By Heidi Cohen published November 18, 2013

5 Tactics for Content Creators to Increase Content Consumption

couple looking at tablet-content consumptionAs a content creator, you can produce the best content in the world, but if it doesn’t break through the clutter and motivate your target audience to want to read it, it holds little value, no matter how well written it was, or how much time and effort you spent on developing, optimizing and distributing it!

Think of your content as a gift you give your readers. Content creators need to include intriguing packaging to entice readers and make sure they will want to “open” it.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point:

For a school holiday gift grab bag, one of my classmates brought in a huge box wrapped in shiny gold paper. The box seemed too big to be worth the small spending limit we were given, so we were all hoping to grab it as our gift. Naturally, the first student to pick chose the box, and inside he found a series of wrapped boxes, each containing a coin. Together, the coins added up to the amount of money we were allowed to spend — thus delivering on the expectation, but in a more enticing way. The box looked like it held something of high value, making it the most desirable choice for potential “users.”

If you would like to deliver your content value in a similarly desirable way, here are five actionable content marketing tips for maximizing content consumption that the experts don’t talk about.

1. Hook readers in with a great headline

52 headline hacks-on pad

Take it from one of the original “Mad Men,” David Ogilvy: Only one out of five readers gets beyond the headline. Therefore, take the time to ensure that your headlines pack a maximum punch. I advise content creators to start with these tips:

  1. Spend time at your local magazine stand: Dead tree (i.e., print) magazines perform based on the power of their headlines. Study what makes them tick, particularly high-circulation publications, like Cosmopolitan.
  2. Read Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline HacksJon has cracked the code on headlines and shares his knowledge for free. (BTW, you can check out his Problogger article to understand how he does it.)
  3. Give your headlines one last tweak before content goes live: While it can be useful to have a working headline to start off your writing process, it’s a good idea to go back and take a second look at it at the end of your process to make sure it’s the best it can be.

2. Include eye candy

candy jars

Humans are visual beings — it’s one of the traits that has kept our species going. Thus, it should come as no surprise that 90 percent of the information we take in is visual, and that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. Even more important for global audiences is that visual content often spans multiple languages, where text-based content may not.

Some considerations here:

  1. Add at least one image to your content: Use a picture related to your topic near the top of your text. Think of it as an advertisement for your content.
  2. Incorporate photography: To make your images more memorable, select one that includes a person, since people are programmed to look at pictures of other humans.
  3. Consider adding visuals other than just images: Instead of writing a bunch of text, content creators should think about producing a video, designing an infographic, or developing a presentation to convey their desired messages.

3. Format your content for optimal reader appeal 

heidi cohen marketing page

Avoid “THDR” (“too hard, didn’t read”) or no one will consume your content, no matter how good or relevant it is. Make your content quick and easy to consume and absorb by following these tips:

  1. “Chunk” the information you present: Use short paragraphs that don’t look intimidating, and use outlining or highlighting to facilitate easier reading.
  2. Add bolding to guide readers through your content: Presenting hunks of seemingly endless text turns readers away, but bold text helps guide the eye and break up long content passages into more digestible bites.
  3. Use easy-to-read fonts: While you may think typefaces with curlicues and script add a touch of fun to your content, these enhancements may not be legible for the average reader — particularly if they are viewing your content on a tablet or smartphone screen. Use “fancy” fonts sparingly, if at all.
  4. Avoid microscopic type: Too-small type practically screams that you don’t want people to actually be able to read your content. Take pity on your readers, many of whom might need reading glasses (i.e., are over the age of 40), and use at least a size 11-point type in your content.
  5. Check for color contrast: Ensure that there’s sufficient contrast between your text and the background it appears against. Also skip neon colors, like acid yellow, which can distort the text.

4. Optimize content for search

content marketing search results Make sure your content is findable on search engines, by following these suggestions:

  1. Focus each piece of content around one keyword phrase: The more focused you are, the better.
  2. Incorporate relevant links: Provide links to the original source of information. Specifically, add links to reputable third parties, as well as to other pieces of content you have created for your business.
  3. Add text to non-text content: Understand that search engines can only read text, so make sure you add meta-data to your images, videos, and other image-based content, so that search engines can index them.
  4. Use Google+ authorship: This helps protect your content, and make sure it is associated with you and your business.

5. Encourage social engagement

share cmi- buttons for social sharing

Maximize social interaction by removing obstacles and fears that hinder sharing. Often this relates to writing text. Bear in mind that your readers have a “Don’t make me think!” attitude, so make sure each share takes as little effort on their part as possible:

  1. Add social sharing icons at the top and bottom of your content:  Alternatively, consider using a persistent sharing option. In either case, make sure that it’s easy for visitors to share your content.
  2. Incorporate other forms of sharing in the body of your content: Use tools such as ClickToTweet to enable sharing without the need for readers to think about how they can do so.
  3. Encourage comments by asking a question at the end of your content: Post a comment policy to provide guidelines for commenters. And to ensure valid comments don’t get lost, employ a commenting tool. While this helps minimize comment spam, don’t forget that you will still need to monitor your content forums to clear out any inappropriate comments that may have slipped through the filters.
  4. Respond to the comments you receive: Reply to people who take the time to comment on your content. It is just good manners, and it increases the social proof. Further, ask guest authors to monitor their posts and add responses for at least two days after you have posted their content on your blog or other outlets.

Packaging your content well will maximize your content consumption. To further improve your results, test out which of these five tactics work best for your target audience. Remember it’s not a matter of getting the largest number of readers but, rather, attracting the readers who represent the greatest potential for you to meet your content marketing objectives.

What tips have you found to be the most effective for improving content consumption and why did they work best? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Want more guidance on best practices for executing on your content marketing strategy? Join our #CMWorld twitter chat Tuesday, November 19 at 12 PM EDT with special guest Heidi Cohen as we discuss content execution. Follow @CMIContent and @HeidiCohen and the hashtag #CMWorld.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other posts by Heidi Cohen

  • Nandini Rathi

    Well said Heidi! I specially agree with #5 – Encourage Social Engagement. Social media is a proven way to drive instant traffic. The more you can promote & cross promote through your fans/followers, the bigger the reach.

    Also, keeping your articles open ended by asking questions as you have pointed out is a great way to invite participation. I have earlier discussed points 3 & 4 from your #5th point – http://www.betaout.com/blog/the-art-of-building-communities-through-comments/

    • heidicohen

      Nandini,

      As Ann Handley says you need to give your content wings.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.punchbugmarketing.com/ Mark Walker

    Great list! I often find creating a good title is the toughest part of writing a piece.

    • heidicohen

      Mark–Strong headlines are a challenge for most content creators. Practice helps. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Rob_Berman

    Great tips. I jotted down a couple of points to follow-up on with my content creation.

    • heidicohen

      Rob– Glad that you found the article useful

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  • Yuliya Malysh

    So useful post!

    I also like the fact that you use all you tips in this post – you just show as that they are really effective!

  • http://www.onfiremediaonline.com/ ‘TC’ Teresa Clark

    Hey Heidi,
    Another great article here! I definitely agree that we have to incorporate photos and engage our readers by asking for comments when creating our content. Here is something I like to do when creating content.

    Customers are a fantastic source of content. Not only will they know why they buy from you, they may also have some stories about how your product or service helped them. Have a third-party interview your customers. Make sure that whoever is interviewing your clients is asking them open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. This gets your clients speaking more about particular interactions with your business.

    Thanks again for another great article,

    ‘TC’ Teresa Clark

  • http://blog.wishpond.com/ Adella @ Wishpond

    Hi Heidi. Great tips! One more tip is tracking content marketing ROI by using Google Analytics. We monitor how many visitors who visited our blog ended up converting into a customer. We also track and identify which social media channels were most likely to convert. This, in turn, helps us understand why they visit our sites and where we need to invest more rather than other channels. How do you track your content?

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  • Allison Schoner

    Social engagement is critical. People can spread your content and reach a much wider audience and you can gain more followers! http://studioone.com/blog/meat-social-sandwich

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  • http://assistsocialmedia.com/ elizabeth Maness

    excellent article Heidi! Engagement is such a big factor!