You've got to quit being so boring.
I'm just sayin'
Marketing techniques have changed a lot in the last decade, and you need to make sure you're keeping up with the newest trends – or the effectiveness of your outreach will suffer.
In the past, a lot of folks targeted back-links because they were such a significant ranking factor. And even though they're still a critical component of any successful SEO strategy, you can't ignore or become lax in your content marketing efforts.
Content marketing has evolved with each new Google update, but it's core essence has more or less remained the same. The idea is to produce something of value to help your visitors achieve their goals or satisfy their needs.
I've probably mentioned that a few hundred times over the course of this blog now. Nevertheless, today your content also needs to be more engaging than it was in years past, and this is partly due to social media (which I'll get back to in a minute here...).
The more you can engage your audience, the greater waves you'll make online.
Likes, shares, comments, and other similar actions on social media platforms help to drive sales, increase activity on your pages, and generate more leads. If your content is getting stale and flat, or isn't getting the recognition you think it should, consider spicing things up with one of the types of content I mention below.
But before we talk about how take your content from just another boring post to something that's exciting and engaging., let's define what “engaging” actually means.
Merriam-Webster defines engaging as follows:
tending to draw favorable attention or interest
Make no mistake: those two qualities are mission-critical. If your content doesn't merit the attention or interest your audience, why would they even consider clicking on your link, blog post or ad?
Have you ever purchased a product because their TV ad was really boring and un-rememberable? (I just made that word up)
Of course not.
So why create content (blogs, videos, podcasts, whatever) that no one would really care about?
Mediocrity and status-quo will kill your business. Slowly. Painfully.
Your content, no matter how you create it, needs to have a purpose. It needs a destination, or at least it needs to be a rest stop on your customer's journey to their (your pre-defined) destination.
Before we dig into what makes content engaging, I would like to make one major distinction:
Organic website traffic and social media traffic are two totally different critters. Visitors using either of these tend to have very different goals.
Well written and engaging content is going to shine the brightest on social media channels. As a user peruses through their Facebook feed, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and pique their curiosity. If you are successful, then the user will likely comment, like, and share your content, which has a gravitational effect that attracts even more eyeballs.
On the other hand, we all know that blog content needs to be optimized for search engines. Consider that a user who found your post through a Google search that returned a link to your blog probably has very different motives than a Facebook user. Their keywords may have been specifically targeted for a product or service, which casts the Google user as a warm lead and the Facebook user as a cold lead.
Despite that distinction, note that no matter where the traffic is coming from, your content needs to be engaging to keep your bounce rate under control, provide a positive user experience, and encourage users to take action.
Let's take a closer look at some of the best types of content you can create and ways to boost that content's level of engagement.
1. Create Free, Ungated Content
You're reading a piece of ungated content. You didn't have to do anything to get it. No entering an email, no joining a membership area, no paywall. You just had to follow a link to get to it.
There's a lot of debate among marketers regarding which content should and shouldn't be gated. After all, gated content can help grow your subscriber list, increase likes and shares on your Facebook page, and encourage visitors to take other forms of action.
But here's the catch: sometimes putting content behind a gate will discourage the majority of visitors from digesting your information. Users like to take the path of least resistance, and needing to enter their email address into a form before viewing your pages may dissuade them from staying on your site. So what's the happy medium, you ask?
Simple – just make sure that the overwhelming majority of your content is not gated and has superb value. Don't overuse and abuse gated content, and exercise discretion.
Sure, save the really good stuff for your membership area, your email list, or your lead magnets - but share the good stuff with everyone. You'll be regarded as a leader in your industry because of it.
2. Create Guides and How-To Content
How many times have you Googled the solution to a cryptic computer or software error? Have you ever researched a recipe to learn how to make something new? Perhaps you're a DIY nut who loves home improvement projects. At any rate, human beings are turning the Internet ever more frequently to find guides that will help them complete a variety of tasks.
In my opinion, guides are one of the easiest ways to provide your audience with nearly immediate gratification, and to quickly improve their lives. Just look at how quickly the recipe and cooking guides created by Tasty spread through social media.
Plus, if you succeed in generating quality content, you may even be selected by Google to become a featured snippet, which will give users a preview of your content directly in the SERPs.
Even though guides typically don't relate directly to increased sales, there are additional benefits to producing this type of content. You can still use it to build your email list by offering a downloadable lead magnet or other free offer in exchange for an email address.
Retargeting is another benefit - you'll be able to directly "follow up" with guide visitors on other websites, showing them additional pieces of related content that will build your brand awareness, get them back to your site, and potentially give your site more authority.
3. Create List Posts
If you know what a list post is, you might be living under a rock. You know - 7 Ways to... or Top Ten Tips for...
List posts have dominated the Internet for years now, and for good reason. They're quick and easy to digest, simple to skim, often entertaining (though they don't necessarily need to be), easy to relate to, have great potential for going viral, and are shareable to boot.
Consider integrating current events with a list post that relates to your business. For example, since Christmas is just around the corner, how about The Seven (Industry Things) That Would Get You on Santa's Naughty List or Five (Industry) Gifts That Will Make Her Smile
It is important to realize that list posts aren't (and won't be) your bread and butter. Rather, list posts are a simple and effective way to mix up the types of content you produce and, if done well, gain you some great links.
4. Create Video and Visual-Centric Content
Seeing is believing, as they say. And although most web pages include at least a couple quality images, the core value of most pages is still textual. But there are a lot of new and exciting ways to spruce up your content with visual queues.
Just think about all the GIFs, memes, and viral videos that run rampant across the Internet. Mobile devices have put high quality cameras in the hands of just about everyone. People share video content and images more than ever before.
The problem, however, is that it's no easy feat creating quality video content.
And since video is really just another way for you to share content, it's applicable to the overwhelming majority of websites.
For instance, if you run an affiliate marketing website that produces high-quality configuration and troubleshooting guides, why not capture video screencasts of the installation and configuration process instead of only listing out the steps with text?
The good news is that if you don't have to invest time and energy building quality videos, we can help.
And don't forget about webinars and other online seminars - they are a great way to boost your brand visibility, increase your perceived authority, and gain some links back to your website!
5. Create Non-Promotional Content
Drop the sales pitch already.
Users are sensitive to the amount of 'salesy' language in your content, and though you should include links to other pages (such as contact info, free consultation page, and other content links), you shouldn't spam them in every piece of content you produce. Doing so will make the purpose of your content seem less genuine, and thus, less engaging.
In fact, I challenge every one of my business owner clients to create content that doesn't mention their business.
It's not easy, especially if they're good at sales. In fact, they cringe at the idea!
It's a good idea to frequently produce content that only serves to support your audience and provide them with value. And while it's fair to add links to your products and services, you need to make sure that the content doesn't contain marketing copy.
If you over-promote your brand, product, or service, you'll likely just end up irritating your audience, and they won't open their wallets, and they won't come back.
Now, Let's Make That Content Even Better
Now that you've got some great ways to create unique "engageable" content, how can you make it even better? Here are a few ideas:
Draw from Emotion to Make Content More Powerful
Emotional connections can have a powerful effect upon the human mind.
For example, people more easily remember facts, figures, and past situations in which they had a strong emotional experience, such as a wedding, the birth of family member, or a particularly happy live event, such as a loved one graduating from university.
Additionally, unhappy or scary moments can have a strong impact as well.
Heck, today is September 11, 2017. Ask anyone where they were on this day in 2001 and they'll have a pretty vivid memory of their day.
More specifically, see if you can find a way to tie an emotion to your product or service, such as one or more of the following:
- Negative emotions that uncover a painful situation, problem, or fear, and how your product or service can help alleviate that painful situation
- Positive feelings that come from the solution to a problem, a way to improve an individual's life, or a way to help them secure a better future
- Creating an air of urgency and fear of missing out due to a limited time offer, or pointing out negative repercussions resulting from a failure to take action
- Foster feelings of trust with tools like hard data, positive user reviews, social proof, and personal stories
- Feelings of improved self-esteem and self worth resulting from an improvement (e.g. weight loss, improved attractiveness, etc.)
These aren't the only ways to tie emotion to your product or service, but appealing to human beings' emotional side will definitely help make your content more engaging.
Mine Ideas and Topics from Current "Engagers"
You'll also want to make your content more engaging by mining content ideas and topics from user generated content and comments on your blog and Facebook. Basically, you want to use comments as a way to unearth trends and topics that are valuable to your audience.
Instead of playing the guessing game and simply trying to find the best topics on your own, you can use comments, likes and shares to gain insight into the minds of your visitors.
Facebook makes this easy - simply use the Insights tab on your business Facebook page so find out what people are engaging with (and do more of it!)
Once you click that tab, click Posts on the left, then scroll down to see which posts your fans engaged with.
To learn a little more about who is engaging with your content, click the People tab on the left. This will show you some demographic info that will help you update your personas with who is actually engaging with your content.
Remember, however, that trying to please everyone is the same as trying to please no one. Catering to the masses won't make infallible content, but it will help set you down the right path towards crafting engaging content that matters to your audience.
Craft Engaging Content Through a Narrative
Telling a story can be a potent and effective way to produce more engaging content. And you don't need to have the creative skills of a fiction writing genius like Stephen King, either.
Some sources of story-telling ideas could include the following:
- How your product or service had a massive impact in the lives of your customers
- How your company, product, or service relates to topical issues
- Origin stories of the business's founder(s)
- How your local business strengthens or improves the local community
- How your product or service was used to enrich and fulfill the lives of others (such as this Duracell commercial)
There are, of course, other sources of positive stories you can use to incorporate into your content, but these four are a great place to start.
Your Content Explains a Lot About Your Company
Your content should naturally grow to be more engaging if you're putting in the legwork it takes to understand and connect with your audience.
If you don't already understand your audience, personas are a great place to start. Read these two articles and then download our free persona worksheet and you'll be on your way!
- 4 Steps to Understanding Your Customers with Personas
- Identifying Target Markets and Understanding Your Audience
- Download our free Persona Worksheet
We've written extensively about building great content to set your business apart from others. Here are a few of our favorites:
- How to Create Evergreen Content That Will Stay Relevant for Years
- Overcoming Mistrust: Injecting Credence and Credibility into Your Content
- Five Tricks for Squeezing More Value Out of Your Content
- Balancing Time and Value: Short vs Long Form Content
Your Challenge: Create Better Content
No, create awesome content. Cheap, crummy, spammy content doesn't have a place on the modern Internet.
Instead, your content needs to serve an easily definable purpose. If you've found that your content seems a little flat and stale, use the aforementioned tips to improve the level of engagement and value that your content provides.
One last note: If you've been creating mediocre content and want to start making it better, try this technique. We've actually done it for this post, and you can get a jump start on yours the same way.