5 Eye Tracking Tips for Blog Posts

5 Eye Tracking Tips for Blog Posts

Content Marketing SEO

by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

For those of you who don’t know, eye tracking is a developed science that studies where people look on web pages, for how long, and why. Sometimes we forget that blog posts are web content and they are viewed in the same manner as any other web page. You need to understand what intuitively captures the attention of people viewing web pages if you want your post to capture someone’s attention and encourage them to read more.

How Eye Tracking Can Help?

Eye tracking studies tell us what is intuitively capturing people attention.  This is information that you can use, as long as you understand how it applies to your posts.  We’ve compiled 5 eye tracking findings that you can strategically apply to your posts to increase the amount of time people spend reading your content and in turn, engagement with your brand.

eye-tracking-heat-map-using-wikipedia

 

TIP 1 //  People read big, bold headlines

Before a person ever comes to your post, they most likely will view it as a headline on your blog, a social media feed, or a search engine results page. This means no matter how juicy your content is, if the your headline does not capture interest, your post has already lost and will be passed over.

But you do have some power.  According to a recent eye tracking study by Poynter, bold headlines draw attention.  This discovery reinforces the popular F-shaped pattern that was discovered by previous eye tracking studies.  The F-shaped pattern tells us that when a person views a web page, they are scanning to see where they would like to go next.  This leads them to view along the top of the page and scan for items that catch their attention as they move down the page – items like a bold headline.  If potential readers are already looking at your headline, half of your battle is already won. You have their attention.  You just need to keep their attention by crafting a headline that they will want to click to read more.

TIP 2 //  Use a lead to capture attention

So you’ve gotten a person to click your headline.  Yay!  That’s great, but you haven’t won yet.  According to a study conducted by Statistic Brain in 2013, the average attention span is only 8 seconds long.  That’s 1 second less than the attention span of a Goldfish.  In this small window of time is when a reader decides whether to stay or leave your post. The key to conquering this challenge is a well-crafted lead.

According to eye tracking studies, participants scan the top portion of a web page in order to decide whether to stay or go.  This means your reader may only read your headline and the first 1-2 sentences of the post before leaving.  Your most important information should be contained in these first 1-2 sentences in order to draw them into staying longer.

This is where the journalistic concept of a lead was founded.  When news is important, people don’t want to wait to hear what’s happening. They want to know now.  A lead establishes what the rest of an article is going to discuss.  A good lead grabs a reader’s attention and refuses to let go.  The art of a good lead is a craft that journalists have been perfecting for hundreds of years.  CubReporters.org can tell you more about the types of leads you can use.

TIP 3 //  Chunks of information are best

So you’ve managed to hook a reader with your headline and lead.  Congratulations, their engagement has already increased.  But how can you ensure they will continue to read the post until the end let alone be inspired to share your story with their friends?  Let me tell you about chunking.

According to eye tracking studies, gaze duration increases when information is visually chunked into smaller sections.  People find it easier to digest small chunks that connect as a whole than to attempt to digest everything at once.  Completing each chunk also reinforces the feeling that they are making progress and that they can make it to the end. Suddenly, all those suggestions about using short paragraphs, section headers, bullets, and number lists make sense.  They are ways to visually chunk the information.

TIP 4 //  Pictures of people are good

So they’re on your post page, they’re reading what you’ve written.  Everything is good in life.  Your job is done, right?  Wrong.  The best messages not only capture our attention, but stay with us after they’ve ended.  They are not easily forgotten.  One known method for increasing memory retention is pictures.

Pictures and other visuals increase information retention because they reinforce the message and give a break from words, words, words. According to eye tracking studies, pictures of people are especially good because they gain more attention and time spent. There are also psychological findings that support that looking at someone or a photo of someone usually prompts a positive physiological reaction of attraction, understanding, or identification.  All this tells us that pictures of real people encourages lasting interactions that they are more likely to remember after the it’s over.

TIP 5 //  Put calls to action at the bottom

So, your post has more than a story to tell.  You’re also kind of hoping it will inspire them to complete a task for you.  This task is known as a call to action (CTA). But where is the best place to ask them to take action and get results?  Research tells us that it is at the end of the post.

1 of the top 10 online marketers according to Forbes Magazine, Neil Patel used a Crazy Egg eye tracking heat map to show how a call to actions at the bottom of the page received more attention and clicks than a call to action in the middle of the page. This eye tracking finding reinforces the recommendations made by Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick that a call to action should be placed at the end of a piece where it will be in the reader’s foremost mind.

If you get stuck and need help with your content marketing, give us a shout. Happy writing.

So you want to start a blog, eh?

So you want to start a blog, eh?

Content Marketing

First of all, there are a few things you want to establish before you launch into anything.

  • What is the overall theme of the blog?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What do you hope to achieve with the blog?

Image credit to Kristina B http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/

1.       Choose a focus

Once you have the primary theme(s) in mind, it should be easy to pick a topic and write the first post. Within each post, you’ll lose the reader’s attention by covering too many topics at once.  Narrowing the focus on the blog is important for reader retention and establishing credibility on your subject matter. Remember: try to focus on one key idea – if you want to write about a variety of things, that’s great; use those as future blog ideas.

2.       Decide on goals

You may have clear goals already in mind.  If not, consider asking other bloggers what sorts of goals they are setting.   Some of those goals may include:  Positioning as a thought leader in a particular subject matter.  Increasing speaking engagements. Booking appointments with potential new clients.  Get more social media engagement and exposure.

Make sure the goals are specific.  If the primary goal is to book more appointments, but there is no link to the online appointment calendar in your post or on your blog page, well then, appointments are not going to be set.

Remember that there are many resources available, especially via various social media channels. For example, find ways to drive traffic to your website via LinkedIn here; a refreshing approach to getting new clients to find you can be found in this blog post; and don’t forget that blogging can be like many other social media channels – the more you connect, the more exposure you have. So make sure that you’re reading other peoples’ blogs, commenting, linking to them if they’re relevant to your material, etc.

3.       Remember, you are a thought leader

You know more about your field of expertise than the average person. That’s why you do what you do. Some of your potential followers may have an idea of what you’re talking about; some may say it might as well be Greek. If you start with an overview then become gradually more specific, it’ll be easier for your audience to follow than if you launch into tech-speak from the get go. You don’t want to lose your audience before they get through the opening remarks!

4.       Decide what platform you want to use to host your blog   

For some great choices, check out this website comparing 10 different hosting sites and what benefits each offers – so you can choose the best fit.  Choose a platform that is easy for you to learn, use , customize and consistently update.

5.       Make it visually interesting  

Sometimes, no matter what words you choose, the message won’t be received. But adding a picture or embedding a video (if it’s relevant) can keep the audience’s attention. These can be something simple taken at your office using your smartphone, or something you saw posted online that bears relevance to what you’re discussing. Also, if you’re discussing something like a brand or a business, link their website, Facebook page, Google+, or other relevant page to it.

Once you have the basics established, remember that you have the ability to make your blog anything you want it to be. Have as much fun as you’d like – your readers will likely appreciate a little personality being added into the mix!

What challenges do you or did you face in starting a blog?

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Content Marketing General Social media

two women reading newspaper on park bench

I’m cool with “social marketing” and businesses’ presence in social networks. Obviously.

I like blog comments. A lot.

However, it seems I will forever cringe while reading comments on social marketing blogs.

What do you say we try a little experiment with this social marketing blog post!

[I should probably clarify, I’ve never had a problem with any comment on this blog. We don’t get many, and they’re rarely, if ever, from the cringe-worthy marketing professionals you see elsewhere.]

Here’s my idea:

Shut out the centralized, public comments.

There are other places where you can commnet on this very post. Google Reader, Google Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and other blogs. Heck, you can even talk about it offline! Hopefully, you already know plenty of people who want to hear your opinion of my ideas. People who want your answers to my questions. People who are interested to know which questions you find most interesting.

You’re not commenting just because you like people to see your name and link, right?

So, I’m going to offer a few ideas and questions, in conclusion. Now that you’ve read this post, start a discussion about it amongst the people who already know you. Feel free to invite me into your network to participate. Tell me I’m wrong to my face, it’s cool.

[I was trying to decide if I should leave the “trackbacks” (pingbacks) on.

Cindy offered, “One hazard of this suggestion is that it becomes the original author’s (your) responsibility to report back to the blog audience on responses to posts. So then you’re setting yourself up as a filter. Open comments avoid this problem; so do trackbacks. They promote transparency.”

So, the comment thread can link back to those responding blog posts.]

Okay, then. Here are those questions:

  • What does my post and this blog lose from closing the comments to this post?
  • What do I gain? What do other readers gain? What do your blogs, and social circles gain by commenting “locally?”
  • I’m drawing my line at posts about and for social marketing professionals. I’m not suggesting businesses using blogs to talk to their consumers should do anything like this. But could that line be better drawn some place else?

Let me know where you think.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon