How to keep your readers reading

By Candice Kortlever

You have less than ten seconds to convince readers to stay on your website, studies show. The good news is if you get them to stay for 30 seconds, you have likely convinced them to stay for a few minutes more. 

So the question is, how do you bridge that 20+ second gap?

A good starting point for producers of online content is to understand the reading patterns of consumers.

Here are some high-level pointers. 

The F-shaped reading pattern

Most people browse pages in an F-shaped pattern – across the top, along the left side, and a little in the middle. 

They often don’t read in detail preferring to skim through articles for a few seconds – looking out for key words that interest them.

It’s important to keep this pattern in mind when:

  • Writing the key message.
  • Using key words.
  • Using graphics, images and video.

Placing these items in the areas marked red in the above image is a good start to keeping readers on-site. 

Also, consider the strength of your headline and opening paragraph. Do they grab the reader before they have a chance to leave? If not, rework them until they do.

The Inverted Pyramid:

A good way to entice your reader to the content is to use the inverted pyramid style, familiar to most journalists. 

As the F pattern suggests, readers may not read to the end of the article if nothing grabs their attention. By placing your key message up top, you give it the best chance of being noticed.

If you have three points to make, prioritise them and share your best one first.

Understanding how your readers read gives you an edge in digital publishing and will go a long way in helping you create engaging and shareable content.