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How to Write Content That “Sets the Hook” with Impatient Readers

Writing content that keeps reader's attention


The human attention span is shrinking rapidly. There are plenty of studies that support this conclusion—but you don’t need researchers to tell you so. You surely see it in yourself and in those around you.

For most people, that fact ranks somewhere between a little sad (as a general observation) and highly irritating (when your dinner date can’t resist the urge to check their phone every 30 seconds). For marketers, it’s downright disturbing. If you can’t keep someone’s attention for more than a few seconds, how are you going to get them to focus long enough to become interested in your offerings?

This is an especially serious dilemma when it comes to your marketing content. How do we deal with short attention spans in content marketing? Fortunately, there are steps you can take to “set the hook” so to speak, and keep a prospect reading.

Tips for Keeping Eyes on Your Content

The success of your content marketing efforts rests on your ability to engage your prospects and keep them reading your content. If they simply glance and go, you will struggle to grow your audience, generate leads, and hit your sales targets. Keep these tips in mind as you develop content:

  • Craft the perfect title or headline. Too often, a label is slapped on a finished work almost as an afterthought. But, you can be sure that if your title or headline doesn’t interest your audience, they definitely won’t skip past it and read the piece anyway. You should spend as long as it takes to come up with an interesting and engaging descriptor and should refuse to “go to press” until you’ve nailed it.
  • Consider including a summary section to start the piece. A few points about what the reader will get from a piece will do one of two things. Either it will get them interested in diving in or it will help them see that reading the piece won’t be a good use of their time. In either case, they’ll appreciate the preview.
  • Keep the introductory paragraph short and on topic. It’s OK to shift into more of a storytelling style in subsequent paragraphs as long as you give the impatient reader an understanding of what the piece is about in the first sentence or two.
  • Use questions to engage the reader. Regardless of how a prospect mentally answers a question you pose to them, getting them to ponder it creates a deeper level of engagement with your content, and that engagement helps keep them reading.
  • Develop a unique “voice” that people enjoy. Full disclosure: there is some risk here. If you develop a unique voice that people dislike, obviously you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. But with a little trial and error, you can come up with a personality that people find interesting or entertaining, and that will make them more likely to devote some time and energy to consuming your content.
  • Use foreshadowing to draw readers from one section to the next. By teasing what’s ahead as you wrap up one part of a piece, you create curiosity that makes it hard for a reader not to continue.
  • Make a page visually appealing and easy to scan. Appropriate imagery, ample white space, subheadings, and bullet lists all help a potential reader decide to stay rather than bailing out in the face of long, unbroken blocks of text.

Creating Reading Momentum

Using the tips above to keep a reader dialed into a particular piece of content delivers the added benefit of making them more likely to check out your content in the future. “I like their stuff,” is what you want the reader to be thinking as they get to the bottom of a piece, because that leads to, “I wonder what’s next?”

Another factor in getting them to read your content is how, when, and where it is made available and promoted. A marketing automation tool like HubSpot can help with that. And we can help you launch and optimize HubSpot to support your sales and marketing goals. From our offices in Colorado Springs, CO, and Springfield, MO, 30dps offers the full spectrum of inbound marketing strategy, content marketing, and implementation services. Get in touch, and let’s create an audience of ravenous readers!


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