Web visitors attention span

How to stay ahead of your website visitors’ dwindling attention spans

You’ve probably heard that goldfish have a 9 second attention span. Well, consumers’ attention span is even shorter at 8.25 seconds (compare that to 12 seconds back in 2000, those were the days…).

Customers are proving to be harder to keep on a web page. According to research by Statistic Brain, 17% of all page views across the Internet last less than 4 seconds. Web pages with up-to 111 words get read about 50% of the time, and only one-third of pages with ~600 words are read. See the trend here?

But what do all these statistics mean? Should we create short-form content, or try to cram everything in shorter and shorter videos?

No. Short attention spans should simply serve as a reminder that advertisers and businesses only have a few precious seconds to grab their audience’s attention and convince us that they have something compelling to share.

The bad news

Unfortunately, many take this principle to the extreme and come up with click-bait titles that can only disappoint.  How many times are you going to open an email with the subject line “the most amazing thing happened” before you start hitting delete uncontrollably?

That’s why cold emailing seems to be going the way of cold calling.  We hate it and results are deteriorating… fast!  Did you know that a 30% open rate is celebrated among cold email experts?  In fact, I recently talked to someone who had a 10% open rate!  And engagement rates of 2-3% are phenomenal – really??

And that’s why you need to deliver more in-depth, well-researched, original content.  You can’t compete with click-baity headlines, but if you consistently stand out for the quality of your content you will break through the noise.  And that’s the only way to build a loyal following (and a business).


The good news

On the other hand, there’s some good news as well.  It sounds simple, but many companies – especially B2B/enterprise solutions companies – ignore some of the basics.  So here are 5 tips to help you stay ahead of declining attention spans and the competition:

1. Speed matters

If you have 8 seconds to get their attention, don’t waste 6 of them on a slow-loading website.  All that ad budget you blew through on pay-per-click ads?  Most people didn’t even wait for your landing page to load!

A great – and free – tool to check out how your site is performing is GTMetrix, it will show you your time-to-load, rate your site, and point out specific areas for improvement.  This is what it looks like for our site – far from great, but it’s actually a huge improvement from the first time we checked… we had to rebuild the site and avoid WordPress.

Screenshot GT METRIX

2. Design matters

You absolutely need a professional design.  Your visitors are used to well-designed sites and perfect user experiences by the large-budget apps they’re using daily.  So anything out of place will stick out like a sore thumb, and they’ll “X” your site faster than your email pop-up can… pop… up.

Bold colors, a single call to action (above the fold), a powerful non-stock ‘hero’ image at the top, making it super-super easy for them to get in touch – they all sound trivial but matter a ton.

B2C companies do a much better job at this, whereas many B2B companies think it doesn’t matter.  “Most of our clients come through referrals anyway, so who cares”, right?  Well, you’re probably leaving money on the table because referrals aren’t a source of predictable revenue, so you’re not maximizing the value of your business.

Here are some tools to help you stay ahead of the curve:

  • Simulated attention analysis: 3M VAS is a tool by 3M that helps you “design smarter”. Upload a screenshot of your website or product (or any image for that matter), and you get back a report that simulates which parts of it people will focus on first, second, etc.  So you can make sure you’re optimizing use of your space, but also that your visitors are drawn to your primary call to action.  Another tool that seems to bring more functionality but is also 10x more expensive is EyeQuant.
  • This is what the 3M VAS output looks like (heatmaps highlight areas most likely to receive attention in the first 3-5 seconds).  This shows us that we have an area under our headline that’s wasted space but gets a lot of attention, so we’ll be adding a call to action there.

heatmap screenshot

  • Engage with visitors in real time: Sometimes visitors are ready to engage but aren’t finding what they’re looking for or have questions. If you can answer them right away, it can mean winning a new customer just because you were there!  That’s why you see all of the newer sites with a live-chat box at the bottom-right corner.  Some popular ones are: Intercom (has lots of functionality), Olark and Charta.  Or, CallPage is a relative newcomer pops up a message to visitors to see if they want to get on a call with you and patches them through.
  • Spy on your competitors: Stay on top of their changes to see how their positioning, messaging, and user experience are evolving. Keep track of their latest and greatest, and absorb the best ideas.  You can get a weekly summary of changes on your competitors’ sites with a tool like VisualPing.

3. Messaging matters

To grab your visitors attention effectively, you need to really understand your audience in order to craft your message the right way.  At Board Studios, we specialize in crafting messages that engage & convert, so we have this down to a science.

We use a variant of AIDA, which stands for Attention -> Interest -> Desire -> Action.

Step 1 is to grab their attention.  You want to start with the Pain Point that’s constantly in their head.  You should do that in 5-8 seconds.  If you do it right, the viewer will grant you some more time.

Step 2 is to get them interested.  You can do this by presenting your Solution to their Problem, and explaining how & why it works.

Step 3 is to make them experience desire for your Solution.  This is where you demonstrate the results you can get for your viewers, and maybe share a case study, which makes your results more real and tangible.

Finally, Step 4 is to move them a step closer to taking action.  This is where the majority of videos fumble.  You don’t want to close with “to learn more visit our site” or “call us now”.  You build them up to desire, and then you waste that moment.  Offer them something that sounds like a no-brainer AND simple first step.  Maybe it’s a free assessment or other offer.  But don’t go for the kill because you assume that after watching a 1-2 minute video your audience is ready to close.  This NEVER works.

We’ve put together a more comprehensive guide to help you assess whether a video is right for you on this blog post, or feel free to shoot us a note and we’ll follow up with material, case studies, and guides.

After producing over 1,500 videos we have refined our messaging process, and we’d be glad to help.  Just book a free consultation and we can spend a half hour on your website messaging. (there’s no obligation whatsoever, we’re allocating a few hours every week outside of work where we can just help!!)

4. Video matters

Unfortunately, even if you have the right messaging and you’ve optimized your user experience, that’s still not enough.  No doubt you’ve noticed that all new sites include a video prominently on the home page, and on landing pages.

That’s because of short attention spans too.  Have you seen millennials visit a site?  I’ve seen it, and it was scary.  They scroll down so fast so there’s no way to read almost anything.  They see your main headline, get a sense of the design of the site, and if there’s a video they’ll watch it.

So you need a video for 2 reasons:

  1. Many of your visitors won’t bother reading your eloquent copy
  2. Those who DO read your copy, won’t understand it

There’s actually a scientific reason for that, and it’s about our evolution.  When you’re explaining what you do, you’re using your most evolved part of the brain.  But when your audience is exposed to your messaging, they use their most primitive part of the brain.

That’s because we’re bombarded with too much information and need a basic screening mechanism to protect so we don’t go insane.  This video summary of Oren Klaff’s book “Pitch Anything” by Book Video Club actually explains this really well.

5. Always be testing

Sometimes it will be difficult to know if the changes you make to your site actually drive the desired visitor behaviour.  Should you:

  • add more copy above the fold?
  • include a different HERO page to grab users’ attention better?
  • Include a video above the fold, and should it be on the left hand side or the right?

Whatever your gut tells you, don’t trust it with these things.  There’s no way of knowing.  But you can learn through experiments.

Here’s how A/B testing works: Let’s say every day you get 100 people to visit your site.  A/B testing 2 different versions of a page means that half of them will randomly see the original page and the other half will see the alternative version.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to do this manually, of course.

There are platforms out there that automate A/B split-testing of landing pages, such as Unbounce or Optimizely.  But you can even do it through Google Analytics with Google’s ‘Content Experiments’, and here’s a step by step guide!

And here are some A/B testing case studies by Unbounce that demonstrate how important it is to keep testing.


In conclusion…

Keep the statistics in mind as a way to motivate you even more to focus on creating compelling content.

“But everyone’s creating great content… and it’s so difficult and expensive to come up with something original”.  That’s where the opportunity lies.  Most companies think we’re still in the world of “more more more” whereas customers have shifted to “better better better”.

So better, original content will win.  More content may drive more clicks but will fail to engage.  Good content will get more of the right clicks and engage more in order to deliver real results for your business.

Still, there are way too many spammers and time-wasters out there so you HAVE to stand out and make the most of your audience’s attention span.

Optimize your site, grab their attention within a few seconds with proper targeting and a compelling pain point, and spend the time & money required on research to be the thought leader they’re looking for.  Traffic and conversions will come… (yes, you need a solid strategy for that, but that’s a topic for another blog post;)

Tessa BoardStudios.com

Tess is a Business Development Associate at Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. She's passionate about B2B business models & marketing, and spends a lot of time working on partnership development, content marketing, and scouring for the best business books for BookVideoClub.com. Her blood type is an authentic caffè macchiato.

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