As 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
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:
- 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.
- Read Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks: Jon 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.)
- 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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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:
- “Chunk” the information you present: Use short paragraphs that don’t look intimidating, and use outlining or highlighting to facilitate easier reading.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Make sure your content is findable on search engines, by following these suggestions:
- Focus each piece of content around one keyword phrase: The more focused you are, the better.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use Google+ authorship: This helps protect your content, and make sure it is associated with you and your business.
5. Encourage social engagement
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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