You have the attention span of a goldfish.

That’s what Jeffrey Gitomer says in his book Social Boom! So as a business owner, blogger, politician or PR professional, you have nine seconds to capture the attention of visitors to your website before they’re gone. Possibly for good.

No pressure.

We live in an information rich world, whether it’s information on Princess Kate’s new handbag, or the latest deal on used automobiles at an Ottawa car dealership. Every one of us has near on-demand access to a goldmine of entertaining and educational trivia.

But there’s only so much information you can consume in a day.

In order to sort through this constant barrage, our brains have developed sophisticated filters to separate information gold, from information pyrite.

So while we enjoy information wealth, we also have to deal with attention scarcity. And when something is scarce, people pay more money for it.

Here’s the proof:

1. You Decide Whether Something is Valuable or Not in a Fraction of a Second. (nine seconds, to be precise)

The advertising industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on researching effective headlines, ideal word counts, and pictures that convert. Essentially: 8, 300, and babies. It’s not a perfect science, but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that businesses with deep pockets consider your customers’ attention so valuable that they are willing to invest millions of dollars in developing techniques to win it.

2. You Assume Something is Trustworthy Based on a Questionable, or Non-Existent Source

Swimming with dolphins is an excellent alternative treatment for a number of people, including the elderly and the disabled. It’s true. Here’s the proof:

Convinced? You shouldn’t be. Who wrote that article? What’s their agenda? Are they qualified to make the statements they do?

Who cares? Most of us don’t have the time to do the background research. So we place some level of trust in the information that is initially presented to us.

Being first–on Google, YouTube, and other search engines–is key to capturing your customers’ attention. To letting them know that you have this or that promotion going on. To letting them know you exist.

That’s why businesses spend 28 billion dollars annually on Pay-Per-Click advertising with Google alone, and another 4.5 billion on questionable Search Engine Optimization strategies.

3. But Really, You Don’t Care About the Source.

“Does it confirm my worldview?”

According to Seth Godin in his book All Marketers Are Liars (Tell Stories) that’s how most people actually decide whether or not to trust information that is presented to them. We make assumptions based on what we expect to be true, and it’s extremely difficult to convince us otherwise.

Do I believe that swimming with dolphins is good for peoples’ health? No. Despite the article I quoted above and hundreds more like it all over the internet. And it’s not the fault of the article writers either. It’s my fault, my own worldview preconditioned me to think that it was going to be rubbish. And once someone decides something like that, it’s next to impossible to convince them otherwise.

There’s a lot riding on getting people to your website. If people don’t know you exist, they can’t do business with you. Make sure you have a strategy to keep them on your site!

What are you doing to win in the attention economy? Share some of your tactics in the comments below.

Have a website you would like us to look at? Share the link below, or contact us by email.

(If you were counting, this article is over 600 words and the headline is nine words. Well over the ideal “300 word/8 word sweet-spot” that marketing gurus recommend. But the thing is, that doesn’t really matter. By 300 words, you understood what I was getting at and could move on. After that, if you kept reading, you were likely interested enough that I would have to really screw it up to lose you. Research shows that while readership drops off at 300 words, it doesn’t drop off significantly again until 3,000 words. Also, while 60% of converting headlines have 8 words or less, it also means that 40% have 9 words or more. Like I said, it’s not a perfect science and you make the most with what you have.)