In today's times while information spreads fast online and competition is growing exponentially, bloggers are confronted with a major problem: attracting more visitors to their blog. And the solution to this is apparently simple:
Write value-driven content to engage and expand your audience. If it would only be that easy...
That's why we researched for more than 50 content marketers and selected a few of the best to share their insights with us on how to tackle this issue.
We asked them to share their experience with all of our readers (you guys). So the important key question we had for them was:
If you had to share your ultimate advice on what makes content engaging to the right audience, what would you tell bloggers to focus on and why?
Here are the raw answers. Enjoy and comment at the bottom.
Adam Connell, founder of Blogging Wizard, on how to get more visibility online
What makes content engaging is extremely subjective and entirely depends on the needs of your audience.
Typically story telling is a good top level approach to take but the real truth is that you’ll only know how to make your content more engaging once you understand who your audience is.
A good starting point will be to find out:
- What motivates them?
- How do they consume content? Blog posts or audio?
- What content do they want? Educational, entertaining or both?
When it comes to educational content, people have a specific problem and they need a solution to it.
So your content will need to be actionable.
A list of tips that just explain why to do something won’t cut it, you need to make it easy for people to take action and implement the advice that you’re sharing.
When someone puts your advice into action they’ll remember you (and your brand) for it.
Sure, it’s always good to mix in a bit of humour – we all love to be entertained but it shouldn’t lessen the usability of your content.
If your audience wants to be entertained, usefulness goes right out the window and it becomes more about helping someone while away a few minutes in the most awesome way possible – finding what resonates with your audience is key.
Once you figure out what type of content your audience wants, you’ll get far more engagement and then you can strategize interesting ways of sharing your brand message in a way that will keep your audience engaged.
Web strategist Andy Crestodina has 3 questions every blogger should ask
The ultimate advice is to answer these questions about your content...
- Does it answer an important question? If so, they will find it in a search engine
- Does it help them solve a big problem? If so, they are likely to share it with their network
- Does it give them the insights they'll need later? If so, they may subscribe to get more.
The blogger's job is to get into the mind of the audience and think like they do. To know their hopes, their dreams, their fears. You need to write on topics that they care about, using words they would use themselves.
Here's an example:
People don't want to be burned by their web designer. They don't want to get screwed by paying too much or not getting what they need. Finding someone to build a site is a scary process.
I talked to people about their web projects all the time. They tell me what they want and what they don't want. They also tell me what their pervious company did wrong. I hear a lot of web design complaints.
So one day I had an idea... I kept a notebook next to my phone for a year. In it, I wrote down every complaint I hear about web design companies.
Eventually, I had enough to publish a post, including all of the complaints in a list and in a word cloud.
I also included analysis about what kind of complaints people were making.
Publishing this post showed empathy. It gave a voice to the fears my audience has. It's so closely aligned with the topic, that it ranks number one in Google for "web design complaints" and years later, still gets traffic, still gets comments, still generates phone calls.
So the ultimate advice is to have empathy. The better your know your audience and publish something important to them, the more likely you are to engage!
SEO expert Andy Kinsey says to 'be an authority' in your field
My advice when asked "how to make content engaging" on a given website or for a certain industry is really simple: be an authority.
You are reading this blog because the website is known for its great content and being an expert in it's field - it's an authority website and blog.
Becoming an authority is not about promoting the hell out of everything you are doing, shouting about your latest conference speech (though this can help) or paying for your audience to see you via your payment for adverts.
Becoming an authority website and blog, is about having a distinct voice and tone - its about approaching your content in the same expert way each and every time - establishing a clear voice for you and your brand will mean your content reads the same every time, it will therefore have a certain comfort level with readers - it'll be natural and won't be hard to read.
Next up is the use of clear language and adding skimmability to your posts. This means, you use active language, action words (for want of a better phrase) to ensure a user feels involved in your post as they read and that they too can take action.
Skimmability is about laying out your posts awesomely, using clear and concise sub headings, well-rounded imagery and keeping paragraphs fairly short.
Being able to read posts quickly and jump to relevant sections shows your content as being an authority because it's clean and friendly. The next bit of advice is to write about users needs, not your own needs.
For instance on SEOAndy.net we talk about everything from the users view point, we don't guess the level of the users reading or implementing out advice,.
It's all about you the user and helping you
The final bit of advice to ensure your audience is engaged is to add 2 calls to action, one right at the end of the content - maybe a challenge to users to do something, and one in the content - both should help users take the next steps in the evolution as them as users of your site and potential customers.
WordPress web designer Ashley Faulkes focuses on easily consumable content
For my audience, I have found that focusing on easily consumable content is the key to engagement right now.
Why? Well, there is a lot of bland, run of the mill content out there. Often it contains walls of text, or is simply difficult to digest.
So by producing content that helps people consume it easily, and in a short space of time, you are going to make friends very fast!
How do you do this? The key I believe is in how you lay out and present your content.
It should be easy to skim your content - so your sentences and paragraphs should be short. There should also be lots of white space.
And the content should be well broken down into sections using headings so that it is also easy to skim.
On top of that, you should always be using bullet points to break out lists of content or tasks, to make them easy to read and implement where necessary.
Also try to break your content and sections up with images, especially when it gets quite long. Here is a recent example where I used a similar image style to break up the sections. (They are also a perfect size to include in a tweet!)
These are all useful blogging techniques you should be using. After all, simplicity and scan-ability mean the modern web user (who is in a hurry and rarely "reads" your content) can find what they need, and fast.
I like to take things a step further by breaking out important parts of my content in simple boxes and other containers types that help to get across the message.
Depending on the theme you are using, and your technical skills, there are a number of ways to do this (such as creating a shortcode, or writing html) but the simplest way is to use a content builder like Thrive in WordPress, otherwise it is almost impossible for the average blogger!
So I recommend you check it out.
But, no matter how you choose to do it, the idea is to keep it simple, easy to consume and visually stimulating where possible!
Internet entrepreneur Colin Klinkert, of serped.com, likes to listen to his audience's needs
~ Internet Entrepreneur, SEO Expert & software developer.
First, it is essential to identify the needs and wants of your audience. If you fail to address their problems correctly, they are unlikely to take action, or even just read further. You should spend all the time you need to do some research and come up with the right questions and answers.
Research is key.... You should see what is already trending and popular in your marketplace. Tools like Buzzsumo allow you to do that. Generally engaging content is content that people share on their networks, that is the ultimate 'upvote' from a reader.
If you can, you should use a storytelling approach, as well as power words, which can be very effective when properly used. Make sure you structure your content well, with headings and correct sub-headings. Use the chronological approach of H1 first, then H2, then H3 inside that section etc.
Do not randomly do H1 in the content and H3 at the top etc. It takes away from the professionalism and reduces engagement.
Speaking of headings... Let's talk about the most important one: the title. It MUST be compelling. Again, you should spend all the time you need to come up with the right title. Don't hesitate to write a shocking title... My personal favorite: "7 Tips to..." or "13 Best Ways to...".
Engaging content should quote experts like we do on my new seo blog. This is an example of content that is very shareable with a strong title: 25 Experts Reveal Their SEO Lead to Client Conversion Secrets
It has a drawcard (25 Experts) and power words (Sercrets)
In your post, be sure to show examples, and use graphics, to better express what you have to say. There is nothing more boring than chunks of text without any graphics.
You may use photos of course, but also tables, charts and so on. In short, anything that brings value and can help your readers better understand what you have to say.
Once you are done writing, make sure you read everything again, and don't hesitate to remove some of the parts you wrote. The idea here is to make the content as clear and to the point as possible.
You are not writing a thesis. You are writing content with specific goal in mind: make your readers take action.
One last thing... You should measure the performance of your content, so you can optimize it, if need be. You may also split test some elements of your content, like your call-to-actions or your post titles.
Digital marketing expert James Brockbank on getting to know who your audience are
If you want to create content which is engaging for your audience, you first need to know who they are!
Taking the time to put together audience personas (regardless of whether you’re running a personal blog or a business blog) is a vital part of understanding who you’re ‘talking to’ on your blog and, as such, knowing the right sort of content to create.
Engaging content is that which elicits some sort of a response, be that a social share, a comment, a link to or any other form of interaction (if your content is video; a play, as an example) and in order for this to happen, it’s got to allow the reader to connect with it in some way.
When creating blog content either for ourselves or for clients, we always adopt the TAGFEE approach, as championed by Moz. That is, ensuring all content we create and distribute, regardless of it’s format, is:
Transparent & Authentic
The ‘transparent & authentic’ elements apply a little more to the distribution of content than creation, particularly focussing around social media.
It’s all too easy to bulls**t on social media, however audiences can be very quick to see through it and, in the long run, it’ll do you far more harm than good.
BE YOURSELF! When promoting your content, don’t try and make it something it’s not. Practicing transparency around your business as a whole is a great habit to get into and if you can perfect your authenticity when promoting your content, you’ll go a long way.
You’ve likely put blood, sweat and tears into it’s creation, so ensure that comes across! Don’t try to be someone or something you’re not.
How we bring this into content creation is always ensuring that we cover a concept is as much depth as physically (and emotionally) possible! You’ll get absolutely nowhere in terms of engagement by scraping the surface of a topic.
Go on, be generous! If you’re blogging either for yourself or for business, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and ‘give away’ your top tips. This is what audiences love and what instantly receives engagement.
Blogging shouldn’t be boring. Audiences want to be able to connect with you and, as such, your personality needs to come across. Traditionally, many have felt the need to be a little too cautious and corporate but where does that get them?
Content is read by humans and humans enjoy a good laugh and a smile so create the content that elicits these emotions! Don’t be afraid to be a little silly, both on your blog and social channels and if you’ve come up with a great, FUN idea then go for it!
You’ll get a far better response from your audience by being fun than being downright boring!
Always maintain the highest level of professionalism, both as an individual and an employee (or employer). By all means be fun, be daft and be amusing, but NEVER do so at the expense of others.
Gossip, negativity and slander aren’t welcomed by your audiences and, to be honest, such activities make you look a little silly (in the wrong way). Ask yourself; would you want to engage with a blogger who was gossiping and being negative towards others? No, of course not!
Even though you may sometimes feel like it, resist the urge and understand that a blog isn’t the place for such thoughts.
If the content you create THE VERY BEST on the web on that topic? If not, why not? Content of all forms needs to be exceptional and we always strive to ensure whatever we create is just that.
If there’s a similar piece of content done by someone else that is better than yours, you’ll struggle to generate any engagement and traction as it’ll have been seen before.
Focus upon creating exceptional content, however (yes, this is the whole quality over quantity argument), engagement will come far easier and you’ll find that you’re rewarded for your efforts!
To us, TAGFEE is the way to generate engagement and by following this approach, you’re far more likely to create content which engages you audience.
The best way to engage with your audience is to tell them a story. There are millions of blogs out there vying for your audiences attention and they aren't just looking for a list of facts, they're looking to find something that will entertain them, as well as educate them.
For example one of my all time favourite blog posts was by Jon Morrow and his personal blogging journey.
Many people have written articles on "What X Taught me about Y" but Jon actually shared his own story, his own fears, his own successes and it was truly inspiring in getting me started on my journey as a full time blogger.
If you're looking at this from a data perspective this article has 160+ Linking Root Domains and about 15k social shares. It is one of the most popular blog posts ever on Problogger.net.
As Derek Halpern says, "What blends in gets ignored, what stands out gets remembered."
So when you are next sitting down to write a blog post incorporate your facts, statistics, and data into stories that your audience will remember.
You can recount your personal experiences, invent fictitious stories or even pull from across the web and curate others’ experiences.
Jon Dykstra of fatstacksblog.com says be entertaining, informative or both
Most content that goes viral falls into the entertaining category. However, audiences in many niches don't care for entertainment, they want information.
B2B niches come to mind as a prime example of niches whose audience generally wants information, not entertainment.
One thing to keep in mind, engaging does not mean it will go viral. That's not necessarily bad. Viral isn't the be all and end all, especially if you're selling a service, product or promote products. As an aside, if you monetize with display ads, viral is always good.
Therefore, the starting point in your niche is to determine if your audience wants entertaining or informative. If you can pull both off, that's fantastic - go for it.
If you're going to succeed in an information-based niche, you should know the niche well. Outsourcing, unless you hire true experts, isn't going to cut it.
Take Fat Stacks Entrepreneur for example, no content is outsourced because it's solely about what I do as a website publisher.
However, entertainment niches can easily be outsourced. The key is publishing entertaining content. Many writers can do this.
The heavy lifting is coming up with article topics and engaging headlines. After that, the article can write itself.
I operate in both types of niches. I outsource my entertainment focused niches, but write the content for my information based niches.
Types of content that works is as follows:
- creates mystery
- celebrity anything
- relevant product reviews
- case studies
When I want to make content engaging the most important thing is to make it USEFUL/SOLVE A PROBLEM!
When the content truly solves a problem readers are much more likely to engage with it.
An example would be adding a free tool into a massively long post allowing people to solve the problem the tutorial post was written about (here is an example - free spreadsheet tool included with tutorial post).
There are other ways to accomplish this but if someones goal is to create a piece of content people engage with their first priority should be to solve a problem for the readers with the post!
Matthew Barby, Head of SEO at Hubspot, reminds us who we're writing for
The biggest factor involved in making content engaging is to truly understand your target persona. This is something that I see people neglect far too often and just write something because 'they think it's awesome'.
That's fine to do sometimes but you need to focus and remember that you're writing to your audience and not to yourself.
As a starting point, you should research the kinds of publications that your target audience are reading online.
You should know exactly what your audience responds well to before you publish anything - and don't forget that you can go out and ask them yourself!
If you get the fundamentals of your targeting wrong, your content may still be engaging, but just not to the right people.
Something that is unique, actionable and visual. Think interactive infographics... they work extremely well assuming the information is advanced, yet easy to understand.
For example there are animated infographics roaming around the web on topics like "how does a car engine work" and these pieces have received millions of visitors.
Here's another example...
Millionaire internet marketer Rigsby Hawkes says that tools are the way to get attention
I've been in content marketing for the past 10 years, mainly in the fashion niche and have a pretty good understanding of what get's people engaged and what doesn't.
From my experience it's the resources and tools that people love, no matter what the niche. If you can create something that helps people with a task or something that makes their life easier, then you will have an engaged audience in the palm of your hands.
Another tip that I can give you to make your content more engaging is to forget about the hard sell. In most niches consumers are tired of being sold stuff and the last thing they want to see is sales focused content.
The more you try to pitch your audience with an aggressive marketing message, the more that they will exit your site and go elsewhere.
What I try to do is to try and become a bit of a thought leader and guiding the user to where I want them to go.
For example, I did a shoe buying guide for different occasions that linked to affiliate deals that I have signed up to.
The resource didn't try to sell the shoe with big flashing buttons and deals to entice people to click on my links. Instead I created a resource that people loved and used on a daily basis and set my site up as strong resource within the niche.
The more you’re able to influence your industry, the more that consumers will want to do business with your company.
So stop selling. Educate and make people smile. Put your heart into what your customers want most. Once you have found that out, the rest is easy.
Entrepreneur Zac Johnson has 3 live examples to help promote your content
To make content engaging for your audience, you must first know who your exact audience is. In the three examples below, I'm going to give you three live examples of different ways to create, promote and share content that your audience is looking for.
1) Industry Experts
In every industry, there are experts and those who excel at what they do. This round up post is a perfect example of experts coming together and providing great value for your blog audience in the process.
This is something I've done across a wide range of my own sites as well, especially in the blogger space where I feature weekly interviews in my "Meet the Bloggers" series.
Not only is this a great way to create content for my site, but it's also valuable to my audience so they can learn how other bloggers are finding success, while also getting additional shares and promotions from those who are being interviewed as well.
2) Coupons and Discount
This one really goes back to knowing who your audience is and what they are looking for. While working in the online marketing space, I also focus a lot of time on helping people get started with their own blog as well.
Most bloggers don't have a lot of money to start with, so it's in their best interest to try and find coupons or discounts to setup their own web hosting.
To cater to this audience and need, I continually provide high quality tutorials, reviews and discounts on various web hosting services and software providers across the internet. You can see an example of this on my a small orange coupons post.
3) Tutorials and Guidance
Just like people are going to looking for coupons and ways to save money online, they are also going to look for anything else they want to learn or figure out. Again, this all goes back to knowing your audience.
On another of my blogs, I've been able to build an established brand as an online marketer and blogger. As a result of this success, many of my readers want to learn how to start a blog of their own, so I went a head and created a killer 1,200+ detailed tutorial on how to start a blog in a simple 9-step process.
This is just one example of how I've provided high quality tutorials and guidance to my audience -- which has resulted in over seven figures in earnings just by providing simple walk throughs that people are looking for.
To answer the original question in one simple sentence -- know your audience and what they want!
Now that you have a few ideas of what's working for top bloggers across the industry, it's time for you to adopt these same methods into your blog, brand and business.
CONTENT MARKETING ROCKS!
So there you go! Expert content marketing strategies to attract and engage your audience.
You can tell us what you think about this expert roundup in the comments below.
If you learned at least one useful content marketing tip from this article, then please share it with all your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Valuable information must reach as many people as possible.