Information abounds: everyday technology is built for tabbing, mass managing, multi-feed processing, and application flipping. You know your eCommerce site needs a blog, but engaging readers feels like a shouting war against every other player on the field. The answer? Hone your content so it drives fast and hard into your target. Your audience is looking for a connection and you have the means to deliver.
Keep the flow moving
Break large amounts of information into bite-size pieces to manage different attention spans. You may be laying out fascinating facts on why slugs have a terrifying anatomy, but the reader’s brain is tapping a watch and saying “do I really have time for this? My Facebook feed refreshes in 6 seconds.” Every point is a new sales pitch and should give the reader another reason to finish the article.
The list format (Five Reasons Your Mom Thinks You’re Special) is incredibly popular with readers and should be with writers as well. Half-interested readers can quickly skim a list article for the major points, giving readers a feeling of control but giving you more opportunity to pull them in. Even non-list articles and blogs benefit from clear headers that make a long post seem easily readable in short amounts of time.
Give their eyes a break
A picture is worth…well, you know the rest. Beautiful, shocking, or humorous images help segment your content while driving topics home. It’s all about flow—consistent use of images works as alternate punctuation on your points.
The timing of images in the content flow is just one facet of the art of formatting; liken this to guiding a reader through your information rather than letting them stumble through a self-tour. Clearly headlined sections with consistently spaced paragraphs establish the rhythm of the piece. Highlight this with flairs of quotes and images, and make them easy to share.
Throw the reader a bone
All living things choose their course of action based on one underlying principle: “What’s in it for me?” It doesn’t work to leave readers wanting more when you’ve not given them anything solid in the first place. Keep some points simple and in plain language, even if it’s technically (read: grammatically) wrong.
Condense your themes into easily-quoted tips of one or two lines. Break down complex subjects with creative metaphors so readers can sound smarter to their friends without feeling pandered to. Your readers will thank you for giving them something to share; everyone likes to feel important.
Craft a lure with your headline
A headline is not flashy on its own, even if some words are proven to stand out more than others. A good headline is action-oriented towards the reader. Headlines should appeal to the reader’s emotions and form a strong connection, even if by anger. The headline itself creates a desire in the reader that must be carried out, and reading your article will be the vehicle.
Challenge the reader:
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Give the reader exclusives:
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Call the reader to action:
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Shock or confront the reader:
Hate royal weddings? You might be part of the problem.
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Readers notice when an author gets bored or disinterested; they’re riding shotgun and looking to you for a good time. If you’re writing a post on a topic you hate, don’t try and fake interest—write your dislike and produce a stronger post. Enthusiasm is contagious, whether it’s for or against a subject.
Any student of theatre learns this truth from Constantin Stanislavski: “The person you are is a thousand times more interesting than the best actor you could ever hope to be.” Your readers are not on your site to read generic facts, but your unique analysis and perspective. Write what no person can read from anyone else: your words.
A final suggestion
Don’t insult the reader by placating in the final paragraphs. It’s too simple to finish a piece with a weak call to action amounting to, “Does anyone have anything at all to add?” Avoid disclaimers (except for legal reasons) as well—your post should empower the reader to support or oppose the topic. There should be no question of your point or perspective. Readers will know if they agree or not, even if you don’t ask for feedback.
Guide your readers firmly through the content. Arm them with knowledge they want to apply. Look them in the eye and make your case, connect your enthusiasm with theirs and exult in their transformation. Have faith that they will understand, and loose them from the lesson with a clear purpose. Go and write; your readers are waiting!