You know engaging content is important. But no matter how often you update your website or post new blogs, nothing seems to increase traffic to your site.
Since everything from word choice to formatting and structure has an impact on whether or not someone clicks on your content, engaging readers has come down to a science, really.
It’s not enough to simply type up some insightful information or an opinion about a topic and assume it will engage people. With a constant and steady flood of information crowding timelines and inboxes throughout the day, it never has been more important to make sure you stand out among competitors, and every other company and individual as well.
So what makes great web content stand out? The most read and shared pieces of content do the following:
Address Very Specific Topics
When writing content, target it toward a specific type of customer that may be searching for your services/products, and consider what would influence their decision. For example, if you are a chiropractor blogging about the health benefits of your therapy, tailor the post to a particular type of person interested in chiropractic care, such as someone recently in a car accident.
Although there are many benefits to chiropractic treatment, people will be more inclined to read a post that is centered on their particular need for it. You can use subsequent posts to cover other areas of interest.
The closer people get to actually buying/using a service/product, the more specific their searches become. Make your content valuable by providing answers to questions people are already searching for. To find out what kinds of questions pertaining to your field are being plugged in to search engines, use tools like Quora.com. People share content when they feel others will find it useful.
Content ideas from Quora.com
Use Headlines That Demand Attention
The headline is, hands down, the most important part of web content. If you have a weak headline, it doesn’t matter how great the article is, it will never be read, let alone shared. How do you make a headline stand out? There are specific words and phrases that typically generate a response: “how to,” “reasons why,” and numbered lists are among the most popular and effective. People want answers and they want them fast.
These kinds of headlines and list articles give readers quick, scannable answers and information. A headline needs to promise something. Whether it is a post for entertainment or for informational or promotional purposes, there has to be something in it for the reader.
A catchy headline
Express a Personality
Entertain readers. Be sarcastic. Be peppy. Be anything but monotone and boring. If you approach your text from an offbeat angle, it will stand out immediately. For example, you can make a mundane topic like plumbing repair interesting to read by telling it through the eyes of a toilet that keeps breaking. If you want your content to stick out, you need to frame it in a unique way.
Get creative. Evoke emotion. The internet is no place to blend in. Write as if you are having a conversation with an acquaintance in the kitchen of a house party.
By writing in a casual and conversational tone, you make readers feel more connected and interested in the information, increasing the chances they enjoy and share it. Speak their language. The most effective web content is written in a style that generally can be understood by an 8th grader. If you are writing about a particular product or service in your industry, avoid using jargon readers may not understand.
Break up the Text So It Is Easily Digested
If you make sentences short and to the point, readers won’t feel overwhelmed, and they will be more likely to breeze through the content. It is important that readers not feel reading a page of lengthy text will be a chore, because they will not want to compromise their time. Break up the text by using bullet points and lists.
Don’t have more than 3-4 sentences in a paragraph.
Content formatted with bullet points and lists
To create more visually appealing web content, include pictures, videos, infographics, and call-to-action buttons. Make sure the images are high quality; nothing says non-credible and unprofessional like fuzzy, pixelated photos.
Content that contains photos and videos are more likely to be shared on social media.
Strategically place your calls to action throughout a post in places where they are most likely to spark engagement.
Call-to-action buttons that spark engagement
Present a Clean Design
There needs to be enough whitespace on your site to make it look balanced, not cluttered. You also want to make sure it has an easy-to-use navigation and responsive design that translates seamlessly for those accessing your content from a phone or tablet. If someone clicks on the link from their phone, but they can’t comfortably read the text, they aren’t going to read (or share) it.
Responsive website for smartphones
Make It Easy to Share on Social Media
Most people want their content to be shared, but they don’t provide their visitors with a way to do so effortlessly. Download a plug-in for a floating sidebar that will follow readers as they scroll down through your content. The sidebar will have the icons for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. With it right in front of them at all times, it will be easy to share or “like” your article.
Floating social media sidebar on right
When you are creating a social media post with a link to an article or piece of content, use TinyURL.com to shorten the permalink. With Twitter, for example, you get only 140 characters; you don’t want to waste them with a long link. Use those characters, instead, to entice readers with a teaser to your content.
At the end of your content, ask a question. Doing so opens up the floor for people to share their own opinions and answer questions. Having a place for them to comment will allow them to either compliment and agree with your content or disagree and offer a new perspective. Either way, it will increase the likelihood of sparking engagement.
The end of your content is also a great place to provide some author information and link to other related topics. If people enjoyed the content, the chances of them wanting to read additional pieces related to the topic are high, but they need to have the links right in front of them.
Author bio at the end of an article
There is no point in spending time creating unique and engaging content if no one is going to read it. Of course, the goal is for your content to be widely read and shared on a consistent basis. But in order for your website to get to that level, you need to first cover the groundwork and learn the fundamentals.
Creating great web content can be difficult. But it gets easier with time and practice. By following these general rules of thumb, you will significantly heighten your chances of having your content read and shared.
About the Author: Casey Cavanagh is the Content Manager at an online advertising agency, a freelance writer and book editor, and a contributing writer for a number of online publications such as Elite Daily and Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter or visit her website: caseycav.com.