Newsflash: you want people to come to your site. Ideally, you’d like them to get comfortable and stay awhile … at least long enough to notice your products and service, sign up for the email list, read a few of your insightful posts. The dream? To foster such a devoted community that you never have to worry where your business will come from again. This is where true digital brand development is rooted, afterall.
We’ve got good news and bad news. The good: it can totally be done. In fact, brands do this all the time by clearly defining their platforms, giving away quality content, engaging with the right people and building loyalty over time. We’ve seen it, we’ve helped foster it, we believe in it. There’s no question you can’t do the same. The bad news? Well, a lot of brands still fail. They either don’t meet users’ needs, or can’t translate user interest into meaningful search signals that will generate further attention. They hit roadblocks that can be impossible to overcome alone.
More good news: you can avoid this fate by understanding today’s online reader and catering to their needs in a way that captures the attention of both humans and search engines. Ready? Go.
Meet the Skimmer
Before you can truly begin engaging with today’s digitally overloaded readers, you must understand them. While understanding any group of people requires research, focus groups and analysis, you don’t have to start there. We already have.
What we’ve found might surprise you. Even though you spend time analyzing every word that goes into every page of your site, because of the huge wealth of information online today, most of the people you’re targeting could care less about those words. They don’t read the way you think they do, you know, the old-fashioned way. They skim, looking for important information. They focus on:
- Bullet points
That’s not all. In fact, it goes much deeper. In fact, your target market (yourself included, if we’re being honest) resents having to sift through piles of crummy links and spammy ads, waiting for videos to end, and dealing with obnoxious popups. Owing to the always-increasing wealth of choice on the Interwebs, users are more likely than ever before to jump ship if they are annoyed or inconvenienced, so avoid such tactics. They want you to get to your point so that they can too. They want to pull what they need from what you have to offer and to make a decision without the extras, without what you think might be drawing them in.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at what you can do to keep readers on the page and engaged with your content.
Clear the Decks
Gone are the days of the long, screechy dialup noise; now we expect instantaneous. If your page takes longer than a few seconds to load, you can kiss users goodbye. Improve load time by junking extra media, unused pages and defunct widgets, and scaling your images to the size they’ll be displayed at. If this sounds like a foreign language, don’t worry the bottom line is that faster is better. Make this your mantra. Repeat it every time you analyze your site. Remember, one second can make or break your end game.
Ask for Engagement
What do too many Facebook updates, email newsletters and blog posts have in common? They don’t ask for user engagement. Confused? Think of a friend you love. Sure, you go out of your way to be nice even without their request. But when they ask you for something (reasonable), you’re almost certainly going to do it, right?
It’s a fair point that your followers are not your friends, and true that your prospects are even less beholden to you. Nevertheless, you have a much greater chance of turning readers and subscribers into customers if you ask them for their opinions, their desires, their stories and even their advice. Start tacking calls to action onto everything you do, even if it’s just a simple “What’s your take on this?” It works.
The same goes for your page. Set up a call to action, if you know what you want, make it known to your readers. Save them the time and the sales pitch, set it up for them through a targeted lead form. Ask for what you want so your readers know what to do without having to analyze: simple is smart, simple is better.
Cool It With the Jargon
The verdict has been in for a long time: people don’t like jargon. Whether you’re crafting site content, blog posts or social updates, skip the complex techno-babble and stick to the facts in plain, everyday English. People will love you for it, especially if your competitors haven’t yet gotten the memo.
The old days of SEO, or search engine optimization, are gone. Brands that create powerful text, headings, anchor text and meta descriptions based on usefulness rather than keyword density rule the day. Forget about building links through shady press releases, submitting your site for indexing, guest posting anywhere and everywhere, or using meta descriptions for anything except previewing your content for real, live humans.
Instead, guest post on related, authoritative sites, anchor your text with informative phrases, and generate backlinks through networking and providing quality content. Good content means when someone actually does do more than skim, they’ll find a reputable site they can trust and follow.
Don’t Forget Search Engines
We know, we know … we said forget SEO. But that doesn’t mean you can totally dismiss Google and its fine compatriots, like Bing and Yahoo! You can’t, because search engines still determine whether or not your content gets found. Sites like Google are trying harder, however, to measure the signals that actually show users to be interested in a piece of content. These include:
- Click-through rate
- Time on page
- Social shares
- Scroll depth
- Bounce rate
- Spelling and grammar
In addition to making sure spelling and grammar are pristine, position images just at the fold (or bottom of the screen) so people will scroll, use long infographics, and supply social media share buttons at top and bottom. Make headings useful so people scroll to the bottom and read them all.
Skimming isn’t going anywhere. In coming decades, Internet users will be presented with even more ways to find and interact with content, not fewer. So stop playing games with keywords or black hat tactics, forget about cramming your page full of ad spots and tricky pop-ups, and turn your attention to the user whose ear you crave. Make good content that panders to their reading style, and you’ll earn a devoted follower who, chances are, will soon become a customer.
It’s a Lot
Content that reads easily and provides some actionable information is great, but, with the competition that exists today, it’s simply not enough. Content must drive action, it must work with your site to accomplish your goals and it must be searchable, deeper than a few keywords that are used over and over again. Maybe you’ve considered that before, maybe not.
It’s a lot to take in. We know. We’ve been there. In fact, we spent years struggling with content that drove visitors to action. If you’re in that spot, know that you’re not alone.
Regardless, ready for the best part about not being alone? You don’t have to have it all figured out. By partnering with a digital marketing partner who puts your business goals and brand development first, you can learn the ins and outs without having to worry about the final product. Today is the day to turn it all around, to engage with the generation you’ve been struggling to reach all this time and to make your content work for you.