Catch Your Readers’ Eyes in 10 Steps

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Studies show you have just 8 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your website. This means you need to do something to immediately capture their attention and to keep them interested. I’ve come up with a list of 10 ways to catch your readers’ eye. Note: these are all based on various usability and eye-tracking studies that show how users view content online.

1.    Keep paragraphs short—No one wants to land on a page that’s just a huge block of text. Using short paragraphs (around 4 sentences each) helps the content be more scannable and less overwhelming.

2.    Use bullet points and lists–Bulleted and numbered lists are effective for a few reasons. First, they immediately stand out from the rest of the content because of their format. Second, lists are more digestible than long paragraphs. Lastly, eye-tracking studies show that online users scan, rather than read, content. Lists with bolded headings (like this one) are easy to scan.

3.    Bold important phrases throughout copy—In keeping with the theme of scannability (is that even a word?) bolding important phrases throughout your website copy helps visitors quickly get an idea of what your page is about. Again, bolding does such a great job of catching the eye because it stands out from the rest of the sea of text.

4.    Show numbers as numerals (15 instead of fifteen)—
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen performed a study that found online users prefer numbers that are shown as numerals rather than spelled out. Numbers represent facts, and they just look different from words.

5.    Use powerful, short headlines (8 words or less as a general guideline)—
In many cases, the headline is the first thing someone will see when they land on your website. Make sure you have a powerful headline that immediately connects with the reader. The most effective headlines tend to be 8 words or less.

6.    Avoid columns—Columns are terrible for scanning content. Online readers do not want to go up and down, column to column, to get the gist of your website.

7.    Include ample whitespace—White space is your friend. Not only does is help break up the text, making it less overwhelming, but you can also use it to create emphasis around certain key parts of your website…kind of like shining a spotlight on something.

8.    Utilize links in content—
Clicking hyperlinks is still the most used feature on the internet. People love clicking forward to find out more about a subject. That’s why you should interlink throughout your content. Just make sure not to overdo it, and also, make sure your links are leading visitors down a logical path.

9.    Make first 2 words of headlines and links count—Another Nielsen study found that online readers tend to focus on the first 11 characters (or 2 words about) of headlines and hypertext links. It goes back to the F-shaped pattern of scanning behavior. What does this mean for you? It means you need to make those first 2 words powerful and descriptive.

10.    Include useful images—
Too many SEOs get so focused on building content-rich sites that they forget about images. Images are just as important as text. They break up the monotony of the website, and they can deliver powerful messages. A great image will catch a visitor’s eye, getting them to stick around just a bit longer.

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