According to a 2020 Content Marketing Benchmark Report, the average time website visitors spend reading a blog post is 3 minutes and 15 seconds. That’s 195 seconds; about enough time for the average person to read 400 words. In 2013, that might have been enough (the average length of a blog post was about 520 words), but today, that means you’ll lose your audience before they get a third of the way through (average blog post length is about 1,230 words). Thanks, Google.
Time on page is decreasing while word count continues to rise.
Audiences are pulled in multiple directions and targeted with so much content they’ve become super-selective about what they click on and read. When they do decide to click, they’re likely searching for something specific.
If you only have 195 seconds to reach your audience, waiting until the end of a 1200-word blog post to make your point or call them to action probably won’t work too well. Writing shorter blog posts isn’t the answer; it’ll only hurt your SEO. But there are two strategies that can make a difference and help you convert more readers.
Blog Strategy No. 1: The Blogger’s Gambit
In Chess, a gambit is when a player sacrifices a piece (usually a pawn) with the hope of gaining an advantage in the game.
Giving your reader something of value right up front isn’t going to keep them on page longer, but it will give you an advantage. Consistently providing relevant, useful information and/or answers to their immediate questions is something they’ll remember and likely return again for in the future. Because blog post lengths require more time to read than the average visitor will grant you, it pays to give ‘em what they came for (before they leave). Here are 8 tricks you can use to deliver more value faster in your blog posts:
Use the inverted pyramid
Reveal the most important information in the first two paragraphs rather than saving it for the end, then use the rest of your post to go into detail with explanations, stats, and examples to support that gold nugget.
Write your intro paragraph – then delete it
We all learned to write introductions in school that set up the main point. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Wipe this lesson from your mind. You should still write an intro paragraph, in fact as a writer I find this an incredibly helpful way to figure out what I want to say and how to introduce it to my audience. But once you finish your draft, look back at your first paragraph and consider what would happen if you just delete it and start with paragraph two or even three. In most cases, not only will it not hurt your blog post, it will likely provide a more impactful start.
Write clear – not just clever – subheads
Clear subheads make it easy for your readers to understand the main points of your blog post. Clever subheads draw attention to those main points. If you can accomplish both, do it (and then call me, we’re always looking for talented content writers!).
Stuff your blog post with compelling stats
Stats support your argument and add credibility – a win-win for your blog post and your brand. Use graphic elements such as a pie chart, a larger font size or a different text color to help them stand out.
Include quotes from thought leaders or well-known personalities
Sound bites not only add color to an idea but are great for sharing on social media. Include a button that allows your readers to instantly tweet or post the quote and you’ll increase engagements and shares, too.
Use bold and italics sparingly
If you want to draw attention to a word or phrase within a paragraph, use bold or italics, but keep in mind that overuse of these elements will have the opposite effect.
Use bulleted or numbered lists
Paragraphs help a story flow, but if you are offering a number of tips or insights, use a bulleted or numbered list so that your readers can easily scan for critical information.
Include images or diagrams
Visuals help clarify your information for readers. Especially when your blog post includes explanations or examples, image and diagrams help visual learners take away key points quickly.
Blog Strategy No. 2 Run the Clock
Chess clocks track each player’s time for every move. Time can be set for 5 minutes to 7 hours or more.
The longer your reader stays on page, the more they’ll learn about your brand, and the better your odds of driving them to other pages and down the path to purchase. Here are a few ways to keep them on page longer:
Add “related article” links between each section
Instead of just linking a word or two within a paragraph, make those link suggestions stand out by adding them in the space between sections or paragraphs so that your readers are more inclined to click on them. Keep source links simple, but make internal links to other pages or articles stand out.
Pepper Calls to Action (CTAs) throughout
Contrary to popular thought, CTAs should not be saved until the end of a blog post. Placing them at strategic locations throughout your article will increase the odds of readers clicking on them. Keep in mind that your CTAs should be relevant to where the reader is on the page. They don’t all need to be the same, nor should they.
Share “related blog posts” visuals
If your reader gets to the bottom of your blog post, chances are good that you’ve hooked them with your content. If that’s the case, they’re likely to want to read more of your blog posts, so serve them up with compelling visuals to encourage click-shy readers.
Offer side bar navigation
A navigation bar at right makes it easy for readers to search by topic. If your reader doesn’t find what they’re looking for when they hit your blog post, they’ll click away quickly – unless they can see that you do have what it is they want on another page. Adding a list of topics or keywords “above the fold” lets them see what other content they can access without having to work hard (read: scroll) to find it.
Include internal links
In addition to linking to relevant third-party sites and your own blog posts, don’t forget to link to other relevant pages on your site.
Consider alternate content formats
Your blog can host more than just articles. Adding a variety of content formats on similar topics allows your reader to view content in the format that most appeals to them: listicles, videos, animations, checklists, interviews, and infographics.
Optimize your pop ups
Including pop-ups can encourage blog readers to sign up for your newsletter, download a gated piece of content or redeem a special offer. They can also turn visitors away, so be sure you’re using them correctly! Popups with a countdown time earn a 113% higher conversion rate. Limit your input fields from three to two, and you could see a 206% higher conversion rate. (Learn more about optimizing popups here.)
The majority (90%) of organizations now use content as part of their marketing strategy, and blog posts remains the top content format among marketers and one of the best ways to convert leads into customers. In fact, more than 70% of B2B buyers consume blog content during their buyer journey and 60% of consumers purchase a product after reading a blog post about it, according to Demand Metric.
If you don’t already use blogging as a marketing tactic for your brand, you’re missing out. Content marketing is 60% less expensive than traditional marketing tactics and produces 3X more leads than paid search. The most common challenge among marketers is a lack of time to produce high-quality blog posts. That’s likely why nearly 65% of marketers outsource blog writing.
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