May 7, 2014
With the ongoing proliferation of content in various forms around the Web, it’s becoming ever more essential to ensure the content you create engages the attention of your intended audience and stands out from the crowd.
It’s helpful to think about and analyze your own experience.
What causes you to engage with a particular piece of content above others vying for your attention?
What is it that maintains that engagement? Or, conversely, what causes you to lose interest and click away?
What aspects of the content encourage you to share it with others?
If you’re searching for something online, what encourages you to click through to one result above another?
As you know, there’s a no shortage of competing content out there, all pleading for our time and attention.
To rise above the noise and ensure your own content engages your intended audience is no mean feat. But with a few key elements in mind, it’s certainly achievable.
So what helps create such engaging content? What ensures a piece of content not only grabs your attention in the first place, but holds it and makes an imprint on your mind?
Of course, we all have our own individual likes and dislikes, and so I surveyed a group of people interested in content marketing on just these questions. Based on the answers I received, the following list represents what may be considered to be the nine essential elements of engaging, attention-grabbing content.
Essential Element 1: An Attention-Grabbing Title
Whether your content is an article, a blog post, a video, audio recording, or whatever, the title plays an absolutely essential role. It needs to both ensure your content stands out from the crowd, and appeals to your intended audience.
- Be specific: what exactly does the content offer?
- Be intriguing: how can you rouse the curiosity of those you are hoping to attract, so they’re almost compelled to click through?
- Offer a solution: where there’s a problem, there’s a desire or need for a solution — how can your title tap into that?
Essential Element 2: Deliver On Its Promise
Have you ever clicked through on a piece of content only to find it doesn’t provide what you thought it would?
It’s essential to deliver on the promise of your title for the following key reasons:
- Once you’ve engaged someone’s attention in the first place, you then need to maintain their attention in order for the content to ultimately benefit you. For example, you’re looking for someone to visit your website, share the content with others, link up with you on social media, and so on, as well as generally raise the online profile of you and your business.
- If someone is clicking through to your content from Google, and then rapidly clicking back to the search engine results to click through somewhere else, it tells Google something about how to rank your content. If your content is not delivering what their search users are looking for, its rank will deteriorate over time. On the other hand, if your content grabs their attention and holds it, it can only benefit the ranking of your content.
Essential Element 3: Meet A Need
Your content largely exists for one reason only — to grab the attention of potential prospects for your business.
Your content must therefore meet a need that audience has in order to grab their attention and engage with them.
What are the needs of your marketplace? What problems are they facing? What questions frequently arise? What are they looking for assistance with, or information about?
There are various ways to find out, such as direct feedback from existing customers and prospects, social media, forums, industry publications, and so on.
Essential Element 4: Authenticity
People like to connect with people like themselves. Show through your content that you are a real person just like them, with real thoughts, opinions, feelings, and ideas.
Sure, you’ll turn some people away, but try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no-one. Instead, be authentic and open, and you’ll attract an audience who will resonate strongly with you, engage effectively with your content, and be very responsive because of the connection you have with them. And a smaller but responsive audience is far more valuable than a larger but indifferent one.
Essential Element 5: Originality — Offer A Unique Perspective
If your content is simply a rehashed version of similar content elsewhere, it’s not going to grab anyone’s attention or stand out from the crowd.
Instead, offer them the benefit of your own unique knowledge and experience, and put your own unique stamp on your content.
Essential Element 6: Improve Lives
OK, it’s not quite in the same league as discovering a cure for cancer or eradicating poverty, but none-the-less your content should aim to improve the lives of your audience.
By helping others through your content, you make your content memorable for them. They will also remember you, and more readily connect with you, whether by signing up to your e-mail list, connecting over social media, or looking out for your content in future and referring you to others.
Essential Element 7: Thought-Provoking
By making your audience think, even if they don’t always agree with you, you’ll engage more easily with them, stick in their minds for longer and raise your profile. Don’t be afraid to challenge your audience or go against the grain: controversy sells.
Essential Element 8: Flows Easily
Unless your content flows well, people will rapidly disengage and click away.
Take time to carefully review every piece of content, or have someone else go through it for you and highlight any sticking points or parts they don’t understand. You’ll be surprised what you can improve by leaving your content for a few days after creating it, and then carefully reviewing it.
Ensure you are using correct spelling and grammar. Basic spelling mistakes, typos and poor use of English reflects badly on you and gives a poor impression.
Use effective formatting, such as bullet points, and short paragraphs for easy online reading.
Ensure you use language your intended audience will understand. Avoid the use of jargon that is only like to alienate those you are hoping to attract.
Essential Element 9: Engage Emotionally
Various studies have shown that emotions are key drivers for human activity. That includes choosing whether to engage with or disengage from your content, and whether or not to share your content with others. Often such decisions are entirely subconscious.
Content that becomes viral nearly always makes some key emotional connection with its audience.
Speed is also important, and is one reason why images are so prolific on social media and generally have higher levels of viral activity than other types of content.
Try to engage emotionally with your audience within the first few seconds of them finding your content, and you’ll both hold their attention for longer and increase the benefits your content delivers for your business.
Of course, it won’t always be possible to incorporate all these elements into every piece of content you create. But by trying to incorporate as many as possible, you will undoubtedly create more engaging, attention-grabbing content, and improve the results you achieve from your content marketing activities.
Steve Shaw is the founder of vWriter.com, the content creation, management and distribution platform that helps your business grow traffic, build engagement, and ‘Be Everywhere.’ Get your copy of his Be Everywhere online marketing blueprint, and find out how to create your own Google-friendly authority site that will stand the test of time and come to dominate its niche - https://www.vwriter.com/blueprint