So you have a blog, and you or your team work hard to keep it relevant and updated. You have plenty of ideas and post regularly, and even get some decent traffic - but none of it matters because your engagement levels are tanking. What gives?
It can be tough to get the likes, comments and shares your blog is dreaming of, but there are some actionable ways to make sure your posts are as engaging as possible. Here are my top 4 tips you can start using straight away:
- Know your audience
- Write for humans
- Format your content in a way users can’t ignore
- Less of an ending, more of a journey
Know your audience – no, really
Bear with me, because I know you’ve heard all of this before. It’s essentially marketing 101; you need to have an understanding of your audience before you write your content. And you probably do; you might know where your audience hangs out online, and you might even have some key personas already defined. All of this is awesome, but it just doesn’t go deep enough when it comes to writing copy and content that’s truly going to hook people in and keep them on your site.
We tend to fall victim to the ‘false consensus effect’, which is where we just assume that everyone thinks the same way we do. And that tends to lead to writing stuff that alienates people, rather than engages them.
To try and move past this way of thinking and truly get to know your audience, I advise my clients to ask 3 key questions:
1. Who are you writing for?
Not just the demographic but that person’s role, their expertise, their commitment level. How much do they really know about you and your company? Use our free customer persona template to define your audience.
2. Why are you writing it?
Are you trying to educate people on a certain topic, position yourself as a thought leader, increase leads?
3. What will your reader get out of it?
How is this going to change your reader’s life? What can they take away from your post?
Once you’ve answered these questions, make sure you’re thinking about them at every stage of the writing process – don’t lose sight of who, what and why.
Write for humans
One of the biggest mistakes people make is over-complicating the language of their blog posts. Plain language increases comprehension, and helps to avoid confusion or misunderstandings, so you should be using it every time you write.
Use words that are familiar to your readers. This ties in with my previous point about knowing your audience – if you’re aware of their level of understanding, you can write for them. This usually means cutting the jargon out; no acronyms, technical phrases or marketing speak. Take note of your sentence length, too – the shorter the better.
I often then hear people say: “but my audience will be insulted if I dumb down my content!” But the honest truth is that no one will ever complain that something is too easy to understand. Write for lower comprehension levels, and everyone will benefit.
Format your content in a way users can’t ignore
We all know that formatting is essential to making digital content easy to consume, but I bet you didn’t know that it can totally manipulate a user’s entire experience with it – I’m talking time spent on page, comprehension, user satisfaction. Pretty big deal, right?
There are four different ways that people tend to read online – we call these reading patterns. One of them, the F-pattern, is pretty well-known for being the default pattern users fall into when there’s a wall of text. They focus quite heavily on the top and the left side of the page, sometimes re-reading this information again and again, while totally ignoring everything else.
But that’s not really what we want. We know that online readers are inherently scanners, wanting to take in as much information as they can in the least amount of time, and they just can’t do this when content isn’t formatted. Luckily, it’s easy to change.
As soon as you start to add key formatting to your blog post, like hyperlinks or bolded keywords, users will start to quickly pull out specific pieces of information that are important to them. This is called the Spotted Pattern.
For extra long blog posts, be sure to add plenty of good headings and subheadings, maybe even laying these out right at the beginning as a sort of index. That way, users can quickly scan and choose the sections they particularly want to read. This is called the Layer Cake Pattern.
The major limiting factor we have online is the attention span of our users, so don’t make things harder for them than they need to be. Through effective formatting, you can better assist your reader, and your blog becomes a whole lot more engaging because of it.
Less of an ending, more of a journey
An ending should never really be an ending. The last thing you want is for people to finish reading your blog and then drop off your site completely. That’s why I like to think of a conclusion as more of a ‘see you soon!’ than a definitive ‘goodbye!’
Make sure you round off your blog post in a way that gives readers an option to do something else, to carry on with their journey. A really strong call to action can help here – almost a call to arms after your incredibly convincing written argument. How about adding a ‘Read more’ section with some similar articles you’ve produced on the subject? You could even add some internal links to your products or services if they present themselves naturally in your copy, to further assist the user in their research.
Whatever up-and-coming technologies are on the digital landscape, the good old blog still proves its value. Make sure you’re giving it the right thought and attention, and your posts will start to become more and more engaging for your readers.