The most important question to answer in any kind of marketing has always been: "What's in it for me?" If your marketing and your content don't answer this question in fifteen seconds or less, chances are you're going to lose your visitor.
If you really hammer the answer home in the first fifteen seconds, chances are they'll read the entire article.
Before You Write Anything
Before you write any kind of content, take a look at the design of your website. In particular, look at your header.
Does your overall website convey a benefit to the reader? For example, if your header says "Bob'sWebsite," chances are readers aren't going to get a sense of what they could get from your site.
On. the other hand, if your header said "SEO Tips from a 10 Year Veteran," people are much more likely to perk up. If that's coupled with good design that builds credibility, you have a strong chance of getting the reader to pay attention.
Most people's eyes will gravitate to any graphics on the page before they even read any text.
Using graphics to convey a benefit can be an incredibly powerful tactic. For example, if you're writing about how to earn money by being a consultant, holding up a picture of your first big consulting check can convey the "what's in it for me" answer much more powerfully than words ever could.
Make sure you also take advantage of the space right beneath an image. Research has shown that captions underneath images are some of the most read parts of any website.
Finally, spend a lot of time on your opening paragraph. If your opening paragraph doesn't quickly convey the benefits of reading your content, you're probably going to lose your reader. Even if you're writing a five-page 5,000 word article, your time would be well spent if you spent 20% of it on your first paragraph.
The first paragraph should start out with a strong "hook" sentence. Then the next 3-4 sentences should explain exactly what they'll get from reading the rest of your article.
If you combine all these techniques, you'll be able to convey to your readers exactly what they'll get from reading your content in fifteen seconds or less. This will increase your readership, bring back more returning visitors and ultimately bring you more sales.