How to make your content get the attention you want

31 Aug How to make your content get the attention you want


One thousand one…

Two one thousand…

Three one thousand.

Two-point-eight seconds — probably less time than it took you to read the above. This is your window of opportunity to “hook” website visitors — whether on your homepage, via social media or through online advertising.

This is according to a 2012 study conducted by the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The eye-tracking study found that online visitors form their first opinion of your brand in two-tenths of second, and it takes just 2.6 seconds longer for the viewer to reinforce their first impression.

The competition for attention today is fierce. Some sources estimate that each of us sees 3000-plus advertising, marketing and branding messages every day. Others put the number much higher. Although no definitive study has been done that we could find, it is certain that clutter prevails. It is mightily difficult to stand apart from the crowd.

Start with your headline

The average American adult reads at a rate of about 250 words a minute, according to the Staples speed reading test. (Click the link to test your own speed. It’s kind of fun to see how you rate.)

In 2.8 seconds you get maybe 11 or 12 words to leave your impression. Studies show that six words may be optimal. That’s because according to the Serial Position Effect, people tend to remember the first and last few words they see. So to cut through the clutter of advertising and marketing messages out there today, you need to focus on crafting a great headline.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”
−David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Tibetan terrier and fan
Some say that you should spend 80% of your time on the headline and what comes immediately after it — a deck or the lead sentence(s). The point is that the headline is critical and gets far too little attention. Writers and editors slave over perfecting the story when all work is for naught if no one clicks and reads it in the first place.

Then work on the visual

Content That Works has produced engaging niche content for more than 16 years. We always think it is the great storytelling that sells the native ads and content packages.

Wrong. Research shows – and our customers tell us – that it is the visual presentation that makes the sale. A great graphic commands twice as much time as the words according to the Missouri University of Science and Technology study cited above. Choose your visual presentation carefully.


Too often editors and advertisers opt for photos and graphics that illustrate rather than compliment and expand on the meaning of the article. One of my favorite native ads for a heating and air conditioning company used the photo shown here to draw attention. A dog in front of a fan has nothing to do with fuel efficient cooling, which was the actual topic of the native story. However, by adding the picture the topic was broadened to comfort, something everyone wants and understands. It is a brilliant choice.

Serious editors wouldn’t dare stoop to puppies, kittens or babies to lure readers. Or would they? This photo of the young boy appeared on news sites everywhere and went viral on social media. It expanded to a story of the war in Syria and personalized it in an effort to remind us all of the horrible impact war has on the young and helpless. The image goes beyond illustration to expand the topic to something with which every parent can understand and sympathize.

Don’t waste your 10 seconds of fame

Still, you have less than 10 seconds to leave an engaging impression on potential customers, whether you are an advertiser trying to promote your brand or an editor trying to get readers to engage with the most important stories of the day.

Therefore, it is critical to take the time and make the effort to write truly engaging headlines and find compelling graphics. Otherwise you will miss the opportunity to reach and influence your potential audience.

There is no such thing as a boring story. Truly. But most newspapers, telecasts and news in general are littered with indifferent storytelling and visual presentation that is even worse.

This is, in fact, the reason so much sponsored content often commands double the time of engagement of news stories. Native advertising can be boring advertising, but when the headline sings and the visual presentation soars the results are a thing of beauty.

Enjoy this pre-Labor Day story, well-told, and be sure to view it at work!