We think we know the answer. Are you still with us? Have you already started scanning the content? If yes, then you’re not alone – you belong to a large group of users who don’t read but scan content for information.
According to the 2008 Nielsen study, users read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.
When Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at Chartbeat, analyzed how people scroll through Slate articles he found that most readers scroll to about the 50 percent mark, or the 1,000th pixel, in Slate stories
The above-mentioned group poses a serious challenge to content creators who spend enormous time and effort churning out engaging content. B2B marketers are heavily focused on creating engaging content (72%), citing it as the top priority for their internal content creators over the next year, according to 2016 B2B Content MarketingApproximately 80% of B2C marketers plan to produce more content in 2016 vs. 2015, according to 2016 B2C Content Marketing
This is a how-to piece for content creators to keep their users interested and turn them into readers. Every piece of advice is backed by data.
First decide the format that serves your purpose. Both long & short forms are important and come with their own benefits.
Long form content includes lists, how-tos, e-books, white papers, case studies , guides and why posts. The main purpose of this format is to target searchers who’re looking for detailed information. The key is to present information in as clean and un-cluttered way as possible. Here is a list of tips to create scannable long-form content.
One idea per paragraph
Highlight important areas – facts, ideas, call-to-actions
White space – to give the screen a clean look
The findings of the research from Pew Research Center says a different story.
According to the Moz + Buzzsumo research, long form content receives more shares and links.
Isn’t it ironic that with attention spans becoming shorter, long form of content is gaining popularity? The answer is no, if the content –
1) Identifies the reader’s pain points and offers solutions ( User guides like: iPad User Guide )
2) Offers valuable insights to help him/her take action ( Research reports like : 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America )
3) Enhances knowledge ( Articles like The Science Behind Brain Farts or E- books like 75 Examples To Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity)
4) Entertains ( Articles like 20 Female Celebs You Didn’t Know Were Smokers )
1) Blogs ( Such as The Toddler Strategy )
2) Social Posts ( Such as Oreo’s brilliant dunk in the dark)
3) Quizzes ( Such as Name the 50 Most Mentioned Harry Potter Characters (Without Missing One )
To bring Informational and Entertaining content to others is one of the primary motivational factors why people share content online, according to The Psychology of Sharing, a study by New York Times
Divide your content into 3 groups – Entertainment, Information & Infotainment ( mix of information + entertainment). Based on your audience, content marketing goals ( both short – term and long-term), & company’s voice – select the group.
The inverted pyramid organizes stories not around ideas or chronologies but around facts. It weighs and shuffles the various pieces of information, focusing with remarkable single-mindedness on their relative news value.
– Journalism Historian Mitchell Stephens
It holds true for every content format that’s informational. Remember 5 Ws and 1 H when writing – Who, When, What, Why, Where & How.
Headlines are important to grab the reader’s attention. It’s important from SEO plus social sharing perspectives. One of the most talked about headlines written keeping search engines in mind is Huffington Post’s What Time Is The Super Bowl? It’s not simply a headline but a common search query every year before the big games start. And Huff Post leveraged it to a T and ranked 1 on Google for the query. And the icing on the cake was it provided the user with the information he/she was looking for.
And then we saw headlines like “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google” ; “Google Doesn’t Laugh: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO” ; “A Brief History of ‘What Time Is the Super Bowl?” by The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. We don’t want to discuss the mud-slinging episode here but the noteworthy point is ranking No 1 on search engines isn’t just about SEO-friendly headlines.
Compelling headlines reveal as well as hide. The amount of information they reveal is enough to pique your interest and click on the link. But what happens after they click the link is also important. Imagine clicking on an article titled 10 things most kids don’t know about their mothers & reading these points !!
Disappointed, right ? That’s what deceptive headlines ( that at first glance look creative) do. A couple of quick pointers to manitain balance between creativity and honesty.
1) Your headline should give the users a clear idea about the article – whether it’s an opinion, research, list, how-to or news.
2) Information presented in the content should match with the headline. If your article is titled Air pollution the leading cause of lung cancer then the reader expects research findings in the article and not a bland content on how dangerous air pollution is.
3) Choose adjectives in your headlines carefully. Decide the kind of emotional response you want to elicit from the reader. Is it shock, laughter, inspiration, surprise or joy? For a tragic story don’t use funny words in the headline ( common sense).
4) Anyone can use keywords in a headline. But using them cleverly is what differentiates an amateur writer from a pro. Headlines like – Air Conditioner Cheap Price Online India might be SEO -friendly but rank low on factors like value and quality.
The researchers at Sharethrough have come up with a list of 1072 English words that elicit higher emotional engagement. These words are grouped into 4 categories –
You can download these words here
Headlines with numbers are clear winners. One of the reasons can be they give the reader a fair idea about the format of the content ( listicle) and also the number of points.
Headlines with superlative words work better. Here’s what Buzzsumo found in its analysis of 10,000 words –
A headline with a superlative such as ‘Amazing’ appears to work better on Facebook and Twitter than the other superlatives looked at. By contrast ‘successful’ in a headline appears to get more shares on LinkedIn than the other three superlatives.
It implies use superlatives considering your audience and social channels where they hang out.
According to the Conductor study, when they asked the respondents to select their favorite among these headlines -The 27 Ways to Train a Dog (0 superlatives)The 27 Best Ways to Train a Dog (1 superlatives)The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Dog (2 superlatives)The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog (3 superlatives)The 27 Best and Smartest Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog (4 superlatives)
Here’s what they found
Here’s the list of power words for writing emotional headlines.
You must’ve heard this umpteen times “Always use active voice.” But have you ever asked WHY? Read Elements of Style to know WHY.
Active voice is key to writing straight, clear clutter-free content. Check the examples below :
With the rapidly diminishing average human attention span every EXTRA word counts. This study by Microsoft finds that humans have shorter attention span than goldfish. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015.
Given below are examples how wrong words kill your content.
Wrong words can be
Words that ruin the meaning
Words written for the sake of writing
It’s important to reach your audience and offer them valuable information with the help of content, but it’s equally important to understand what’s the purpose of your content. Is it website traffic? Branding? Social shares? Leads? Tell your audience what you want them to do – add a clear call to action to your content. Dan Zarella in his research where he analyzed 10,000 tweets found that tweets with “Please Retweet” text were retweeted more than once.
Here’re a few examples of actionable content
Do you have any more suggestions to add to the list? Add them in the comments section.
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