You have 10 seconds to make someone interested in your blog post–and that's after they get to the page.
We all know that it can be very hard to get people to visit your web page, but even if they do click on a link to visit your blog, you still have a very narrow window to make them interested enough to stay.
The Free Content Problem
We live in a wonderland of free content.
I recently discovered that the biggest difference between my childhood and my kids' childhood is that I was bored every once in a while. And I had to suffer through it.
But right now, the idea of being understimulated on the internet (or really, in general) is laughable–there is ALWAYS another thing to read or watch. We can only guess what it's doing to our brains, but we do all know that life is too short to read bad content.
So when someone overcomes inertia, actually clicks on the link, and your site loads (hopefully quickly) in their browser, you'd better be able to grab them.
A 10-Second Window
Academic work shows us that 10 seconds is your window.
Here's what this means: in general, a web user takes about 10 seconds to process what your page is all about. At that point, they'll make a decision as to whether they should invest more time in reading your content, or bail out in search of something better.
The sample for that research consisted of about 2 billion observations, so it's about as robust as we can ask for. And the key concept is that of "negative aging"–once people stay past 10 seconds, they're likely to stay for a long time–up to about 70 seconds–when the cycle reverses and people are more likely to leave.
Finding a Solution
The challenge for all of us is to make a good first impression within 10 seconds.
Based on our client experiences over the last couple of years, we've found that the following 5 steps make a big difference:
- Fast loading. Simply stated, the slower your load time is, the more likely you are to lose a viewer. As broadband access is now (essentially) a given, your readers expect instant gratification. If your site takes longer than 2 seconds to load, you have a problem. This guide from KissMetrics is an excellent resource on how to speed up loading.
- Attractive design. We all have expectations of what a website should look like. In particular, people can tell the difference between something fast and cheap, and something well-designed. We're believers in being frugal, but you shouldn't pinch pennies when it comes to site design. A cheesy-looking site isn't the site of a thought leader, and what's more, the cost of good design keeps falling. When we updated our own home page's design, we saw the difference it made very quickly.
- Visuals. Human beings like images (our brains process them faster). While some verticals (hard sciences, academic publishing) might gain excess credibility from a wall of text, almost every other audience wants to see an image of some kind–a photo, a graph, or an illustration. There are many reasons why you need to add images–and here’s an excellent summary.
- Headlines. A good headline can make all the difference. According to Copyblogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” As you take a snapshot of the page, your eyes will usually be drawn to the biggest type on the page. And if you’re doing your headline right, it’s the biggest type on the page. There are all sorts of tricks for writing good headlines (check out some of them in our library), but make sure not to neglect this essential element.
Other visual cues. This is a catchall, but it includes all the other visual signals (subheads, paragraph breaks, clear topic sentences) that make it easy to parse the page. Is it clear what the page is about? Are you intrigued? Is there enough familiar, and enough mysterious content? The idea is to avoid a wall of text that is visually boring. Heatmaps tell us that readers move their eyes in an F-shaped pattern. This has some understandable implications:
- Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold (meaning, the part of the webpage that’s visible when users first land there). Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold (5).
- Users spend 69% of their time looking at the left half of the webpage and 30% viewing the right half (6).
All of these are very useful tactics. But they don’t preclude the need to write good content, by the way. The burden of utility remains, no matter how pretty you make your page.
As we all switch more of our information consumption to the web, best practices continue to emerge. As a producer of dozens of blog posts a week, we have had the opportunity to test these practices in real life, and we have seen the impact that best practices can have on traffic and readership.
Getting all of these little things right takes a long time. But when the audience is this easy to lose, these small improvements make a material difference.
Adrian Blake loves good design. He is CEO of Social Media Contractors—Outsource to Omaha.
Latest posts by Adrian Blake (see all)
- There’s No More Tollbooth: How Social Media Has Reinvented Distribution - December 4, 2013
- On @herdyshepherd1, Or What a Shepherd Can Teach Us About Social Media - November 25, 2013
- Is Billy Collins Right About the Insignificance of Social Media? - November 19, 2013