I have been a blogger and a net reader for a long time. I am not always the most focused reader because I have clients, multiple email accounts, Twitter, Facebook and my work at SEJ (Search Engine Journal) that I maintain all day. When I read an article I need something that keeps my brain interested and stimulated from the beginning. As the managing editor of SEJ I have to keep up with the SEO world and also read incoming articles from our writers. So I know what holds my interest and what loses it.
With Twitter I am clicking on links to articles all day long. I will be honest and say I give very little time to a good number of posts and I am going to tell you 5 reasons why:
1) The Font is Too Small and/or Too Hard to Read
I know some people like their fancy, little fonts and their “super-clean” designs and that is fine, but if the reader has to struggle to read they will leave long before you want them to. I need to read fast and anything that stops me from doing so loses my interest quickly.
It is important to remember that not everyone is using a 20-24 inch screen. Some are using an 11-13 inch laptop and your little, fancy font might make reading a nightmare. Who reads a nightmare? Make sure whatever font you choose is easy to read for everyone on every screen size and every browser. Use A/B testing if you feel you must use a unique font and really determine which font keeps visitors the longest.
2) There Are No Headlines
I am a scanner as soon as the page loads. If there are no headlines and lots of paragraphs I am instantly irritated. I personally need headlines and graphics to break up the text. Headlines can instantly indicate that the article is worth staying for and valuable data will be given throughout. If there are no headlines I often leave. The only time I don’t is when I know that someone really important wrote it and I have to force myself to read it. Yes, I said force and you know what happens when someone does something they really don’t want to? They are not as focused as they should be and important items are missed.
3) Headlines That Are Not Supportive
Headlines need to support the subject of your article. If I click on a link about Google+ and I see headlines not about Google+ why would I stay? Sometimes writers get creative with headlines and have personal feelings in their headlines, quotes, or funny sayings. I read to get facts and information I can use. As I said before, I scan to determine if your posts will give me the data I need. If all I see is your feelings or humor I am gone. If your feelings include something about Google+ then I would get it, but only then.
If the subject of your post is about you and your feelings than headlines with feelings would make sense. If your post is about a particular subject make sure your headlines support that subject.
4) An Unfocused Article
I think it was in midde school that they taught us the basic 5-paragraph writing strategy:
Beginning paragraph – explain what you will write about.
Have 3 supporting paragraphs – Paragraph one would explain a subject or issue. Paragraph two would have a different topic, but would build on paragraph one. Paragraph three would introduce another concept but would support one and two.
Ending paragraph – summarize paragraph one through three and come up with a conclusion.
That strategy is pretty basic, but it makes sense because there is a clear direction for the reader and writer. There needs to be a sense of direction in every post, from beginning to end. A reader should not be confused on the direction or they will give up and leave. Don’t make it hard for your reader to understand where you are going with your post. Keep it focused and give them something to remember. You want the reader to come back, so you have to make them believe you have good information to give.
Another tip – read through your post and delete any words/sentences that do not directly support your focus.
5). Font to Background Contrast
There are some that think that a light gray background looks nice with text that is a slightly darker gray. Nope. If the background and font are too similar I leave. I need the text to stand out and be easy to read quickly. I don’t need to strain my eyes to read and your visitors don’t either.
Please have some contrast that will make reading easy on mobile devices, all computers and all the browsers people use.
I will admit that I am unique in a way, in that I am in a rush all of the time. I have a lot to do quickly and I don’t have time to waste. Others may be calmer than I and have all the time in the world to read, but I know there are many like me. Your website and/or blog has to target multiple audiences. People like me can be the most supportive audience you have, so it is important that you visually please those that decide quickly if they are going to stay or go.
Melissa Fach is the Managing Editor of Search Engine Journal and the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. She has been in the Internet marketing business and blogging world for the last 7 years. She is a self-proclaimed Star Wars need and geek extraordinaire. She also takes great pride in being a big cat volunteer. You can find her on Twitter – SEO Aware.
photo thanks to DonkeyHotey