The 6 Content Marketing Hacks that Create Readable Content
Content marketing is part art, part science, and fully difficult, thanks to the shrinking attention span of readers.
Studies show that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds (which is, allegedly, shorter than that of a goldfish).
Unlike writing for expression or to relay news, content marketing’s purpose is to drive a targeted audience to do something – such as making a purchase.
With more than 1.5 billion units of content on the web, the equation of creating interesting content (1), maintaining engagement (2), and persuading a customer to take action (3) has only become more challenging.
Fortunately, by understanding consumer behaviors, there are ways to improve your content marketing.
If you’re lucky (and strategic) enough, your content could even go viral.
Want to make your copy more readable and memorable? Try the six content marketing hacks below:
6 Content Marketing Hacks to Engage Readers
1. Make content more scannable.
Click rates are no longer the end-all-be-all measurement of online marketing success. Just because someone clicks on a link doesn’t mean they’re going to read whatever is waiting for them on the other end.
Nowadays, content marketers must focus on content quality and reader engagement.
How your content is laid out is just as (if not more) important than the content itself.
That’s because when a potential reader first clicks on a blog post or article, they’re likely to size up the piece, making sure their (valuable) time is not going to be wasted.
Medium does a great job at making readers feel more in-control of their time. At the top of each blog, the publishing platform shows how long it’ll take to read through the full piece.
Most readers don’t even read online content anymore. They scan it. This is one reason why listicles have become so popular.
Only 16% of people actually read online content word-for-word. Seventy-nine percent are scanners, picking out individual words and phrases.
To increase the scannability factor of your post, information must be presented in a digestible, easy-to-read format. Aside from including video or infographics, this can be done in several different ways.
Chunking content is important.
You can do this by cutting down paragraphs to 1-3 sentences each, keeping sentences short, and breaking up sections with subheaders and bullet points.
And don’t forget numbers. Beginning posts with a number gives readers an idea of post length and also announces the chunking of content before even clicking on the link.
2. Be concise.
“Conciser” is nicer.
There’s no quicker way to lose a reader than by confusing them. And that’s what you’ll do if you say something in 15 words that can be said in three.
Get to the point by eliminating excess words, jargon, cliches, and fluff.
Excess words such as “that” have no place in your copy if a sentence holds the same meaning without them.
Jargon and cliches are phrases that often mask the true meaning of what you’re trying to say. Most importantly, they’re overused.
Another thing you’ll want to avoid is using unnecessarily big words.
Writing should be fluid and simple. Oftentimes, writers try to sound smarter by using fancy synonyms that distract the reader.
For example, rather than writing “The man operated the automobile that he had purchased,” just say “The man drove his car.”
Studies show that blog posts should be somewhere between the sixth- and eighth-grade reading levels.
This is a universal statistic. Your target audience doesn’t change this fact.
Making sure your content is readable to a wide audience broadens your reach and makes scanning — what we discussed in No. 1 — much easier.
3. Maintain your credibility.
Not all marketers (even content marketers) are naturally strong writers – and that’s okay!
But, if you want to improve your credibility, you must improve your writing.
Aside from avoiding excess words, jargon, cliches, and fluff, as we mentioned in No. 2, keep in mind the following tips:
Always fact-check your information.
Provide links. The reader may be interested in learning more about a piece of information you touched upon. Links also show that you did your homework.
Obsess about your spelling and grammar. Errors will inevitably cause you to lose readers. (Avoiding these 20 copywriting errors is a good start to keeping yourself in check.)
Be aware of your tone. This will help you to better speak to and connect with your target audience.
Don’t click-bait. Headlines should be punchy and lure in readers, but they should mean what they say.
Credibility isn’t just about positioning yourself as a decent writer, and thought leader, however. It’s about gaining trust from your readership.
Content should be educational and informative, not promotional.
Self-promotion kills consumer trust in branded content.
While this may seem obvious, there’s actually research to back it up.
4. Come up with awesome topics.
If you want people to keep reading what you’re writing, your content needs to be interesting, fun, and useful.
Coming up with fresh topics can be tricky if you’ve been working in the same market for a long time and are dry on ideas.
Consider your dry spell over.
While there are a handful of free online idea generators, keep up with other publications your target consumer reads. Look for unique topic angles that haven’t yet been covered.
Read the comments section of articles. What are readers curious to know more about? Use this (free) information to your advantage.
Visit sites like Quora, Facebook, and Twitter to get a better understanding of what your target consumer is talking about, interested in, and what they’re generally seeking.
Another way to mine awesome topic ideas is to measure your own content. Which pieces have the most clicks and engagement rates?
Blog posts with the most clicks probably have great headlines, interesting topics, or both. Make sure to duplicate these equations when you know they work well.
5. Go where your customers are.
Research shows that by 2018, smartphone users in the U.K. will exceed 46 million.
And millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 24, are so attached to their mobile device that almost half of them check their phone in the middle of the night.
It’s safe to say that brands now need to be on mobile. And as part of the user experience, regular mobile sites are not as effective as responsive sites.
Even Google prefers responsive sites. This positively affects SEO, but more on that later.
If you want readers to keep reading, you must have a presence on the devices they’re constantly in front of.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the easiest ways to drive traffic — from both new and repeat visitors — to your site, blog, or whatever other content you’re trying to get eyes on.
If you do it correctly, that is.
By moving up in Google Search, there’s no doubt that more people will see your content.
If you’re not savvy with creating content for SEO, find a reputable company that is. (That’s us – we can help!)