Every writer knows that in order to create effective copy, you need to understand your audience. What makes your target audience tick? What’s important to them? And how do they read?
Well, that last part depends entirely on the medium. A novel reader is going to approach the content of a new book differently than a blog follower will tackle the content of a blog they’ve just discovered. We scour magazines differently than we read newspapers, and so on.
A lot of it has to do with the layout, but one thing is common throughout: when we’re investigating a new piece of content, our eyes move quickly and linger on specific areas before committing to the full piece.
Here are seven habits of online readers that online writers should remember.
1. Online Readers Are Online Scanners
Like all investigative readers, online readers’ eyes will trace the page quickly, catching onto specific points of entry that they’ve learned will offer the best summary of information:
- Bulleted lists
- Short, concise sentences and paragraphs
- Bolded and italicized phrases
It’s important to include your most valuable information in these elements of your web copy. If your readers were to summarize your content in a few words, what would you want them to say? These phrases should stand out so that they’re easily consumed by your visitors.
2. Online Readers Are Niche Readers
By fully understanding the appeal of your blog—what brings people back again and again—you can more accurately cater to your specific audience. Whether your appeal is humor, valuable product reviews, organic recipes, DIY tips, etc., you need to understand who you’re writing for and refrain from deviating from that niche topic of interest. Remember that you can always create another blog if you want to try your hand at other topics.
3. Online Readers Respond Well to Visuals
Whenever possible and applicable, complement your written copy with other forms of media, videos, images, and infographics. Make sure the layout of your copy flows in a natural way, and that your color palette is also natural. Avoid anything that looks gimmicky or cheap (i.e. flashing text). Your visuals should be tasteful and understated. It should never distract from your message or copy, but add an element of interest. Blog posts with images tend to do much better than those without.
4. Online Readers Want You to Get to the Point
Online readers have especially short attention spans and they want their content to cut to the chase as much as possible. There’s not time for a story arc, only for the basics, which includes the 5 Ws: who, what, where, why, and when.
5. Online Readers Want to Laugh When It’s Appropriate
Humor is a good idea when used appropriately, but you need to keep in mind the object of your copy so that your creative liberties don’t distract from or confuse your message. You want your brand and copy to have a personality that readers can relate to, but don’t overdo it. Unless your blog is specifically categorized as humor, it may end up being off-putting to readers who are just looking for specific information.
6. Online Readers Will Click on Links
Make sure any links you include in your copy open up in a new tab so that your original page will always remain open for them to return to, but certainly don’t neglect linking out to your sources. Not only will this ensure giving credit where it’s due, but it will show your readers that you’re well-versed with online etiquette and are genuinely interested in their education on the topic.
What have you noticed about the way online readers behave as opposed to readers of print material?
Nichol, Mark. “7 Tips for Writing for Online Readers.” http://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-tips-for-writing-for-online-readers/. (December 24, 2014.)