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How to appeal to your users' (short) 8 second attention span
June 25, 2021
The average human has an attention span of around 8 seconds. You can read this article in 8 seconds. Start counting… now.
We write too much.
I’m no copywriter though I am one of those people who has been told on a number of occasions “you have a lovely writing style, can you jazz this up for me?”. So yeah, I have writing published and sometimes something I wrote as placeholder gets declared by a client as ‘really good’ and gets published. The one thing I have learned though, less is definitely more. We write too much. I certainly do. Look at this paragraph. Where is it heading? I don’t actually know myself but I’m still writing in the hope I’ve created intrigue. Here’s the thing. Every word we write reduces the chances of something being read. So here’s how to make sure people quickly ready everything you need to tell them.
People typically scan headlines.
Think about how you scan a website. Do you a) quickly glance over to look for some keywords or b) go and immediately read about the companies history and their case studies? For most people, a) is closer. You find a site but you have a quick glance and decide quickly ‘Are they right for me?’ if they are you might scan a few more pages. If not, you leave. But no one reads content in-depth on every site.
They don’t have the desire to read everything.
It’s not that they don’t like your content, but the worlds attention span continues to decrease dramatically. In 2000, it was estimated that the average attention span was 12 seconds. Today it’s 8 seconds and declining. That’s the world now, and the TikTok generation are going to be even worse. So whilst we write long prose, people aren’t reading them. They want a scannable headline.
Your prospects don’t care what you write.
This is another major challenge with the volumes we tend to write. Much like the paragraphs written within this article, they typically contain extended and flowing prose to land a point about something no one really cares about. Prospects don’t actually care about your "innovative" techniques, your "market leading" approach, they glaze over. But we continue to write. Like me now. Again. I’m still writing even though I’ve landed the point because I’m under the impression that the more I write, the more knowledgeable I sound.
So use your headlines
And sub headline
Of course, you need copy. Your SEO team will be spitting blood at the thought of you saying you want to reduce the keywords on your site and Google loves a good word. But what is the point of creating copy if it’s just to fill words and content like this? Oh look, someone read my article and got so bored they switched off. Win. The reality is when we create content, primarily it needs to add instant value to our user. If it doesn’t, much like this, it’s just stopping users understanding the actual thing they need to understand.
Tell clients you solve their problems.
The best thing about scannable headlines is that they are the perfect chance to explain to a user how we solve their problems. But all too often instead, we use this prime real estate to tell users about us. Guess what? They don’t care. We don’t look at websites to learn about a business, we look at a website to see if they can solve our problems. Our innovative solutions, forward thinking approach, key points of differentiation matter not a jot to the average user! Yet we continue to write away adding words in the false hope of creating that intrigue.
And let them know how you do it.
So you’ve cracked it! You’ve created a page that can be read in under 8 seconds. You’ve captured the attention of the user and you’ve explained how awesome you are. But make sure you do something with it. Explain to your users clearly what to expect next and don’t make them ask “what happens next?“. Here’s ours:
Step 1: Book an introductory call.
Step 2: Book your free Discovery Workshop.
Step 3: if you like what you see, agree the commercials and start the project.
Simply put, stop writing so much.
You can get a lot across in 8 seconds.