Five years ago, I was not a writer. I liked reading books. I would devour them all day long if I had the chance. But somehow, with a pen in my hand, I was unable to create engaging content. Everything seemed synthetic, robotic and my efforts seemed fruitless. So, one day, I decided to stop forcing the issue. Instead, I started to analyze any interesting article that came my way. I took them apart, and the things that I discovered helped me blossom from a wannabe writer into a professional content creator.
Today, we’ll go through the key elements that create highly engaging content. Even if you feel like you are neither a designer nor a writer, the following formula will give you the ingredients to make text interesting and effective. Once you understand these ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to creating thought provoking, engaging, relevant, educational content that supports your business goals. Let’s begin!
1. What is Engaging Content?
Before starting this great journey of creation, let’s understand what we’re in for. First, the reason we’re creating content: the attention, eyeballs, and time of readers.
Content has become a form of marketing that enjoys the greatest popularity today. This happened when billboard advertising or TV commercials began to take a back seat. How? The public has gained access to an almost infinite source of information: the Internet. Now, it is in their power to research, read, and educate themselves on any product or purchase.
In response, marketers started creating and delivering content to help customers learn about their products. This means your content must be informative, original, valuable, and add something new to the conversation. Other elements that are secondary, but also very important are inspiration, entertainment, and the desire to receive more.
In short, readers need to love your content.
2. Start with a Boom
We all know that titles are important, but the first sentence is as valuable if not more so. The ultimate purpose of this introductory phrase is to let the readers know what to expect from the content and peak their curiosity.
Your title must create the same disruptive experience that an ad does. You don’t need to do that through overly long words or exclamation points. This is best achieved through simple words that pack a powerful punch.
In Google results, an article will show users the title and first sentence. Consequently, the first impression should be clear and poignant so that readers will be intrigued and want to know more. This is how you win more click-through rates.
However, once on your page, the writer shouldn’t disappoint readers. The text should continue to immerses the readers even deeper in the topic.
It is important to start strong since most people have an unconscious intention to skip the introduction and dive right in the subject they are passionate about. When this happens, readers lose context, and your article becomes much less effective.
3. Use Conversational Vocabulary
Consumers are not in for the ultimate metaphor. They want facts, examples, jokes, and lists. If they were looking for prose, they’d be reading Shakespeare. Content should be written as if the writers are talking to their friends. It’s a conversation, not a statement. The reader should receive a new angle on an old topic, a new solution to their problems, or an unexpected laugh. This can be accomplished with the simplest words. The difficulty here is how to combine these small words to deliver big messages.
4. Create Minimalism
The best-looking content is one with a short title, simple sentences, on point subheadings, and natural images. And the reason for this is that you are writing for the web, not a book.
Both of them have the intent to inform or entertain the reader, but they offer two different reading experiences. When you open a book, there are only the pages in front of you. Once you start it, you don’t have the urge to start others at the same time. When you are finished for the day, you simply bookmark the last page and resume reading another time.
However, reading an online article is a completely different experience. First of all, readers know there are a million other similar articles to read. So, while they are reading, they are simultaneously weighing the benefits they’re getting from your article over the cost of their precious time. If you lose them anywhere in their reading, they’ll likely move on without finishing. Secondly, it’s a distracting environment, where banners, ads, and columns on a web page can distract a reader.
Moreover, studies that observed the eye movement of web users noticed that people employ an F-shaped pattern for reading a website. So the process follows a vertical approach and moves away from the horizontal tradition. This means that while on the web, people prefer to scan an article rather than read it entirely.
A text that nurtures the attention of the online reader will follow the F-shaped formula. This means that the first two paragraphs should be good enough to create curiosity for the entire article or offer enough useful information to entice readers to read on.
Furthermore, the information found on the left side of the webpage should be highlighted and well built. These include subheadings and bullet points.
5. Use Power Words
Not all decisions are logical. One trigger that can spur someone to read an article all the way is emotion. Often, people choose a new product that resonates with their value system or past experiences and feelings. Highly engaging content should summon powerful feelings from within the reader. This process doesn’t imply a shaman or voodoo practices. It is all about simple words otherwise known as power words.
These tiny weapons are used by content creators to influence web users to perform an action, whether it is purchasing or writing a review. The power words will attach a certain feeling to your content. If you write about the last 24 hours left for your special offer, you can choose the simple words that inspire concern, fear of losing something, or the pressure of wasting time. In this case, you can use worry, risky, beware, caution, mistake, blinded or several other options.
On the other hand, a few types of engaging content want to build a connection between brand and consumer. This process requires winning over readers’ trust so you can use words such as safe, authentic, protected, secure, privacy, official, verify, lifetime, money-back, refund, research, and others.
6. Speak the Language of Your Audience
Every generation speaks a different language. So, to avoid speaking the wrong language, you need to identify your audience. To do that, you can create a persona. By gathering all the information you have about your existing customers, you will most surely identify a pattern regarding age, demographics, preferences, hobbies or career. This pattern will represent the character profile of your target audience and enable you to adopt a personality they will relate to.
Before starting to write your text, visualize this person that represents all your readers. Write for him or her only, and not just with the purpose of selling something. Write for this person's enjoyment and education. Your vocabulary will likely adjust to the type of language your audience uses.
After going through all these steps for creating highly engaging content, you will realize that it is not about finding your inner Shakespeare. Professional content creators use simplicity as the secret to success. So, turn on a new blank page, and use meaningful and simple words to create an impactful conversation with your readers.
Interested in digital classes on the topics discussed above? OMI recommends the below classes to get started:
Amanda Wilks knows digital marketing and the online milieu better than most marketing professionals – if she can say so herself. She’s been passionately contributing to Customer Survey Report for a while now with the purpose of helping entrepreneurs throw the ball out of the field. If you want to learn more about Amanda, you are kindly invited to follow her on Twitter @AmandaWilks01.