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How Writers Can Attract and Keep Reader’s Attention

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With experience writing hundreds of articles online, Glenn Stok likes to help others with revealing observations and helpful techniques.

Focused readers help increase search traffic.

Focused readers help increase search traffic.

When you use the methods I describe below, readers will remain engaged with your content and return for more. Focused readers help increase organic traffic because search engines detect that as quality.

How to Keep Your Reader's Attention

An article needs to provide instant answers. The rest of the article can elaborate further. The idea behind that is that if you get them hooked, they will stay for more and finish reading the entire article.

To accomplish that, you need to give people what they expected. You need to do it fast! Stay focused, and eliminate useless words. Proofread several times to detect of you are not following that strategy. That extra effort will be worth the time you spend on it.

I always find myself making improvements each time I read my own articles, even a year or so later. It keeps getting better and better.

How Do Readers Feel About Your Writing?

The most important thing to consider is how your readers respond to your writing.

  • Do they find it useful?
  • Does it provide the answer they were expecting?
  • Did you deliver on your promise based on your title?
  • Does it hold your reader's attention all the way through by staying focused on what the title says?

These points are the most crucial to remember whenever you are writing something new. If you fail with any one of them, it can have a drastic negative impact on the success of your content.

Avoid Mistakes That Frustrate Readers

Useful and easy-to-read content is essential. If a reader realizes they are getting something worthwhile from your article, they will keep reading to the end.

Pay attention to your writing from a reader’s point of view and honestly answer these questions:

  • Are you rambling on?
  • Are you going off on tangents?
  • Are you unclear about things?
  • Are you failing to make your point?

Any of these things can cause a reader to become frustrated and leave. You want to focus on keeping their attention.

Use Short and Purposeful Paragraphs

Short paragraphs are easier to comprehend. Make sure your page does not look intimidating. Spacing between paragraphs helps avoid eye strain and makes it easier to read.

There is an undesirable side-effect of having cluttered paragraphs. If a reader sees no spaces between paragraphs, they tend to feel that there is too much to read, and they click away before reading the first sentence.

  • It's best to separate your thoughts into blocks of text with helpful subtitles for each section.
  • It can also be helpful to separate various thoughts into numbered or bulleted paragraphs.
  • Anything that makes it easier for the reader to comprehend what you're talking about is what you need to do. Always keep that in mind.

Avoid Attracting the Wrong Readers

It's important to avoid words that may be used by search engines as incorrect keywords. That will attract people who were searching for something that's not related. Once they stumble on your page and see that it's not what they want, they leave in a hurry.

If too many people click away quickly, search engines take this to mean that your article had nothing of value. Search engines monitor how long visitors stay on a web page. They use that information to improve their response to keyword queries. That affects your ranking.

If readers stay for a long time, then your content must be useful and meaningful. Therefore, you get improved ranking and more traffic is sent your way.

When I see a short duration in my stats, I examine the article to discover why I might have lost my readers so fast. Then I make appropriate improvements.

Clean Up Your Comments

Google ranking is based on comments too. When people say things like "nice article" or "good work," I delete those. I do appreciate them, but they are not useful for the general public. Readers who browse comments are looking for information that is meaningful to the subject.

Poor grammar can especially affect ranking, so it's best to delete those comments too.

Reader's Questions Can Help You Improve

If you get a lot of questions from readers about your content, your article may need additional work. Take advantage of the questions your readers ask to learn what needs to be improved.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I missing critical information in the article?
  • Am I not clear with the way I explain things?
  • Is something else causing the problem that I can improve upon?

Move the Best Comments to the Main Body

When I update an article, I look through the reader comments for ideas.

The most valuable questions people ask and the answers I give would be more useful if included in the body of the article. They tend to get lost in the endless flow of comments. So I remove them from the comments, edit to repurpose them, and place them in the article where it makes the most sense.

While at it, I do two other things:

  1. I improve the wording of the questions and correct any grammar or spelling errors.
  2. I modify the original question with SEO in mind, and I rework my original answer with proper keywords so that it attracts Google search.

Google loves it when you keep your content fresh with new ideas.

Check Your Spelling and Grammar Before Publishing

Poorly constructed sentences, poor grammar, and misspellings all negatively affect your ranking. So use a spell checker before you publish, and proofread several times.

An error I often see people make is the incorrect spelling of "alot" – There is no such word in English. The correct term is "a lot" as two words.

I see that mistake made a lot. I bet if you allot more time to spell checking, you’ll do better with ranking. Ahh, did you catch that? The word “allot” with two L's is a valid word with an entirely different meaning.

I also find many people confusing "there” and “their” and “they’re.” There are times when they're not paying attention to their spelling.

We all make mistakes. And that's why we need to check our work carefully before considering it worthy for the public.

Me — proofreading my work.

Me — proofreading my work.

Repeat Proofreading Several Times

When we proofread our material, we tend to see what we thought we wrote rather than what we typed. That goes to show how important it is to have someone else proofread it for us.

I find it helpful to reread my articles many months later. I guess that works because we tend to see the words in a different light—as if we’re reading it for the first time.

Sometimes when I read something I wrote a while ago, I realize it could be misinterpreted. Worse yet, it could be confusing. I’m always refining many of my published articles. It will be well-worth your time to consider doing that too.

Help Visitors Return for More

Having "Repeat Visitors" is an indication of the usefulness of your article. Google refers to them as loyal readers.

Search engines rank by repeat traffic. Google Analytics reports show how many views are unique and how many are repeat visitors.

If people are coming back, it's an indication that you have content that they found helpful and that they may need to review it again. Therefore, search engines bump up your ranking. That helps you get higher in the search results page (SERPs) and get more organic traffic.

To help readers find your article in case they want to read it again, make sure your title is descriptive and easy to remember. Long-tail keywords are helpful for SEO purposes, but try to keep it short and directly to the point.

Google Analytics Reports Provide Vital Information

Your Google Analytics Reports show you where visitors came from, what keywords they used to find you, how long they stayed, and where they went next.

I review the stats from time to time, and I look for problems such as a short view duration. That means I lost the reader before they got through the article. If I see a correlation with poor traffic, I work on it to make improvements.

To review the stats on any particular article, follow these steps in your Google Analytics account:

  1. Change the time period in the top right corner to cover the days or months you want to review.
  2. Click on Behavior → Site Content → All Pages
  3. Select any article you want to review.

You’ll see a graph showing page views over the time period you had selected, similar to the example below. Columns of data below the graph provide additional information. The most useful data are total page views, unique page views, average time on page, and bounce rate.

Example Google Analytics Report of One Article Over Four Months

Example Google Analytics Report of One Article Over Four Months

Keep a Log of Changes for Future Reference

It’s helpful to keep a log of changes. It pays off later when you need to review what you did.

When I examine the graph of page views that I mentioned above, sometimes I discover that Google traffic dropped several months ago. That’s useful information. I go to my log of changes that I kept, and I check to see if I did something at that time that might have messed it up, so I know what I need to fix.

You can keep a log of changes any way you prefer. I'll give you two examples. I use both of these:

1. Using a Note File for Log of Changes

I use a note file to keep a list of the articles where I made changes. Every entry includes the date, the title, and a description of the changes I made. For example, I make a note of what I did, such as:

  • Changed title.
  • Changed summary.
  • Added new content.
  • Corrected spelling and/or grammar.
  • Added keywords suggested by Google.
  • Added or changed images used in the article.

Later, I can review this log and compare it to the traffic changes to discover what worked and what failed.

2. Using an Excel Spreadsheet for Log of Changes

I also keep an excel spreadsheet of all my articles showing word count, publish date, last change date, and other items I find useful to keep tabs on, such as if I shared it on social media.

You might want to adjust the information you keep in your log as you begin to see which items help you keep track of changes better. For example, sometimes I feel the need to keep track of some specific type of change I do to many articles. So I add another column to the spreadsheet to track it.

That may sound like a lot of work, but the information accumulated from this effort is a goldmine. I put as much time into this as I do writing new articles. I’m always learning something new that Google reacts to from my activity.

Eavesdrop on Your Readers in Real-Time

I sometimes eavesdrop on my readers by watching Google Analytics Real-time View. That gives me an idea of what people are doing.

I can see all my articles that are being read at the moment. I can see if readers pop in and out quickly, or if they are actually (possibly) reading. Sure, maybe they left the computer while leaving it on the screen. That's always considered a small piece of the statistics data.

Watching the activity of readers in real-time helps me decide if modifications are needed.

My Real-Time View in Google Analytics

My Real-Time View in Google Analytics

Use Images Correctly

The main image should represent your subject matter. It provides a quick way to show the reader what it's about before they start reading. All images should help the reader understand the subject.

Note that images from "Google Images" may be copyrighted, so follow those links to the actual source and check on the license. Don’t use images from the web that may be copyrighted.

If you use images that are Creative Commons License, then give the proper credit. Creative Commons has rules. Sometimes they require that you display a credit to the originator.

Many image sites indicate how you need to include a credit reference. Some image sites, such as Pixabay, do not require attribution. However, I still like to be courteous to the photographer. Besides, it helps maintain authority.

Always include proper attribution with images.

Always include proper attribution with images.

Watch Out for Plagiarism

If traffic suddenly slows down on a good article, it might have been copied. I use Google Alerts to monitor for plagiarism by placing a couple of random sentences from my articles into each alert.

When I find a copy anywhere, I file a takedown notice under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That’s the correct way to say it. I notice that many people say they sent a DMCA. You’re not sending a copyright act. You’re sending a takedown notice under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the DMCA.

Keep It Manageable

I’ve deleted many of my published articles over the years because they didn’t perform well enough to warrant my attention. I feel it’s better to keep a manageable number of articles. Otherwise, the task of maintenance gets too cumbersome.

Whatever quantity you feel satisfied with is right for you. The key point is quality over quantity.

I see many writers complaining that they have to update to keep up with changes to Google requirements. Some people have written thousands of articles, and many are out of date with incorrect information. Of course! How can they keep up with it?

You might say, “why not just delete those articles that are not getting traffic?” It’s more complicated than that. After a year or so, when I see that an article is not getting decent organic traffic, I investigate by reviewing the following steps:

  1. I review the search strings Google and Bing are reporting that people had used when finding my article. Sometimes I discover where I should elaborate. Other times I get misguided traffic that’s not interested in the subject. Google misguided them because of the overuse of a keyword that is not related to the subject.
  2. I research the entire subject online to see if my competition is getting in the way. Maybe their articles appear in the SERPs higher than mine. In that case, I rework my material to try to improve the search results.
  3. Sometimes I find mistakes I’ve made in older articles. I update them, enhance their quality, and then watch to see if it brings them back to life. I always work at improving all my articles. Google loves it when articles have fresh content added that's useful and serves the purpose initially promised by the title.

To Conclude

It takes time for Google to test new articles by sending a few readers at first. The Google bots register the view duration and the return-rate (loyalty) of each reader.

If the results are positive, then Google keeps increasing your ranking and eventually you get much more traffic.

When you use the methods I described, you will keep your readers focused on your content and show search engines that you have quality content.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Glenn Stok

Reader Comments

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 31, 2019:

Vivian Coblentz - The comments people leave are overlooked by many writers. But Google bots can’t tell the difference and will include it in the content ranking. It’s one of the easiest jobs to tackle, cleaning up low quality and off topic comments.

Vivian Coblentz on July 31, 2019:

I had no idea the comment section could affect Google ranking, so thanks for that tip. I'm intimidated by technology and have never tackled Google Analytics, but your step-by-step instructions make it sound easy, so maybe I will give it a try.

Val Karas from Canada on March 03, 2018:

Glenn---From a writer's point of view it may only be a hobby, meaning that they don't primarily look at it as a source of income---BUT---yes, as you say, in the view of Google it's a business and nothing but.

So, in order to justify our presence on Google's pages we have to respect their rules, and for doing that, your advices come as a godsend, because they contain practically all that we should keep in mind.

I understand that "freedom of literary expression" may, and does mislead many a writer into becoming sloppy and not caring about the reader's interests and their taste for artful presentation.

So, whether we treat our writing as a hobby or as our source of income--like the saying goes: "If anything is worth doing, it's worth doing it right."

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 05, 2017:

Anusha Jain - You really got it! That’s great. I always have to keep that in mind when writing articles.

And a month or two after publishing, I always check the search arguments Google shows that were being used. If I see something wrong, I make changes to compensate for it.

Anusha Jain from Delhi, India on November 05, 2017:

Glenn, I think you have included some very valid points here. I especially resonate with "Don't Attract the Wrong Readers". This can happen inadvertently if the author is not being careful.

Online writing is very different from that required in traditional articles. Metaphors, analogies were considered to be a very good medium of explaining something to the readers. However, the Search Engines may pick up wrong audiences for us because of words or phrases which were not meant to be "keywords" for this article. And once the visitors realize their mistake, they obviously don't waste any time and hurry away, spoiling the bounce rate for us. So we really have to be careful while creating our posts.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 07, 2014:

Jlbowden - Ha ha. Thanks for that humorous ending to your comment Jim. Those are indeed very realistic grammar issues we see sometimes.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on December 07, 2014:

Glenn:

Thank you for sharing this really good to know information, for all writers from different walks of life. It's funny how we often forget about the correct usage of they're, their and there isn't it.

And something as simple as separating the A from Lot, which a lot of us our often guilty of doing. And you forgot one of my old foes - Then and Than. Those two words can be confusing to many in placing correctly within a sentence.

But overall a great refresher for everyone using the English language on a daily basis with added reminders on how to catch and keep our readers attention early on in our articles

Again thanks for sharing this awesome article which I also thought deserved a Siskel & Ebert - two thumbs up! (;

Jim

Donna Cosmato from USA on December 01, 2011:

Hey, Glenn...you're welcome! I love alliteration and word plays. They are such fun and they spice up writing, don't you think? That is just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading your hubs so much:)

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 27, 2011:

DonnaCosmato ~ Thanks so much for your perceptive comments. It means a lot to me to be reviewed by a contributing editor such as you.

Thanks for adding "it's" vs "its" - that is also one of my pet peeves too. I see it much too often and it's troubling to see good authors who make this mistake without considering its effect on otherwise quality Hubs.

I appreciate the vote up. Thanks for that and for your comments.

Donna Cosmato from USA on November 27, 2011:

Hi Glenn, this is another great article with lots of great advice. Just to answer a question that you cleverly embedded in the text, I think you did an awesome job of keeping my attention without boring me to death.

As a contributing editor for another site, I'd like to send you a thousand virtual kudos for the section on proofreading and grammar mistakes.

The only one you did not include is my personal pet peeve, which is using "it's" when one should use "its" and vice versa.

It's a shame (yes it is) that with all the free software programs and spellcheckers on the market so many freelance writers still publish work that is full of grammatical errors and misspelled words.

Anyway, it has taken me this long to process and put to good use the information from your hub on how to raise your hub score (it is working well, thank you for the tips.) Now I'm looking forward to watching my bounce rate decline as I use the valuable tips you have provided here.

I voted this up in hopes it will increase the popularity of this excellent tutorial and many more people can benefit from it.

Kindest regards,

Donna

Andrew Grosjean from Detroit on December 25, 2009:

Thanks for the info. I have been plugging along here for about 2 months and this was insightful. I loved that bit about "alot" "a lot" and "allot." LOL.

Thanks

EngagementRing from Los Angeles on December 21, 2009:

Great hub Glenn! I think when you are doing SEO you concentrate more on getting people to your site than actually keeping there. This made me realize that I need to focus on both.

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on December 18, 2009:

Thanks for all the great info Glenn. I must admit that my favourite part of Google Analytics is looking at the map of where people come from! Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination!

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 18, 2009:

Anath, I get lost with it too. Just take your time and click around the left-hand column in Google Analytics. That's how I discovered all this various information and charts. Over time, you will make some sense out of all the data and you'll start seeing patterns.

An interesting pattern is how many readers come back and when. I noticed by reviewing the Visitor Loyalty table, I see that roughly 47% are new people each day. 38% revisit in the same day and only 3% the come back next day. Then it drops until 15 to 30 days later, when old visitors come back and look again. I guess it might mean that I have readers who are remembering me and curious to see what's I've done since their last visit, or need to check out something they previously read. Either way, I find that encouraging.

I also see that I have a large number of bounces. Those are people who hit a hub and left in a few seconds. That's why I feel these reports are so important to use, even if they are difficult.

Anath on December 18, 2009:

I get lost every time I look at Google Analytics. There is so much information in there that I don't really know what to look for and what to do with it. I am sure I could be using it for my benefit but it is still an unknow field to me.

Thanks for all the other tips, interesting the effect of unique vs. repeat visits.

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