One of the greatest struggles content marketers face right now is creating engaging content. More than 70% of marketers have made it a top priority this year to address that and make stronger connections with their audiences.
I think a primary cause for that struggle is that we’re only just a few years past search engine updates that changed, rather quickly, the way content is produced. The days of short, shallow content for the sake of building links are gone.
But change sometimes comes slowly. If you want to stand out, you have to produce better content. That’s all there is to it.
Your customers won’t settle for something boring, shallow, and uninteresting. They have problems, and they want answers to help them address those problems.
Here’s how you can transform your “meh” content into something amazing that your audience has been longing for.
1. Hook them in the opening
The introduction to your content should be the most impactful, hooking your audience when they first read it. You need a compelling intro that isn’t very long but provides an effective tease about what’s to come.
A smart move is to make an emotional impact on the audience within the first few sentences. If you’ve done your audience research, you can use your intro to create a sense of empathy around the main point of the article.
The next segment of the intro can set up the need or desire for a solution, followed by a promise of information to come. Other strong introductions could include:
- Engaging use of storytelling
- Facts and statistics, especially those that might be surprising
- A position or belief contrary to the norm
2. Add visual engagement
Even the driest textbooks I had in school had pictures and visual aids to help break up the blocks of text in each section. Few things will make someone bounce from your content faster than being greeted by a wall of text.
Images and other visual elements don’t just break up the content to make skimming easier; they create a more immersive experience that helps the reader remember your content. It also makes them more likely to read it.
Adding relevant images increases people’s willingness to read by as much as 80%.
Visuals are so effective at promoting engagement that 55% of marketers say creating visual content is among their top priorities for 2016.
Just don’t rely on stock photos.
Find or create images that are highly relevant and fit the context of the cotent. Use Pixabay, Flickr, and Google’s Advanced Image search to find creative commons images, or try using Canva to create your own.
3. The right headline matters
Whenever you’re creating an article or post, create headlines that match these criteria:
- Short – keep it under 20 words
- Impactful – capture their attention and generate interest
- Relevant – no clickbait; match audience intent to the content.
Even the most value-packed content will be ignored if you don’t have a great title that connects with your readers.
When I’m producing content, I can sometimes get lucky and come up with a great headline quickly. More often than not, I spend as much time coming up with a headline as I do writing content.
4. Find the angle
If you come up with a topic for your audience, there’s a good chance that someone has already covered it. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about it or shouldn’t. You just need to have a unique approach and make sure you’re providing original value.
Every piece of content you write has 3 aspects:
- Topic – the overarching subject for your article
- Point – The key idea you’re trying to get across
- Angle – Your specific position on the topic and point
Go after common topics or even trending, heavily-covered topics. Just make sure you have a good angle. When readers are digging into a topic, it will be refreshing for them to find content with a different perspective.
5. Give your content a voice
One of the purposes of producing content is to build trust with your audience to establish authority. You’ll never achieve that if your content reads like a textbook or technical piece. That content has no voice or personality to it.
If you’re promoting your own brand, write in your own voice. Think about your statements using your voice before you write them. Does it sound like you?
For your brand, develop a voice that matches the personality you’ve already created. Content created by a brand with a lighthearted style, like Taco Bell, has a very different voice from the voice of a more serious, driven brand, like Nike, for example.
When you write with a consistent voice, you make a stronger connection with your audience. Content feels more like a dialogue and less like a learning experience.
6. Chase the one thing
As mentioned, your content has a point or key idea you’re trying to get across.
That’s singular: one point.
Every word and sentence in your content should lead toward that point and support it.
Anything that doesn’t engage the reader and help them reach an understanding of that point is only taking up space. Cut it.
7. Match depth and length
I still stumble across the occasional article that dates back to pre-Google updates.
While researching topics and ideas, I see that one 300- or 400-word post that pops up. No images or subheadings, just a little garden wall of text.
They were short, punchy, and often without much value to them. That’s expected, given the length.
What really surprises me is the posts in excess of 1,500 words that have virtually no substance and could be reduced to 400 words without losing anything. They are as vast as an ocean, but as deep as a puddle.
The length of the content isn’t really important; it’s the depth that you have to be mindful of.
Buffer, on the other hand, is known for long-form posts packed with insight and takeaways.
No matter how long of a post you write, make sure the depth matches the length.
A lot of content marketers I talk to say the same thing: “I’m having a hard time making our content really amazing.”
I get that. It’s not easy.
To make the struggle even tougher, more companies than ever are doing content marketing!
Today, to do better, you have to outdo hundreds of other competitors.
Easy? No. But doable? Yes.
What I’ve found to be effective is sticking with it and going back to the basics like the depth of content and the engagement of the headline.
You don’t necessarily need more skill or talent. By taking the right steps in the right area, you’ll be able to level up and improve your content game.