragraphs, with your intro, supporting business, and then the closing that repeats the introduction. (Pretty amazing I remember that, right?)
To take advantage of your content, you’ll need to place it in a reader-friendly manner.
- Use shorter paragraphs
- Use conversational grammar
- Keep your vocabulary at a grade 3 level (for most audiences)
Use headers and bullets, photos and diagrams to break up content. Most readers online are scanners—so give them the best bits in scannable fashion.
[bctt tweet=”Most readers online are scanners, so give them the best bits in scannable fashion.” username=””]
On what device do you check your email? How about Twitter or Pinterest? What computer or phone or tablet do you use to catch up on news or blogs? How about reading ebooks or watching tv?
More importantly—on which devices does your audience engage with your content?
Obviously, the devices that your readers use are the ones that need to fetch and display your content accurately.
With new phone/laptop/tablet screen sizes being developed all the time, design your content to be responsive. Responsive content is different from mobile-friendly. Mobile friendly might look good on iPhone 6 and Samsung S5 but won’t adjust to any other size screen.
A responsive site responds to the size of the screen. To test your site, you can grab this responsive tool.
Here are a few more ways to make your content count.
Remove navigation items until you have 3-5 options. And place navigation top right where it is expected. Also, use words like “Contact and “About,” not “Catch Me Here” and “Story Time.”
The main idea to remember is that everything should be predictable to reduce friction between the reader and his or her engagement.
Sliders and other Moving Pieces:
I know that it is fun to add bells and whistles but it is a rare case that this actually increases any engagement. If it doesn’t add to your goal of engagement and readership, then it should go. Clean and systemized is your goal.
[bctt tweet=”If it doesn’t add to your goal of engagement then it should go.” username=””]
Colors & Shapes
I’m so tempted to go with “just don’t!” lol
Some of us love our unicorns and rainbows. But we need to be sure they are kept on birthday cakes and coffee mugs.
*Never shall you place your content in any shape or color that detracts from its message.*
*new irrefutable law by Cathy
This is a tricky one primarily because your photos need to add to your message yet still speak to your audience and also stay on brand. The rule of thumb for a piece of content (that isn’t a photo tutorial) is one photo per 500 words. And only if a photo actually adds to (does not detract) from your content.
TIP: If using photos of people, be sure that they are looking at your call to action. We are naturally drawn to where the subjects’ eyes are looking.
Keep those posts linked up, easy to read and engaging. Move those readers toward your call to action so that your content investment makes you heaps of money—and quickly!
Your turn: Did you know these tips? Which one can you implement this week? (Start with your most popular posts to make the biggest impact!)
Cathy Tibbles is your geeky girlfriend over at WordPress Barista, providing WordPress set-up, design and troubleshooting.