Good content is an important means of driving traffic to your site, creating brand loyalty, and establishing your company as a trustworthy source for advice and leadership. But none of that’s going to happen if you can’t get people to read the content you actually want them to pay attention to.
Did you know that eye tracking researchers have studied how people look at websites? Here’s what they found out…and how it can help you attract more eyeballs where you want them:
Understand How Visitors Read Websites
According to CoSchedule, usability consultant Jakob Nielsen used eye tracking visualizations to observe how website visitors read content. Here’s what he discovered:
- When reading, our eyes move amazingly fast across a website.
- As readers, we do not use the typical left-to-right method learned in school to view web pages.
- Instead, we read the page in a F-pattern, putting the most emphasis on the headline and the first few paragraphs of text.
- When scrolling down the page, we tend to focus on the left hand side of the page, skimming the rest of the content rather than reading it.
- As readers moved down the page, they read in a similar F-pattern, focusing mostly on the left side of the content
- Many of their visitors didn’t read more than 20-30% of their content.
- The content elements that drew the most attention were highlighted text, links, and headlines
- Roughly 10-20% of their readers made it to the bottom of the post.
These findings seem to support the same conclusion drawn by AdPushUp, ” that people Do. Not. Read. They skim through text.” Additionally, they line up with some of the most popular conclusions regarding how content is read.
Consider the research findings from a Yahoo study on how visitors read web pages, which shows that the top left corner of your site gets the attention first, as shown in the diagram below:
Take some time to evaluate your site to see what you have in the Priority 1 area. The study suggests that content with more value should be moved to the top left zone of your page for maximum user readability.
Oddly enough, you’d think that the low priority zone (in green) would be a very bad place to put a call to action button, right? As it turns out, that’s not the case at all!
The Gutenberg Diagram (used to demonstrate the general pattern the eyes follow when looking at content), shows the upper left quadrant of the page to be a dominant area for optical viewing, similar to the eye tracking illustration above.
Now take a look at the bottom right hand corner, Terminal Area (quadrant 4). An attention-grabbing button placed in this zone is an irresistible call to action because it’s at the end of the readers’ viewing pattern, so users don’t have to search for it.
We’re not saying you won’t get any clicks from your call to action button if you placed it in one of the other quadrants, but there’s a good chance it won’t be nearly as profitable as putting it in the terminal area.
“By understanding the reading patterns of the users who visit your website,” concludes medium.com, “you are able to place the most important content in the areas where they will be most effective.”
Learn Where Readers View Your Content
Are people reading your blog or website content on their phone or tablet?
CoSchedule points out that “research frequently shows that consuming email, searching the internet, and using social networks are some of the most popular activities done on a handheld device.”
Consider these revealing mobile stats from Convince & Convert:
- Mobile users could account for up to 70% of your email opens, depending on your audience and industry.
- Today’s typical smartphone user checks their device an average of 150 times per day (which amounts to 150 opportunities to convert a prospect into a customer).
- According to Google, mobile searches now exceed computer searches. Specifically, said Google, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.”
In other words, you need to have a responsive website design that will auto adjust your website to display the content properly on any screen size. A responsive design will ensure that your readers get the best experience possible on any device.
Remember That Your Readers Are Short on Time
Believe it or not, your visitors have more going on than just reading the content on your website. They’re busy being parents, commuting to work, cooking dinner, checking their email, going to the gym, and hanging out with friends.
So how’s your website content supposed to compete with all that to get a little quality eyeball time? CoSchedule suggests the following:
1. Each Sentence Should Compel Your Viewers to Keep Reading
Yes, it sounds pretty basic, but to hold your readers attention, each sentence of your content should compel your readers to move on to the next. For example, your headline should make them want to read the first sentence. The second sentence should entice them to read the third, and so on. So, essentially, your content needs to be compelling all the way through.
2. Pattern Your Content After the Inverted Pyramid Model
The inverted pyramid tool will help you create content that readers will enjoy and devour. This model, used by newspaper journalists for years, helps you place the most relevant information first, assuming that approximately 60% of your readers won’t make it to the end of your article or content.
3. Simplify Concepts With Images
In addition to adding visual appeal and breaking up your content into consumable segments, images will make the concepts you’re writing about easier to comprehend, and thus more engaging. Images are a form of “scannable text” (little pieces of text, or microcontent, such as titles, headlines, and boldfaced terms) that help readers quickly determine if the content is, more or less, what they want to continue reading.
If you’re familiar with social media, then you know how images rock on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. Images might include comics, memes, infographics, photos, videos, or visual note taking, all of which can make your content more shareable…a vital component of content marketing success.
4. Make Your Site a Hub of Scannable Text
Along with images, you can use text that is easily scanned and consumed to break up your content. Consider the following suggestions from the Nielsen Norman Group:
- Use highlighted keywords (hypertext links are one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
- Create meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
- Use bulleted lists
- Only employ one idea per paragraph (users skip over additional ideas if they’re not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
- Use the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
- Use half the word count (or less) than conventional writing
“When it comes to data,” says Neil Patel, “I’m convinced you can’t have enough. Crunching numbers, running tests, poring over metrics, analyzing trends — that’s what helps build great businesses and awesome websites.”
There’s a lot to learn about what drives human attention and consumer behavior online. Hopefully you’ve found the information presented here helpful. If you’d like more information about how eye tracking research can help you become a better content writer, conversion expert, or online marketer, check out Neil’s article, 8 Powerful Takeaways From Eye Tracking Studies, or click on any of the links in this article.
Here’s to getting more eyeballs on your valuable content!