They don’t read. I said it once; I said it so many times. After analyzing StumbleUpon it became even clearer to me that the web users are not interested in your story. They are, however, interested in their stories, and everything that comes close to their preferences.
I am not particularly fond of lists. We have to do lists, lists for shopping, music top charts and so on. But there’s a reason for the popularity of the lists and that reason lays in the human nature: people like lists because they are easy to read. They are “scannable.”
The list is what makes the top of the “web charts.” Good lists get votes and popularity in no time. The phenomenon is not singular to StumbleUpon – the same trends are to be noted at digg, reddit, mixx and many other social bookmarking sites. But what really drives traffic and generates good revenue, is, paradoxically, the design. People are visual beings. Unlike search robots they like to “see” things. Although a heavily graphic driven site is not always appealing, a graphic accent here and there, breaking the flow of long, boring texts, does wonders.
In the absence of good graphics use white space. People need a break every once in a while. Besides, white space makes the text easier to read. The eyes don’t get tired as fast as they would when reading large blocks of text. “White space” doesn’t refer to the color of the background, but to the structure of the text. Aesthetics one may believe don’t have much to do with SEO. Nothing could be further away from the truth.
SEO is about optimizing sites to generate revenue. The most important part of SEO is not the search engine placement but the revenue generated by an SEO campaign. So when an SEO tells you to optimize your sites at a structure/ design level, this is one of the clearest signs that the SEO professional is not a fake.