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© 2016 LINDSEY MCCAFFREY. WRITER IN OTTAWA. WRITER. EDITOR. CONTENT STRATEGIST.

Want People To Read Your Online Content? Start Effing Up Your Subheadings

 

The letter "F" isn't just for four-letter words.

 

It's also a pattern that people use to read online content.

 

According to eye-tracking researchers like Jakob Nielsen, people scan web pages as:

 

  • two horizontal stripes (the headline and first paragraph); and then

  • a vertical stripe (the content that travels down the left-hand side of the page).

 

This is referred to as the "F-shaped pattern."

 

What this means for your website and blogs 

Most visitors will not read past the first few words of any web page.

 

(I'll give you a moment to let that that realization set in. Hey, I get it. As a writer, this doesn't sit well with me either. But that's just the way it is.)

 

People are scanning your content, subconsciously using the F-shaped pattern to make a snap decision:

 

"Is this content worthy of my undivided attention?" 

 

Your job, therefore, is to make them take notice and stay on your page. 

 

Here's one way to make that happen...

 

Scanners love subheads

Think about that F-shaped pattern.

 

After a person has read the headline and first paragraph, they will scan further down the page.

 

Why? They are looking for content that convinces them to keep reading.

 

Sub-headings can grab the reader's interest in a matter of seconds by:

 

  • breaking up a text-heavy page, and

  • providing a relatively clear idea what your content is about.

 

Subhead writing strategies

Your job is to hook your readers/visitors with your "eff"!

 

You want them to feel compelled to read the content in its entirety (and, hopefully, contact you for more).

 

This means you should:

 

  • use strong and clear language in each sub-head (preferably within the first two or three words);

  • keep your subheads concise; 

  • inherently promise a nugget (or nuggets!) of wisdom for them to take away; and/or

  • use bolding and a larger font when possible (to make your sub-heads stand out).

 

Just "eff" it!

If people are spending mere microseconds on your page before clicking away, consider how you can improve the formatting.

 

Sub-heads are just one effective strategy to keep your visitors where you want them. 

 

By incorporating your understanding of the F-shaped pattern into your online content, you will increase the chances of your content being read.

 

And that's no effing lie.

"Ottawa writer for hire" Lindsey McCaffrey is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and content strategist for businesses and non-profit organizations. Learn more about Lindsey here.

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