8 Essentials To Creating Engaging And Shareable Content

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Essentials of creating immersive content

This post will provide you with all the ingredients you need to create engaging and shareable blog content. Content that astonishes people, content that is compelling, that delights them, adds value to their lives, makes them care and prompts them to share.

Imagine you are behind the bar, adding and mixing ingredients to make the perfect cocktail. Here comes the recipe you need.

Shareable content cocktail

Make your article headlines irresistible

You have to get someone to click on your link and visit your site in the first place. Your first touch point with a potential visitor is your article headline. Be it in search engine results, in emails or in social media newsfeeds.

It is puzzling that more bloggers don’t have this in mind when creating posts. Most of them think of the headline last and publish whatever comes to their mind first.

Don’t be like that. Spend time thinking of an appropriate headline. Your headline determines if people will click on the post. Your headline sets the expectations of the user. I try and create more than one headline for each article to force myself to think more and be more creative. Think of ideas and explore different options before deciding on the final headline. My favorite types of headlines are those that:

  • Have numbers or top lists in them.
  • Are personalized with words like “You” or “Your”.
  • Directly address the need of the audience and problem they need solving.

I have created a very detailed guide with lots of headline formulas to help you out with this. It’s all available for free. See my rules and formulas for headline writing.

Establish credibility and trust

If your headline works and a person clicks on your link, the first 5 seconds are critical. The back button on a browser is your enemy. The probability of leaving is very high and the decision to stay or leave will be made in these first few seconds.

Visitors are very skeptical as they have suffered a lot of bad content and poorly designed sites. Modern life is hectic and people simply don’t have time to work too hard for their information. Many bounce right away, most leave within few seconds. Do this to establish credibility and trust with the visitor:

  • Make your blog quick to load. Make sure your site is lightweight and is loading fast as people are impatient. Here’s my guide for speeding up your blog.
  • Have a great looking design. Many blog designs look pretty amateur, they are full of pop-ups, banner ads and other irritating distractions. They do not look good on mobile devices. Get a theme with large fonts, good color contrast, white space, easy to find search box, useful 404 page and mobile responsive design. By having a well designed blog you put yourself ahead of the rest. See my guide on making your blog look pretty.
  • Have a clear value proposition. Tell visitors what is in store for them, what your site is about and what problems your site will solve for them. Have a clear unique selling proposition.
  • Display social proof such as social media follower numbers, number of social media shares and number of comments. If visitors see that your site is popular, frequented and shared a lot then there is a greater chance they will stick around. If all these people like this site then there must be other good stuff around. Use WordPress plugins to integrate social proof.
  • People like familiarity so make your visitor feel at home. Include a clear and descriptive navigation bar at the top with links to contact, about page, services etc. The sidebar should contain the latest posts and/or popular posts. These are the elements you need to add to a new blog.
  • Make it clear who is behind the post. Introduce yourself right off the bat with a welcoming message and smile. Ingrain your personality into the page. Include your personal information, your image plus links and examples of your skills and experience. Your site is unique, but only because of YOU, so make sure your visitors see this as soon as possible.

Don’t take ages to get to the point, start with a hook

Create a compelling introduction to your article that grabs your reader’s attention within the first 2-3 sentences. Make the reader excited to read the whole post. Tell them what they are missing out on, what you will help them with, surprise them and leave them with questions rather than answers. Touch on your key points clearly and concisely. Be detailed but brief. Make it dazzle them, make it epic.

Online users adapt quickly to consistent patterns. It makes them tune out. Our brain is very well aware of changes. The human mind loves to hear or see something cool, something new, useful, provocative and fascinating. We love a surprise, a laugh, great and unbelievable things. All of these stimuli get the mind attracted and interested, and make the visitor stay on your site for longer. These are some of the ways to hook your visitors:

  • Contrary hook. Challenge existing ideas, encourage debate.
  • Indirect hook. Delay telling what the story is about, tease the reader.
  • Attack hook. Stir something up.
  • Humor hook. Make people laugh.
  • Unexpected hook. Break a pattern, say something surprising.
  • Question hook. Start with a question.
  • Curiosity hook. Start with a puzzle, leave reader with questions rather than answers.
  • Quotation hook. Start with a quotation.
  • Celebrity hook. Start with a mention or a comparison to a popular name.
  • Stat/fact hook. Start with an interesting statistic or an interesting fact.

Make your content beautiful and sticky

Now that you got the visitor to take a look at the post itself, don’t expect a captive audience. Your visitors are busy, distracted people with infinite demands on their time. People rarely read posts word by word. They scan and pick out individual words and sentences. They don’t like scrolling down the page either and rarely reach the end of the article (are you still with me?).

Eye tracking studies have shown that only 20% of the time spent on site and only 20% of total clicks happen below the fold. It’s a battle to be read. To combat this you should employ these styling rules:

  • Use stunning images and multimedia to help visually draw in your reader. Aim to have a great image towards the top of your articles. Images catch the eye better than text and tell stories more quickly. They get your visitor more involved and play a big part in holding the attention of your visitor for longer. Here is my guide (which includes sources on where to find imagery) on using stunning imagery.
  • Make it easy to discover more good stuff. Clicking links remains the most-used feature on a site. Place specific and relevant links in key places of interest to offer a deeper or follow-up information on the topic. Include internal links and relevant posts to get people to stay longer and introduce them to your content archive. Don’t be afraid to link away from your site as well (but do make sure those links open in new window). If you link your readers to new useful information, they will return to find out where the best information is.
  • Include one idea per paragraph. Readers are reluctant to tackle large blocks of text. Break blocks of text into paragraphs. It’s much easier to skim short(er) sentences, than tangled blocks of text. Do not write single sentences as a paragraph as too many short paragraphs in succession is distracting. Concentrate on one idea per paragraph. Readers skip over additional ideas in a paragraph if they are not attracted by the first few words.
  • Write for the web. Follow the K.I.S.S. principle {keep it simple, stupid!}. Omit needless words and make your writing concise. Simple is much harder than complex so do practice perfecting simple. Read the The Elements Of Style. Revise, rewrite and learn to edit yourself. Make sure your content reads well, has no typos and spelling mistakes. Split your paragraphs with descriptive subheadings. Highlight important parts and keywords with typeface variations. Include bulleted and numbered lists.
  • Don’t write passively. Your school taught you that using the passive form made you sound formal and objective. Time to wise up, because today the opposite is true in successful writing. When you address people as “you”, they’re more likely to tune into your words. And when you refer to yourself as “I”, it makes you sound accountable.
  • Those big smart-ass words are letting you down. At school, using big words got you better marks but blog post writing has to be very clear, focused and tight to arouse and hold the attention of the readers. Use definite, specific and concrete language. Your goal is to be clear and persuasive – not score points for using a thesaurus. If you write for beginners, any kind of jargon is going to lose and confuse your readers. Ditch the jargon to make your site much more friendly to new visitors.
  • Encourage users to return. Give your reader a sense of conclusion, a sense of closure. Briefly summarize your points at the end. Make your reader feel like it was worth their while to spend time with your post. Provide opportunity to subscribe and follow you in social media in order to make sure your readers come back.

Ideas for different types of posts you can publish

It helps to add variety to your content. If you post same type of post all the time it is difficult to reach a wider audience, your site becomes too one-dimensional and visitors might feel jaded. Bring something new to the table. Keep it fresh and interesting. Mix things up. To help you get inspired and hopefully get you new content ideas here is a list of types of posts you should consider:

  • Success/failure stories. Look inwards and tell about your past success/failures and what you have learned from the experience.
  • Quote. Quote someone and add your own commentary to the quote.
  • Infographic. Create an infographic with a bunch of facts, stats and quotes on a topic.
  • Leaderboard. Create a leaderboard ranking of people, sites, locations, events and similar.
  • Behind the scenes. Be open and show people what’s happening in your life.
  • Ask me anything. Answer a reader questions in a complete post.
  • Link out. Link to a post from another blogger and add your opinion to the topic.
  • Guides and tutorials. Write how-to guides and tutorials where you lead the visitor in the step-by-step instructional process.
  • Video it. Create a YouTube video where you talk directly to the camera or record your computer screen explaining a certain process.
  • Podcast. Or just record a podcast instead.
  • Webinar. Do a webinar, record it and publish it on its own.
  • Listicle. Do a top list post, focus on long lists as those top 3 or top 5 posts have lost their novelty.
  • Curated link/resources post. Collect a list of interesting links, articles and resources on a topic.
  • Rant. Be controversial. Write a rant about a topic, an event or a person.
  • Post series. Create an engaging post series by spreading a story or a guide over several posts.
  • Review. Review a product or a service that is relevant to your audience.
  • Book review. Read a book and write your opinion about it, include lessons learned from reading it.
  • Quotes from a book. Collect best quotes from the book you’ve read and publish them with your comments.
  • Ultimate post. Aggregate your best content on a specific topic, put a irresistible headline on it and publish as the ultimate guide.
  • Influencer list. Collect the most influential people in a field.
  • Cheatsheet/checklist. Create a cheatsheet or a checklist list to help people go through a specific topic.
  • Quiz. Create a quiz and allow people to take your quiz.
  • Stats/revenue post. Write a post with a summary of your visitors, sales and earnings.
  • Survey. Do a survey, collect all the answer, analyse the findings and publish them.
  • Contest. Do a contest on your site and giveaway a prize.
  • Ebook. Collect several of your posts on a topic, style and edit them and publish them as a free ebook download.
  • Photo/GIF post. Collect best images from an event and publish them in an image post. Or just do GIF’s.
  • Whitepaper. Create a report or a whitepaper on a topical topic in your industry.
  • Challenge. Set a challenge for yourself and your audience and follow up on the progress.
  • FAQ. Collect all the frequently asked questions, answer them and release them as the ultimate FAQ.
  • Predictions. Write a list of predictions for your industry, this is a great type of content for year end period.
  • Roundup. Create a roundup post after events, releases and other important happenings.

Tap into personalities, events and other trending conversations

Break news stories if you can. If you can break a story before anyone else you will be heard. Most of us cannot break news, but we can still be timely and topical. Think opportunistically about the news and tap into the existing conversations. Create posts about topics that people care about and are excited about – trends, names (brands, celebrities and other personalities) and events. Identify an idea or a name that’s got everyone’s attention and find a way to connect your own topic to it in order to attract attention to yourself. Create content such as:

Create case-study profiles: People love to learn about the experience and lives of big personalities. Profile big and popular names. Celebrities, writers, politicians and sports stars. These posts are quality posts that are useful and educational. And they already have an audience: fans of these celebrities. For examples see my profiles of famous people such as Stephen King, Steve Jobs and Beppe Grillo.

Publish complete roundup articles: Find authorities on your subject, people who do something interesting. Ask them specific questions for quotes. Post a series of information and tips collected from them on the same topic.

Curate lessons learned and takeaways: Your audience can learn from the popular topics like brands, events and best-selling books. Do your research, consume the original material, create your analysis and sum up lessons learned and takeaways for your audience. For some examples see my stories about successful online sites like Mashable, The Daily Mail and Groupon.

Simply talk about popular, trending stories: The key is to bridge the conversation and make it relevant to the audience you are trying to attract. It can be done by quickly summing up the trending story and straight away leading into your main content with bridge such as:

  • This story is a nice reminder of
  • The same thing happens in our field
  • Why am I sharing this story with you?
  • There is an important lesson here
  • What’s the takeaway from this story?
  • Hearing this story makes me think
  • I love this story because it

Explore long form content and in-depth storytelling

Long form articles have 1,000+ words and contain multiple formats such as videos, charts and infographics alongside the text based content. These posts need a lot of time invested from the reader and are very good at contextualizing a larger topic and cover it in depth. This recent statistical study on what makes online content go viral has found that long form articles are shared far more often than shorter articles. Word count of a post seems very closely related to the number of shares. Just look at the success of http://longreads.com/, http://longform.org/, and social media hashtags like #longreads and #longform. Some of the great examples of the long form, multiple format posts are:

One of the reasons for the success of long form articles is that they mostly are timeless pieces. They take a long time to research and write, so they are on topics that are less time sensitive. This makes the life time of an article much longer than your standard news piece making it particularly valuable in social media where it gets shorts a long time after it is published and also in search results where it continues ranking for a long time.

Content marketing routine and data analysis

Just publishing a great piece of content is not enough. Not many people will see it unless you already have an established audience. You need to get into the habit of promoting your content and building your audience. Go to social media and inform your following. Submit the post to sites like Reddit, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Post it in relevant forums. Here is an overview of my own marketing routine – all the things that I do upon publishing a new post.

So you’ve started doing everything you can in order to create better content. But how do you know if your content is actually getting better? It’s difficult to guess this. Many times posts that you don’t expect to do well actually do. Some posts you don’t even want to publish, but when you do people like it and share it. Public response is what counts and what determines if your content is good. Take a look at your analytics to identify how your content performs. Figure out why people reacted the way they did. What made them like that piece of content so much? What made them stay on your site for such a long period? What made them share it with their family and friends? Figure out what works well and then do more of that and less of things that didn’t do so well.

Is your content humorous, relatable or educational?

To conclude: It’s all about the quality. Internet is bloated with common sense advice from people imitating and copying each other. Creating content is not difficult. The challenging part is creating great content that gets visited and shared. We’re all on a quest for more pageviews, social media shares and followers. Many sites have adopted the approach of publishing as much as they can hoping that some of the content sticks. This is not the right approach. Most content doesn’t stick and goes completely unnoticed. It is not remarkable. It is generic, boring. Your audience has infinite number of choices online. To have a chance of attracting them you must provide something of value.

Quality content is not reporting on and repeating what everyone else is talking about. There are too many look alike sites and me-too articles. These articles are not substantive, not interesting, not appealing and they don’t thrill. Avoid that stuff. People want something fresh and new. You need to be different, unique. Don’t just repeat someone else’s advice. Don’t publish the same rehashed content. Don’t do another tired old top 5 list. Don’t bring in the same podcast and interview guests that everyone else in your field is covering.

Forget about the advice that says that you should publish new content all the time. Limit your output. The main currency bloggers have is our topical expertise. That one topic that you know more about than anyone else. Focus on the content quality instead of the quantity. Publish only such great quality content that people cannot ignore you. Instead of publishing several mediocre pieces of content, create one truly valuable post that is full of quality.

Write the first draft. Spend a lot of time on the first draft before making it live. Go through this checklist of things to do before publishing a new post. Edit the copy. Remove all the fluff. Rewrite it. Add to it. These are three of the most engaging concepts for online content:

  • Humorous and funny content that makes people laugh. People love to divert and have fun. They love to be entertained. They love to just hang out, or just waste time. They like to be creative and share new experiences.
  • Relatable and empathetic content that people can identify themselves with. People love recognition. They want to earn respect. They love to stay in touch with their family and friends. They love to meet new people. They want to feel like they belong. They want to promote themselves and their views. They want to change opinions. They want to express themselves and share their knowledge.
  • Serviceable content that has helpful, useful and educational information. People like to keep up to date on the topics that they care about. They love to learn something new. People want to feel progress, they want to do better.

Be critical of your work and ask yourself before clicking on the publish button: Is this post actually interesting? Will it teach people something new? Will it offer a new perspective on the topic? Will it entertain my audience? Don’t publish before you can answer yes to these questions.

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