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.
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.