Now when I think about it, the mid to late eighties were marked by one feature – we actually read books to educate or entertain ourselves. My parents had a book subscription services, and boy did I enjoy it. I can still remember that books were delivered wrapped in a rough brown paper and often sealed with a wax stamp which would add a bit of mystery to them. Inside were novels by Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas, Konan Doyle and many other marquee literary names. I could not wait for a postman to bring these books because I was reading them cover to cover. Back then, we did not have the high-speed internet with a gazillion of flashy web distractions. Back then, we could focus on content because we had all the time in the world to read it.
But it is no longer the case. Books are not the only medium to consume information. We also have the World Wide Web and cable networks now. We have HD TV sets, blazing fast computers, and convenient iPads to access them. Web browsers allow us to have multiple tabs open and dual monitors to view them. And each single medium is further capable to distract us. Cable networks have hundreds of channels; computers can handle dozens of applications at the same time, and iPads feature thousands of apps. In other words, our attention is diffused because we have too many – though some obviously disagree – substitution choices to give an unknown blog some love, a.k.a. a fair and extended trial.
People visit your new blog and skim over your content trying to find a keyword. And what if they don’t find it? They leave. Why? Because there are thousands of alternatives just seconds away. This is not a physical library where you would have spent considerable time browsing titles, pages and paragraph in search of information. And knowing that, readers are less inclined to read through your whole post (And God forbids if it goes over 1000 words.) I also get an impression that many folks are only looking for a keyword and a sentence it is used in. And as far as I know, a keyword is not a thesis – it might be a part of the much larger content and more interesting context. But it is the click-n-go culture where popularity of your posts is often measured in the time-spend-online metric. And it appears that we are talking about minutes here. How much content can you consume in just a few minutes?
Of course, there are notable exceptions. I know from running a blog that typically, people read the whole story when it is about some breaking news; if it is written by an authority in his/her field; or if it is recommended by someone who is popular among his/her peers. The problem here is that not every blogger is always in the epicenter of news; not everyone can be a renowned expert in his/her field, and we don’t know if a socially well connected person stumbles, reads, and recommends our blog.
So if you have been blogging and do not see much progress, stop for a second. It night be that your readers have not uncovered your ideas yet. Of course, you could simply suck at what you do, but there is a chance that the readers are not enticed enough to read past certain keywords. The World Wide Web gave us the unique opportunity to easily reach millions of people in minutes, but its popularity also made readers less willing to explore content beyond the front cover. They know that there are many other blogs vying for their attention and time. And it means that you should not take anything for granted. You have to fight to get noticed.
Sure, you might get lucky, get discovered by chance, and become famous without putting much effort in self-promotion. But it is luck. It is something that we can’t control. And most others should tinker and experiment for content presentation to help reader discover your content. It is totally up to you how far can you go, but often small changes make enormous difference (read “The tipping point” by Malcolm Gladwell on this topic.) What really matters here is your ability to make a web reader to make an extra step and follow your content to the end. Web readers might be a distracted bunch, but all it takes is a couple of socially well-connected and influential readers who push that single but awesome post to the tipping point of popularity. But unless you find the way to display and convince these few people to break that mysterious wax seal and unwrap your content, you might end up being the only who really reads it.
- Good content is king; but you need to make it noticeable.
- Identify your strongest posts and tweak their presentation.
- Your ultimate goal is to entice readers to read an entire post and not just keywords.