How to Keep Readers on Your Site
Capturing Attention Goes Beyond Intriguing Headlines
When you’re writing content, you have to have two goals in mind. First, you have to create headlines that will get people to pause and click. But once they have landed on your page, it does no good if they read a couple sentences and they’re not captured.
You need to draw them in, capture their attention, and then convert them either into a paying customer or a newsletter subscriber. Fortunately, there have been a number of studies that show what captures attention; here’s how you can create content that people want to read.
Appeal to Their Emotions
Emotions encompass a huge range, so this one is really pretty open. The good news is that you can appeal to any of them and hook your reader.
Anger: Post something controversial. This gets both sides hooked. The “see I was right” side and the “this is garbage” side.
Joy: How many of us have seen the video of the kid that received a cochlear implant and could hear for the first time? Reader’s Digest is packed with feel-good stories like this.
Sympathy: Here’s an insight to human psychology: when we feel sympathetic toward someone, the underlying feeling is thankfulness that it didn’t happen to me.
Humans aren’t logical beings; we are emotional beings. Find an angle and capture those emotions to get people to stick around (and share) your content.
Appeal to Their Intelligence
There are some sites that are masters at this. These are the sites that are shared over and over on Facebook despite the fact that they are garbage. You probably see them pop up in your newsfeed almost daily. They’re the online quizzes with titles like “Only Geniuses Can Answer more than 7 of these Correctly!” Of course everyone wants to be seen as highly intelligent, and so they click, take the quiz, and then share their score of 10/10 with a comment of, “None of these were even that challenging.” In other words, “Look how smart I am.”
The problem, however, is that nothing of value transpires. The quiz maker harvests data (later to be sold to marketing companies), the reader isn’t any better off, and your newsfeed is clogged with junk.
Appealing to intelligence is more than just throwing out a stupid quiz. It’s writing your content that informs, builds upon what they already know, and helps them grow and become more intelligent. The problem most writers run into is they can’t write for the masses about complex subjects.
Appeal to Their Humor
In the early 2000’s one of the most popular websites around was Homestar Runner. It was silly, it was funny, and people checked back over and over (and it’s still up and relatively unchanged 15 years later).
Later in the 2000’s Cheezburger hit the scene. Basically one big meme dump with funny pictures people could comment on, their Failblog site surged to success and spawned dozens of spinoffs.
But even back before the internet was everywhere, humorous newspaper columns were the norm. How many of us remember reading Dave Berry’s column back in the 1990’s? He was a bit slapstick, but wildly popular.
Creating funny content is a great way to get people to stick around on your site. There are probably at least a few websites that you visit on at least a semi-regular basis because of the humor provided.
Appeal to Their Dark Side
We all have a dark side. It just depends on how well we hide it. I’m not talking about malicious intent, I’m talking about the interests and humor that we hide because we’re worried that if people know about it they will judge us.
For instance, The Tasteless Gentlemen Facebook page has nearly 3 million followers. But if you click to their site, there’s going to be something that offends you (alternatively many others will find it secretly hilarious).
Poke fun at social norms, call them out, and get outside the box. People will eat it up. Get to edgy and they’ll still eat it up, but with private browsing on this time.
Capture Attention by Creating Content that People want to Read
Creating content is easy. Creating content that people want to read is a bit harder. Creating content that people want to read, and read all the way through takes some planning and thought.
Appeal to one of these, and you’re on your way to a popular site.