It’s my belief, that a powerful content marketing strategy will prevail as the next leader in business growth. In this article, I will tell you why, show you who’s doing it right, and list what tactics you must employ to see immediate results.
Research shows that readers drop off a website, or quickly scan to other sections if the first eight words don’t suck them in. The Nielson Study Group also found that introductory text on web pages is usually too long, so users skip it. But short intros (like mine above) can increase usability by explaining the remaining content’s purpose.
Tip: Introductions should be less than 65 words
Strong introductions help users better understand the rest of the page. Even if they skip it initially, they might return later if it doesn’t look intimidatingly long or complex. So focus on concise copywriting. What’s the promise of the article? And try to answer these two questions.
- What? (What will users find on this page — i.e., what’s its function?)
- Why? (Why should they care — i.e., what’s in it for them?)
Sadly, even with incredible introductions, keeping readers reading becomes an insurmountable task. Readers are overwhelmed with information and are purposefully not reading for their own sanity. This isn’t new either. We’ve been witnessing the death of reading since 1991, and watching it amplified again in 2007.
The Big Question: How can we get readers to finish our content?
An acquaintance of mine, Darren Rowse once told me, “Content is not king, usefulness is.”
But often, you only get one shot. People who read blogs often and define their loyalties to certain writers do so rather quickly and harshly. They make decisions on the credibility, the design, the layout, and the usefulness of the content within seconds. If the article doesn’t meet the criteria, it’s likely they’re never coming back.
So how do you create the perfect combination of long-form, highly credible, well written, and data-driven articles that thrust deep-rooted loyalty and connection into your readers? I’ve outlined it nicely for you below.
The ten key strategies to keep readers on your page longer, increase their trust, and drive deeper connection to your brand:
Section #1 . Adding Organized Structure Points:
Since we know readers don’t necessarily go from top to bottom, we must add organized structure points to our articles. And while this may look like a fancy word for formatting, it’s more than just “bolding headlines.”
Here are a few examples that have increased visitor time on my blog over the years.
• Brain Driving Headlines – If you have a list article (i.e., 5 Steps To Becoming Debt Free), Don’t list point number one as “1. Start Saving”. Outperform (dumb) answers to complex problems like debt, come off as insight to how unintelligent your solution might be, and in turn, the reader often leaves the article. Instead, change it to something like “Create A Triangle Savings Plan”. Now, the reader is intrigued. They are wondering, “what’s a triangle savings plan? I have never heard of this. Maybe it’s part of the solution I have been looking for.”
• Images & Visual Aids – When over 65% of the population are visual learners, it pays to add graphics, photos, or visual aids to your content. Huffington Post released a study showing that adding visual aids to your content doubled the social shares. Images prove not only a way to keep engagement high, but to retain loyal readers who maintain confidence in your ability to teach them something.
• Highlighted Keywords – As readers are scanning, it’s important to leverage key points with your formatting tools. But don’t overdo it. A hypertext link serves as one form of highlighting; or you can use color, boldness, or pull-quotes. By spotlighting the key takeaways of the article, readers will likely verify the content’s credibility and offer the piece a full read.
• Bulleted Lists – Do not underestimate the power of a bulleted or numbered list. In our 140 character world, readers know that list equals summary. But smart writers know a powerful summary can equal an entire article read from the user.
• Longer Can Mean Better – In a time where short articles seem to be the answer to a user’s time clock, the Huffington Post study I mentioned earlier, found that longer articles (3,000-10,000 words), were shared almost twice as much as those that were less than 1,000 words. This screams truth for a few reasons.
First, there is 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words than there are with 2,000+ words. This proves that long form content is rare, which makes it stand out.
Writing long form content (1,000+ words) is a great differentiator.
Let’s take the New Yorker for example, they have stood out for their long form, 10,000+ word, 12-page articles for years. On the web, you could find your self-scrolling for ages. It’s this dedication to full depth, intellectually stimulating content that continues to assure their customers that if you buy the New Yorker, you will have substance.
Tip: People are tired of low-grade content. They want something they can lean on. Give it to them.
Lastly, longer articles provide the space for thoroughly teaching complex lessons. We’ve been inundated with quick-fixes and short lists to a better life but are left empty when the 400 words of advice only scratched the surface. Long form articles allow for a full exposition and hopefully, a solution to our life’s deeper mysteries.
• Understand The 4 Pillars Of Strong Articles – Writing great articles starts with knowing what makes great writing. For some reason, people think if they graduated from high school and had strong grammar, they are “good writers.” That’s just not the case. If there is one thing our world has perfected through the hundreds of millions of books written across the ages, it’s the structure of great writing.
If you’re bored while writing, your reader will be bored while reading.
Since we’re not here to write great books, I have found a fun video that uncovers what makes strong short articles. I have also outlined their findings below.
- Thesis Statement – Your thesis is your foundation for your article including your introduction. To define your thesis, start by asking great questions. For example, in this article, I began with, “what makes the difference between weak blogs and strong ones?”
- Analysis – Discuss your journey with your readers. Find information, data, patterns, and answers to questions. The validity of your conclusion depends on the quality of your analysis.
- Conclusion – This should hopefully answer your question(s) from your thesis. For me, the answer was: quality writing structure makes the difference. Complete this step by summarizing your findings. You can see mine in these bullet points you’re reading now.
- Introduction – After you’ve completed the previous steps, you are now more equipped to write a riveting and accurate introduction or title.
Section #2. Increasing Trustables
More and more content creators are realizing that credibility is important for the next generation of web users since it is unclear who is behind information on the internet and whether a page or author can be trusted.
Too many content outlets have abused the promotional writing style with boastful subjective claims (“The World’s Best”) or (“The 10 Hottest)” that currently is prevalent on many blogs. Web users are busy: they want to get the straight facts. Also, credibility suffers when users clearly see that the site exaggerates, tells half truths, or was clearly trick-clicking them with a title just to sneak some ad revenue.
Here are four ways you can increase trust with your readers:
- Design quality – Professional appearance always feels solid; clear navigation conveys respect for customers and an implied promise of good service. Typos or difficult navigation communicate disregard for the users. My tip, leverage white space and larger, more readable fonts. Cleanliness and clarity are always good looking.
- Up-front disclosure – Share all possible misunderstandings in your customer relationship. For example, reveal shipping charges immediately rather than waiting until after the user has placed an order. You may cheat a few people into ordering by hiding the shipping costs, but much more will abandon the site at an early stage of the process. And those users who do get cheated will only be suckers once.
- Comprehensive, correct, and consistent – Inconsistency in quality, style, or design will leave readers confused. If a site has photos, they should all look similar in style. If you write long-form content, don’t push out a few 400-word articles in hopes your readers will enjoy them just as much. If you have typos or dead links in one article, readers might assume it’s a reflection of your entire site. People are startled and concerned with irregularity and erratic content. They want to know they can come to your site for everything “X, ” and the quality will be strong, the content will be deep, and the writing will be excellent.
- Connected to the rest of the Web – Nothing helps drive trust more than association. And not being afraid to link to other sites is a sign of confidence. Third-party sites linking in or out, are far more credible than anything you can say yourself. On the contrary, isolated sites feel like they have something to hide. Or even worse, that they are making things up. For example, this article includes 12 links or graphs or videos. It helps support my thesis and my analysis.
My conclusion: People are looking to stake their loyalties with certain blogs, authors, and businesses. They want a place where they know their time will be well spent. In looking back in the history of literature, there’s nothing that will outperform (in the long run) high quality, data-driven, eloquently written articles in the content community. It’s my belief that if you focus your efforts here, you’ll never worry about getting people to read your stuff.
Blogging Is A Real Career
Are you interested in taking your blog from passion to profession? Are you ready to build your blog into a business? It’s my goal to help aspiring bloggers and entrepreneurs remove the fear in launching their own business. To create an income with their writing and steal back their freedom from the nine-to-five. If you’re interested, consider my entrepreneurship course below.
What have you seen make articles or blogs or authors successful? Was this content useful to you? Let me know in the comments below.