- 60% Of Marketers Say Blogs Are Their Top Inbound Marketing Priority
- 80% Of Companies Consider Their Blogs ‘Useful’, ‘Important’ Or ‘Critical’
- Once You Write 21-54 Blog Posts, Blog Traffic Generation Increases By Up To 30%
- Small Businesses Who Blog Get 126% More Lead Growth Than Those Who Don’t
- 346 Million People Read Blogs All Over The World
- Websites With A Blog Tend To Have 434% More Indexed Pages
- Blogs Have Been Rated As One Of The Top Five Most Trusted Sources For Information Online
What Is The ‘F‘ Pattern?To sum it up, the ‘F’ pattern is the most common eye scanning pattern of people reading blocks of content online. To go a bit deeper (because you didn’t come here for summaries), it’s how your users read your content. In just a few seconds, their eyes whizz across your content in a distinct F pattern. We know this because there have been studies done using heat mapping, which shows us exactly where readers eyes go, and how long they stay there. Honestly, it’s pretty cool. It’s made up of 3 components:
- Users read in a horizontal movement first across the upper part of the content area. This forms the top bar of the F.
- Next, they scan in a vertical line down the left-hand side of the screen, looking for headings and points of interest in the paragraphs initial few sentences. When they find something they like they read across in a second horizontal movement, typically covering a shorter area than the previous one. This is the second, lower bar of the F.
- Finally, the users scan the content’s left side in another vertical movement and scan across the full lines when they find something interesting, in smaller, off shooting F’s.
How To Use The F Pattern In Your ContentPrioritize Your Content – When you’re creating a page or post, pick out your 3 most important pieces of information, and make sure they fit into that reading line. Once you’ve identified what you consider important and what your users will be most interested in, it’s simply a matter of making sure they hit those ‘hot spots’. Set Initial Expectations – Your first two paragraphs are the most important – so get your key messages at the top. On pages, make sure your important content is at the top of the page, level with the navigation bar if you can. From there, use the F pattern to place your sub headings and other important areas. Design For Scanning, Not Reading – Too many people write content assuming they’re going to be read word for word. With so many pressures on our time, people tend to speed read most things, which is code for scanning. So rather than hope you’re the exception, design your pages and content for scanning. Start your paragraphs with enticing keywords to catch the attention of time poor readers. Cover only one idea per paragraph, and use bullet points regularly. Make your content as easy to san as possible. Utilise Your Side Bar – Sidebars exist to get users involved on a deeper level. So use it! Feature anything you want users to see in this side bar – such as a list of ‘related articles’, a search function to help people find specific things, or a social media widget. And there you have it. If you want more engagement, you need more F’s. And if you’re not sure how to structure your content to fit that pattern, then call someone who does. At Eleven Eight, we specialise in helping businesses create compelling and engaging content, which means we know a little something about reader psychology! To find out more, just get in touch with us, or book a consultation here. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to drop a few ‘F’ bombs in your content when they’re needed too!
Do Your ResearchAnyone who’s done even a little research will know that Google still likes keywords. And why wouldn’t it? It’s one of the most important signposts Google uses to identify what content should feature in search results. But the most common mistake people make is filling their content with the wrong keywords. Instead of using the keywords you want to be found for, instead look at what people are actually searching for. That might sound like the same thing, but actually, they’re completely different. Use a keyword research tool (Like Google’s keyword planner or SEO Book’s Keyword Tool) and figure out what people are typing into Google to find you. It’s a little bit of effort, yes, but it means that your content will actually start showing up in search results – which is the whole point, right?
Produce Good Quality ContentWhen it comes to blogging, it’s not about quantity; it’s about quality. I often come across business owners who want to write a post every single week and make sure it’s splashed everywhere. And that’s great. But the odds are that you won’t get high-quality content churned out in that time frame. So instead of trying to get loads of content out there, focus on producing just a few pieces of high-quality content a month. If you’re not sure what constitutes ‘high-quality’, here are 5 elements to remember:
- Audience focused
- An authority
- Offer substantial value
- Quality control measures
Mix It UpGoogle is constantly changing its algorithms in tiny ways – always tweaking and improving something. And so should you. More specifically, don’t just write the same length of content, on the same topics over and over again. Variety is the spice of life after all. So create some posts that are just 400 words long – a nice quick read. Make some your average 600-700 word, easy reading posts. And then include some of the meatier, dig-in-deep posts too. This is where a lot of businesses fall down. If you look at studies carried out on Google’s search results, you’ll find that the average first page post is almost 2,000 words long. This is known as ‘cornerstone’ content, and is just as important to your rankings as your regular, shorter pieces.
Don’t Forget The ExtrasGoing back to keywords. Your content isn’t the only place you should be including them. When you upload your blog posts, you will be asked to fill in a whole bunch of metadata. And you should be including your keywords here. The most important places to use your keywords include:
- Your title
- Your URL (which you can customise)
- Your headings (which are throughout the text)
- Your alt image tags and image captions
Why We Crave StoriesHere’s a nice, juicy reason to indulge in your fantastical side now and then. Our brains are hard-wired to respond to and crave stories. Seriously. Various neurological studies have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than cold, hard facts. That’s because when we read straight data, only the language parts of our brains are activated, working to decode the meaning behind it. But what scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains but also those devoted to dealing with smells. So when we read a story, it’s not just the language centre of our brain that lights up – all of the other areas of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing the events light up too. When we read stories, they imprint themselves on us, meaning they are easier to remember in the future. As well as being hard-wired to respond to them, our brains are creating their own stories all the time, to fill in the gaps. We spend around a third of our lives daydreaming – our minds constantly looking for distractions. The only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us. So if you want to capture the full attention of your customers, the best way to do it is to give them that story
Show Off Your PersonalityIn an age where ‘people buy people’, giving your brand a personality is everything. While you may be able to do that in your everyday marketing to some extent, there is nothing like telling a story to shine a light on your brand voice. Your stories could be created by your brand, following your brand voice, or they could be created by your customers – who will share similar values and reinforce your brand personality at every stage. Some businesses we’ve met are worried about letting their personalities come through – but think about that for a second. If your brand ha no personality, then what sets it apart from the rest of the marketplace? What is there to attract customers to you, and not someone else? Never be afraid of putting your personality into your marketing. Tell customers a story, and make sure they hear it in your voice.
Push Your Brand Front And CentreSome time ago the CEO of Jeep UK (Damien Dally) commented on story telling. “Storytelling in the automotive industry has been key in marketing campaigns for some time, especially since the advent of interactive/social media. This can be something metaphoric, yet simple, like a journey, to something more in-depth, with use of roles and a plot for the more adventurous. Portraying your brand as the protagonist, in either case, is essential.” In other words, storytelling is what links the brand with the story’s values. So whatever story you’re telling, your brand will be intrinsically linked to that message. You could use this to subtly position yourself above the competition, or as the maverick champion of the customer’s values. It’s about standing out, without being complicated about it.
Hit The EmotionsSuccessful stories are successful for just one reason. They make us feel something. Even after we’ve finished reading or hearing them, they have a way of bringing back those feelings when we think about them. Storytelling is the best way to hit an emotional chord with your customers, so get tucked in for Storytime! But one caveat – make sure the stories you’re telling are real, at least for the most part. The last thing you want is to be caught in a fairy-tale lie because you wanted to pull on the old heartstrings. Your customers will see right through it and think less of you for it.
Get Them HookedIf there is one thing the human brain can’t resist, it’s a cliff-hanger. We desperately crave closure, and we always want to know how something ends before we can move on. So it’s really simple – tell them a story that never ends. Use every part of your marketing to keep the story going, and you will keep people’s attention along the way. Always leave them wanting more. And FYI, ‘more’ can manifest itself in any way you can imagine, so switch it up. Don’t let your method become stale and detract from your story. Use a variety of methods to tell your story, and push it out onto as many platforms as possible. At Eleven Eight, we specialise in putting the personality back into your business copy. Through blogs, white papers and even your web copy, we can highlight your brand voice and attract more readers to your website. All you’ve got to do is seal the deal! If you want to know more, come find me in my office, or drop me a line for a chat.
If you’re reading this you’re probably a business owner or someone with aspirations to be one. So I don’t need to tell you just how hectic things can get. You don’t need reminding how challenging it can be to juggle everything within your business at once while still delivering your service. So I won’t. Instead, I wanted to share with you some of the apps we use to keep on top of things. But there are a lot of those, so we’ve picked our favourite 4, 2 of which are tools for any business owner, while the other 2 are more writer specific tools.
At Eleven Eight we spend around 85% of our time writing. So naturally, a writing improvement app is high up on our list. Grammarly is the newest addition to our productive app collection, but it is one of our favourites. Once you install this little package it simply sits in the background of your computer, checking through everything that you write for errors. It’s unobtrusive and simply underlines mistakes in red or green, a lot like Microsoft Word. Red indicates a spelling problem, while green indicates a grammar issue. If you hover over the underlined word, the software will then suggest corrections, which you can accept or reject in a simple drop down menu. This part is particularly important, because the software is natively American, so it can get a bit funny around some finer points of British grammar. However, this can actually be a good thing – the suggestions keep you on your toes and make you really think about what you are writing and if there is a better way to say it. It also catches things Word would often miss – mainly because it takes content into account and can tell if you have said ad instead of and. Because ad is, in fact, a real word (I checked), Word won’t flag it up as a mistake, but a quick run through Grammarly (it isn’t supported in Word natively yet) will sort it out. We use the free version, but there is also a premium option available.
In the early days of Eleven Eight, when budgets were tight and we were still finding our feet, we kept track of our customers using a spreadsheet. That worked fine, but nearly 3 years on things have changed a bit. If you’d told me 12 months ago that I would be advocating CRM for small businesses and start-ups I’d think you were mad, but it’s an essential tool to help your business grow. We love Insightly, which combines a CRM (customer relationship management) system with project management and business reporting in one free platform. Each of our customers has a profile containing all information about them and their chosen service, with a to-do list attached to each member of our team. It even integrates with our accounting software and Evernote, so we can upload notes from customer meetings right away and get notified if someone has missed their payment. It’s so simple and easy to use, I don’t know why we didn’t use it sooner.
If you find it hard to keep track of how much time you spend on a project, Rescue Time is perfect for you. Like Grammarly, once you install Rescue Time it will sit in the background on your machine and not really require any interaction. It simply monitors the time you spend using applications or on web pages, and collects the data into an easy to understand dashboard. Here’s one of my days from last week:
Apart from a gap in the middle when I had lunch and met with a client, it was a pretty productive day. You can see how much of my time was spent ‘productively’ (in blue), how much was ‘fairly productive’ (the greyish red) and how much was ‘distracting’ (the red). You can assign a category to every activity in the setting bar, and this will help Rescue Time understand your usage patterns. You can also see the times when I was doing certain activities, and in the breakdown you can see what each application or website visited was. You can program it to stop tracking your use at certain times or for whole days – so if you use your computer for personal things it won’t track that. I have mine set to track between 9 and 5.30, and not to track at all over the weekends. I’ve been using this tool for around 5 months now and it has not only helped me understand exactly what I do with my time, but helped me measure time spent on client projects, improve my productivity and understand when I am most likely to become distracted.
Write Or Die
I wanted to sum up with another writing application, but this one is far more fun than the first. Write or Die is an application for Windows and Mac that aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing penalties for procrastinating and rewards for accomplishment. Granted, I haven’t used this application religiously since my university days trying to meet high word counts, but it’s still useful if I’m flagging and need to force myself to write. The concept is simple – if you don’t write, there are consequences. This can be anything from an avalanche of very realistic spiders on your screen to a loud claxon that can only be turned off by typing (a personal favourite). Rewards mode is fairly new, and this provides positive reinforcement when you achieve your goals – from your favourite pictures to a popular song. They have also added stimulus mode, which is great for creative writers. It provides visual and aural stimulus for you as your write, perfect for getting in the right mood. If you do try Write or Die, take it with a pinch of salt – it’s as much of a funny app as a productive one.
And that’s that! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the workings of Eleven Eight. Many of these applications are crucial for us, as even the most committed writers can struggle every now and then. For more information about how we work and what we do, or if you just fancy picking our brains about these apps, please do get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat. We do love it when people call!