How you read the web - and 5 ways to improve your copywriting
I’ve got some bad news for you. Of all the brilliant, titillating and engaging online content that you are writing for your website, only 28% of those words are read by your audience. Web users don’t gorge over every word when they read the web, they scan for the information that they need. To optimize your copy, you need to understand how people read the web.
The F Word
Our eyes tend to read web pages with this dominant F pattern, rather than left to right, according to research by Neilson Norman. And what does that F mean? Fast, as we scan over pages in seconds, looking for the information we need. We read only two words, before we decide to commit to reading the entire page.
It’s not the same every time, but there is a trend of reading full length of the top bar, a second horizontal movement further down, and little scans dotted in the main copy. This shows how important titles and subheadings are in your content.
The first two paragraphs
If you have made it down this far - hurrah! You are probably one of the 16% of people that read websites word for word! The first two paragraphs are the most read parts of the article, people rarely tend to read beyond this. Make sure that your opening paragraph contains your article summary or conclusion and your first paragraph is a keeper. Keep it to a point per paragraph, and try to be as clear and concise as possible. If you are inserting dictionary hunting terms or words, you are doing it wrong.
The Left/Right divide
The web is the best place to lean to the left, as 70% of words are read on the left hand side of the page, compared to 30% of words on the right. Take advantage of this trend with bullet point lists, and subheadings.
The internet is no Jane Austin - we read the web very differently to books, novels or other documents. When we finally get down to it, we actually read 25% slower when we are online, and this is to do with how we scan for the information we are looking for, picking out individual words and sentences, often re-reading when we having found the information we need the first time around. Highlighting or bolding the important words, tips and keywords. will help your readers find the info they need.
A picture tells a thousand words
A phrase that have never been more true on the internet. How often have you clicked on an article because the image was so inviting? The more relevant images you can use to sell your content the better, as these are better for conveying informations than any paragraphs. And if you want people to like it, put a gif on it.
For more tips and info on writing better copy for your webpages, read more of Neilson’s research.
Rosie M Rogers
Rosie is an online researcher for the BBC, who tweets for @BBCthree by day and crafts by night. You can follow her on twitter @rosiemrogers and read more from her blog: http://rosiemrogers.co.uk