So you’ve slaved over your post. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens?
Nobody reads it. No comments, no sharing on social media.
It’s enough to send you into a deep depression. You also find it difficult to summon the motivation to keep producing great content.
Do you think the solution lies in:
- Investing in massive content promotion?
- Or spending another 10,000 hours mastering the writing skills of great authors and writers?
The solution may be a lot easier than you expect.
It boils down to 3 things –
- recognizing weaknesses
- knowing how to fix them
- styling your text to attract and hold attention.
1. Understand the nature of searchers
A Jakob Neilsen study showed that 79% of web users scan copy rather than read. This is so true given how most of us use the internet. You look for information, and if you don’t find it, you click away to look elsewhere.
So what can you do to get your audience to stay longer on your pages and engage with your content?
2. Focus on the reader
When creating content, you face stiff competition for attention. Brands, celebrities, and social media feeds, among others, are all vying for your reader’s attention online. If you want to stand out and have people engage with your content, it is important to create content with the reader in mind.
In other words, put the emphasis on the reader.
Take for example Dan’s new book – Create or Hate. In launching the book, he could have said –
I have launched a new book – Create or Hate
But with that copy, you aren’t showing the reader why they should care about the book and how it can help them. Compare the above line to what Dan used.
3. Open with a question that gets the reader to say yes
Why open with a question that gets readers to say yes? Because inertia is a powerful force. Like a boulder rolling down a hill, the longer it is in motion, the harder it is to stop.
By getting a reader to say yes early on in your content, the more likely they are to say yes further on. They will also be more accepting of your message.
Because they’ll feel like you identify with their problems and understand them. So start by using it in your introductions.
4. Craft calls to value
Before you publish your content, check your calls to action. This is what tells readers what to do next. So make sure it is clear, concise, visible and compelling. Also make sure it communicates benefits.
In other words, let your audience see the value in the action. How?
Help them see themselves in the action so they are more likely to act on it.
For example, if you provide a pest control service, don’t let your copy read –
“Call now for a free quote.”
Instead, help them to take action by providing a teaser of what they can expect:
“Call now and be pest free tomorrow”
“Call today and ease your annoyance.”
5. Cut the number of adverbs in half
Which would you prefer? A walk in a muddy swamp or a walk along a paved walkway along the shoreline? For readers, the use of adverbs is the equivalent of a walk in a muddy swamp.
Author Stephen King is quoted as saying –
The road to hell is paved with adverbs
But why are they so bad?
They are bad when they modify a verb. Take for example the sentence –
Cathy worked hard.
The word worked is a verb because it describes what Cathy did.
The word hard describes how she worked and is an adverb as it modifies the verb worked.
To create a vivid and precise picture, you would be better off saying –
Cathy toiled, or Cathy labored
Similarly, they can be bad when they modify an adjective.
For example, take the sentence –
Adverbs result in very weak writing.
Adjectives are used to describe what people or things are like. So the word weak is an adjective.
Very describes how weak it can be, so it’s modifying the adjective weak. That means very is an adverb.
By deleting the adverb, the remaining sentence may not be very strong – Adverbs result in weak writing. However, it can be edited to become stronger. Adverbs sabotage compelling sentences.
6. Rewrite in second person
Using pronouns like you, your or yours helps readers see themselves in your content.
Great writing speaks to readers and connects with them on an intimate level. This is difficult to do, but writing in second person makes it easier.
7. Switch to active voice
Using passive voice isn’t wrong in itself. Overuse it, and it can kill the effect you want your content to have.
In grammar, every verb has a voice – passive or active. This is determined by the relationship of the subject to its verb.
In the active voice, the subject of a verb acts. For example – Tom put the message on the bulletin board.
In the passive voice, the subject of the verb is acted upon. For example – The message was put on the bulletin board by Tom.
Active verbs tend to be better at moving sentences along and creating a sense of action and purpose. Which is why you should stick to an active voice. Unless you need to use a passive verb.
To ensure you are using active voice in your content, run it through the Hemingway Editor. Alternatively, you could conduct a search for the word “by.” Chances are sentences containing that word are in the passive voice.
8. Begin with possibilities – Imagine, remember or picture this
Science has proven that your brain loves a good narrative. Using words like imagine, picture this or remember let your readers know that you are about to share a story. This also signals the anticipation of experiencing something that they will enjoy.
That sense of anticipation and suspense will keep your readers engaged.
9. Incorporate this trigger as often as possible
A critical trigger word that signals to readers a reason why is the word “because.” According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence, this trigger is a great way to get people to agree with you –
A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor, we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
10. Check the reading grade level
Consider using one of the following tools to score the readability of your content.
You can amend your content based on the score to make it easier for your audience to comprehend and read.
11. Build curiosity
Building curiosity is a powerful technique to help improve your content and copy.
Curiosity is a trigger that leaves people feeling like there is a gap between what they know and what they want to know.
How do you trigger that feeling?
- By violating people’s expectations or challenging commonly held beliefs
- By teasing a gap in our knowledge
At WP Curve, we know our audience is interested in business growth and content marketing.
So we could publish a post with a headline like:
10 ways to get more people to read your content
While it might grab some attention, it is likely that most people would feel that they could get by without reading it.
However, a headline like:
Is your content growing your readership? Here’s 10 simple edits and tweaks to get more people to read your content
could be more effective. Here’s why:
- The reader may feel that there’s an information gap around whether their content is growing their audience
- There is a promise to solve a problem (getting more people to read your content)
- It could go against the reader’s belief or expectations (you will not need to use complicated methods to solve the problem)
Here’s another version:
10 simple edits and tweaks you are probably not using to get more people to read your content (and how to put them into practice right now)
- The headline here creates a wider information gap with the words – “you are probably not using.”
- It indicates that the content may be new or different to what the reader already knows.
- Using the words – “how to put them into practice right now” shows that the content is actionable. They could be missing out on quick improvements if they don’t read it.
12. Keep a consistent voice
Your audience gets to know you and your brand through the content you publish. So it is important for the voice to be consistent.
Buffer is an example of a company who keeps their voice consistent across all channels; so much so that they developed a site to explain their tone. It also covers how they should write for various platforms where interactions with customers can occur.
13. Use a formula
Writing blog posts or other forms of content can be hard work. Using a formula that works for you can help you stay focused and produce some amazing posts.
14. Keep it simple
Keep your sentences short and concise. The longer they are, the harder they are to follow. Scan through your content or use the Hemingway app to find long sentences and shorten them.
Remember your content doesn’t have to be a work of literary art. People have short attention spans, so use short, simple words where possible.
Show instead of display
Get instead of secure
15. Reduce jargon, acronyms and insider words
Writers often create a problem without realizing it. They use jargon, acronyms and other insider words. They assume that their audience understands it.
Now some of your audience may understand it, but a good percentage may not. It also doesn’t help the readability of your content, so avoid it and instead use simpler terms that everyone can understand.
If you can’t avoid using it, add a short definition in parenthesis of the term after using it the first time.
16. Design to make your content reader friendly
To write well for the web, you will need to unlearn what you have learned in the past. In other words, you need to craft your content to capture your audience’s attention. Once you have their attention, you also need to motivate them to read through your entire article. This can be challenging with so many distractions.
So how do you do this?
If covering a complex topic, consider breaking it up into a series of posts. That way, your audience will find it easier to digest the content in snack sized portions. They will also need to come back for more.
Structure your content in the inverted pyramid style. In other words, state your key point, and then support it with the sentences that follow. Why?
According to a study by Jakob Nielsen, only 20% of the text is read. Most people just scan through content to quickly find what they are looking for.
This method of structuring your content will help readers find points they want to delve into further. Also use the following easy design techniques to make your content reader friendly.
a) Aid readability with fonts
Fonts do matter as they affect the look and feel of your content. The colors, size and consistency of your fonts matter. They can make the difference between engaging your audience or having them bounce off your page.
Here are a few tips to help with using readable fonts:
- Use readable yet commonly-used fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS.
- Avoid using decorative font types too much.
- For the body text, use no less than 12px. Use larger size fonts if you have an older audience.
- Use fonts larger than your body text for your headlines and subtitles.
- Avoid using capital letters in every word.
- Ensure there is space around the lines of text to aid readability. Set the line-height property to be larger than your current font size.
- Ensure you are consistent with your font types, sizes and spacing.
b) Use line breaks
Designers and photographers use negative space to direct people’s attention. In the same way, writers can use line breaks to draw attention to what is important. Line breaks and whitespace also help make your copy more readable and inviting.
Limit your paragraphs to 3 or 4 sentences at most.
c) Use compelling subtitles
Headlines prepare a reader for what they can expect from your content. They are the first thing your audience will likely see after clicking through to the page. So they need to be accurate, concise and enticing. Why?
They need to convey to readers what they will learn from your content.
Solid subtitles also help keep readers engaged and act like mini-headlines. They keep your audience’s attention. At the same time, they help readers move through the rest of your content.
Review each of your headlines and subtitles. Determine what your audience will take away from just reading that part of your article.
Will they get enough of an idea of the content?
Is there a compelling story?
d) Use bullet points
Consider this. Your readers have to comprehend every word of your content while battling many distractions. Make it easier for them by using bullet points.
- Make your content scan-able.
- Are hard to resist, especially when coupled with the right typography
- Look different from the rest of your text and so stand out
- Highlight key points
- Draw attention and are ideal to show off your product benefits
e) Use high-quality visual aids
Visuals always make your copy easier to digest. They are also a neat way to interrupt your readers to keep them more engaged.
Most people are visual learners, so using visuals will help get the point across a lot quicker. If done well, it can also create an emotional connection.
Types of visual content you could consider using includes:
- Data graphics etc.
f) Use intriguing captions
Image captions have been shown to be among the most read copy on a page. So pair a relevant image with a caption that intrigues your audience into reading your content.
This post from the Guardian is an example.
g) Add relevant and helpful links
Author Mark Manson’s aim with his content is to get readers to keep reading more of his content. Adding internal links to related and relevant content is a great way to do that.
The aim shouldn’t be to add as many links as possible, but rather to help your audience understand the topic and add value to them. Add external links where appropriate as well.
Make providing more utility for your audience via your content and links your goal. Your content will be more likely to be read, shared and commented on.
h) Highlight content strategically
When speaking, people tend to place emphasis on certain words by changing the tone of their voice.
When writing, you can emphasize key points or concepts by bolding them. Your audience will then be able to scan through and pick out the important points at a glance.
In fact, you don’t just have to bold important points. You could italicize, underline or even CAPITALIZE them to capture your audience’s attention.
Why does this work?
Because our brains are wired to notice change and focus on it.
i) Harness the power of numbers
Do you think lists have been done to death? Think again.
Take a look at popular blogs, and you will find some them using numbered lists to make a post more inviting.
You can improve your posts readability and make it more compelling to read just by numbering your main points.
17. Provide takeaways for next steps
Your content should have some clear takeaways for your audience. That way, they’ll know what to do next with the content they read.
These insights could help make your audience:
- more aware of a problem they face
- provide possible solutions
- invite discussion to help them learn more about the subject.
Takeaways can take many forms – short tips, questions asked and a call to action to view other related content.
Making edits and tweaks to creative work isn’t easy and does take time. But it will help make your content clearer and stronger. It will yield more shares, conversions and higher email open rates.
Need help with improving your content and converting your audience into subscribers? Download the free checklist for the 17 simple edits and tweaks to get more people to read your content.