From the outside, creating compelling blog posts might appear simple. Even the best writers out there have had to build their skills. It took them practice methodology. Only when we work at it, again and again, we eventually get good.
The whole deal is about learning to create engaging content readers want to interact with. Anybody can write meaningless fluff, but compelling material… That’s another story.
Luckily, writing engaging content is like other crafts for it’s simpler to learn when you help yourself with the right methods and tactics. No matter what type of content you plan to create, follow the steps below, and you’ll end up with high-value content that gets your brand noticed.
1. Curate content & figure out what questions resonate with your readers
One of the very first steps to writing useful content is learning to curate it. Content curation is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest. Services or people that implement content curation are called curators. What’s more, discovering what are the “hot topics” and “industry trends” plays a crucial role to understand the needs of your audience.
“Start curating content and add your unique commentary or perspective on the article. You want to create a valuable content experience for your audience.”
Writing engaging content means answering readers' questions, so you have to know what they are. Polling readers or searching through Q&A sites or keywords planners can be very useful.
Quora or Stack Overflow are great places to start. These platforms abound of user-generated questions, well-organized by topics.
Once you’ve found some questions you think would resonate with your readers, turn them into blog posts.
Your competitors are a great source of content ideas. Comb through the comments of a competitor blog. Take note of unanswered questions and run with them on your blog.
Browse through a competitor website and take note of what you see, what you don’t have. These observations will be your future opportunities.
Are there topics nobody is talking about in your industry? If so, address them head-on.
When you dare to write about what your competitors won’t, you become a thought leader in your industry.
Topics you discover this way don’t have to be anything crazy. It can be anything. Just keep your audience in mind.
Imagining that your reader is standing right there in front of your computer, and you’re talking to them directly. Do you have anything interesting to tell them?
2. Build the backbones, then fill the blanks
Before you start hitting your keyboard frantically, you must know which points you want to cover, and in what order, preferably. For that, create an outline, nothing more than bullet points with all the relevant sections that should appear in the post for you to consider the blog complete.
Now that you have your outline/template, you’re ready to fill in the blanks. Use your outline as a guide and be sure to expand on all of your points as needed.
If you find you’re having trouble stringing sentences together, you’re not alone. Finding your “flow” can be challenging for a lot of folks. Luckily, there are a ton of tools you can lean on to help you improve your writing. Here are a few to get you started:
- Power Thesaurus: Stuck on a word? Power Thesaurus is a crowdsourced tool that provides users with a ton of alternative word choices from a community of writers.
- Hemingway Editor: It helps you refine your writing. It is one of the best content writing tools for those who want to improve their writing skills. The app highlights lengthy, complex, and hard-to-read sentences, asking you to shorten them. It provides suggestions to replace difficult words and phrases with simpler ones and omit unnecessary adverbs. And it highlights the use of passive voice as well.
- Ilys: One of the weirdest content writing tools available online. With an extremely minimal interface, it asks you about the number of words you want to write. All that you can do with Ilys is just write. You can’t go back, can’t edit, and can’t even see what you’ve typed until you finish your word count goal.
- Cliché Finder: Feeling like your writing might be coming off a little cheesy? Identify instances where you can be more specific using this handy cliché tool.
3. Start writing: Go long, not superficially
Long blog posts keep your audience on your website for an extended period, thus increasing the chance of conversion.
Writing long blog posts takes more time, and you the challenge is bigger to keep your readers engaged until the end. Don’t rush, but leave yourself ample time to edit, adjust, quote, and fine-tune your longer posts.
Long posts that have at least 1500 words earn a higher ROI than shorter posts. They also tend to receive SEO boost and rank better in SERP.
4. Keep it easy to read
Ever heard of the “KISS” principle used in software engineering? “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Don’t forget that your audience may not be looking for some Shakespearean verse and prose. They have questions to be answered, maybe a problem to solve. Use a simple language.
Don’t assume your audience knows your jargon, acronyms and insider words. These may be industry-specific terms you don’t want to embarrass them with.
Use the short parenthetical definition of the term after using it the first time to clue in your readers.
Today, internet users are overexposed to written information, and they tend to scan blog posts more often than they read them line by line. Anticipate this and format your posts accordingly.
Some tactics you can apply :
- Short Paragraphs. Readers skip over large chunks of text. In some cases, it even drives them away. Make your paragraph no bigger than 3 to 4 sentences, and jump lines when you can.
- Use Bolded Headers And Subheaders. Structuring content with some hierarchy is essential. It gives readers a “road map” by which to scan it and go directly where they need. Self-service.
- Keep Sections Short. As a general rule, try to not exceed 300-350 words of copy for every sub-header.
- Use Bulleted & Numbered Lists. It allows shorter sentences and makes information easier to digest, and scan.
- Break Up Text With Visuals. Good use of images helps make content look less bulky, and therefore, easier to read.
The better you become at formatting your content, the more your audience will appreciate your blog posts and engage with them.
Writing a piece of content is not all that matters, you need to format it correctly. Readability is key.
5. Connect Source Material to Claims
No matter what you’re writing about, always do your research, and above all, let your audience know you did it. Make use of a scientific approach by backing up assertions. Your content becomes more credible and your readers will be more keen on any facts brought to them if they are sourced.
Cite your sources and link to original studies and findings. Readers will share your content only if they can trust you.
6. Don’t Skip The Visuals
At the bare minimum, each post needs a “Featured image”.
The Featured Image (also known as post thumbnail) is a representative image for posts and pages.
Ideally, spread screenshots, stock photos, and custom visuals throughout, to illustrate the content. They stimulate your readers" photographic memory, so they will remember you and your content.
An image speaks a thousand words. Visuals are compelling elements of content.
7. Craft Clickbait Headlines To Hook Readers
An engaging content always starts with a headline. A lot of useful, well-written and valuable content is not read simply because readers didn’t get past the headline in the search engine results page (SERP), so it pays out to work on it seriously. It’s equally important as the content itself.
To check your headline’s strength, use tools such as AMI’s headline analyzer to judge your headlines based on various criteria.
Make a compelling headline by following the few rules :
- Use numbers in your headline. According to Moz, a third of blog readers prefer “number” headlines over other types of headlines. Some format examples are “X Tips for … or “Top X ….”.
- Your headline solves a problem. Offering a solution to a problem in your headline will get you more readers, and eventually, potential customers.
- Your headline formulates a question. One would expect to find the answer when clicking on a “question” headline. Conveying answers to real-life questions is a surefire way to write engaging and useful content and deliver value to your reader.
A headline is an essential piece of your content. It’s a teaser to encourage your customers to read your content.
8. Attract reader’s attention right away with a captivating intro
Your first few lines have to grab the reader’s attention. If you lose the reader in the first few sentences or paragraphs of your content, they will stop reading even before they’ve given your post a fair check.
You can do this in several ways: tell a story or a joke, be empathetic, or grip the reader with an interesting fact or statistic.
Then describe the purpose of the post and explain how it will address a problem the reader may be having.
Help your readers envision how your content will help them improve their work/lives, so they keep reading.
9. Put the SEO Wizard’s White Hat
After you finish writing, it’s time to optimize your post for search. You want it “found” in the SERP after all.
Think of using enough keywords but don’t stuff your article with keywords like you would stuff a turkey.
Don’t obsess over how many keywords to include. If there are opportunities to incorporate keywords you’re targeting, and it won’t impact reader experience, do it. If you can make your URL shorter and more keyword-friendly, go for it. But don’t cram keywords or shoot for some arbitrary keyword density.
Here’s a little reminder of what you can and should look for:
Think of your page title and headers: Most content management systems (Drupal, Wordpress) uses your post title as your page title. It is an essential on-page SEO element. Don’t over-complicate your title by trying to fit keywords where they don’t naturally belong, but if there are clear opportunities to add keywords you’re targeting to your post title and headers, do it. Also, try to keep your headlines short (ideally, no more than 65 characters) because longer ones will get truncated in search engine results.
Mind the anchor text of your links: Anchor text is the word (or group of words) that labels your hyperlinks. It’s important to select which keywords you want to link to other pages on your site because search engines consider that when ranking your page for certain keywords. It’s also important to consider which pages you link to. Consider linking to pages that you want to rank well for that keyword.
Don’t forget the “meta-description” of your content: It’s the description below the post’s page title on Google’s search results pages. They provide searchers with a short summary of the post before clicking into it. Between 150-160 characters and start with a verb, such as “Learn,” “Read,” or “Discover.” While meta descriptions no longer factor into Google’s keyword ranking algorithm, they do give searchers a snapshot of what they will get by reading the post and can help improve your click-through rate from search.
Optimize for mobile search: Having a website that is responsive or designed for mobile is a real deal. Google has made several changes to its Search algorithm, and user experience on mobiles should no more be left behind. Make sure your readers have the best experience possible on your page will help score your website some SEO points and rank it better on mobile searches. Look out how images respond to screen size changes, as well as call-to-action, etc…