Even though content continues its meteoric rise as a company’s best and most effective marketing strategy…
And, even though “content” can entail many things, in many formats, of varying complexity… it’s creating a writing challenge you must overcome immediately.
No matter what you’ve heard, the truth is there’s still really only one rule for content writing. Ignore it and your copy won’t get read.
Don’t bore your audience.
Many writers focus on grabbing the reader’s attention immediately — and they should. But, it’s not enough. You have to ensure you keep his attention for the full duration of your piece, no matter its length. Because engagement, conversion, and all those other important marketing metrics depend on keeping the audience interested enough so they’ll want to take action.
It’s that simple.
Of course, simple doesn’t always translate to “easy.” So check out these three ways to keep your content interesting and maintain your reader’s attention the whole way through.
Give it a unique angle.
You’ve chosen an overall topic to write about, and you know the point you want to make. Now you need to determine your angle. This is how you make your content stand out from all the other writers’ pieces. Here are three ways to choose an angle that will help differentiate your content.
Be an individual.
After Prince died, I decided to write a newsjacking piece about marketing lessons I learned from him. Was I alone in doing this? Hardly. A quick Google search right now of “marketing lessons from Prince” (without quote marks) returned 182,000 results. Yet my piece is unique, because all of the information in it was filtered solely through me. I paid close attention to the news and then decided on an angle that was most interesting and relevant for my audience, and me. I didn’t do any research on how other marketers wrote their articles. I just went with my gut.
Now, if you’re writing for a client, you may not have quite as much freedom (especially with the whole “no research” aspect). Regardless, there’s always a way to make something at least a little different from everything else that already exists about your topic. Whether it’s the point you make, the voice you use, or something else, figure out how to convey your (or your client’s) individuality to your reader.
Disagree with the common opinion.
If there’s a prevailing opinion or rationale on your topic, do you have a valid reason to disagree with it? If so, share that. A contrary perspective often gets people’s attention. It might also generate conversation among your audience, which will help boost your content’s online visibility.
Explore the topic deeply.
Is there an aspect of your topic people aren’t paying much enough attention to… one you think is important? Dive into it, explaining why it’s critical and what the impact is. Or, take the status quo on the topic and explain how it applies more broadly in a new way others haven’t thought of yet.
Get personal with your audience.
Give your reader a stake in your content by doing one or more of the following:
Tell a story.
The human brain is wired to respond to stories, and telling one is a great way to help keep your reader engrossed. If a story won’t work for your piece, an example can serve the same purpose. The idea is to provide a narrative for your reader to follow. This keeps her involved and makes her want to know the outcome.
Whose questions? Your audience’s, for starters. Responding to their questions gives you an ongoing opportunity to directly connect with, and add value for, your clients and prospects.
Plus, many people will tend to use the same terminology when searching online for the question. Using this terminology will help boost your place in the search results.
You can also answer your own questions. If you’re wondering about something, someone else probably is, too. And, being interested in the topic will make you approach it with a curiosity and enthusiasm your readers will notice.
Another option is to use question-answering websites to generate ideas. Look at what people are asking about on sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers. Either answer some of the questions people post there — you don’t have to post it there if you don’t want to — or use what is posted there as brainstorming inspiration for other questions your audience may want answered.
Make your content actionable.
Leave your reader with an understanding of how he can apply what he read to his own life. Writing about something your reader can picture himself acting on is more interesting than something he only passively absorbs.
Follow these best practices to keep your reader engaged.
While ideas are the biggest part of the equation for creating interesting content, execution counts as well. Certain grammar rules and best practices for writing are important in helping your reader maintain her focus and interest. As with everything in life, there are always exceptions. But writers and marketing experts generally tend to agree on the principles below.
Avoid alliteration always.
Yes, it’s a cliché, but clichés are often grounded in truth. Many writers suggest avoiding strings of words beginning with the same letter, or that sound similar. Reading it at length tends to become tedious for many readers, so alliteration may turn some people off to the point they abandon your content.
Don’t be too repetitive.
Pay attention not only to the entire text, but also to the subheadings and the first word in each paragraph. You may want to try reading aloud, as well, to find repetitive words that are easier to hear than just to see. And software like Word Counter and Text Analyzer and Pro Writing Aid can also help you catch repeated words and phrases.
Mix up your styles.
Varying the length of your sentences and paragraphs will hold your reader’s attention better than visually dull blocks of uniform text will.
Make your text as reader-friendly as possible.
Tech tools like the Hemingway App help keep your writing clear and concise. The Flesch-Kincaid readability tool grades writing based on the complexity of the piece. It’s built into Word, but if you use different software, various online readability checkers are available. Research the various choices to find your favorite.
The bottom line is that interesting content relies on a unique perspective, interaction with the reader, and clear and simple language to convey the message. By giving your audience each of these elements, you’ll maintain their attention every time.