Writing Content For Goldfish Attention Spans

Jun 15, 2016 | Marketing

Could your blog or page content be holding you back like a turtle stomping through peanut butter?

Maybe you did great in English class in high school. Maybe you enlisted that one family member or friend who posts Facebook statuses that could be straight out of a Hemmingway novel. That’s all fine and good, but web content is its own monster when it comes to building strategy, and that strategy can be boiled down to simply catering to short attention spans.

This marks the end of the attention-grabber title/intro, I will now jump straight into the first topic:

1. Start With An Attention-Grabber Title/Intro

There have been multiple studies by advertisers done on the human attention span once you stick people in front of a keyboard, and they all came to a similar conclusion: the average person gives a page between 3-5 seconds before they decide whether or not to click the “back” button. So in that sense, it actually doesn’t matter how much research you do because if you can’t make someone interested enough to read it, then you’ve wasted your time.

As much as we all love to mock the “clickbate-ish” titles (How Pickle Juice Could Save Your Crumbling Marriage, 5 Reasons Your Refrigerator Wants to Kill You In Your Sleep, The Shocking Truth You’ll Never Believe About Grass Clippings, etc), the sad reality is that they work. And if we’re all being honest, they even work on those of us that claim to hate them. It’s as simple as this: people don’t like to be left hanging or miss key information that leaves them “out of the loop.” Figure how to structure your title in such a way that people have to read more in order to understand it.

2. Research the Topic and Link Your Sources in the Text

Much like the teacher that always made you turn in a bibliography with your research paper, Google’s search algorithm rewards pages that link to trusted websites. That means that having sources embedded in your content makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of search engines, in addition to the average reader. But remember, the keywords here are “trusted websites.”

For example, linking to a government study on a .gov domain adds more to your site reputation than linking to a blog about that government study. Highly ranked news publications like the New York Times or Forbes are more beneficial than some obscure webzine. There are numerous tools on the web that allow you to file and organize your resources such as EvernoteGoogle Keep and OneNote. These can prove to be priceless when scouring the web for information, saving you the frustration of keeping 20 tabs open on your desktop, or tediously scrolling through your history to find that one article you forgot to save before closing your browser the other day.

Pro Tip: always make sure that the links in your content open a new tab to ensure that your easily-distracted readers aren’t taken away from your page.

3. Keep Your Subject-Detail Ratio (SDR) In Check

Subject-Detail Ratio is an important factor that I just now made up, and it can be explained by this graph I made in MS Paint:


As illustrated, the amount of detail you give on a certain subject should be dependent on how many total subjects you are trying to cover. If you are covering a variety of subjects or creating a list, be sure to keep details brief and devote the same amount of space to each item. If you have a subject with so many components that it’s a much longer paragraph than the others, find a way to split it in two. If you have one specific point to get across, organize the different aspects of the main idea and do your best to give equal attention to each one.

Give the details that are needed, and simply include those resource links we talked about if you want to give the reader the option to learn more. The reason is that clearly structured and brief paragraphs make for a much more inviting experience for the casual web browser, who tend to scan for information rather than actually read it.

Pro-tip: Bold key points of information randomly throughout your page, it helps to hold a reader’s attention by drawing their focus to important information.

4. End With a Call to Action, Not a Conclusion

This isn’t English class, there is no need to summarize all of the information at the end. You’ve made your case, now is your chance to command your readers to do your bidding. Whether it’s to sign up for your newsletter or go join an overseas uprising of citizens revolting against an oppressive political machine, you’ve achieved the laborious task of getting a goldfish-level attention span to read a whole page of information, and you’ve earned yourself a sales pitch. So with nothing further to add, go write your web content and continue to read Redhead Labs blog entries.

formation rather than actually read it.

Pro-tip: Bold key points of information randomly throughout your page, it helps to hold a reader’s attention by drawing their focus to important information.

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