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Compelling Copy for Shrinking Attention Spans: A How-To Guide

Every day, there are 8.5 billion searches on Google; 252,000 new websites go live; 350 billion emails get sent, and the average person is shown 10,000 ads. When it comes to content online, to say we live in a high-volume world is an understatement. And the volume is only growing.

Image of person scrolling through phone and computer

Marketing materials today have to meet a high bar to capture user attention. 

Now, I might be biased as a lifelong writer and copy-focused content professional, but the right wording is a major part of getting your message to cut through all that noise. You want it to attract the right attention, compel your audience to spend just a little time, and inspire them to at least consider taking a relevant action toward your deeper message, your product, or your brand. 

Part of the problem? Attention spans are shrinking. 

A study by Microsoft Research showed that the average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2021. And apparently our attention spans are particularly short when we are:

  • Looking at screens

  • Multitasking

  • Tired or stressed

Can you think of a member of your target audience who doesn’t meet most of those criteria all the time?

It means our content—and our copy—have to work that much harder to get through. Our approach has to adapt. 

Here are 10 tips for writing copy that captivates even the toughest-to-capture prospects out there: 

  1. Be concise. Long-winded copy risks losing the reader's interest before you can deliver your message. Every word counts. Trim the fluff and get straight to the point. 

  2. Create scannable content. Break up long blocks of text into shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences, bullet points, and numbered lists. It’s easier for readers to digest, especially when browsing quickly.

  3. Prioritize value. Above all, provide value. Your copy should educate, entertain, or solve a problem for your audience. When you give value, you get engagement back.

  4. Try interactive content. Incorporate interactive elements such as quizzes, polls, or interactive infographics. Attention is a lot easier for readers to allocate when it’s active in some way.

  5. Optimize for mobile. With the majority of internet users accessing content on smart, mobile devices, be sure your copy is legible on small screens.

  6. Personalize your messaging. People like to read things that feel like they’re about them. Whether it’s adding their name, describing a pain point you know that particular audience segment has, or touting a value you know they’re interested in, a personalized experience drives greater impact.

  7. Include social proof. Readers also like to hear from people like them, so incorporate social proof elements like customer testimonials, reviews, or user-generated content in your copy when you can. 

  8. Harness emotion. Amidst all that content we consume daily lies a desire for more authentic, human connection. Whether it's humor, nostalgia, or empathy in your writing, an authentic, emotional appeal can be a powerful tool. 

  9. Embrace visuals. Incorporate eye-catching imagery alongside your copy to draw a reader in.

  10. Test and iterate. Don't settle for your first, unoptimized results. Test different copy styles, formats, and calls to action (CTAs). Analyze metrics and iterate based on what works.

A crowded digital space makes the stakes higher than ever. Learning to write copy that’s compelling, digestible, and accessible in the blink of an eye is non-negotiable. Strategic adaptation and a keen understanding of your audience are key.

Want help bringing your marketing messaging to life? Let us know. We’re always happy to help.

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