We all know that content is king. But if your content doesn’t manage to engage readers, it doesn’t do much for your business. It won’t enhance your brand, and it won’t lead to sales. It will simply exist among the tons of content that get ignored.
That’s probably not what you want when you sit in front of your keyboard, typing away diligently. No. You want engaging content. The kind that people read and share. Content that helps you establish credibility, build trust and lead your readers down the path to purchase.
The main purpose of creating engaging content is to change the reader. This could mean changing their opinion about something, getting them to connect with you on an emotional level and, yes, changing their attitude towards buying your products from “not interested” to “interested.”
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for engaging content, and that’s because readers change all the time. On the one hand, that’s good because if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to change them through your content. On the other hand, it means you also have to change with them. You have to find out what engages them and deliver.
With that being said, if you look up the content that ranks highest in Google’s search results and that gets the most shares on social media, you’ll notice a few essential qualities that work… at least for right now.
First of all, you need a good headline that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read the rest of your content. What works best is a headline that connects to the conversation inside the reader’s mind. Maybe the headline promises an answer to a question they’ve been asking themselves or a solution to a problem they’ve been struggling with. The phrasing of your headline should include keywords, inspire trust and encourage sharing.
As you can tell, headlines are important. They’re the first thing people are going to read. Based on what they think of the title, they might keep reading or move on. So you’ll need to take your time.
Write down at least four or five options and then pick out the ones that pass the 4Cs test: clear, concise, compelling and credible.
Both people and search engines respond well to keywords. If the reader is interested in a certain topic, let’s say software development, they’ll naturally feel more drawn to titles that contain words such as machine learning, AI, back-end/ front-end development, API, framework, stack and so on.
At the same time, you want to stay away from clickbait titles. You know what we’re talking about. Those over sensational titles that sound something like “You’ll never believe how X person did X thing.” The best part is when the content barely has anything to do with the title. This bait and switch tactic might get people to click, but that’s about it.
To boost content engagement, you want titles that pique the reader’s interest, but you need to deliver on your promises.
People tend to remember stories far better than facts. You can, of course, incorporate facts into your story. But that’s the point. You need to weave them into a narrative to make them more memorable.
That’s because we’re used to connecting through storytelling. When we get together with friends, we essentially tell each other stories about our lives. We also use storytelling to teach our kids about the world. Stories inspire, entertain, inform and educate. All-in-one.
The most engaging content feels like a story that keeps us guessing. It can be about a company’s history, a new product or a new service. As long as people can relate to your story, they’re more likely to care and keep reading.
People don’t approach online content with the same expectations they have from a novel. When they’re online, they’re usually looking for specific information, so they want to be able to scan your content easily.
This is why we use headers, sub-headers and bold text. It gives the content some structure. Nothing makes online readers leave your page faster than seeing a wall of text. They want the information promised in the title, and they want it fast. If they can’t scan through your content and find the answer, a simple Google search will give them more than enough alternatives. Once they find the answer, then they might take the time to read the explanations.
You’ll also want to keep your sentences short and easy to follow. Lengthy sentences and fancy words might have gotten you good grades in college, but this particular audience will not be impressed. You still want to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, and your sentences have style and flow but don’t try to write like Shakespeare. In fact, it’s better to simplify things as close to 5th grade level as possible.
Involve the Reader
When telling your stories in short, well-formatted paragraphs, be sure to always address the readers using words like “you” and “your.” You may have noticed that it helped keep you engaged while you were reading through this article. Since you’re addressing the reader directly, it feels more like a conversation, so they’re pulled into your narrative.
A detached perspective can come across as cold and distance. We’re striving for engagement here! You want to make the reader feel like you understand their problems, and you can help them.
You can also include a question that will make the reader think. Things like “Have you ever wondered why…” Of course, you’ll have to answer your own questions because the reader can’t reply, but it doesn’t matter. It still increases engagement because, in a regular conversation, they would also hear questions, not just a monologue.
Analogies are another great way to keep your readers engaged and make it easier for them to understand your point of view. If those analogies include pop-culture reference, it’s even better because it feels more relatable and the readers will respond on a more emotional level. Just make sure that you use references your target audience is familiar with. If they’re too obscure, they’ll scratch their heads and click away.