Writing engaging content is crucial to building long-term content marketing success — yet, it is no easy task. In fact, the strength of your content is often what makes website visitors want to learn more or flee. But we’re here to show you exactly how to find success in this area. Learn how you can solve complex content problems.
Whether you’re a one-person content department trying to get the most out of your writing, a freelance writer interested in improving your content or managing an in-house and external freelance team, the following guidelines will help you create more engaging content and draw more eyes on it.
First a quick rundown, followed by more context.
Top 12 tips for successful blog posts:
- Pen creative title.
- Don’t skimp on the lede.
- Subsections should be meaty, informative and categorized.
- Break up content blocks with images.
- Keep the text scannable.
- Offer actionable advice and key takeaways.
- Address your target audience.
- Include resource links, stats, examples and quotes.
- Create emotional appeal with empathy.
- Compare your brand to your competition.
- Add a compelling conclusion.
- Include elements of persuasion.
How to write engaging content
1. Pen a creative title.
The title is arguably the most challenging and important part of your content. You must capture audience interest and summarize your content in a concise way. Think of it as writing a catchy email subject or headline.
It should include your primary keyword theme and be between 50-60 characters for SEO. It should use emotionally evoking words (negative or positive) and capture someone’s attention quickly.
Need some guidance? Type in your headline in the Advanced Marketing Institute’s headline analyzer and it will measure your headline’s emotional marketing value, a telltale indicator of headline quality.
2. Don’t skimp on the lede.
The introduction, or lede, announces your topic, sets the tone and provides context for your article.
The lead needs to earn the reader’s interest, promise that your writing will be worth their time and help the reader immediately understand what the article is about. Whether a summary or descriptive lead, it should be no more than 100-200 words.
When writing the lede, remember this editorial term: “Nut graf.” A Nut graf is a paragraph or sentence that summarizes the essence of a story without divulging every detail. “Many editors would say the nut graf is the most important section of a story because it tells the readers why they should continue reading the full story,” says the Balance.
(Need more tips? Check out our recent piece on writing a good lede.)
3. Subsections should be meaty, informative and categorized.
Subsections allow readers to scroll to the sections they are most interested in — and help with depth of content. They should never be vague and should always dive beneath surface-level ideas.
Subheaders: Each subsection header should summarize the section, follow a logical order within your article and include secondary keywords for SEO. It’s best to have your main title and subsection titles written in an outline before writing the entire piece to make sure your ideas are well-organized.
Transitions: Each subsection should also have a brief transition to improve the flow of your writing, bring in new ideas and support the overall theme of your content. It’s crucial that all subsection transitions also reinforce the topic of your content, otherwise, your ideas can become confusing. Consistency ensures that your writing doesn’t go off the rails.
Word count: Keep subsections within 250-350 words.
4. Break up content blocks with images.
Visual content is used to break up long blocks of text, prove concepts and add context to your writing.
Best practices for using imagery:
- Transition to your images with a sentence or two and explain why you included it with a sentence afterward. Always link to or source your images.
- It’s best to use 2-3 visual examples per 1,000 words of copy — or every few hundred words.
- Experiment with different media throughout your content to engage your reader. Consider using screenshots, video content, interactive content, infographics or SlideShares to add more engaging and shareable media.
5. Keep the text scannable.
You won’t always have enough room to share your insight in great detail. If this is the case, include lists of ideas or resources in a bulleted format or table.
Keeping text scannable is another factor important for SEO, too. Google hinted that two factors go into someone liking a website: low visual complexity (easy to scan) and high prototypically (one that represents their given industry).
6. Offer actionable advice and takeaways.
It’s best to reinforce your content with actionable advice to keep the reader thinking about what they should do to solve challenges. Since you’re providing the information, your advice helps build audience trust and brand authority.
To do this, walk the reader through the steps you’d like them to take. If writing how-to articles or guides, concentrate on sharing your expertise, ideas you’ve tried or any real examples you have. Actionable content helps you create thought leadership. If you don’t have enough room to share your insight in great detail, include lists of ideas or resources in a bulleted format or table.
When applicable, use visuals to illustrate what your actionable ideas look like in practice. As with other visuals, explain why you’re including the image and link to the source.
7. Address your target audience.
As a rule of thumb, make sure that you, and any freelancers you hire, have your readers’ or customers’ best interests in mind when creating content.
Let your target audience be your guide to focus your writing and add interesting detail.
To better understand your audience empathetically, research your customers, engage your followers on social media and conduct detailed persona research. Document your findings in your content marketing strategy to inform ongoing blog content creation efforts.
And consider the following strategies to find an emotional connection with your customers:
- Support an emotional cause, nonprofit or community effort and create informational content.
- Express detailed interest in your customers by empathizing with their needs in your blog content.
- Showcase your brand story, morals and motivators on your website. Promote often.
- Connect with your audience on a more one-to-one level.
- Openly engage with your personality — and be as human, authentic and transparent as possible.
Keep in mind that your customer’s needs are always evolving, and you should implement ongoing processes to continue learning about your customers over time. This can help you understand how to better persuade them.
8. Sprinkle in resource links, relevant statistics, real-life examples and quotes.
Credibility is key when it comes to content. You want to be believed in and trusted by your audiences, so do the following to establish higher credibility with your content:
- Add links to content you trust to support or expand on a point you’re making.
- Including relevant statistics is another way to add credibility and support your arguments or advice. While not every piece of content needs statistical evidence, one or two per piece of content is standard.
- Include quotes from relevant professionals within your industry, either by personal interview or from a sourced, published post. Quotes can also be conversation starters for future project collaboration with influential industry leaders.
- Provide real-life examples to add credibility and illustrate the main points. This example is not from my targeted industry, but it helps the target reader gain inspiration from outside sources, something that is often lacking in the marketing industry.
9. Create an emotional appeal with empathy.
Pathos is the quality of an experience in life or work that stirs up emotions. It’s the most powerful element — but it may also be the most difficult to execute tactfully as a content marketer.
To incorporate pathos into your blog content, start by identifying what your readers are truly emotional about. Concentrate on thinking about your audience and customers as empathetically as possible.
Ask yourself the meaning and purpose of your brand.
- Who are you focused on helping?
- How does your product change the lives of purchasers?
- What pain points do your services alleviate?
10. Compare your brand to competition.
To give your customers a reason to purchase your offerings, you will need to maintain intimate knowledge about what your competition is up to — and tactfully market your logical advantages.
Think about the key purchasing factors in your industry.
Do your customers care most about…
- Brand experience?
Identify a list of benefits of purchasing your product over a competitor’s, and use that research to inform your blog content.
To convince or persuade your readers using logic on your blog:
- Bolster any claims or hypotheses that you make with credible statistics or data.
- Create and promote real customer case studies and illustrate what you learned.
- Highlight your competitive advantages and product differentiators with side-by-side analysis.
- Give detailed scenarios of how your product can improve their lives or
solve their challenges.
11. Wrap it up.
Write a conclusion that summarizes your content or asks the reader to engage. It should end with an engaging call-to-action and summary of key findings.
And, if they made it this far, it’s likely they’ve found your writing interesting and may share their thoughts or feedback in the comments section.
12. Include the elements of persuasion.
In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle’s rhetoric theorized three fundamental elements of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos.
- Ethos: Credibility and trust
- Pathos: Emotion
- Logos: Logic
According to Aristotle, you must have ethos, pathos and logos to effectively persuade an audience. As you embark on creating content, always keep these three principles in mind. Every content creator’s goal is to persuade, right?
Use this checklist to create more engaging content.
Now that you have a real-life example of how to create engaging content, ask the following questions to ensure you are following all the rules in your day-to-day content efforts.
Flow and headers:
- Does the content flow between ideas well, or do concepts seem out of place and awkward?
- Do the headers accurately summarize the copy sections beneath them?
- Does the content have an enticing introduction to earn the reader’s attention in the first few paragraphs?
- Does the reader immediately understand what the content is about?
- Does the post deliver ideas and solutions to help the reader with their challenges?
- Are the ideas delivered backed with real-life examples?
- Does the content dive beneath surface-level suggestions?
- Is the content helpful, or is it unauthentic, biased and overly self-promotional?
- Does the content include several trustworthy statistics, including relevant examples, authoritative quotes and links to reputable websites?
- Does the content stand out with quality images, video, infographics or other visual content?
- Does the content include bulleted lists, blockquotes, tables or other formatting elements to break up long paragraphs and emphasize key ideas?
- Does the end of the content summarize key ideas?
- Does the content end with a call to action?
- Does the content have the elements of persuasion: ethos, pathos and/or lagos?