So when you are reading an article on the web, how far do you usually get? Maybe you read one or two lines, a short paragraph at best, before moving on? Are the articles you tend to stick with the ones that are long and drawn out, or do they tend to be short and to the point ones that can be read in a few minutes?
Most of us bring our short attention spans to the web. However, when it comes to us performing search engine optimization (SEO), suddenly we are pouring words onto the page with the attitude of the more the merrier. Not only that, but we tend to try to force awkward word choices into our copy just for the sake of trying to obtain precious Google rankings for our pages.
So what can we do to address this big contradiction? John Baker from Differently.Co explains here.
Legibility and Attention
When it comes to writing web content, there are two very good reasons for why less might be more.
The first reason has to do with attention span. According to Farhad Manjoo, in an article published in Slate, most readers do not finish reading a majority of the articles they start. According to data examined by Manjoo, 38% of visitors to a page didn’t get past the first line of text. When it came to the remaining visitors, 5% did not scroll down the page, while 50% got lost within a couple hundred words. Therefore, if you want visitors to actually read your message and take it in, then short and to the point is more effective than lots of words on a page.
The second, and equally important reason, has due to with comprehension. To effectively communicate with customers, you must use straightforward word choices, simple structures, short sentences and plain English. The longer the message is, with more twists and turns in an attempt to cram more keywords into the content, the less likely readers are going to understand it.
When catering to international markets, this is particularly important. The more succinct the copy is and the more you use plain language, the easier it will be for non-English reader to understand your message.
Word Count Balancing Act
As already mentioned, the problem is frequently effective SEO means using lots of words, which includes repeating keywords over and over again. So how can using plain English be balanced with short attention spans?
First of all, when it comes to word volume, think hard about it. How long do you really need to go with this? Is the so-called SEO advantage you will gain from going long really more important than actually getting your message across to people who land on your web page?
Break your text down into smaller chunks. If the first paragraph is short and provides a brief summary of your message, you may reach more visitors, even some of those who don’t scroll further down the page. If possible, inset text and place some text into the sidebar. That way, each chunk of the content is more approachable and shorter. Place awkward keywords into tags, captions and headings so that they don’t mess up your writing flow.
Most of all, make sure your content is compelling. It is much less likely that people will read articles that are long. However, if it is interesting and well written, readers will be more forgiving. As novelists have illustrated for centuries, if enough good writing is offered, any rule can be thrown out.
Consider Reading Formats
You need to consider the devices that your visitors are reading from these days. A paragraph that is considered short by tablet and laptop screen standards might appear dense and long on a smartphone. Breaking text down into boxes might look nice on portable screens. However, on a monitor they may appear messy or cluttered.
Even within the smartphone realm, it makes a difference what specific market you are targeting. Customers from western countries have a tendency to use sophisticated devices. On the other hand, those from developing countries are more likely to use phones with simpler features. Be sure to view your text on the type screen it most frequently will be read from to ensure it looks good in that format.
Don’t Go Too Long
Whenever it is possible, your web content should be direct, punchy, short and written using simple words. Whenever this is not possible, use tricks to disguise how complex and long your content is to ensure that visitors don’t just see the content on your site, but read it as well.
- Photo provided by: smartphotostock.com
Amy Rice writes about SEO and internet marketing, when not writing she enjoys horse riding and gardening.