Every page you create has a purpose.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sales page, a subscription page, an about page, a blog post, or any other kind of page.
You publish it for a reason. You want something to happen.
Maybe you want someone to share the page on social media. Or you want readers to sign up for a newsletter. Or register for an event. Or click through to a sales page. Or complete a purchase.
Scratch the surface and you’ll find every page has a purpose.
But that purpose is rarely achieved if people don’t read to the end of the content.
To maximize the number of people who take action, you need to review every page you write and ask yourself if anything is getting in the way of them reading it from start to finish.
Remember, your reader’s attention is fragile. There are plenty of other pages she could be reading. Give her half an excuse and she’ll abandon you in a heartbeat.
And when that happens, your page just failed to achieve its purpose.
Let’s look at four common causes of that scenario.
Reason #1: You use too many empty words or phrases
Keeping in mind your readers’ fragility of attention, avoid writing like this:
“Always striving for excellence, from our very inception, a visionary, vigilant, and flexible approach has ensured that we are awake to the exciting possibilities science and technology allow, so that we can offer you beautiful, precise, and high-quality hardwood floors.”
I know. It’s hard to imagine that sentence ever got to see the light of day. Forty-one words that tell us absolutely nothing. But yes, that’s a real example, taken from the wild.
Here’s another one:
“These changes reflect our view that tighter integration and closer collaboration between our teams is a critical component of sustainably growing our business. While this process has required us to make some really tough decisions, we believe that rigorously ensuring our team structure always aligns with our goals will make us stronger.”
This is what they were trying to say … (in my own words, not theirs):
“Yeah, we had to fire some people.”
The point being, all that blah blah blah is a great way to drive people away.
Long phrases and sentences with almost zero meaning instantly dilute your readers’ interest and attention.
Empty calories. Air bubbles in a water pump. Not helpful.
Reason #2: You focus on more than one thing
This is a problem as old as marketing itself.
A savvy copywriter knows that to achieve the best results from any page, you need to stay focused on just one thing.
- Coffee makers. Not coffee makers and coffee grinders.
- Time tracking. Not time tracking and invoicing.
- Running shoes. Not running shoes and climbing boots.
But it seems every marketing overlord in history always thinks it would be a cool idea to cover more than one topic per page.
I think it’s a bet-hedging thing.
“If they don’t buy the coffee maker, maybe they’ll buy the coffee grinder.”
Unlikely. Because by dividing everyone’s attention into two different directions, you’re halving the likelihood they’ll buy either one.
By all means, add links to related topics. But keep the focus of your page on a single item, service, or idea.
Reason #3: Your page looks or feels like hard work
This is a close cousin to Reason #1.
Empty words and phrases make it harder to read your page.
That 41-word sentence about hardwood floors is difficult to read because your mind is trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
A huge cognitive load is dumped on the reader. The author is asking his readers to do the work he should have done himself.
“Dear Reader, I’m too lazy to spend the time communicating my point simply and with clarity, so I’m going to dump 41 words of nonsense on your lap and ask you to figure it out at your end.”
Not going to happen.
Never ask your readers to do the heavy lifting.
Always find the simplest ways to make your point.
And then use short words and short sentences.
Makes it super-easy to read. And understand.
Reason #4: You fail to engage your readers at an emotional level
Readers are not engaged by descriptions or facts, so don’t just list 25 amazing features of the software you’re selling.
If you want someone to keep reading to the end, you need to make him feel something. Find a way to engage him emotionally.
Tell him how using the software will free up tons of time he can then spend with his friends and family. Or how it will make him look good to his boss. Or make him a hero to other members of his team.
Lists of features do have a role to play. They can seal the deal.
But first you need to engage people at an emotional level. Touch them. Move them.
An emotionally engaged reader is not only a lot more likely to keep reading to the end of the page, but he’s also more likely to buy and then become a fan of your business.
Bonus: a 5th and final reason
I thought I was done with four reasons.
But I have one more suggestion. It’s a bit of a mashup of what we’ve covered so far.
When you get to the end of any page you’re writing, go back and make sure there is no break in the flow or unintended shift in the pace.
Sometimes a single sentence or paragraph can break the flow of an entire page.
And when that happens — when you make the reader pause or stumble — you lose a ton of readers. Remember the part about attention being fragile.
What do I mean by a break in flow or pace?
It could be you’re falling victim, even in a small way, to reason #1. Too much blah blah blah. Wading through that stuff is a total pace-killer.
Or maybe you’re having a problem with reason #2. You’re inserting a related thought or idea that’s kind of relevant, but actually more of a distraction. And as a result, you’re breaking the flow.
That last point? That’s one of my personal weaknesses as a writer.
I have the mind of a magpie and the attention span of a gnat.
The longer I spend on a page, the more likely I am to start breaking the flow with distracting ideas.
There’s a lesson there for all of us.
Know your weaknesses as a writer. Be aware of how you’re likely to fail your readers and lose them before the end of the page.
Then go back and revise.
Nick Usborne has been working as a copywriter and trainer for over 35 years. His book, Net Words, published by McGraw-Hill in 2001, paved the way for a new generation of online writers and copywriters. Nick is the founder of Conversational Copywriting.