Freelance Blog + Tips & Tricks

Guest Post: Keep Online Readers Interested

By Renee Bradford

Unless you offer updated news on a nuclear catastrophe or play videos of kittens being cute, readers will decide in about nine seconds if your website warrants their attention. In 2002, the BBC released a report saying that the internet has turned us into digital goldfish, with our attention spans going shorter and shorter.

In his article "What the Heck Happened to our Attention Spans?" blogger Josh Catone from Sitepoint.com details just how overwhelming it is to keep up in a community of literally billions. Working for an internet retailer of artificial Christmas trees has shown me that our attention spans have diminished significantly. You can be sure I would have skimmed that Catone article too if I weren't so interested in the topic! In our line of work, coming up with ideas to make artificial Christmas trees relevant, interesting, and worth our customers' time can be taxing. It's taken years of working for this company to train me in getting and keeping a reader's and thus, a potential customer's attention.

Here are five basic tips on getting your readers to visit your site and stay there:

  1. Update regularly.
    Updating your website regularly is one of the most basic things that keep people interested. A blog, website or column that is seldom updated is like yesterday's newspaper. It is uninteresting, old, and will often only annoy the loyal customer. Keep your website updated, looking fresh and exciting as often as possible. This way, customers will frequently check in to see what's new. Regularly updating your site is also good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This could result in more hits for your website. SEO is its own game and thousands of articles, books, and blogs are dedicated to it, but by and large you need great SEO rankings to get the attention of a web surfer. To learn more, check out this link from SEOMoz.
  2. Update for a reason.
    Like an annoying Facebook friend that updates her status with "I ate a sandwich", nonsense updates just hog bandwidth and add absolutely no value to your site or product. Unless you're a public figure, you should refrain from such personal updates. For e-commerce folks, inform your customers of upcoming sales or when new stock arrives. Writers, lecturers, and entertainers almost always use social networking forums and websites to announce a new event or tour. Rile up those customers and fans by posting announcements and news that are relevant, and have these up on the site as often as possible.
  3. Keep it interesting.
    News and information isn't usually all that exciting... But you can make them sound interesting! Put a creative spin on news. Relate to your target audience by featuring bloggers that have a lot of personality. Get your customers to check out even your most mundane information by presenting it with pizazz!
  4. Web 2.0, Web 3.0 and beyond, just go with the flow.
    Even if your website was one of the first internet retailers of all time, the site should not look like it. Keep your website looking like it was made yesterday, with features that offer the best customer and reader experience that technology offers. Keeping navigation simple is helpful to every customer, from the technologically challenged customer to those who were born to surf... the Web. I'm not saying you should hire the most expensive graphic designers and developers in town. Just keep up with how the online market is competing and you will be fine.
  5. Teach them something new.
    Insights from all over the world or news bits related to your industry go a long way. Feed customers' curiosity. In our company, we present little news articles and how-to guides on our blog. From DIY Christmas ornaments to strange traditions from across the globe, our blog is a flurry of items that keeps readers and customers coming back for more. I recommend that you blog about everything, from different ways to use your items to eco-friendly methods on how to dispose of the product. Compile the always-popular Top Ten lists of information related to your company and its merchandise. Show record breakers and interesting personas in your industry. You can talk about absolutely anything! Just make sure to teach them something new and keep them curious. This way, you captivate your readers and motivate them to keep coming back to see what else you have to offer.

Now that you're ready to start churning out that stellar content, here are some tips and tricks to live by:

  • Use a starting statement that is compelling.
  • Write clearly and simply.
  • Write like you're talking to them.
  • Present information in bullet points or numbered lists so as not to overwhelm readers.
  • Keep it brief. Nobody likes to read things that ramble on. Add relevant photos to articles to keep them interesting and visual.
The internet is an overwhelming source of information, entertainment and excitement. To compete with the billions of other sites your reader may go to, you will have to be clever, compelling and most of all, consistent. Take these tips to heart and pretty soon, you will amass a captive audience that hangs on to your every word.

Renee Bradford works for an online marketer of colorful artificial trees, including white Christmas trees. The website provides artificial Christmas trees for the home. A wife and mother, she is teaching her children essential survival skills like self-reliance and preparedness to prepare them for life's challenges.
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Flickr photo courtesy of goXunuReviews

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Guest Post: Keep Online Readers Interested {Tips & Tricks}