There have been many advantages of the digital age, but attention span is definitely not one of them. Since the rise of smartphones, the average attention span of human beings has fallen by four seconds (from twelve seconds to eight seconds). Now, even goldfish can pay attention for longer.
If the average person can only stay focused for eight seconds at a time, what does that mean for digital marketers?
All hope is not lost. Attracting and retaining the attention of your audience, while difficult, is not impossible. The key? Driving user engagement.
In order to do that, first ask yourself: How much time are users spending on your website? How many pages are they checking out? What pages are they checking out? Are they clicking on your calls-to-action? And most importantly, what percentage of visitors is performing the desired action on your site?
If the answer to that last question is “too small,” you’re in luck. Because we’ve got some ideas in mind to help you not only increase attention spans, but user engagement and conversions, as well.
1. Examine the Needs and Desires of Your Audience
Firstly, really think about what your audience is interested in and what their needs are. As SUCCESS agency CEO, Avin Kline, states, “It’s so easy to forget, but the heart of increasing user engagement is to put yourself in their shoes and add undeniable value to the user. Keep in mind, what marketers think is valuable and what users think is valuable are often two different things.”
A user-feedback poll is one great, easy way to help you better understand your customers. Kline claims, “Done incorrectly, these can be annoying for a user. Done well, it’s an excellent opportunity to help the customer feel that their opinion matters, while also getting needed insights to better market the company. One poll we ran for an e-commerce client helped us learn that 80% of potential customers cared more about the performance of the product than the price. [So,] we added as much helpful performance information to the website as we could.”
2. Remember: It’s Quality Over Quantity
If you create memorable content, people will want to come back for more. So instead of churning out lackluster content that can be found anywhere on the web, write higher quality, unique content that caters directly to your audience. Speak your opinion on a subject matter, instead of just objectively providing facts. Create useful, thought-provoking content. Posting three so-so blog posts a week will not be nearly effective as posting one superb blog post per week.
3. Strive for Consistency
Nothing looks sloppier than websites that don’t abide by any sort of style guide. Is your blog section a complete deviation from your website? If so, this very well could throw off your visitors and decrease engagement. Instead, make sure that all of your web pages are consistent in design, font and even voice. For instance, if you use a very formal tone on your homepage, but a super casual tone in your blog posts, this could highlight brand inconsistency.
Also make sure that your blog posts are consistent with one another and that each post has the same-sized images, headings and font. Always ensure that your blog post titles don’t lead your visitors astray. This may seem obvious, but it happens more often than you’d think. For example, if your blog post is titled “The Top 10 Places to Hike in Southern California” but the post itself talks about hiking spots all throughout the entire state of California, you’re probably going to lose visitors. After all, it’s not what they had signed on for!
4. Encourage Commentary
The easiest (and certainly the most popular) way of doing this is by ending a post with a conclusion that invites commentary, such as, “Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.” Writing opinionated or more controversial pieces is another way to automatically encourage comments.
And when your article does receive comments, be sure to respond to each one with something thoughtful and personable.
5. Collect E-mail Addresses
However you do it, collecting e-mail addresses is essential to driving and maintaining engagement. While they can get a tad annoying, pop-up opt-ins tend to be more effective than those on the sidebar.
One tried-and-true technique of obtaining e-mail addresses is to show visitors the first paragraph of a blog post and then blur out the remainder until they provide their e-mail addresses. Just be sure to provide the choice for users to opt-out of receiving content.
6. Be User-Friendly
When it comes to websites, complication breeds frustration and stress. How many times have you abandoned a site because it was just too complicated or confusing? My guess is, more times than you can count.
So instead, design your website to be accessible and easy to navigate. Remember that simplicity is better. How easy is it to find all the different pages on your site? Use a flat hierarchy (as opposed to deep hierarchy) to help ensure that all content is easy to find and understand.
7. Create a Quiz
Who doesn’t love quizzes? They are enjoyable, shareable and hard to resist. Design a quiz for your website that somehow relates to your brand. If your company sells jeans, for instance, you could create a quiz called, “What are the best jeans for your body?” and in the results, show the brand’s recommended jeans. But remember—before showing results, be sure to capture the visitor’s e-mail address.
8. Make Your Website Speed Lightening Fast
Thanks to decreasing attention spans, it should come as no surprise that people don’t have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for a site to load. According to a study by Akamai, 40% of people leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Keep users on your website by making sure that it’s running as fast as possible. A few simple ways that you can increase website speed are by reducing the number of plugins on your site, compressing images and enabling browser caching.
9. Add a Chat Box to the Homepage
Make it as easy as possible for website visitors to connect with you by adding a live chat box to your homepage. Include a name and photo in the chat box so that users know they are talking to a real, live person and not just an automated robot. When there is nobody to monitor the live chat, be sure to mention that, by saying something along the lines of, “Nobody is here right now but feel free to leave a message and we will get back to you shortly!”
10. Analyze Data
What blog posts are generating the most views? What subjects are most popular? And how can you create more, similar content? These are some of the questions you’ll want to be asking yourself as you analyze your website data. Determine what pages are resulting in the most bounces (exit pages) and the pages through which people are entering your site the most (entry pages). For instance, if the majority of people are leaving your site after reaching the About page, that’s a pretty clear indication that something should be changed there.
11. Link to Related Posts
The longer you can keep visitors on your site, the more likely it is that they will end up converting. So at the end of each blog post, show your readers similar posts that they might enjoy. And of course, if possible, include photos with the titles.
12. Be Mobile-Friendly
As of February 2016, mobile users accounted for a whopping 56% of website traffic. With this percentage only expected to rise, creating a responsive website design has become absolutely imperative to driving conversions. Unfortunately, visitor engagement tends to be lower amongst mobile-users (I blame non-responsive website design for that).
Whether you want your website visitors merely to contact you or to make a hefty purchase, getting them to convert is not always easy. But if you can keep your audience engaged, you are one step closer to those conversions.
And who knows, you just might increase your average visitor’s attention span to exceed that of a goldfish…