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Do Your Visitors Read Your Website Copy?

Posted 28th January, 2013 by Aliysa

It's no secret that effective web design can instantly attract the attention of those who land on your website; however, hooking and maintaining the attention of those visitors for long enough that they consume the key contents of a web page is increasingly problematic. To effectively write for the web it's essential to understand visitor behaviour; where do they look first, what do they read and how do they determine the usefulness of a page. Eye tracking studies by Yahoo reveal a general pattern in the way people browse web pages:

  1. A visitor determines the usefulness of a web page in as little as three seconds.
  2. If a reader decides to stay on a web page, they focus their attention on the contents in the top part of the screen.
  3. Reader's eyes sweep horizontally from left to right, often focusing on a roughly triangular area in the upper-left corner.

Heat map of eye movement on Google

(A rendered heat map highlighting visitor's eye movement on Google. Red/Yellow patches indicate areas most viewed by the user.)

Whilst visitor eye movement is bound to differ according to each web page (due to differences in layout and style), the patterns recognised from such studies should not be ignored, and where possible website owners should endeavour to make changes to ensure copy on their site is fully optimised and positioned. Even the smallest of changes, such as updating titles, might make the difference in boosting user engagement and reducing new-visitor bounce rates.

Below we have formulated a list of basic tips and tricks to help you hone the copy on your web pages; If we've missed something out or you have a tip of your own - please add it in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

1. Include Compelling Titles & Sub-Headings

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When scanning a web page readers use titles and sub-headings as signposts to quickly identify content which is of interest to them. Highlighting key information by effectively labelling and dividing your content will offer readers with a clear insight into the contents of your page.

2. Make Your Content Reader Friendly

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Keep your content appealing and make it simple to read and digest by breaking up large chunks of text into manageable bite size pieces, incorporating bullet points, tables and relevant images.

3. Position Important Information Above The Page Fold

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With readers determining the usefulness of a page in as little as 3 seconds, it’s beneficial to position valuable content in highly visible areas. Place this information above the page fold so that it's instantly visible without the need for visitors to scroll down the page or click a link. Try hooking visitors by including a short introductory paragraph (excerpt) that summarises your contents.

4. Identify Your Target Audience

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Before embarking on the challenge of writing copy for your web page it’s essential to identify your target audience. This will allow you to effectively adapt the depth of knowledge shared, tone and language of your written copy appropriately for your consumers.

5. Keep It Short & Sweet

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It may be of no surprise that readers are more receptive and more likely to continue reading content that is short and succinct. Ideally a single web page should include no more than 600 words so that readers can quickly scan the contents. If it's essential to provide readers with additional information consider using tool tips or linking through to a more detailed page.

6. Make Use Of Keywords

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Whilst it’s important to use keywords throughout your copy for SEO purposes, strategically placing keywords at the start of titles and within paragraphs will help reassure visitors scanning copy that your site is relevant to their search; in turn this should encourage further engagement and help improve visitor retention rates.

7. Be Consistent

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The importance of consistency throughout copy is often overlooked. Using consistent fonts, terminologies, spellings and abbreviations will make for a more enjoyable read and inevitably help maintain a readers attention.


Categories: WordPress, Web Design, Tips, SEO

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