August 22, 2017

Diabolical cliffhangers that compel people to read on

evil-genius-writingEver get a nagging feeling no one is paying attention to your blog?

You put in the work. You publish regularly. You promote your posts on social media. You write carefully crafted content for building an audience for your brand.

Still you wonder if anybody actually reads it.

Here is the cold, hard truth. It’s very likely they are not. Not even if they click on your content or share it. Your nagging feeling is confirmed in recent studies by Slate and Chartbeat:

  • 10% of readers don’t scroll through an article at all
  • Most people read only 60% of an article
  • Most people who click don’t read
  • 55% of people spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page
  • There is no relationship between how much a piece of content is shared and how much attention an average reader has given that content

You might conclude from this that nobody reads on the Web anymore. You’d be wrong.

The bottom line is you will read every word of this post if it is interesting. Even if it is 2,000 words long.

Getting people to read an entire post is a battle to win their attention. You can cast a spell with your words to compel them to keep reading. You just need to use a little psychology.

The cure for boredom is curiosity

Could you write a piece of content about thermostats so compelling that someone not even interested in the topic reads every word of it? Joe Sugarman did. Here is how he tells it:

I once received a letter from a reader of Scientific American magazine in response to one of our ads on thermostats.

The lady, who sent the typewritten letter told me that she had no need for a thermostat, was not interested in the subject, rarely reads advertisements and when she does, she just scans through them.

But, she went on, ‘I am a busy scientist. When I started reading your ad, I wasted five minutes of my valuable time reading the entire thing and I was so upset at the complete waste of my time, that I wanted to write you and complain.’

As a copywriter, I couldn’t have gotten a more complimentary complaint letter.

Sugarman is a copywriting legend in the world of direct response. He has mastered the art of engaging readers by building irresistible moments of curiosity into his copy. These moments are so powerful, once you start reading you have to finish to the end.

How does he do it?

One of his writing tricks, which you can put in your blog content, is to use internal cliffhangers. Internal cliffhangers are short sentences or phrases that build suspense and stitch paragraphs together in a way that compels people to read on. There are several ways to do this:

  • Issue a challenge
  • Make a sensational statement
  • Ask a question
  • Use dialog
  • Make a humorous or witty statement
  • Use an open ended transition

Let me give you a few examples to get you started:

blogging-cliffhangersThe psychological power of cliffhangers

What makes internal cliffhangers so powerful comes down to human psychology. We have a need to eliminate the distress of the unknown. Psychologists call this cognitive closure. When we can’t immediately gratify the desire to know, we become highly motivated to reach a concrete explanation.

Internal cliffhangers create that desire to know more. When your reader must find out how your story turns out, you have created an itch that must be scratched. Diabolical?

No, it’s necessary. These are desperate times for getting people’s scarce attention on the Web. And we need to use more ingenious ways to get it. That is how you turn a boring topic like thermostats into a must-read.

Looking for ways to get more customers and sales from your digital marketing? Let’s talk! Message me to set up a time to chat on the phone.
3 comments
digitaljgo
digitaljgo moderator

@Tinu  Thanks Tinu. I appreciate that. And your Twitter shares too! I'll have to visit your blog and read every single word of your post. :-)