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How to Create Articles that Keep Readers’ Attention

So, you’ve created an eye-catching title that will drive visitors to your article, and hopefully, search engines, but now you have to keep the reader there to absorb your content, right?

I would have to say that of all the things I’m hoping to cover in this series, this one may be the most important one of them all.

Guest post by Thor on how to keep the attention of your readers

Thor from Creative Twilight here again, back with another tool for your blogging arsenal.

Use that First Paragraph to Grab the Reader

A lot of people will determine if they want to read your article based on your opening – that first paragraph. I’m sure many of you did it with this article. So, it should come as no surprise that you need to grab the reader’s attention from the start.

Get Their Attention

Images work very well to grab attention as well 🙂

How you go about that is entirely up to you, and there’s no wrong way to do it. A common technique will be to tell the reader what the article is about. Basically, summarize what you’re about to talk about.

Another common method is to interest them with vagueness, or a question you feel they would like the answer to. That’s what I did at the start of this article. If you’re reading this far then I’d say it worked 😉

I wish I had tried-and-true methods to give you beyond those two examples, but it’s a very subjective topic. Ultimately what I try to do is open with something I know I would find interesting, and would peak my curiosity. I feel if you go that route then you can’t go wrong.

It’s All About that Heading, ’bout that Heading, No Wall of Text

When I talk about headings I am referring to the H1, H2, H3, etc., tags that are used in an article, such as the big text you see above this. If you use WordPress then it’s referred to as Heading 1, Heading 2, and so forth. It’s been a while since I’ve used Blogger, but I seem to recall it shown in a similar way.

This is very important because it’s technically different than if you just bolded and/or underlined text to create a heading. Actual headings will have value to search engines. More on that below.

On with the show!

All About that Heading
Break it Up

Breaking up your article with headings serves a few purposes. The big thing headings do is break your content up into digestible chunks. Ever gone to an article, seen a huge wall of text, and then just bail on it? I have.

Nobody wants to get a reader to their article to only have them leave as soon as they see it. A big wall of text is intimidating to look at. Imagine reading a book that has no chapters. Ug!

Now, if someone is really interested in your article then odds are they will read it anyway. However, if someone has a passing interest, or was curious, then you might lose them right away. It’s the latter we’re after here because you can convert them into regular readers.

Point of Reference

Relating to this, headings give readers easy to reference sections of your article, like chapters in a book – to run with that analogy. This is very important in long articles that cover various subjects. That way a reader can come back to your article, and know right where to go to find something specific you wrote about. That’s not easy to do if your article is 1,500 words with no headings.

Draw the Eye with Interesting Headings

Another thing that headings do is they give you the chance to draw interest. Headings are large and bold, so the eye is drawn to them. Use that to your advantage to create interesting headings. That will let a reader quickly scan your article and gauge it at a glance. If you create funny, or generally intriguing headlines, then you’re increasing the chances that the reader will hang around to see what you have to say.

Search Engine Optimization

SEOThe last thing headings do is gives your article more SEO (search engine optimization) value. The SEO value of headings is minimal when compared against other factors, but it has value none-the-less.

If you’re writing an article about Chaos Space Marines, and you have a heading in the article that also uses the term “Chaos Space Marines”, then you’ve improved the SEO value of your article for “Chaos Space Marines”.

The thing to be careful of here is overusing a term for SEO. Overuse of a term can get you penalized. Instead of ranking better for it, you rank lower.

What I like to use headings for, in regards to SEO, is to capture the related things people will be looking for.

Going with the example above, I might have a heading in this Chaos Space Marines article for “Strategy & Tactics”, or “My Review of the Codex”. These are terms that are often paired together with “Chaos Space Marines” in searches. By putting those in headings within the article I have told search engines that I have those sections in my article, and I can draw in those related searches.

How to Use Headings Properly

The title of your article will be a heading 1. It has the most value. This is done by default in blogging platforms, so you won’t have to do anything to set that up.

There should only be one H1 (heading 1) in your article. So, as you create headings in your article, you will be using H2, H3, and so forth.

Heading TagsIf you scroll up you will see that the heading “It’s All About that Heading, ’bout that Heading, No Wall of Text” is an H2. Underneath that, the headings you’ve seen following it are H3. Those are H3 because they are a part of the section I defined with the H2 prior. Basically, I’m breaking down further the content within the H2, so I use an H3. If I were to further break something down within an H3 then I would use an H4. Make sense?

Now, when I’m done with this “It’s All About that Heading, ’bout that Heading, No Wall of Text” H2 I setup, I will create another section, and that section will be an H2. That section may contain H3 headings. Repeat and rinse.

Speaking of…

Short Paragraphs are King

Bam! New section, so we have a new H2 😉

This one is a quick and easy subject.

Relating to the wall of text, really long paragraphs can also be a turnoff for readers. If you have no headings, and you have very long paragraphs, then there’s a good chance you are losing readers.

Shorter paragraphs have become the standard in writing. Keeping the attention of your reader is crucial, and it’s been shown that using shorter paragraphs helps with that. I’m sure there’s some psychological reason for it, but it’s something you should be doing regardless.

Pictures are Pretty!

Another short section for you all.

Just like headers, images are a way to break up your article. Even if you’re following the use of headers, and shorter paragraphs, a long article is still long. Images will help visually break up the monotony of text that is an article.

Quite simply, use a few images on your article, especially the long ones.

Oh, images can also give you SEO value as well if used correctly.

Pretty Kitty

Obligatory kitten picture to make this an awesome article.

I Hope You’ve Learned Something

Hopefully, you’ve made it through this monster of an article, which I realize isn’t terribly exciting, and learned a thing or two.

Remember, getting someone to your blog is just the first step, keeping them there is the next, and arguably most important.

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I began playing Warhammer 40K in 2006, and have been an avid player and hobbyist since then. I have also been blogging about 40K for almost as long as I've been playing it, having started Creative Twilight in 2009. I also created a 40K roster builder called Command Center that's free. Also, founder/editor/author of Blog Playground. Oh, and webmaster/editor of ecoLifestyle, which is my wife's business.