When it comes to building an audience for your online publication, one of the most effective (and seemingly more subtle) ways to encourage repeat visits is to present and contextualize your content in a consistent, anticipated manner. This strategy should go without saying, but a lot of content providers fail to do this.
I call this tactic a content formula, and while this phrasing may seem a bit uninspired for an inherently creative endeavor like content creation, it is an effective way to establish predictability and keep your audience coming back day after day.
A content formula goes beyond your niche and subject matter. It’s all about the way you create consistency with your presentation and general theme, leading to the creation of a unique voice — an essential ingredient for success in today’s sea of content.
Take my publication, prsuit.com, for example. Our motto, “perspective that inspires,” presents itself in each article by way of a clear content formula.
Simply put, our content formula is as follows:
Story + lessons learned + conclusion = perspective that inspires
Story: The author presents an experience that affected him (or her), something he heard, saw, etc. The emphasis here is on personal anecdotes and experience-derived writing.
Lessons Learned: The author relates how this experience affected him/her.
Conclusion: The author then presents the key takeaways for readers, with the purpose of inspiring them (aka “perspective that inspires”).
Our entire content strategy revolves around this storytelling + lessons learned model. This is our voice, and it’s how we contextualize every piece, regardless of the subject matter.
Early on we didn’t have this formula in place and our bounce rates, return visitor metrics, pages viewed, etc., were all over the place, reflecting the inconsistencies with our voice and content presentation. It was only after implementing and refining our content formula that we were able to see a consistent upward trend and things really started to take off.
People enjoy predictability when it comes to content. They are comfortable when they know (to a certain extent) what to expect. This encourages consumption and sharing — after all, most shares occur without even reading a full article.
Here are five more examples of blogs/publications with well-thought-out content formulas. If you take a look at your favorite publication, I think you’ll find that they, too, have implemented something like this.
Artofmanliness is all about authoritative presentation. It has established itself as a commanding voice for men looking to learn and do more by way of lists, guides and editorial. The subject matter runs the gamut from fashion and health tips to finance and survivals skills, but their content formula remains consistent. Here is how I break theirs down:
Intro (why this subject should matter to men) + breakdown (step by step how-to/analysis) = knowledge/know-how for men
Hustle and Deal Flow Magazine is run by Matt Gottesman, who has created a unique voice by “documenting the hustle.“ Take a look at his content and you’ll immediately notice this voice in his content. His formula is simple, but it differentiates his publication from other entrepreneur-focused content providers:
conversational-style interviews + focus on the journey = unique, hustle-driven takeaways
James has a popular blog that caters to a variety of people, but all his content has the same underlying theme: habits/routines that make people successful and enable them to live an optimal life. James has a unique voice that appeals to this niche. Here’s how I break down his content formula:
How to X + breakdown of habit/routine Y = increased productivity/overcome fear, etc.
James relies on his experience as a hedge fund manger, entrepreneur and podcaster to give advice on a variety of topics such as success, career advice, entrepreneurship and self-improvement. While these topics range from article to article, his unique and authoritative voice remains consistent per the below content formula:
James’ experience/story + James’ interpretation of those events + how to apply to your life = inspiring conclusion
Mark is a blogger, author and entrepreneur. He is unapologetically curt with his advice, writing “personal development advice that doesn’t suck. Some people say I’m an idiot. Other people say I saved their life. Read on and decide for yourself.” With an intro like that, it’s pretty clear how his unique voice manifests itself in a well-thought-out content formula.
Experience that Mark lived + why this matters to him + reader-facing call to action = no-holds-barred advice
Consistency is key
You’ve likely already created a content formula, but you might not apply it consistently across your content. Do so, and I am confident you’ll see increased retention of your existing readership — and that will spread as they share their enthusiasm for your content’s voice.