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News to nowhere

I’ve got some news for you: you know that 800+ word news story / press release / web article you are about to put onto your service based site? Well chances are no one is going to read it all – not because they can’t find it – Chances are your pushing this stuff down the throat of everyone who visits your site – more likely is they don’t care, and the second one is they just don’t have the time to wade through it.

How do I know all of this? Well I don’t! But I know a few things, and when you put them together it all points to no one reading your story so lets’ see what I am ranting about now.

Reading speed

First off unless you are a speed reader you reading speed will be around 250 words per minute so an 800 word document is going to take around 3 minutes and 12 seconds to read.

Average time on page

Now this varies a lot, but on Liverpool.gov.uk – its 51 seconds site wide, that’s more like 40 for most of the pages and up to 3 minutes to the pages about benefits.

How many words?

Let’s take an amazingly simplified (and weighted towards you) view. And say the second the page loads the visitor starts reading, in 51 seconds they are going to get through 212 words (that’s the red dagger on this page), if they hang around for 1.30 they will get through 375 words. (blue dagger below) – but they probably will have gone by then.

Make it readable (And short)

So what are you to do? Well let’s stop short of telling you not to write that’s news article (that’s for another day). First off, write using an inverted pyramid, if the user is going to read it – get them the important information first.

Second put in good headings and sub headings, the reality is people scan on the web, so get them good headings down the page that let them see what each bit is going to tell them.

Where it makes sense highlight keywords, and make your “calls to action” nice and noticeable, more often than not that’s what people are looking for anyway.

(Disclaimer – I am not a content writer, I’m actually very bad at the practice of writing, I just understand some principles, I can’t actually do them – hence this isn’t a comprehensive writing for the web article.)

(250 words, probibly less – that’s reading on paper, screen is around 32% – 11% slower, depending on the site)