As a content marketer, I'd like to think people are always completely engrossed by my content, that from the very first word of a blog post or eBook, they're hooked, that each carefully crafted sentence makes them want to read the next, and the next - all the way to the very end.
But I've seen enough statistics to know that for most online content, that's not the case: One out of three people spends less than 15 seconds reading an article they come across online - on average, a reader will only consume 20% of the content on a page.
That means most readers aren't getting anywhere near the call to action at the end of your content, much less clicking that link and engaging more deeply with you.
It's depressing, but surprising? Maybe not. After all, you've probably done it yourself after searching for something online: Click the first link, skim the first paragraph, click the back button, repeat.
What's behind that snap judgment? What makes a reader turn back rather than keep reading? It's easy to blame the human attention span, which is now shorter than that of a goldfish. But even if that's true, there are also a few common content mistakes that make readers run for the hills.
1. It's full of errors
Nothing drives my mouse to the back button quicker than sloppy grammatical errors in a blog post. And, sure, maybe I hone in on that more than the average reader because looking for those kinds of mistakes is part of my job. But to me, grammatical errors mean one thing: You don't take your content seriously. Credible content doesn't come from someone who mistakes their with there or you're with your.
Those errors point to bigger issues. It makes me wonder if you're actually an authority on the subject, or if you're so focused on pumping out a huge quantity of content that you fail to focus on the quality of it. Either way, it's a big red flag, and I'm going to continue my reading elsewhere.
2. It doesn't look good
Today's readers skim. They look at the headline and subheads and bullet points in your content to try to absorb as much information as possible in the smallest amount of time. So if they show up to your content and it's a big wall-o-text, they're not going to stick around.
But there's more. What if a reader visits a link on his mobile device, but the content doesn't adjust to fit his screen? Is he going to have the patience to zoom in and out to read the entire article? While you may be focused on the quality of the content, you should also consider the design of the page. Graphics, images, and layout play a big role in keeping readers engaged.
3. It morphed into a sales pitch
No one likes clickbait headlines. They draw you in, promising content that's going to rock your world, then deliver a big fat disappointment. Unfortunately, the same thing happens with a lot of content marketing. At the beginning, a blog post may promise readers value and education - but one paragraph in, it turns into a sales pitch for the company or product.
The thing is, the purpose of content marketing is to build trust, to educate your audience, to show them that you're an expert in your field. And when they come to an article expecting to learn, only to realize halfway through it's a thinly veiled sales pitch, they lose that trust.
When people realize they're being sold to - especially when they're not ready to be sold to - they leave.
4. It's been done a million times before
Your audience wants to read your information. Your headline drew them in, or they found the link through your newsletter, or the link showed up on a Google search. However they got there, they got there because they're interested in that topic.
But what they don't want is the same information that they've read 100 times before. If they're still looking for that information, it means they haven't found what they're looking for - so if you're just mimicking the information that's already out there, they're not going to stay for long.
To keep your readers engaged through the end, you have to learn to present information in an interesting, fresh way.
5. It doesn't interest readers
Sometimes, people come across your content, read a few paragraphs, and - gasp - realize they're not interested. They don't have a need for it. It's just not what they're looking for. So, they leave.
But that's OK. Your content need not appeal to everyone. If you're doing your job of developing interesting, compelling content for your audience, the main party it's going to attract is your audience. And if other readers stumble upon that content and decide they want to leave, I say let 'em (because they probably weren't ever going to buy from you anyway).
Rather than asking you to focus solely on creating great content, I challenge you to focus on great content, smart design, an honest headline, thorough proofreading, and correct audience targeting - all with a unique perspective. Creating that kind of content is hard, but worth it.