WordPress.com users alone write more than 85 million new posts every month. It's incredibly difficult to break through that noise. Only few understand how to really create content that people discover and love.
In this guide, I'll show you how to publish engaging content that helps you get traffic and build an audience. Let's get started.
How To Build Amazing Content
Visitor to every successful post goes through a similar chain of events. Each of these events is key for you as a content creators. You need to understand them all and create content that engages your target audience at each step.
How to avoid posting content that will never be read by anyone
Everyone is on a quest for more page views, social shares and followers, but let's be honest. Most articles published are boring and go completely unnoticed. There are too many forgettable look-alike posts and me-too articles. Internet is polluted by bad content, bloated with common sense advice from people imitating and copying each other.
Most businesses churn out farmed content. The default approach is to publish as much as they can hoping that some of the content sticks. They are content machines. They write many "unique" articles focusing on "keywords", but they are answering questions nobody’s asking.
Their content is generic, lacks insights, ideas, substance and value. It's not passionate, remarkable, useful, appealing, entertaining nor interesting. It doesn't stick.
Stop being boring and predictable. Don't just repeat someone else's advice and what everyone else is saying. Don't just publish the same rehashed content, don't do another tired old top 5 list, and don't bring in the same podcast interview guests that everyone else is.
If you post the same stuff as everyone else it is difficult to attract an audience, your site becomes too one-dimensional and even those visitors that find you get jaded and leave straight away.
Avoid that stuff. It's not the right approach if you want to attract an audience.
Now here comes the good part.
Impress people so that they cannot ignore you
Your audience is busy, distracted and has an infinite number of choices online. You need to go above and beyond the average article. Bring something new to the table. Keep it fresh, interesting and valuable.
Quality content is the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. It must be better, more informative, more educational or more entertaining than the best content available out there on the same topic.
One of the biggest mistakes content creators make is that they create content about themselves and not about their target audience. There is no love at first sight in online publishing. Unless you are interesting to them (and this is a relationship that takes a lot of time to build), people don’t normally want to hear about you.
People don’t want to spend time on someone they don’t know talking about things with no relevance to them. Not everything that comes to your mind is interesting to your readers. They don’t care about you. They want to hear about themselves, about things that matter to them, information that they can use.
You need to have something to say. Do your work, be informative and keep a tight rein on your material. Serve your audience, get them comfortable, answer their questions and help them learn about the topic.
How do you create content that real people care about and how do you do it on a regular basis? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is this post actually interesting?
- Does it truly answer questions real people have?
- Will it teach people something new?
- Will it offer a new perspective on the topic?
- Will it entertain my audience?
- Does it challenge the reader to think differently?
- Is it better than what's on top of Google's search results?
How often should I publish new content?
Just look at what a job of a typical viral content media editor looks like:
The goal is to catch as many people as possible. Quantity over quality. Content that gets shared and then spreads like a virus. Get as many clicks and eyes on the page as you possibly can. The subject matter is an afterthought, if a thought at all.
You throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks. Some places call it “spray and pray”: post ten things a day, maybe one will go viral.
I try to keep morale up because I know it’s a grueling job. The writers do about six to seven posts a day. They churn out content.
It’s a Henry Ford–type setup. We are in an assembly line and content pops out at the end. There’s no attachment to the finished product. Nobody cares about the quality of their work.
Blogging is not about feeding the hungry beast and constantly churning out new content. Strong content ideas need time, patience, attention and nurture to shine. They cannot coexist with the emphasis on assembly line content schedule.
Don't have a rigid posting schedule. Focus on the quality
You should publish new content regularly if you're just starting out but there's no right or wrong posting frequency.
Nobody needs more content. Having a rigid schedule and writing useless articles just to fulfill the quotes is worthless. Forget about the advice that says you should publish new content all the time. Better advice is to limit your output and focus on the quality rather than quantity.
We need better, high quality content. Quality of the content matters and is the number one indicator of highly engaging posts. Instead of publishing several mediocre pieces of content, create one truly valuable post that is full of quality and has potential to attract an audience.
There are successful brands with any possible posting frequency. Some post short posts multiple times every day, some one but long post once per week, some mix and match these approaches.
There are plenty of benefits in publishing new content consistently when you are starting out:
- It helps you establish authority, build buzz and expectations around your site.
- It brings opportunities for traffic, social media shares and links from other blogs.
- Consistent new content builds trust with an audience.
- It gives people a reason to subscribe, follow you and check back.
- It builds a consistent audience that's eagerly awaiting to hear from you next time.
- It helps you get search engine traffic thanks to the different topics you're covering.
You have to find a posting schedule that works for you and for the audience you're trying to attract. Be flexible and adaptable but don't go for a too frequent schedule that you cannot achieve without also lessening the quality of your work. Writing to keep the impossible schedule you set for yourself dilutes the value you produce in the content.
You don't want too much stress. That may make you lose motivation and quit blogging. Be realistic about how much quality content you can create and how frequently.
How many words should an article have?
Rather than the number of words, you should think about the timeless and timely concepts.
There are no definite rules on how many words your articles should have. It all depends on your situation:
- topic you're covering
- audience you're trying to attract
- platforms where you're marketing to your audience
- style that makes you unique
- media formats you're using to present your content
You could publish a very successful short and fun blog post that goes viral on Facebook and includes 300 words and a series of stunning images based on a particular theme.
Or you could rank on top of Google for months by going in deep into a subject, covering every detail, answering any possible question.
Or you could alternate between these two approaches and see what works for you.
Do try to avoid the middle ground. Middle ground is the place where you're neither short, fun and social media friendly nor have you produced the best page possible on that cool topic.
Focus on what your audience wants to spend time on
Long form content demands a lot more time and energy spent on researching, writing and composing your post but it also can perform much better. There are some statistical studies that have 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 the post gets.
But this might not be true in your case.
Try things out, experiment and analyse what works and what doesn't. Focus on what your audience wants to spend time on and that will lead you to the right answer. Think how each article fits in a bigger picture. This will help you decide how to approach each individual post idea.
To-do list before publishing a new piece of content
Put strict quality control measures in place when publishing. Be critical of your work. Edit yourself. You cannot produce what you are after on the first try. Revising is part of writing.
Write the first draft, get away from it, take a break for a bit and do something different for a while. Then come back and look at it once again with the fresh eyes.
You will see new things and figure out what you can do to improve it, make it better, make it easier to understand or more simple to learn.
Reread your writing. Edit the copy. Rewrite it. Add to it. Fix the typos and spelling mistakes. Pick up inconsistencies. Make sure your content reads well. Check your facts and sources. Review the links.
Revise for length. Cut the bullshit. Omit needless words. Ruthlessly delete the excess and cut the fluff from your writing.
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, and a paragraph should contain no unnecessary sentences. Every word is important, every word should tell.
Get a second pair of eyes to review and be an editor for you. The second opinion will help you improve and spot mistakes that you may have missed.
Have a checklist of things to do before clicking the publish button:
When you're happy with the result only then you're ready to click on the publish button.
How to make your content pay dividends for a long time
Each of your content pieces is an asset. Don't let your best ideas disappear into your archives never to be heard about again.
New visitor records by republishing content
Vox started a "refreshing the evergreen stories" experiment by rewriting and updating older articles, republishing them and promoting them in social media just like they were new posts.
In 5 days 88 of these "new" articles brought in more than 500,000 visitors combined. Some of the articles even got more views than when they were originally published.
Vox did not get any complaints from their audience either. Nobody noticed that these were republished stories. People actually found the renewed articles useful. This was a huge win and a valuable lesson learned for Vox.
Vox is not the only one being successful with this strategy. Brian Dean gets 260% more search traffic when he relaunches his posts. Hubspot does two to three content updates per week and gets an increase of more than 100% on average in search traffic from each update.
Squeeze out more mileage of your content by breathing new life into it
Instead of giving up on that old and long forgotten content, squeeze out more mileage out of it by breathing new life into it.
There are simple things you should do to extend the lifespan of all of your content. Revisit and refresh your content once in a while to keep it completely relevant and up-to-date. This way your posts don't lose their value and keep engaging the visitors.
Do an audit of your existing content. Identify posts that get a lot of traffic or used to get a lot of traffic. Do a detailed review of each of these posts and think how they can be updated and improved.
- New facts, information and ideas have become known that help you tell a better story.
- The site you were giving instructions for makes a change in their design. Update your guide to feature the new design.
- You may need a better graphics and media or a better headline.
Recycle your content in different formats
Some people like to read. Some prefer to learn by watching. Others learn best by listening. You can accommodate them all and expand your audience at the same time without the need to come up with more new content ideas.
These are the simple but effective tactics you can use to reuse your old content by giving it a fresh look and a new format that you then can spread on new platforms:
Key elements that make your content more sticky
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. You need to work hard to establish credibility and trust with the visitor. Let's look at how to make your content more sticky.
Most engaging concepts for online content
The human mind loves to hear or see something cool, 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 longer. Nothing drives discovery in search engines and social media like these content concepts.
1. Humorous, uplifting, cute and inspiring content that entertains people
People want to feel connected, want to have fun and love to be entertained and diverted from their reality They love to just hang out, or just waste time. They like to be creative and share new experiences.
Just look at what type of content trends every day on social media and sites such as Reddit. It's a celebration of all the amazing, surprising, cute, funny, unexpected, interesting and emotionally enticing things.
Inspirational, heart-warming and feel good content such as human stories, music videos, stunning travel or food imagery, awe-inspiring adventurous videos, cute animal GIFs, memes.
2. Relatable and empathetic content that people identify themselves with
These are the stories with a human aspect that connect to people on a deeper level and get viral on social media. Authentic stories that people identify themselves with, that make them react, engage and share in order to support their particular background, viewpoint, interest or tribe they belong to.
People love recognition. They want to earn respect, want to feel like they belong. They want to express themselves, promote themselves and share their views. They want to change opinions. They want to share content that resonates with their own experience and their self-identity. They like to share content that says something about themselves.
3. Problem solving content that's helpful, useful and educational
People seek information and content on the market before deciding to make a purchase. They do this on Google and Google takes them to educational content published on blogs and websites. You want to be the place that Google surfaces for relevant keywords and phrases.
Be a resource, share your expertise, your experience and know-how generously. 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. People want to know what worked for someone else and if it can work for them.
Make your content extremely informative. Create more of this practical evergreen content that fully answers questions real people have. Be the best answer for questions such as "How do I...?" or "What is...?":
- Share insights and give away your secrets.
- Demonstrate hacks and tips.
- Teach, inspire, help people and make their lives better.
- Tell people about your problems and how you have solved them.
- Interview authorities on your topic and curate lessons learned and takeaways.
- Do original research with surprising data and inspirational real-life examples.
- Report on the findings from scientific research and studies.
- Create side-by-side comparisons and before and after case studies.
- Create lists of ideas, people and resources.
4. Breaking news, trends, celebrities and events
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 by creating posts about topics that people care about and are excited about.
Trends, people and events.
Cover celebrities and other personalities such as writers, politicians and sports stars. People love to learn about the experience and lives of big personalities.
Write a roundup review of the recent big events. Summarize everything and make it all easy to understand in one referenceable article. Focus on the meaning of what happened rather than the happening itself. Provide context, connection and the larger picture.
Bridge the conversation and make it relevant to the audience you are trying to attract. Explain to your audience why they should care and how this affects them. Use bridges such as: "This story is a nice reminder of...", "The same thing happens in our field", or "What’s the takeaway from this story?".
5. Be real with deep and personal content
There is one thing that every website has that is very unique. You are unique, what you know makes you unique and no other site can copy that.
Bring yourself to the front. Blend in your own personal knowledge and integrate your personality into the work that you are doing. It should be clear who is behind the post.
Be personal, intimate and conversational. You have your own thoughts, interests and concerns. Be brave and tell people what you think. Always incorporate your own thoughts and analysis. Personal opinion counts and it is the person behind the content that makes it stand out.
Don't censor yourself, write from your heart and be yourself. Develop your own unique style and voice. Controversy and strong opinions with specific views on trending events continue to provoke clicks and engagement.
Fully embrace your passions and obsessions. Live an interesting life. Valuable skills translate into valuable content and valuable content translates into valuable opportunities.
If you can tap into this goldmine, well then the content you pump out will be golden as well. By sharing stories about your life and making connections in this way you make readers feel like you are a real person and not a machine just cranking out content.
Need ideas for topics to tackle? These 17 Sources Of Inspiration Work Every Time.
How To Write Catchy Article Headlines
The first touch point with a potential visitor is the article headline. Majority of people exposed to your content will see the headline only. Be it in the search engine results, in email inboxes or in their social media news feeds. Your main goal at this stage is to get people in the audience you're targeting to click on your link and visit your site.
Without a compelling, eye-catching and thumb-stopping title, not many will actually visit your content. Winning headlines can be distilled down to a fill-in-the-blank formula template. You can adapt these or get inspired from them when writing your own post titles.
Characteristics of headlines guaranteed to get you clicks
Here are the characteristics of the attention grabbing post titles. Not all of these characteristics are required for each headline, but each successful headline does include at least one of them.
- Make a specific promise with added benefits. Directly address the need of your audience and the problem your post will solve. Tell people exactly what is in it for them so they know right away whether or not it is something they would like to click on. Talk about "secrets", "hacks", "techniques", "strategies", "warnings" and "mistakes".
- Promise quick and easy to follow solutions to challenges your audience is facing. People love "simple", "easy", "fast", "instant" and "quick" how-to advice, instructions, and other practical guidelines.
- Promise a great resource of information. Make it the "ultimate", "most complete", or "definitive" guide. Everything a person needs to understand about the topic in one single huge guide.
- Use numbers and post top lists. Create lists of the "top", "best", "most successful", "most surprising", "most read", "most valuable", "most downloaded", "least known" or "most annoying" people, events, examples or resources. Some of the most engaging numbers are 10, 5, 15 and 7.
- Make people curious in your headline but don't give everything away. Open an information gap between what you tell them and what people want to know. Give them a sneak preview by including statements such as "You won't believe what happened next" or "Number 7 has worked incredibly well for me". Make people feel they will miss out on something amazing and important unless they click.
- Ask questions. Write headlines in a question format. Just make sure to break the Betteridge's law that says that every headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with a word "no".
- Be conversational, relatable, direct, informal and personal. Refer to the audience. Make your headlines self-referencing to your visitor by adding "You" or "Your". Tell personal stories. After all, you are competing among posts from friends and family.
- Namedrop celebrities, events, brands and trending topics that your audience recognizes.
- Use emotional triggers. Trigger words engage people on an emotional level. They are some of the most persuasive words in the English language. Here's a list of some power words:
- Condense your headline. Examine your headlines with a critical eye to make every word count. 12 to 18 words with 80 to 100 characters in total is the optimal.
Come up with at least 5 headline ideas for each post
Most writers spend majority of their time on the body of content itself and then just create a last-minute headline to finish it off before publishing. This is not the best approach.
A headline that comes first to your mind might not be the winning one. Not many will read the body of the content unless the headline attracts them to click it in the first place.
Spend much longer time on figuring out the best headline and come up with several different alternative title ideas for each of your posts. Making yourself think of five or more headlines gets you in a more creative mindset. It forces you to think more outside the box.
Eventually you'll get to an idea that is not your typical headline and that might just be the one that works best.
Don't resist this. Five headlines are not much actually, the people from Upworthy recommend you write at least 25!
Avoid clickbait and deliver on what your headline promises
An important point to make is that you should not oversell in your headlines and that you should always deliver what you promise. Do your best to write a compelling headline but do also deliver the quality content.
There is nothing worse than clicking on a killer headline and then seeing the content that is not being able to live up to the expectations. The headline is worthless if the post does not deliver on its promise. The headline frames the rest of your visitor's experience.
Visitors would feel tricked into viewing and nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a clickbait headline but getting a weak article.
Use stunning media to better represent certain information
Content that uses high-quality visuals is more appealing and more effective in getting people's attention than simple text. We are visual beings drawn to beautiful imagery.
Our brains process information better when presented in pictures and words, and visuals help us understand, learn and remember things quicker.
Media elements separate chunks of your text with a break for the visitor's eyes and thereby prevent them from skimming.
Featured image on each post
Aim to have a great image towards the top of your article. These are also the images that show in social media feeds. 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. Make it relevant to the topic of the topic and overlay the headline on top of it.
Charts, graphs, infographics and quotes
Sprinkle more relevant and useful imagery across your content. All these can make your content more interesting, more sticky and more buzz-worthy in social media. Social media platforms are very image centric and these types of images are very shareable.
Video embeds are great for many topics and situations. Interviews, step-by-step instructions, screen recordings and so much more.
I have a guide on this: 28 Tips To Start A Vlog And Make Videos Like YouTube Stars.
GIFs are in vogue
It seems as though the more modern we become, the more nostalgic we are. We are seeking back towards things as they used to be - the quality, the originality, the essence. Music lovers have LPs. Internet geeks have GIFs.
GIF images seem to be the new black when it comes to Internet trends and with good reason. They are an easy way to give your content a trendy and fun touch that your readers will love. They also work very well on social media platforms.
Further down in this article you'll be able to find a list of tools that can help you with your media content.
Don't take ages to get to the point, start with extremely engaging hook
If your headline works and a person clicks on your link, the first 15 seconds are critical. The probability of leaving is very high and the decision to stay or leave will be made.
The back button on a browser is your enemy with more than 55% of all views bouncing right away within 15 seconds. And you don't just want traffic that bounces, you want an engaged audience.
Avoid a lengthy introduction. Create something compelling that grabs your reader’s attention within the first few words. Touch on your key points clearly and concisely. Make the reader excited to read the post. Show them what they are missing out on, what you will help them with, surprise them and leave them with questions rather than answers. Make it dazzle them, make it epic.
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.
Then give people a reason to read more
Once you’ve caught the visitor’s attention you need to keep them attracted. Joe Sugarman, the copywriting legend, likes to introduce "seeds of curiosity” at the end of his paragraphs. These are short sentences that offer the reader a reason to continue reading the next paragraph. These are transitions such as:
- Here's the deal...
- But there's a catch...
- What's the real story?
- The best part?
- How can you actually use this?
- That's not all...
- Why does this matter?
- So read on…
- Let me explain…
- Think about that...
- Do you see the value?
- Don't forget...
- Keep in mind...
- Now here comes the good part…
- One more thing...
- And here's the best news...
How to write more compelling copy for the web
It’s a battle to be read. Visitors are reluctant to tackle large blocks of text online. People rarely read posts word by word. They scan and pick out words and sentences.
You need to make it easy for them to consume and get stuck into your articles. Make your content user-friendly by writing for the web:
- Break long blocks of text into paragraphs as a visual help. It's easier to skim short(er) sentences than tangled blocks of text. Lots of short paragraphs and a lot of white space.
- Concentrate on one idea per paragraph. Deal with each topic of a post in a paragraph by itself to aid the reader.
- Split your paragraphs with descriptive subheadings that explain what the paragraph is about.
- Users skip over additional ideas in a paragraph if they are not attracted by the first few words. Begin each paragraph with words that suggest the theme. End each paragraph with words that help the transition.
- Give strong and impactful statements a paragraph on their own. Online users adapt quickly to consistent patterns. It makes them tune out. Our brain is very well aware of changes such as varying length of paragraphs.
- Use bold font to highlight important parts and themes to generate interest.
- Use bulleted points and numbered lists to communicate step by step instructions or a series of practical tips.
- Use block quotes to highlight interesting statements and quotes from authoritative figures.
Use the active voice
Don't write in the passive voice. 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.
It is more direct, bolder and more concise than the passive voice. It works better online too.
Use definite, specific, concrete language
Writing is a form of communication and clarity is a virtue. Make your writing simple to read and understand. Follow the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple, stupid!).
- Simple is much harder than complex so do practice perfecting simple.
- Be direct and to the point.
- Report the details that matter.
- Use words that evoke images and sensations.
- Use definite, specific and concrete language.
- Specific is better than general. Definite is better than vague. Concrete is better than abstract.
- The best way to arouse and hold the attention of the reader is to be very specific, definite and concrete in your post writing.
Avoid fancy words and don't take shortcuts at the cost of clarity
Those big smart-ass words are letting you down. At school, using big words got you better marks but articles have to be very clear, focused and tight to arouse and hold the attention of the readers.
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.
To use the language well, you should cherish its classic form. Do not be tempted by a fancy word when there is a plain word to use. Same with foreign language expressions. As long as you have an English word for it, use it.
Forget "nite", "thru" and "pleez". Forget simplified spelling, minimize Internet slang. It distracts the reader and makes your posts hard to read and understand. Use the standard words.
Write things out. Do not use initials of abbreviations unless you are certain it will be understood by your readers.
There are readers that encounter the name for the first time, make it easy for them to see the words. Start your articles by writing names in full and shorten them later in the article.
Make it easy to discover more good stuff
Clicking links remains the most-used feature on any website. If you've got the attention of your visitor, you should extend their stay by connecting your visitor to more of the content they want using links.
Place specific and relevant links in key places of interest to offer a deeper or follow-up information on the topic. Include internal links to relevant posts to get people to stay longer and introduce them to your content archive. Make the anchor text meaningful and attention grabbing.
Each and every post should have multiple links to your other relevant posts. These make visitors stay longer on your site, get more familiar with your content and gain more value.
Don't be afraid to link away from your blog 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.
Add a call to action and end on a high note
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.
The better your content is, the higher the chance that people will stick to the end and that they will decide to convert using the call to action that you're presenting.
One options is to encourage users to become loyal fans and returning visitors. Provide opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter or to follow you in social media.
Another one is to subscribe to your service or buy your product. It all depends on what your main intention is.