I have the coolest job – I write for a living. Like many people, you may be thinking, “That’s not a real job! Anyone can write!” Sure, we all learn to write at school, so it’s easy money, right? Wrong!
Writing is considerably more than just putting proverbial pen to paper, or rather fingers to the keyboard. Sure, virtually anyone who can write can create content, but not everyone can write engaging content.
Before you chuck in the towel and start scouring Upwork and Fiverr for experienced writers, read through to the end of this article because I’m giving you a bunch of tips to help you write content that is both engaging and a pleasure to read.
What Exactly is Engaging Content?
We’ve all channel-surfed the TV, trying to find programs that capture our attention.
We may stumble on something that looks interesting, but five minutes later, we reach for the remote control and resume surfing. The next program we land on seems better, and we get engrossed in it.
We often get “well, I never knew that!” moments with documentaries. Then, by the end of the program, we feel enlightened.
With drama series, the suspense of what might happen next keeps us on the edge of our seats, biting our nails in anticipation. And of course, at the crucial moment, that program ends, leaving us on edge until the next episode (or, heaven forbid, the next series.)
That, my dears, is my feeble attempt at demonstrating what makes content engaging.
It’s the same with written content. Nobody finishes a novel if it is boring, but we will buy other books from the same author if it is good. Likewise, we buy magazines because they talk about hobbies and pastimes that we enjoy. It, therefore, figures that people visit your website because they are interested in what you have to say.
However, as with novels and magazines, visitors to your site need a reason to continue reading and keep coming back for more. If it is boring, monotonous, and does not tell them something they don’t already know, they’ll be off to surf Google to find more interesting websites. But if it is interesting, informative, and well written, they’ll view the time spent reading it as time well spent rather than wasted.
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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Measuring Engagement
I think you now have a pretty good idea of the difference between boring and engaging content. However, you’re probably wondering how to know if your content is engaging?
That’s an excellent question, and I’m glad you wondered about it.
There are several ways to monitor if your writings are grabbing your intended audience’s attention:
- Comments: If you enable comments on your blog and social media posts, readers will be able to ask questions, give their opinions, offer advice, etc. That can help you see how engaged they are. Furthermore, inviting them to comment on your article can give you helpful feedback, but be sure to respond where relevant, as visitors also expect you to engage with them.
- Likes: Allowing people to like (or thumbs up) your content is another excellent way of judging engagement.
- Dislikes: If there is a facility for visitors to dislike content (such as on YouTube), don’t take any thumbs down personally, as you’ll never be able to please everyone all the time. Instead, dislikes as (a) feedback that tells you your content may need improvement and (b) a record that someone has visited content and engaged with it.
- Shares: People share social media and blog posts because they want others to know about them. It’s another form of trackable engagement.
- Follows: If people like your content, they may want to follow you to ensure they see your future contributions. This is easily done on social media, but for websites, consider allowing visitors to subscribe so you can keep them updated.
- Polls: There’s nothing to stop you from adding a short poll at the end of your posts asking people to vote on what they thought of them. Alternatively, you could run periodic or ad-hoc polls asking readers which topics they’d like to have more of, etc. That creates engagement and gives you valuable feedback.
- Statistics and analytics: There are plenty of ways to gather information on metrics such as page views, time spent on pages, bounce rates, etc., using tools such as Google Analytics.
My Top Tips to Make Your Content More Engaging!
So, now that you know what engaging content is all about and how to measure it, here are eleven great tips to help you write as captivatingly as possible.
Tip 1 – Understand Your Audience
Knowing your audience is fundamental as it will allow you to slant your writing to them. One quirky but excellent way of doing this is to create a persona of a typical reader.
For example, if you have a cookery blog, think about the people you want to target. Are they homemakers looking for easy family recipes? Or are they connoisseurs of fine food and wine? Either way, just thinking about them creates a mental image of a typical reader.
Consider things like their age range, gender, social background, and the like. Then, once you have a vivid image of that reader in your mind, transfer it to paper. It sounds a little daft, but sketch a picture of the person you imagined and annotate it, too.
All of that will fix the persona of your target reader in your mind and help you focus your content accordingly.
Tip 2 – Be Passionate
If you have no interest in what you are writing about, don’t waste your time doing it.
Writing about things we are not crazy about can be incredibly challenging. In my case, that’d be soccer, which I loathe. Sure, I know enough to write an article on it, but it’d be garbage because I have zero passion for the sport. Even a fat payment is unlikely to make much difference.
Conversely, the easiest things to write about are those we are passionate about.
I’m a writer. I love to write. I also enjoy helping people. Therefore, writing this article is heaven for me. I want to share my experiences in content creation and would love for others to benefit from my knowledge. In fact, I’m modestly confident this article reflects my enthusiasm and know-how for writing, and I will be regularly checking the KPIs to see if you all agree!
Tip 3 – Don’t Bluff
In many respects, this leads on from Tip 3. If you know virtually nothing about a subject, don’t write about it.
There is truth in the expression “you can’t bulls**t a bulls**tter.” You may be tempted to bluff if you know nothing about a subject. My advice is, don’t, as you’ll be producing inaccurate, super-boring drivel. Furthermore, your lack of knowledge will be immediately apparent, and you risk negative comments that make you look like an idiot.
Instead, ask someone who does know about the subject for guidance or do some research. It’s amazing the difference having a few solid facts in your back pocket can make to an article. However, the secret is not to go beyond that and start waffling on as if you are an expert when you’re not.
Tip 4 – Create Value for Your Readers
‘Value’ is a concept that most people think of in monetary terms. However, it relates to so many other things.
In the case of engaging content, ‘value’ includes:
- Addressing readers’ pain points, for example, by pre-empting and answering questions they may have.
- Telling them something about the subject they never knew previously.
Imagine you own a business selling draught excluders. Without wishing to offend anyone in the draught excluder trade, it’s not the most exciting subject, right?
Anyway, you may start a blog to bring traffic to your website and help promote the business. That blog could include topics like “5 Ways to Seal Drafty Windows” or “A Simple Strategy for Cutting Your Heating Bills.”
Suddenly, draft excluders don’t seem quite so dull, right? That’s because articles written in such a manner offer value to readers by informing them, giving helpful advice, and addressing their concerns.
Tip 5 – Give Your Readers Actions
It’s all fine and dandy producing interesting content, but it becomes more engaging if it compels the reader to do something more than just read it.
Asking them to act does not have to be an obvious request – using questions is a good way of encouraging rather than demanding an interaction. For example, I close most of my articles with questions for readers relating to the subject. Sometimes I will say, “please comment below,” but that is not always necessary as the questions are often sufficient to entice comments.
Of course, should the context dictate, you can be much more blatant in your approach, such as using the content to channel the reader towards a call to action.
For example, jumping back to the draught excluder post “A Simple Strategy for Cutting Your Heating Bills,” the post could talk about how adding excluders to doors and windows will help prevent heat loss. It would then suggest suitable products from the company catalog, and a CTA link or button will take the readers directly to those.
Tip 6 – Get On An Emotional Level
Humans are complex creatures, driven by a range of emotions.
Clever content writers understand the emotions of their readers and know how to manipulate them.
For example, charity writers use stories that tug at people’s heartstrings and compel them to dig deep into their pockets. The stories may be tragic and make us feel guilty. Alternatively, they may have a happy ending that relies on a ‘feel good factor’ to put people in a generous, happy mood.
Try to get into the minds of your readers and think about what makes them tick. For example, are they compassionate types who respond well to feel-good stories, or are they more pragmatic, expecting direct answers to direct questions?
Tip 7 – Use an Appropriate Tone
In Tip 1, I explained why it is crucial to understand your audience and have a picture (mental or otherwise) of a typical reader so you can create the right content.
However, having the right content is only half of the equation: the other half is how you address your audience. That is because it affects your readers’ image of you (or your brand in the case of businesses), which will impact their willingness to interact with you.
By way of example, imagine you have a lifestyle website targeting teenagers. You’ll get absolutely no readers if your content is stiff, formal, and reads like Prince Charles wrote it. Teens want upbeat and cool, so be that person when writing for them, even if you’re 85, and put your teeth in a glass of Steradent each night.
Similarly, if your audience is business owners running successful enterprises, write in a tone commensurate with their position.
There is a caveat here, though. Use an appropriate tone, but don’t do it at the expense of personality. So, for example, it’s okay to use humor, even in formal contexts – just ensure it is appropriate to your readership.
Tip 8 – Be Accurate
This one is a no-brainer, giving credence to the adage “give a dog a bad name, and it sticks.”
If your content is full of flawed information and inaccuracies, it won’t be long before your readers realize and stop trusting you.
In contrast, articles packed full of informative, accurate information will not only gain the trust of readers, but they will also see you as an authority on the subject. As a result, people will be repeatedly drawn to your works.
Tip 9 – Use More Than Words
People don’t say “a picture paints a thousand words” for no reason, and even with web content, it is essential to break up the sea of words with a few images.
The key here is ensuring the image is relevant and placed in the proper context. For example, you wouldn’t put a picture of a goldfish into a recipe for beef stew, would you? No, that’d be totally irrelevant and out of context. So instead, you’d probably have a nice photo of the finished dish at the very beginning and perhaps a few more explaining the cooking method.
And when I say ‘image,’ it doesn’t necessarily need to be a photograph. Instead, it can be a drawing or sketch, infographic, table, chart – any visual content that adds impact and keeps users engaged.
Tip 10 – Use Attention-Grabbing Headlines and Intros
What encourages you to read a specific article in a newspaper or magazine? The headline, of course.
It’s the same with web content. A snappy, attention-grabbing headline makes people curious about what you have to say and encourages them to read on.
Equally important is the introduction. That should give readers just enough intrigue to make them want to continue reading, but not so much that they don’t need to.
Tip 11 – Read What You Have Written
Once you have finished writing, put it to one side for a while. Have a coffee or take a walk. Heck, even have a snooze. Then come back and carefully read through what you have written.
By doing this, you’ll be looking at the text with a (semi)fresh pair of eyes. Resultingly, you will not only spot mistakes that Grammarly missed, but you will also have an idea of how well it reads from other people’s perspectives and how engaging it is.
After reading it, you may find it needs a few minor tweaks. Or you may need to rehash significant chunks of it. In the worst-case scenario, you might decide to throw it in the trash and start again. But the takeaway from this tip is your content will be as polished as possible before it reaches your actual audience.
What Methods Do You Use For Making Your Content Engaging?
The tips I have provided are not the be-all and end-all of writing engaging content. However, they will help you write consistently and focus on what is most important – your target audience. And whether you are writing content for a business website, personal blog, or social media, the same rules apply.
I’d love to know what golden rules you follow to ensure your content is engaging, so please drop me a line or two in the comments section below.
And remember, should you need someone to write engaging content for you, my rates are very reasonable!