Readers take just 30 seconds to decide whether to stay on a web page, according to a study by Microsoft Research. An initial judgement is made in 10 seconds, during which the probability of leaving is highest. It stays high for 20 seconds after that, as visitors scan the page for further clues about whether to stick around.
It’s a scary statistic. But it contains a message of hope, because the research also found that after 30 seconds the likelihood of leaving suddenly drops. If you succeed in winning your readers' trust, they're likely to stay with you.
We’re not just talking about a few extra seconds either. I know this from my own experience as Founding Editor of Welove2ski.com. We publish ski resort reviews, equipment guides, snow reports and technique tips. Google Analytics routinely estimates the average time on page for our successful articles is more than 15 minutes.
In other words, if you break through that wall of scepticism, the rewards can be enormous, in terms of both reader engagement, and trust in your brand.
Question is, in the realm of travel content marketing, how do you do that?
1. Switch sides: you’re with the reader now, not the sales team
First of all, you need to change your mindset. Your readers don’t care what your sales targets are this quarter, and they’ll turn and run if they think they’re being presented with an extended advertisement.
So, right from the start – at the planning stage – you need to set out to help them. Ultimately, your readers want information that’ll help them make better holiday choices. So feed that need, and draw on your own love of travel when you do so.
More than any single presentational technique, this will set you on the right path. As a matter of course, you’ll pick better subjects, and write about them more engagingly. What’s more, the reader will sense they’re in the company of a friend and ally, and keep reading. In the long run, you'll be doing the sales team a great service.
2. Don't promise the earth
We all hate clickbait. Clickbait is the irresistible headline that leads to disappointing or unrelated content. Either the writer doesn’t have the information to back up that attention-grabbing opener, or he/she wants to talk about something else, but didn’t think anyone would be interested. Whichever it is, readers will turn and run soon as they realise they've been hoodwinked. Worse, they’ll be annoyed about it, too.
So yes, you need to work hard on your headline/title to make it eye-catching. But make sure your opening paragraphs follow on naturally from it.
3. Get straight to the point
Writing is hard work, and it takes time to warm up. But your readers don’t want to know that. They want the information you’ve advertised in the headline. So cut the fluff. Avoid long sentences, and phrases such as “As everyone knows…” If everyone knows, why are you telling them again?
4. Don't use irrelevant images
How serious are you about helping the reader? One sure sign is that your images work with your words. So steer clear of generic shots, and don’t be frightened of using a less beautiful image if it makes a point.
So in a blog about making the most of a city break, a photo of a time-consuming queue at a museum (with advice about the best time for a crowd-free visit ) is as important as examples of what you can see inside. Readers will recognize its value instantly, and get the sense that your blog means business.
5. And don’t forget a healthy dose of realism
Every holiday and every destination has its strengths and weaknesses. So acknowledge the fact. Honesty builds trust.
Take, for example, the online ski resort reviews published by ski holiday specialists. They’re designed to help customers pick a resort that won’t scare them witless/bore them stupid, depending on their skills as skiers. Too often, however, they imply that all resorts are equally brilliant for everyone.
They’re not: and you can work with that inconsistency to hook in your reader. One resort might be heaven on earth for experts, but disappointing if you want a big and seamless network of easy-skiing pistes. It won’t hurt to tell the readers straight away. If they’re keen skiers, they’ll get a whiff of your own exacting standards, and your passion for the snow - and read on. If they’re less advanced, you can direct them via hyperlink to your reviews of resorts that’ll suit them better.
Either way, you’ll have started the kind of relationship that content marketers dream of. And it’s one that'll last longer than 30 seconds.
Planning a content marketing campaign, but can't find the writers, editors or social media experts for the job? Contact us: we know all the good ones.