It’s no secret that creating engaging content is harder than ever.
In fact, a study from Beckon showed that while content marketing was up 300 percent in 2016, engagement was only up 5 percent.
Even worse, the small percentage of people taking the time to read and engage with your content are only spending 37 seconds on your page.
What’s the reason for these dreadful statistics?
I’d say there are a number of things; from the overwhelming amount of content being created every day to the fact that we as consumers are always connected to media, it’s hard to capture attention.
As marketers, and specifically content marketers, we have to adjust.
We have to focus on creating content that:
- Gives our customers what they want.
- Keeps them engaged.
- Carries them through the buyer journey.
No easy feat if I do say.
While there is no silver bullet, there are certain things we can do to better engage our readers and increase the time they spend reading our content. Let’s jump in.
1. Get Visual
What’s the perfect word count? It’s something we are asked all the time and I can understand why.
For a while, it was recommended content marketers create short posts at a higher frequency and then sometime later, that was switched to creating more in-depth pieces at a lower frequency.
I’m not going to get into the merits of this discussion or which is better (it’s obviously dependent on goals and your own website), but I will say having a 2,500+ word post, while valuable, has a lot of words!
Break It Up
By adding images to your content, you can improve everything from time spent on a page to social shares to conversion rate.
The key is ensuring you’re using the right imagery for your content:
- Choose images relevant to the user experience. Generic images are just that – generic. Use an image to connect the reader to the content.
- Tell a story. The power of an image is its ability to tell a story in a way words cannot. Use images that support the content being showcased.
- Support your brand. If you are a humorous brand, using the latest meme may make sense. If you are a hospital, it probably doesn’t. As noted above, images can help tell a story. They can also help connect people to your brand so it’s important you are choosing images that represent your brand.
- Provide information. Humans process images faster than we process words. Use images to convey information, whether it be a process, a study, or a statistic.
All images aren’t created equal. Choose ones that are more likely to impact your content in the right ways.
2. Add Motion
Just as images play a role in engagement, so do videos.
In fact, users spend on average 2.6x more time on pages with video than without. That seems pretty good, right?
So why aren’t we all doing it?
One of the problems with video is the misconception it requires significant time and money.
However, with the rise of technology, and specifically the mobile phone, creating a quality video simply requires a little bit of planning, a digital camera (or phone with a camera), and a little bit of editing.
The barrier to entry has never been lower.
To start adding video to your content, consider the following:
- Create instructional videos. We all know “how-tos” are an important part of the internet, and specifically an important part of YouTube. The next time you want to put together an instructional blog post, consider making a video instead. Think along the lines of Whiteboard Friday or Here’s Why. While these may have a bit higher production value than yours, each one takes a concept and walks the user through it. They are fun, useful, and they make for great content.
- Provide industry updates. If you work in an industry like search, you know the landscape is always changing. There are updates every week and keeping up with the information can be challenging. Instead of doing a content round-up, consider a video roundup. The folks over at Cypress North, for example, released Marketing O’Clock, a 12 to 15-minute weekly segment that looks at the latest updates in the search space. It’s smart, funny, and certainly more interesting than a blog post with the same information.
- Promote your expertise. Whether you’re promoting a webinar, a speaking engagement, or the launch of a book, a video preview can go a long way. Sit the person down, ask them a few questions about the topic, what people can expect, and where they can find more information. The video can be posted on the website, used on social, and in all likelihood, will be picked up by others involved (think conference organizer or book publisher).
- Complement your written content. Just as we want to use images that enhance our written content, we want our videos to do the same. What’s great about Whiteboard Friday is the transcript is also available, so if I can’t watch the video or I want to go back and find a specific thing that was said, I don’t have to re-watch the whole thing. When creating a video or set of videos, consider how they’ll work on your site.
Creating a video doesn’t have to be hard.
In fact, the next time someone at your organization asks about creating an infographic, suggest they take that time and create a video instead.
3. Provide Tips & Takeaways
When doing research for this post, I came across an article from Nicole Bianchi, titled “How to Write Compelling Articles That Get Read and Shared.” The post provides a number of tips broken out within the content but it also does this:
The post ends with a primary takeaway, ensuring I leave with at least one thing top of mind and making me feel as if the post added value. That’s the key.
Make it easy for your readers to see value in your content.
If I start to scan a post and immediately see there are explicit tips throughout, I will back up and take the time to read the piece. It’s why things like bullets and sub-headings are often called out in blogging best practices.
To make it easy for readers to see value in your content and keep them on the page, consider the following:
- Use quotes or call outs. If you’ve spent any time on the web you’ve seen a motivational quote overlaid on a scenic background. While they aren’t all winners, quotes can be powerful when used properly. Use a quote box or call out in your content to help break up the text and lend some credence to the story you are trying to tell. Just remember, double check your quote.
- Highlight specific tips. Your readers want answers to questions and they want information. Just like we learn in Journalism 101, don’t bury the lede. Make it easy for your readers to find the takeaways and find the tips. Use bullets, italics, or a highlighted background to make your tips stand out.
- Consider TL;DR. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of the TL;DR concept. Why? Because I don’t have a ton of extra time in my day and as much as I want all of the information, sometimes I just need the takeaway. Yes, this may be contradictory to the title of this post and the tips I just provided, but at the same time, giving me the overview may compel me to keep reading or bookmark it and come back later. TL;DR can act as both a post summary and a hook for readers.
Content overload is real and as content marketers, it’s our job to ensure our content is built with our readers in mind.
Providing real tips and takeaways will not only keep them on your site but also help build trust and ideally, a relationship.
Takeaways & To Do’s
You didn’t think I’d tell you to include takeaways and then not do it myself, right?
When it comes to building content that will keep readers on your site for longer, keep the following in mind:
- Use images that support the user experience, tell a story and provide information. Simply adding an image for the sake of adding an image won’t do.
- Using and creating videos doesn’t have to be difficult. Start small by interviewing leaders in the organization or creating instructional videos for your customers. By creating videos that complement your written content, you can start small, testing the impact and identifying what works best for your audience.
- Readers need to immediately see value in your content. Provide specific tips throughout the piece and more importantly, make them easy to see when scanning the post.
Just like anything, we can’t expect to implement everything mentioned above on day one. Start small, focusing on images and identifying the types of images that fit the criteria mentioned above.
Give your writing team a goal of including at least three specific tips throughout a piece or using TL;DR on pieces over 1,200 words.
By integrating these things into your content marketing strategy, they will eventually become part of the regular process.
Your readers will thank you.
More Content Marketing Resources:
In-post Photo: Unsplash
Screenshot taken by author, July 2018