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Three facts about your online audience (you didn’t want to know)

Writing good web content doesn’t start with typing the words. It starts with getting to know your online audience.

And the first step to knowing your audience is to accept the realities of web user behaviour – how we all typically think and behave when visiting a website as a potential new customer.

So before you write that first word, ensure you understand these three facts about your online audience:

1. They don’t want to read your content.

2. They don’t care about you.

3. They don’t believe you.

They don’t want to read your content

Eyes move at amazing speeds over your precious words. If a quick scan doesn’t show people the information they need, they won’t spend time searching for it.

We’re impatient. Very impatient.

Scanning instead of reading is a fact of web user behaviour that has been confirmed by countless usability studies.

In his 2008 report, How Little Do Users Read?, Dr Jakob Nielsen found that ‘…users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit’. But ‘…20% is more likely.’

And it’s a mistake to assume that increasing the number of words on your web pages will increase the words people read. Because the longer the text, the less they are likely to read.

Even on a good day, an entire web page is almost always never read.

They don’t care about you

Guess what? Your website is not about opening a new sales channel, marketing your brand or increasing turnover by 20%.

It’s about solving your customers’ problems.

Your audience does not want to arrive on your website only to be greeted with boring statements all about you. To make people pay attention, they need to see themselves in your website content. Immediately.

Now go read the opening statement on your homepage – that very first sentence your audience reads. Is it about them? Or is it about you?

Another good quick check is this: does the word ‘we’ appear more than the word ‘you’? If so, it might be time to refresh your web content.

They don’t believe you

Visiting a website is not like walking into a retail store or the reception area of an office. There’s no one greeting you with a warm smile.

Online, there’s no human face. No human voice. It’s all technology, links and buttons.

And because it is not immediately clear who is behind the information on your website, your online audience does not instinctively trust you.

But be careful: singing your own praises over endless web pages is not the answer. People detest being overtly ‘marketed to’.

This is the first instalment in a four-part series. Following  posts will reveal how to tackle each of the three challenges outlined in this post.