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Can your website pass the 10-second test?

Research shows that you have 10 seconds to pique interest before a website visitor decides to stay or leave. That’s it – just 10 seconds.

According to the Neilson Norman Group, 28 percent is the theoretical maximum amount of words users would be able to read on a page if they devoted their entire visit to reading. Clearly, people aren’t reading the entire time they’re on a site. So, in reality, the average amount of text that visitors read is probably somewhere in the 15 to 20 percent range of total page content.

Clearly communicate your value proposition in 10 seconds

With the exception of in-depth articles, blogs and case studies, almost all digital copy can benefit from a strict diet. (Cue the collective copywriter eye roll now.) But the harsh reality is that you have only 10 seconds to tell visitors what you do, why it’s relevant and why they should spend another 10 seconds on your site.

Research has shown that web visitor patterns follow a negative Weibull distribution model. This means that the longer a visitor stays on a website the less likely they are to leave. Therefore, pages with a clear value proposition can exponentially increase visit duration.

Therefore, pages with a clear value proposition can exponentially increase visit duration.

Six tips for user-friendly web writing

Here are six simple digital copywriting tips to help optimize your website and turn that 10-second visitor into a 100-second (or more!) visitor:

  1. Put your copy on a major diet.
    • Less really is more, but it needs to be well thought out.
    • Put the long copy below the fold.
    • No one cares what your mission statement is, so don’t put it on your homepage.
  2. Write for the web and break grammar rules (within reason).
    • Simplify your language and be mindful of your audience.
    • Use sentence fragments and text snippets to help visitors scan easier.
    • Use one- to two-sentence paragraphs.
    • Some rules should never be violated (e.g., “there” vs. “their”).
  3. Use formats that create strong cross-media content.
    • Bullets and sections look good across desktop and mobile platforms.
    • When building a website with a CMS like WordPress, use responsive design themes.
  4. A/B test headlines and use heat-map click patterns.
    • Use services such as UsabilityHub and CrazyEgg to optimize the UI and UX of your buttons, links and calls to action.
  5. Give visitors fewer options.
    • Don’t add unnecessary options.
    • Provide one or two clear buttons above the fold to guide visitors where to go next.
  6. Add interesting facts and statistics.
    • Research has shown that factually rich content attracts readers and keeps their attention.
    • Add infographics as another effective way to reach mobile audiences who are used to scrolling.

Using fewer words doesn’t mean your copy has to suffer. Focus on what you have to offer visitors and what makes you unique. Quality content reigns supreme, and saying something meaningful and concise is more likely to keep them on your website.

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