How to Get People to Read Your Online Content (Rule 1: Relevance)
There's a myth floating around that people don't read online content.
Here's the truth of the matter: People read content online. They just do it differently.
People do read online content. They just read web pages differently from how they read a novel, or a dictionary, or Time magazine. Eye-tracking studies confirm this, but a healthy dose of common sense should make this fact obvious.
· You read Harry Potter differently from the way you read the Chicago Manual of Style
· or the New York Times
· or Better Homes & Gardens
· or your Twitter feed
· or an email from your spouse
· or the menu at Chipotle
· or a billboard on the freeway.
Obviously, you're going to read Internet pages differently from other mediums. People read content in differing ways, depending on where that content appears.
There are two simple rules to remember: Relevance and Skimming.
1. The Rule of Relevance: People will read content that is relevant to them.
Readers yearn for relevant content. Think about a simple example. If you aren't interested in an article on how the USPS is changing mass mailing regulations for businesses, you're probably not going to read nor even scan an article on that subject. If, however, you're a marketing manager who sends out mailers on a weekly basis, you'll want to read the content. The deciding factor on whether or not you read the USPS article is relevance.
E-commerce professional Angie Schottmuller makes this point, "What makes online content great? …It comes down to relevance." People are looking for things that match three criteria in "the triangle of relevance."
The content is important because of the current season. That is, the content coincides with a time or event that adds relevance. People are more likely to read an article about St. Patrick's Day in March rather than in September. Relevance is chronological.
The content resonates with a reader's area of expertise or business. A web designer is not going to be interested in vibratory equipment safety procedures. Relevant content meets a reader on their turf.
The content is significant because of the reader's personal interests. Every individual has their hobbies, interests, curiosities, pet peeves, goals, or dreams. Content that appeals to this set of factors is relevant. Someone who loves vacationing in Mexico will be attracted by a headline for "All-Inclusive Cancun Vacation." People choose to read about things that they love.
Although Schottmuller proposes incorporating every one of these three criteria into your content, this may not always be possible. Realistically, you should target two of the relevance components in order to create content that attracts your readers.
The takeaway here is obvious. Figure out what's relevant to your users, then create that content.
Part 2: Skimming. Stay Tuned.
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