6 tips for writing digital content people will actually read

Have you ever sent an email, written a blog post, submitted a job application or filed a report, only to get the sense that, once posted or sent, it disappears into the ether, never to be read or acknowledged?

If so, you’re not alone. A few years ago, a content strategist discovered that 30 per cent of Microsoft’s content had never been read. And for B2B companies, the percentage of unread content is between 60 and 70 per cent.

Every day our screens are flooded with more information than we can process. But that’s not to say people don’t read online. It all depends on the nature of the content, and how compelling, accessible and web-friendly it is.

Whether you’re in school or employed, working in an office or in the field, chances are digital communication is part of what you do. And anytime you’re creating content for digital media, you’ll want to consider what you can do to compel people to read it and take action.

Studies have shown that reading online is 25 per cent slower than reading print, and that people will generally only read about 20 per cent of the copy on an average page. So if you’re sweating over every word, here’s how to make those words count.

How to captivate people with your content

Lead with the lead

Don’t work your way up to your point. Get right to it. On-screen readers are impatient. And if it takes you three paragraphs of preamble to get the heart of the matter, there’s a good chance you’ve already lost them.

Keep it short and succinct

There’s a place for long-form writing, but it’s not usually warranted in business communications. Time-on-site stats are shockingly short—55 per cent of people will spend less than 15 seconds on a page—so be judicious about your every word and edit for brevity.

Make it scannable

People tend to scan on-screen content, rather than reading every word, so tailor your content toward scannability. Add subheadings every few paragraphs and use short, descriptive blurbs to guide people through your content.

Use keywords

Sure, keywords are useful for search, but they also help readers quickly identify what your content is about. Use information carrying words that describe exactly what your content is about. And if they help your content rank well in search, all the better.

Communicate visually

The web has become the ultimate visual communications medium, with the rise of video, infographics and illustrated text. Visuals can communicate complex information quickly, and will often grab the eye before text alone. They’re also more shareable on social media and more likely to drive engagement.

Include calls to action

If your content is designed to drive action, then be sure to tell your reader what you want them to do, whether it’s to call you for more information, click to read more, download a form, etc. Avoid the common “click here” links and instead, use powerful keywords that communicate your calls to action at a glance.

About the author

Lisa Manfield is a writer, editor and content strategist. She has developed print and online content, marketing collateral, and courseware for small businesses, technology startups, non-profit organizations, government agencies and educational institutions. She has been the editor of BCLiving.ca and the marketing manager at TheTyee.ca.

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