By Neil Patel published March 23, 2015

5 Engagement-Driven Elements You Should Add to Every Blog Post

engagement-elements-blog-post-cover

Engagement! Everyone wants engagement from their content. The problem is we’re not quite sure of the best way to get it. Engagement is one area in which content marketing is more art than science.

Even though there are no formulas to predict engagement, there are patterns of success. Here are five things you should add to every blog post to increase engagement.

But first, what is engagement? Since engagement is the whole point of this article, it’s important to define terms. Many of the how-to articles on online engagement simply gloss over the missing definition of engagement. If it’s so important (and most content marketers agree that it is), then what is engagement?

It’s kind of fuzzy

Much of the discussion around engagement happened a long time ago – 2007ish. Engagement has come a long way, and so have our tools for measuring it. In spite of the progress, the definition of engagement still needs to be clarified.

Mark Ghuneim, General Manager of the Curator tool for Twitter, proposed a consumer typology of engagement that looks like this:

ghuneim-consumer-typology-engagement-image 1

Chart source

Still, that’s vague, at least to me.

Here’s a working definition

To keep it simple, I define content engagement as real people responding in measurable ways to your content. There’s a lot of overlap between social engagement and content engagement, but I’m focusing on the actual interaction with the content itself as opposed to how that content is distributed on the social web.

Engagement starts with objectives

Before you try to measure engagement, make sure you understand the goal of your content. Why does it even exist online? Most businesses have one or more objectives. Here are some common ones:

  • Increase leads
  • Increase page views (Note: For many sites, the goal is simply to increase traffic separate from any other level of site activity.)
  • Boost brand awareness
  • Encourage audience interactions such as:

To get your engagement right, you should first get your objectives right. Here’s how the process is pictured by Digital Telepathy.

dtelepathy-web-analytics-stack-image 2Image source

From your objectives, answer the question: What is it that I want these blog readers to do? You want viewers to make some behavioral change. That action is the engagement.

Engagement simplified to six features

For the sake of simplicity, I want to boil down this discussion to six features of engagement that I will tell you how to increase:

  • Comments – People share their thoughts, ask questions, or criticize your blog post.
  • Social sharing – Users share the article on their personal social networks.
  • Dwell time – How long do users stay on the page? This metric available in Google Analytics tells you if people are spending time on the page.
  • ReadingRavenTools says “the best way to measure reader engagement is to track user scrolling.” Tools such as Crazy Egg allow you to view scroll maps (where, how much, and how far people scrolled) and heat maps (where people click).
  • Links – The quantity and velocity of inbound links tell who considers your content to be important. More links equal a higher trust, better SEO, and more readers.
  • Conversions – Whatever your conversion action, it is one of the most meaningful engagement metrics. Many blogs use email sign-ups as the primary conversion action.

Your engagement metric depends on your content platform

To measure engagement, though, we need to know what platform is used. For example, if you’re hosting a webinar, you would measure engagement by the number of sign-ups, attendees, duration online, interactivity in online comments, the number of questions asked, and conversions after the webinar.

content-marketing-china-side-image 3

If you use Google+ as your primary content platform, then you can measure engagement by plusses, shares, and ripples.

kawasaki-googleplus-ripples-image 4

Now that we have a basic understanding of engagement, let’s figure out how to improve our blog engagement.

Increase engagement with these five simple elements

1. An obvious point

Your article or blog post should be extremely clear as to what it’s trying to say. It needs to have an obvious point.

This may sound obvious, but many blog posts fail to do so. Why is this so important? If your content is unclear, then people won’t understand what you’re trying to say, and will, therefore, have no motivation to share or read the article.

Next time you comment on an article or share it on social media, ask yourself what about the article compelled you to do so. Chances are that you understood what the author was trying to say. His point was obvious, and you responded.

How do you communicate an obvious point? Let me share a few of the things that I’ve used:

Your point should be in your headline.

A weak headline is a nonstarter. A strong headline, by contrast, is motivating.

Here’s an example of a strong headline:

Lee-strong-headline-example-image 5

The headline tells me everything I need to know to motive me to read the article, with just enough understanding and a bit of curiosity. It tells me the content:

  • Poses 25 questions
  • Is about social media marketing
  • Will help me define a social media marketing strategy
  • Will give me answers to the questions

Clear, compelling, and obvious. That’s what you need to accomplish in your headline.

Make your point in your first few lines.

Your opening paragraph or two should convey your basic idea. Don’t leave people wondering, “What the heck is she going to say?” Put forth your main idea, then develop it.

Long, wandering introductions are not compelling. You lose readers before they even understand what you’re trying to say.

Support your point using the structure or outline of your article.

The structure of the post (discussed below) must support your main idea. You need an outline that explains or proves the point of the article. An article is not a bunch of disparate thoughts. It’s a cohesive series of thoughts that supports a main idea.

Repeat your point in the conclusion.

The conclusion wraps up the article by making the main point obvious once again. Remind people of what you’re saying. Don’t let them forget.

2. A structure

Every article needs to have a clear structure in order for it to be engaging. The idea of structure has two parts – logical and visual.

Logical structure — Make it coherent.

As you research and write your article, create and follow an outline. Don’t merely string together a few thoughts. Instead, create something with shape and substance. Your outline forms the bones for a successful and engaging article.

Visual structure — Make it easy to read.

Visual structure is just as important as logical structure. Why? Because no one will read (i.e., engage with) your content if it isn’t visually pleasing.

blogspot-bad-example-blog-post-image 6

Image source

Compare that wall of text to this:

blog-post-good-example-image 7

A few well-placed visual formatting techniques make a huge difference. These include:

  • Headings
  • Short paragraphs (no longer than seven lines)
  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists

Breaking up your content compels viewers to read and engage with it.

3. A conclusion

How does your article end? If it concludes with a whimper, then your readers will whimper away without engaging. If it ends in confusion, then your readers feel the same. If it ends abruptly, your readers won’t know what to do next.

Somehow, the conclusion of an article has become one of the most neglected pieces of real estate in the entire Internet. We labor over headlines and opening lines, but we forget what to do when it’s time to say “This article is over.”

The way you end it has the potential to engage readers or leave them floundering. Take a look at the ConversionXL blog if you need an example of great conclusions.

conversionxl-good-conclusion-example-image 8

The end nails it. It is obvious with the use of that single word, conclusion. The wrap-up is clean. It sums up the article, reiterates the main point, and makes a great call to action.

There are a few basic elements to a great ending:

  • It’s labeled as a conclusion.
  • It’s short.
  • It sums things up concisely.
  • It encourages action.

Give your conclusions a little extra time and attention, and you likely will improve engagement on your posts.

4. A question

Not everyone does this, but I’ve used it with incredible success. At the end of almost every article, I ask a question.

Why do I do this? Because it makes people think. Engagement doesn’t always have measurable metrics. When readers reach the end of my article, I want them to be thinking about and applying the principles that I’ve explained.

Asking and answering questions is one of the most effective techniques for teaching critical thinking and building knowledge. A simple question in closing helps to produce this response.

My questions are not an attempt to inspire comments, though they sometimes do. Instead, my question is a simple challenge to encourage thought.

Here’s one of my recent blogs, which includes a somewhat obvious question. People didn’t answer the question in the comments, which was fine. I didn’t expect it.

conclusion-question-image 9

Sometimes, writers ask a question or call for action in the comments. This is appropriate. Author Tim Ferriss does on his blog, and he finds it successful.

Ferriss-question-cta-image 10

5. A bit of controversy

This one is optional, but it doesn’t hurt.

Controversy is everywhere. I have encountered it within every niche in which I’ve dabbled. Some controversy is silly. Some is serious. Most is engaging.

Take this discussion from Moz. The topic has to do with the disavow tool, a rather abstruse SEO issue. The issue was apparently controversial.

moz-blog-example-image 11

The post was so controversial that the editor had to step into the comments to weed out inappropriate argumentation.

controversial-blog-post-image 12

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Controversy is like fire. It can be dangerous. You might get burned. But at the same time, it’s especially useful if you want engagement.

Conclusion: Don’t stop at engagement

This is an article dealing with engagement so I’m not going to turn around and tell you that it’s not important. I do, however, want to offer a caution. Content marketing is not all about the engagement. Engagement is only part of content marketing, not its sum and substance.

Even though engagement isn’t the end-all, it is important. And even in the swirling maelstrom of social change, we should still try to measure it.

Measurement tools exist, and developers are making these tools even better. But we need to realize that if we focus only on engagement, then we may miss some of the most significant components of business success: brand value, trustworthiness, customer loyalty, etc. These things can’t be measured, but they can be achieved.

Engagement is one way of achieving these successes. So go ahead and work to increase engagement. It’s well worth the effort.

What are the best ways you’ve found to increase engagement?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

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  • http://webquacker.com.au/blog Kapil Jekishan

    Structure is often understated, especially applying a visual structure. Given the plethora of content thrown at us, we’re guilty of skimming through even the best of content. By formatting your content through the use of visuals, sub-headings and bullet points, you provide the end reader with a positive user experience. Quick Sprout does this well 😉

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Kapil, thanks for the feedback. May aim so to make things as digestible as possible.

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  • http://www.danielleadams.com Jeffrey Dobkin

    Solid article. I especially liked the clarity of the web analytic stack. You might like my marketing writing at http://www.jeffreydobkin.com

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Jeffrey, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for taking the time to read.

  • Mark Joyce

    Thank you for providing a useful operational definition and practical examples for thinking through engagement(s).

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Mark, glad I could help. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  • http://www.ecowarriorprincess.net/ Jennifer Nini

    Loved this post and great to see Neil doing the those things he tells bloggers to do – guest post..!

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Jennifer, thanks for the support!

  • Terri Zora

    I agree that visual structure is underused and often underrated. I’m very likely to skim through an article for the main points (generally looking at section headers) in order to decide if it’s worth taking the time to read it. However, I’m not the biggest fan of labeling conclusions as such. It just seems redundant to me.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Terri, I have done multiple tests and found that it works. With that being said I can see how it is redundant for a lot of people. Thanks for the insights.

  • http://www.websandvids.com L George Baines

    Opened my email to this article and got a whole BUNCH of ah-ha moments from this. I can see that I have a long list of things to work on. I’m reminded of the something I learned in Army OCS about training: “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; Tell ’em; Tell ’em what you’ve told them.”

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      George, I like that last quote and will have to use it. Thanks for the feedback.

      • George Baines

        Great article, Neil. Thanks again.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Neil

    This one post has the potential to ignite a flurry of blog post ideas!

    BRAVO – thank you for ALWAYS providing interesting and informational content.

    Kitto

  • http://www.ambientww.com/ Engagement Marketing

    Good ‘engaging’ article. Glad to see my thinking is aligned with the findings.