With millions upon millions of words published online every single day, you’re probably wondering how to get noticed.
How do you rise above the tidal wave of content that engulfs your audience and make an impact?
Truly, no matter who you are or what you’re writing about, your definition of “engaging content” is different from everybody else’s. Once you’ve defined what it is and learned what works for your audience, all you have to do is write it.
That’s not to say that it’s easy, but let’s start by exploring what we mean when we talk about engaging content.
When you write about your business, you’re writing to inform and educate your audience, yes, but first and foremost, you’re writing to your customers. Basically, you are writing to try and make your audience do something as a result of reading or consuming your content.
But without refining your targets, that’s a low bar to set yourself. Whatever business you’re in, it’s unlikely that you want your customer to react to your article by closing the browser window and checking their Twitter notifications.
Or going and making a cup of coffee halfway through because they lost interest.
Or forgetting about what they’ve read, and later looking up one of your competitors instead.
As a content producer, you want your content to inspire a response from your reader that relates to your business. But everyone wants something different, depending on the response you intend to elicit. And so, securing your desired outcome requires clearly defined intent.
Once you’ve determined what you want from your content, you will be able to take the following steps to ensure that your content is connecting with your audience. After all, your targets will be much easier to hit when you know where they are.
Write with purpose
Writing content that is useful and memorable to your audience is about more than just SEO or using buzzy keywords. Be it a blog post, a script for a video or podcast, or simply a description of your services for your website, the first and most important thing about creating engaging content is to write with purpose.
Clearly defining your intentions and keeping these in mind while you write is the surest way to make an impression on your customers. Not only is writing easier when you know where you’re going, but you’ll also produce better copy.
On a post-by-post basis, the simplest way to do this is to devise a call to action and write with this in mind. Your copy can cover every aspect of your subject over the length of your article, but you should drive towards this call to action with every point.
Imagine we have a landscaping company and we’re trying to generate business through content marketing.
Compare the following passages of copy:
At our landscaping company in Middlesbrough, our services include:
● Foundations and Brickwork
● Patios and Driveways
● Garden Design
● Free Consultations and Quotations
● Competitive Prices
Choose our landscaping company in Middlesbrough for excellent services at competitive prices.
From foundations and brickwork to patios and driveways, our experienced team have got you covered.
Get in touch today to discuss your needs and arrange a free consultation and quotation for any work required.
The first passage is bullet-pointed and easy to read, but it’s indirect and lists off services alongside other aspects. It doesn’t engage the reader.
In the second passage, the information is arranged in short, digestible sentences that address the reader directly. It’s not just talking about what the landscaping company does, but who they do it for.
Furthermore, it emphasises the call to action in every line. In the first sentence, we ask the reader to choose our company and mentions the price advantage. Then we go on to talk about our range of services. Then we reiterate the call to action, leaving the reader with something to do.
The second passage is far more impactful and memorable than the first. It’s more engaging too, and the longer your copy engages your audience, the longer they will stay on your site. The longer they stay on your site, the more likely they are to heed your call to action.
If at first, you don't succeed, don't be discouraged. Using audience analytics, you’ll be able to tell which posts are gaining the most attention, as well as those which are less successful. As with all kinds of writing, your content will definitely improve when you know where you’re going.
Once you start writing with purpose, you will attract readers naturally, enabling you to use audience analytics to learn from both your hits and your misses. With a clear target in mind, you will trend towards success in the end.
Write valuable content
Beyond your initial intentions, every piece of content you should produce should have inherent value. Your readers won’t read a post just for the sake of reading it and neither should you be posting for the sake of posting.
Value is relative and so “valuable content” also has its own meaning depending on your objectives and your target audience. Again, you’ll learn more about what your readers value once you’ve created some content, but make sure you keep the following basic principles in mind as a starting point.
First of all, you have to be prepared to spend time and money on your content. Value isn’t derived from measuring the most conversions against the least investment on your part. Engagement goes both ways and the more engaged you are, the more likely you are to attract customers.
Many successful businesses offer free newsletters and e-books on their sites. These take time and effort to produce. By giving these away, you give your customers a valuable experience. They will remember your business, which will generate conversions and sales for your business in turn.
Bearing in mind how your readers consume your content, “scannability” is an important consideration in writing. Mobile browsing is very popular, meaning it’s likely that a large portion of your audience will read your writing on a phone screen.
This doesn’t preclude long posts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your post should feature long, unwieldy blocks of text either. Try writing short paragraphs and including relevant sub-headings to break up the content and make it more easily digestible. Images and other visual content also help to make your content more scannable.
In essence, the best way to generate valuable content is to keep it creative. Come up with new ideas based on the performance of your other posts and see what works for your audience. Above all, if you aim to be memorable, you’ll never fail to make an impression.
Write anything but clickbait
In order to avoid writing clickbait content, it’s sometimes helpful to come up with your headline after you’ve completed your copy. That’s because your headline is a promise to your potential customers, and in order to build trust, your content must live up to it.
While there has been a dispiriting rise in the popularity of misleading headlines and clickbait among editors, you should resist writing this type of content if you want to convert clicks into sales.
Simply put, when it comes to traffic and clicks, content marketing is about quality rather than quantity. Unless you are solely selling advertising space on your website, clickbait is not only an underhanded tactic but also an utterly unhelpful one.
Avoiding clickbait is part and parcel of creating a valuable experience for your customer, ensuring they find whatever it is they’re looking for, rather than making a one-sided exchange that artificially inflates your web traffic.
Once you have discerned what your customers need, you will be able to tailor your copy to meet those requirements. Engaging content should always fulfil or appeal to a customer’s need in some way, other than merely offering products and services.
Write with passion
Most importantly, you should always write with passion. You are the foremost expert on your business and you must use that knowledge in order to reach your customers. Whatever it is that makes you different is what makes your content connect with your audience.
To summarise, content marketing is not a one-and-done exercise. It’s a continuous pursuit in which you’ll learn from both your successes and failures.
Even if not every post is a hit from the start, you’ll also learn about your audience from the ones that do connect with them. Use analytics and get creative in order to refine your content as you move forward.
Travel towards your own, more specific goals, but always keep the customer’s experience of your content in mind. When you create regular, reliable content that’s backed by your honesty, your creativity, and your passion, you’ll find that creating engaging and impactful content comes easily.