Billions of dollars have been spent to get the Internet’s attention, only to discover the one surefire way to get that attention is to be cheap and shameless. We refer, of course, to festooning your articles with pictures of cats.
The Internet loves cats. If you’re selling cats, you’re pretty much done here. If you aren’t selling cats, though, you’ve got to hold attention. Here’s how to do it.
Trust Your Audience
Your average Internet user is generally compared to a weasel that’s just eaten an entire crate of caffeine pills. This is inaccurate, mostly because your average Internet user won’t bite you repeatedly and without provocation.
But the truth is, they wouldn’t be at your website, reading your content, if they weren’t at least somewhat interested in the topic. So, cater to your audience: If they’re looking for information quickly, put that up front. If they want more in-depth information, dig in. Amazingly, giving people what they want tends to get and hold their attention.
Start With A Point
Think of an Internet article like an arrow, because aside from the minor differences of “being a concrete object” and “being fired from a bow”, they’re pretty much the exact same thing. You use the point to get attention, and then the rest of the arrow is follow through to drive your point home. Internet articles, however, generally hurt less.
So how do you find your point? Pretty simple; what are you trying to advocate for? Your product? Your specific opinion on a topic? How much it hurts to be shot with an arrow? How to stretch a metaphor to its breaking limit? That’s your point.
Back It Up, Back It Up
From there, you need to get your point across. Here’s where it’s harder, because with arrows, you generally get your point across by firing it at somebody; that point generally being “I don’t particularly like you and would like you to stop moving.” With articles, though, it needs to be a bit more subtle.
For example, if your point is “Archery is harder than it looks”, you might talk about your personal experience at the archery range. But if you’re arguing that something is a fact, approach it from a more factual perspective, like how many over-caffeineated weasel attacks are reported to the FBI (fewer than you’d think).
We all have a relative who will just talk and talk and talk and talk and generally come to a conclusion that was obvious about forty minutes ago, like “Archery is not an effective tactic against an over-caffineated weasel.” The difference is, on the Internet, we can literally teleport far, far away from these people and go somewhere else.
So, keep it concise. The last thing you want to do is conceptualize a journalistic piece so dramatically that it obsfucates any attempt to decipher its meaning. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t say it to somebody’s face, don’t put it on the page.
Break Up Articles Into Subheads
Hey, if your readers have a short attention span, feed ‘em the article in pieces.
Worked on you, didn’t it?
With a little work and giving it your personal touch, you’ll be able to keep your audience hanging on the edge of their seat right up to the very end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a weasel problem that needs taking care of.