Great content makes all the difference when it comes to the success of your blog or site. But what is it that really makes one article out-perform the rest? Read on for some truly in-depth insight into the most highly effective content.
If you want your website or blog to succeed online, then top-tier content is one of the most effective weapons in your arsenal. Content marketing is all the rage at the moment for one simple reason: it works. Since day one, SEO has been about generating content that Google will want to share with its visitors and that’s why regularly updating with new articles and posts has always been important. The only thing that’s different these days, is that Google has gotten smarter. Its algorithms have developed and now it can tell the difference between high quality and low quality content. Simply generating lots of articles isn’t good enough anymore; now more than ever, quality really matters.
What’s more though is that high quality content is also what makes the difference with your readers. Content marketing is important irrespective of Google because it’s what will ensure that your visitors keep coming back to your website. It’s one of the only ways to generate direct traffic. And it’s what will ensure you are able to build trust and authority in your niche. Content also needs to be high quality if it’s going to be shared on social media and serve as ‘link bait’ to generate the kind of organic inbound links that actually benefit your site. Content is even what you use to persuade your audience, to create calls-to-action and to generate profit.
In other words, your website will live or die based on the quality of your content alone. For the vast majority of blogs and websites this is the single biggest factor in determining whether or not you will be successful.
But unfortunately, 99% of bloggers and web masters have got content all wrong. Read on then to see what sets truly amazing content apart.
What Type of Content Gets Read?
The first thing to ask yourself is: what type of content actually gets read?
This might seem like a pretty obvious question that goes without saying but to look at the content on the vast majority of sites it would seem that they just haven’t considered this one very important question.
If you take a look at any of the low-performing websites in a given niche, you will likely find that the same topics and article structures crop up time and time again. The fitness niche is a great example. Pick your average fitness site and you should find all of the following articles:
- The Top Ten Mistakes You’re Making in the Gym!
- Five Great Exercises for Your Biceps
- Top Ten Tips for Building Muscle
- How to Lose That Stubborn Belly Fat
If those exact titles aren’t there, then you can rest assured that similar content will be there in some shape or form. And they’re probably all 500 words (because articles are 500 words right?).
But right away this tells you that the website is probably going to fail. Why? Because all those posts are boring. As we’ve already seen, the same posts are on practically every website going and none of them bring anything new to the table. You can probably guess all the things those articles are going to say already and there’s no emotional hook, or new piece of information, or mystery… nothing to make the articles at all interesting. So why would you click on them? And why would anyone subscribe to the RSS feed? The short answer: they wouldn’t.
You can say the exact same thing for SEO and digital marketing websites. What articles do these all have in common? Things like:
- Top SEO Mistakes That Companies Are Still Making
- Five Tricks to Drive More Visitors to Your Website
- Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Bounce Rates
Do you really think that posting this kind of content to a site like Reddit is going to result in upvotes and shares? Would you upvote any of those articles?
So what should your content look like instead?
Instead you need to make sure you are saying something new. That means bringing new, interesting and unique ideas to the table in every article. If your content is in any way derivative then you’re not going to attract clicks or likes. Make sure you’re covering new ground, or at least offering a new perspective.
At the same time, you need to make sure your content has some kind of emotional hook. The best way to think of this is as your article being a ‘product’ and the title being your sales copy. Your job is to sell your article with the title alone and that means focusing on your value proposition. You know the saying: you don’t sell hats, you sell warm heads.
You need to make it very clear in the title of your article what your readers will gain from reading it. That means you need to paint a picture of how the article will impact on the reader’s life, or how it will affect them emotionally. You need to challenge them, surprise them or promise to reveal something new and powerful that will improve their fitness/business/marketing/relationships.
So a great fitness article might be something like this:
- Cardio Acceleration: How to Burn Over 700% More Fat in Every Workout
For starters, the phrase ‘cardio acceleration’ will right away grab attention. This is a real thing but it’s a technique that few people have heard of (unlike yet another article on HIIT). It sounds scientific, it sounds powerful and anyone with an interest in working out will probably wonder what it is.
The next part of the title meanwhile promises something that many people will find interesting. Anyone trying to lose weight is going to be interested in the prospect of a workout that burns that much extra fat and they’ll immediately start imagining what life would be like if they have 10% body fat. This is your value proposition right here and it really hits home by painting a picture of how you can help your readers.
Meanwhile, a much more interesting SEO article might be something like this:
- The Psychology of SEO: Why SEO Careers Attract Manic Depressives
Again, this is something that’s actually interesting. Readers will wonder how SEO could possibly linked to manic depression and especially if they are SEO specialists themselves. It offers something a bit more meaty and a bit more interesting than another ‘top ten’ list. Post any of these articles and you will get upvotes, shares and comments because you’re giving people something to actually talk about.
Whenever you come up with a new angle for an article ask yourself: would you read it?
What Kind of Articles Really Deliver?
Is this click bait? No – not if you back up what you’re saying and actually deliver on your promises and this is where you find the difference between a site like ‘Buzzfeed’ and ‘Brain Pickings’.
In the case of either of these two ‘example’ titles, you really can deliver on what you’re promising. According to studies (which you can actually link to in your articles), cardio acceleration really does help you to burn over 700% more fat in workouts. Of course there are caveats though, so you need to make sure you address though too in a balanced manner.
Does SEO attract manic depressives? Well, SEO attracts entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from manic depression than average – so yes.
Making sure that your article genuinely discusses the interesting topics it promises too is incredibly important for any digital marketing campaign and any business. Your goal is not simply to ‘trick’ people into reading your content because that will only undermine your credibility and hurt your future attempts at content marketing.
Instead you need to keep surprising your visitors with in-depth, heavily researched and unique content that delivers value and has emotional impact. By the end of every one of your articles, your readers should be better off than when they started.
You can completely forget churning out 500 word pieces too. Your content should be the length that is demanded by the topic – no more and no less. Generally that means it will be longer as you’re going to be tackling meaty and in-depth subjects. This is good, because Google has a preference for longer articles too seeing as they are able to provide more value.
What Kind of Content Gets Read to the End?
If you were to follow that advice alone though, then you would end up with a site filled with gigantic articles with lots of links to studies and tons of facts. That’s all good and well but it’s also a bit heavy and it makes it can get a bit dense.
Your other objective then is to make sure your articles flow well, to ensure they entertain and to make sure they grab attention.
There are a few ways to do this. One big tip is to get right to the point in your opening paragraph. The first line of your cardio acceleration shouldn’t read:
‘Getting into shape is something that all of us would like to do…’
Instead, it should read:
‘Cardio acceleration is a lesser known technique that has been shown in studies to drastically increase fat loss AND hypertrophy…’
Do you see how that’s more engaging and more likely to get you hooked?
Use a conversational tone that makes your audience feel as though you’re speaking to them. Avoid complicated or awkward sentences that will take people ‘out of the moment’. End your paragraphs on ‘cliff hangers’ that ensure readers want to keep reading. Avoid ‘break points’ where your attention wanders.
Perhaps the best strategy of all though is to use a narrative structure where appropriate. Human psychology has a natural preference for stories and if you can frame your content that way then it will become far more engaging and readable as a result.
The last important point for ensuring your articles get read to the end is to make sure you are using the best possible formatting. This means lots of shorter paragraphs, bullet points and headings to break up the text. Long articles are great because they include long-tail keywords and provide more value but you need to give your readers the option to skim read more quickly if they’re in a hurry.
Which Articles Get Shared and Liked?
If you do a great job of creating meaty articles that deliver real value then this alone will result in lots of shares and likes. This is especially true if you are the first to tackle a particular subject, if you can tackle a subject in a unique and interesting way, or if you can provide the most comprehensive view of your topic that’s currently available. This way, your content can become something that people refer others to.
And that sheds some light on one of the first and most important rules of sharable content: sharable content is content that facilitates conversation. If your content can back-up someone’s point or provide an introduction to a subject, then it will find its way into forum posts and social media discussions much more regularly.
This is also one reason that controversial posts are so successful – they encourage discussion and they incite emotion.
This is also why you should keep your target audience in mind when you are writing. Imagine the person who is the perfect reader for what you’re writing and write for them and them alone. It’s by creating this kind of content that you encourage your readers to think ‘man, this content is perfect for Jeff – I should share it with him!’
Better yet, if your article finds its way to the right person, then you can provoke that response where your reader nods emphatically at everything you say and then feels compelled to share it with their Facebook friends. The other big reason that people share content is to express themselves. People share content because it says something about them and that’s why articles about ‘The Trials of Being a Freelancer’ will get shared so often by freelancers – they want to tell their friends what it’s like to be them.
Remember: people are highly narcissistic and if you can take advantage of that it will work in your favor in a big way.
In fact, many people will share articles they like the looks of without even reading it if they think it supports their way of life. That’s why it’s not at all uncommon to have an article with 20 likes that’s only been read five times!
But There’s Much More to it Than That…
Hopefully this article has given you some in-depth insight into what really makes an article perform. If you run a blog then you probably have one or two posts that get a lot more views than any of the others and you’ll likely find that those posts fulfill many of the criteria we’ve discussed.
But there’s much more to it than that. Of course you also need to make sure that your content is well written, that it’s free from typos and spelling mistakes and that it adheres to the editorial directives you’ve decided on for your site. Moreover though, the goal of your content will also vary from post to post which will impact on your best practices. If you’re trying to sell something for instance then your content is going to need to be persuasive in nature and this then becomes a whole different ball game…