By Julia McCoy published August 20, 2018

Get Your Readers to Stay Longer With These 4 Formats

4-formats-get-readers-to-stay

Getting people to click to read your content is hard, whether you’re trying to entice them in an email or tempt them in the search engine results.

But once you finally get them on your page, you must work even harder to keep them there.

Lots of technical ways can keep them from bouncing (faster load times, minimum pop-ups, clear site navigation, etc.).

But what about non-technical ways?

Which content formats are inherently readable, interesting, and absorbing? Which ones make your readers subconsciously stay focused, moving down your page?

Take these four formats for a spin.

Image-dense, long-form blogs

Long-form blogs are heavy hitters in the content world. When you create these, you step up to the plate and take a big swing. If you strategized, planned, and executed, you’ll hit a home run.

Long-form #blogs are heavy hitters in the #content world, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

Many marketers mistakenly think long-form content is too daunting for readers. BuzzSumo and Moz famously analyzed over 1 million blog articles and found over 2,000 words to be a sweet spot for engagement.

#Blog articles over 2,000 words are a sweet spot for engagement via @buzzsumo @moz #research. Click To Tweet

engagement-sweet-spot-buzzsumo-moz

And, of course, when your readers engage, they likely spend more time with your content and on your site.

But long-form content should not be exclusively text. Images should be a major component.

Look at this post from WordStream. I zoomed out the page so you can see how the images are sprinkled through the text evenly:

wordstream-images-example

wordstream-images-example-2

Using images in long-form content does a few things:

TIP: Include an image every 200 words in long-form content to increase engagement and keep your readers on the page.

Include an image every 200 words in long-form #content, advises @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

Listicles

Love them or hate them, posts in list form do extremely well with website visitors.

In that BuzzSumo/Moz study, list posts wiped the floor with all other post formats. The average total shares for listicles was nearly 11,000, and the next closest format (how-to) averaged 1,782 shares.

buzzsumo-moz-list-post-performance

Why are listicles a huge hit?

One word: format.

As it turns out, brains love lists. Content formatted as lists provides:

  • A pattern for readers’ minds to glom onto
  • A way to make sense of the information
  • A headline (usually) that indicates how much time it takes to skim the list
  • An element of curiosity (readers need to scroll down to see each item)
  • Satisfaction (readers can mentally check off each point on the list)
It turns out our brains love lists, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

An example of a list post that’s trending on CMI: 

cmi-list-post-trending

TIP: Create list posts that provide a whopping amount of value for your audience. Each point should be unique, helpful, interesting, or valuable.

TIP: Your content doesn’t have to be a listicle format to recoup the list benefits. You can number your points, add numbered lists in the text, or use bullet points to help make sense of the information.

Step-by-step guides (with visuals)

Step-by-step guides (or how-to’s) are the runners-up to listicles because:

  • They directly answer the questions your audience is asking. This factor inherently makes them readable because they’re directly addressing a user need.
  • How-to posts often contain lots of illustrative images, which increases the probability of engagement as we already explored.

Effective how-to content combines the winning elements of the other content formats discussed, which adds up to longer dwell time and a lower bounce rate because they:

  • Are presented as steps in list form
  • Include images that help explain processes or concepts
  • Are usually in-depth and long-form

The Kitchn’s How to Make a Latte at Home Without an Espresso Machine is an excellent example of a step-by-step process in list format:

kitchn-step-by-step-list

…And illustrative images that help you understand the techniques described:

kitchn-illustrative-images-example

Plus, it includes tips, tricks, and definitions to help you make the perfect latte at home:

kitchn-tips-definitions-examplesTIP: A truly engaging how-to post needs a list of steps, pictures, and in-depth descriptions to make readers trust your advice, follow your directions, and, ultimately, stay on the page.

Call-to-action-centered content

Call-to-action-centered content is a type that continually motivates the reader throughout the piece. Often, this type of writing is called “conversion copywriting” because copywriters use it on landing pages and sales pages to lead the reader to a profitable action or conversion.

Here’s the key to crafting CTA-centered content: Every word on the page should make the user want to keep reading. Every word should lead them to the CTA, which will tell them what to do next. The primary point is to get them to act, but this technique also keeps them on your page longer. Copyhackers’ Joanna Wiebe calls this “sticky copy.”

Every word on the page should make the user want to keep reading, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

sticky-copy-definition

How do you write sticky copy? How do you translate that into content that’s CTA-centered and keeps them reading? Make it about them:

  • Do topic and keyword research to find a subject your readers care about. You can’t write about just any random topic and expect results. If no one cares, no one will read it. In Joanna’s post, it’s easy to see why marketing writers will care about her topic: Sticky copy leads to conversions.
  • Address the readers directly. Incorporate “you” language throughout the content. Begin with the headline, like Joanna’s:

address-reader-directly-example

She directly addresses the reader with a command (“Don’t Be a Freakin’ Wallflower!”) and follows it up with a CTA (“Write Sticky Copy That Gets Noticed”).

  • Focus on an action that is beneficial for readers. Will they save money? Get more free time? Improve a skill? Improve their relationships?

Joanna also has this covered. If readers follow her tips, they’ll get more engagement on their posts. As she writes:

Today, let’s take a look at 2 ways to make your website copy stickier so people actually READ it and RECALL it.

  • Inspire readers to take the action. Tell them why they should care. Tell them specifically how the benefits will play out. It should be all about motivating them by providing valuable information.

Joanna’s motivational, inspirational language looks like this:

So, how can you take your product, service or app … and position it as something sticky? Check out these sticky topics. At least one of them CAN work on your home page, and ALL of them can work in your blog posts.

She also notes how easy the steps are to implement:

For now, let’s talk about the words you’re using. Once you know what words to change, it’s easy to go ahead and do that on your site ASAP. (That’s foreshadowing, BTW. Guess what action I’m going to ask you to take at the end of this post!)

And she continues to directly address her reader with commands:

address-readers-commands

It all works. Joanna’s post makes you want to keep reading because all the elements are there.

TIP: As you implement these points into your next content piece, remember to focus on the CTA. Keep calling your readers to action and you’ll have a better chance of keeping them on the page.

Keep calling your readers to action & you’ll have a better chance of keeping them on the page. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Words That Convert: Test, Learn, Repeat

Website visitor retention growth = higher ROI

The longer you can keep readers on your page, the more likely they will engage with your content.

This engagement has benefits that will help you leap forward with your content marketing:

  • Longer dwell time on your pages and lower bounce rates equal improved rankings.
  • Higher conversions equal more potential customers.
  • More shares and links equal more authority.

Remember: Great, high-quality content in addictive formats is what keeps your readers reading. Nothing less will do. Don’t skimp out on quality and effort in the creation stage, and all the stages that follow will be easier – including your bounce-rate optimization.

Expand your effective use of content formats for long-term success from knowledge you can pick up at Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today and use code BLOG100 to save $100. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 people on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and she has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.

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