How do I make my content engaging?

By Chris Bennett Oct 12 2019

First you need a laser, three monkeys, and a blue hat. Next, recite the incantations of the Elder Magi.

Seriously, though. How do you make your content actually worth a read? How do you command attention, without resorting to all-shock and no-value?

What about images? Video? What if my subject matter is boring? And what if I don't know what my audience wants?

These are all important questions, but let's pause and go back to basics.

Why do people read in the first place? They're looking for something. Some people are seeking out adventure and excitement, whilst others search for a quick laugh on a lunch break after a tiring morning shift.

We're human, afterall. Humans are a funny species. With a pretty hefty brain-to-body size ratio, and all the modcons of science, culture and civilisation that come along with the fact, it's easy to forget where content came from.

People gathered around a campfire
Stories have been vital for social cohesion for millenia

Story time!

Content is the latest form of what is essentially storytelling. For tens of thousands of years, humans have told stories. Likely, even longer - the first burial rites are known to have occured some 300,000 years ago.

Stories are critical for social cohesion, even today. Do you hate the gossiping that goes on in the office? Well, gossiping is a form of storytelling - and we humans are exceedingly good at it.

Not only that, but its interesting. Be a lover or a hater of gossip you can't argue that particularly juicy revealed details can be fascinating to us.

So. Back to your content marketing strategy, in a pivot of exceptional scope.

We're biologically wired for stories. We crave them. Whether a novel, office gossiping, a gripping TV drama or the stage production of The Lion King, we are fundamentally drawn to a good narrative.

There are now more than two-million blog posts published daily, 350-million Tweets posted a day and 1.8-billion Google searches performed daily as well.

Andy Crestodina

What makes a good story?

Stories are only really captivating when they're good. How many times have you switched off a boring TV show? Or wished you could leave a movie theatre part way through a Rob Schneider movie?

Good stories, across all mediums and platforms, have several things in common:

  • Good characters
  • A plot with purpose
  • A journey with momentum

For your content, the character is often your brand. And it needs to be good. It needs to have personality. Want to see a brand with character? Check out Old Spice. Or Denny's.

The plot is what you're addressing with your content. In the case of this article, its what makes content engaging. The purpose is to educate, and to entertain along the way. Otherwise you'd switch off.

The journey is the combination of the two. I'm getting to the key points eventually, but I needed to lay some groundwork and warm you up to the concepts. Plus, I'd like to think you've found the trip so far at least partially interesting.

Girl in front of wall with balloons
Your content needs to have personality. Balloons are optional.

Technical difficulties

So you're framed for putting together a really great piece of content now. How do we begin constructing it? There are copywriting consideration as well as technical ones. Here's a list:

Relevent topic

Make sure your topic is something your audience want to read about. If you're selling apples, don't write content about shelving units. Unless, of course, its a specific apple-based shelf that somehow improves the storage of said fruit. Context is key. You can be off topic, so long as its still relevent in some way.

Tools to use:

Intent

Write with intent. What;s the purpose of the piece? What is the end goal? If it's to get customers to perform an action, like fill in a form or click through to a certain page, then make sure this is clear and an obvious thing to do.

Presentation and quality

Make sure your content looks good! Just like production values in a TV show, sloppy visuals come across as cheap and low-rent. Do you want those words associated with your brand or your products? Didn't think so. Here's what you need to sort:

  • High-quality, interesting images
  • Clear presentation so it's easily readable
  • Sensible formatting
  • Headline - make it catchy and relevent
  • Quality writing - hire a freelancer if you aren't any good. Try something like Hemmingway to guage the level of writing
  • Provide value - include links to useful resources, or as citations to demonstrate your accuracy, be an industry friend to your audience

Optimised for search

Ah, good old SEO. Everyone is an SEO expert these days. Luckily, I'm actually qualified in search marketing - so I have some cracking tips for your articles:

  • Metadata - social tags, such as social cards, Facebook Open Graph, Schema markup
  • Headings - H1's contain most important info, then H2's and so on
  • Keywords - don't stuff the article full of them, but be mindful about it. If you're writing about electric cars, mention "electric cars" at least once. Common sense prevails here
  • Optimise your images - that is, make the file size as small as possible without making the quality drop through the floor. Try TinyPNG
  • Length - 1000 words is a good spot. 500 works too. Anything shorter and it's not worth bothering with
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