Once upon a time, good content was hard to come by. It was fairly easy to get eyeballs on your content just by the virtue of it being reasonably good. This is not the case anymore. If you have been around for a while, you may have noted the rise in content.
People are drowning in newsletters and emails, social media updates, and promos. This is truly the age of information overwhelm. And yet, some content still does really well. While vast majority of the content struggles to find an audience, some is thriving more than ever.
So what’s the secret? Does your content have to be exceptionally good? Yes. But don’t be scared. If your content is good, you can make it exceptionally good with a few tweaks. That’s where I come in.
#1 Make sure your idea is relevant
If you are not clear on who your ideal audience is, or if your idea is just not that interesting to the people you want to reach, it won’t take off.
Sure, there are times when a certain piece of content goes viral where nobody expected it to, or a piece you spent hours working on, tanks. However, for the most part, the most well-matched ideas work really well.
Make sure you spend time figuring out what your audience wants from you. Think about the gap in the market, what type of content is missing, and what has been overdone.
- Help solve a problem.
- Make them feel like they can do anything.
- Make them laugh.
As long as the piece has value for them and it covers a specific topic, it should be well received. It doesn’t even matter if it’s educational, inspirational or entertaining. It needs to be truly helpful and that’s the first thing you need to think about.
#2 Work on your headline
When I tell people they need to work on their blog titles, the number one objection I hear is this: ‘oh these types of headlines don’t work in my industry’. I find this quite interesting. There is a certain presumption going on. People think that I am encouraging them to write headlines that are over-the-top, hypey or sleazy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When I tell you to make your headlines stronger, I want you to make them more specific (rather than broad and generic), spell out a benefit and/or arouse curiosity (not sensationalism). What I am really saying is that getting your headline right is critical if you want people to consume your content.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
Here are some examples of headlines that promise a straight benefit:
- 10 business lessons I learned this year – Neil Patel
- 5 quick things you can do to fix your marketing this week – Sonia Simone
- Launch a self hosted WordPress blog in 20 minutes – Michael Hyatt
Here are some examples of headlines that are so irresistible (for the right audience, I may add) that people will be itching to click and read the whole article:
- Truth Time: I Haven’t Been Fully Practicing What I Teach – Jenny Shih
- 3 amazing things happening in my biz & life right now! – Sarah Hart
And here are two that do both.
- 10 Mistakes I Made Publishing My eBook, and How You Can Do it Better – Carol Tice
- Want to steal my Facebook ad strategy? –Kimra Luna
This is the power of writing a great headline.
#3 Hook them with a solid intro
There are certain pieces of content that hook you from the start. They have you at ‘hello’.
As soon as you read the first line, you can’t stop yourself from reading the next one, and the next, and so on. Pretty soon, you find yourself reaching the end of the article and you didn’t even plan on reading it at that instant.
You can have the same effect on your readers. The trick is to work on your intro.
The headline will ensure that the person at the other end clicks on your article. However, the introduction will force them to continue reading. Many blog posts fail to get traction because they lose people right at the start.
You don’t want to do that. Here are some tips for you to create an irresistible introduction:
- Ask a question.
- Make a bold claim.
- Share a startling statistic.
- Use a pattern interrupt (Grab their attention by saying something totally unexpected).
- Start telling them a story (Make sure the first sentence is very compelling).
#4 Make it conversational
Nobody wants to read content that feels like as if a robot churned it out. And there is plenty of content like that floating on the interwebs for sure. The easiest way to let people know that this content was written by an actual, living, breathing human is to make it conversational.
Write as you speak – only better. What do I mean by that? Write your post as if you are having a chat with a dear friend, and then edit for clarity. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
- Use short sentences.
- Use contractions. Instead of saying ‘I am’, say ‘I’m’, or replace ‘I would’ with ‘I’d’.
- Use exclamatory sentences like ‘Holy cow’ ‘Say what?’
- It’s okay to use fragments within your writing.
- It is also okay to start a sentence with a conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘but’.
- Don’t use passive voice. Instead of saying ‘it’s been decided’, say ‘I decided that ..’, or ‘Your comment is much appreciated’, ‘I appreciate your comment’.
- Avoid using jargon and industry-speak.
- Avoid appearing too formal. It makes your writing boring.
- Ask questions to make your writing feel like a dialogue instead of a monologue.
- Inject your personality.
- Use words that are unique to you. Use some slang but don’t go overboard.
- Watch your tone. Do you want to sound warm and approachable or come across like a princess?
#5 Brevity is your friend
Let me ask you a question (please don’t throw something at me) – are you busy?
Exactly! I mean, in today’s information oversaturated world, who isn’t?
We are all starving for time and genuine connection. This is the perfect opportunity for you to stand out. Get to the point quickly. (And yes, I am writing this in a 2000+ blog post, the irony is not lost on me.)
So let me clarify. I’m not asking you to write 200-word blog posts, or restrict the length of all your social media updates. What I’m saying is to be concise in your writing. Conciseness means getting rid of rambling, repetition, irrelevant information, redundancy, and anything else that takes away from a pleasurable reading experience.
Here are some tips for you:
- As a general rule, use short words, sentences and paragraphs.
- Eliminate all run-on sentences.
- Get rid of all unnecessary information.
- Edit ruthlessly. Edit to make your writing even better.
- Cut all words that don’t affect your sentence structure.
- Shorten your stories
- Tighten up your writing.
#6 Make your reader the focus of the content
Do you know the difference between a business blog vs a personal one? Let me tell you in case you don’t.
Your personal blog is more like an online journal. You write it for your friends, family and colleagues. You muse about matters that are interesting and important to YOU. You are content with a handful of people reading it and leaving an occasional comment. You don’t have any goals to build your list or monetize it.
Contrast that with your business blog which exists to build K-L-T (Know, like and trust) and grow your email list. It has a different purpose altogether.
So when you consider publishing anything on your blog, you have to make your readers your main focus. Think about what they want. What are they interested in reading more about? What sort of content appeals to this audience?
Make your content all about them. Here are some handy tips to do this:
- Address your reader in the post. Pretend you are sitting across them having a friendly conversation and keep that picture in mind.
- Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ instead of ‘me or ‘I”.
- Mirror their responses.
- Use the kind of language they use.
- Build your content around questions they ask and topics they request.
- Ask them questions.
- Ask them for feedback.
- Ask them for comments. Make them a part of this conversation
#7 Use proven content types
To make it really easy for yourself, see what is already working. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Go out and explore some blogs in your industry. See what is getting popular. Pay attention to the content type. Is the piece long-form or short? Is it image heavy or does it contain some form of audio?
What about the topic. Is it straight how-to content? Are they using video to do a tutorial? Are they interviewing influencers? Are they just curating what is out there already?
Here are some content ideas that are proven to work:
- Do an epic list post.
- Do a really short, punchy piece.
- Do an interview post where you reach out to influencers in your industry, ask them a question or two and compile the results.
- Write about something that is not working in your industry right now.
- Do a video tutorial.
- Create an infographic.
- Create a meme around your brand.
- Tell a story about yourself.
- Teach your readers to do something super fast.
- Write a post about the lessons you have learned in the past 5 or 10 years
- Publish a rant.
- Publish an image-heavy post.
#8 Make it look good
You have done a fantastic job nailing your headline and so you succeed in getting people to click through. You have also worked hard to create an irresistible opening that is sure to hook people and grab their attention.
However, you still find that there isn’t any evidence that your content is having impact. For example, you aren’t receiving any comments, social media shares or any feedback at all. The problem might be that nobody is actually reading the post till the end. And this isn’t because the post is not well-written and relevant, the issue could be formatting.
You have to adapt your writing for the world wide web. What works in print doesn’t necessarily works online. Here are some tips:
- Choose a font that is easy to read.
- Use images to entice your reader.
- Use sub-headings to highlight the important points for those who like to scan.
- Use bullets, numbered lists and italics to make some text stand out.
- Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones (it is okay to use a one-sentence paragraph).
- Use lots of white space to make it easy on the eye.
- Make sure the text doesn’t stretch across the screen. Don’t make it too wide.
- Optimize for mobile and make it easy to read on a tiny screen.
- Make your links attractive and useful by hyperlinking words that explain what you are linking to.
Remember, if you focus on your reader, put out content that they find highly useful, and make it accessible (share on social media, make it easy to consume online), then there is no reason why your content won’t see any traction.
However, do keep this in mind – if you are going to play the content game, it is going to be for the long haul.
Content marketing is not a sprint, it is a marathon, so if you want a great ROI (return on investment) on your time and effort, you gotta stay consistent. Don’t give up too soon and you will see it pay off. Good luck! And share in the comments below how you tackle content marketing problems.