Today’s Internet is an information trash pile just as much as it’s a superhighway. Anyone can create content, which means there’s just as much junk as there is compelling information. Shareable content entertains, educates and adds value to the lives of the audience members who consume it.
If you wish to join the ranks of content writers who add value to the Internet community, here are a few guidelines for delivering quality.
Aim to Educate
If you were to examine commercials from the 70s or 80s, and then look at modern YouTube promotional ads, you would notice a few differences. Most notably, today’s information is delivered faster, and it’s less like a sales pitch and more like entertainment.
Internet users have limitless information to read, be entertained by, and to learn from. The reason digital advertisements are rarely sales focused, is that they generally can’t be. To captivate an audience with limitless distractions and alternatives at their fingertips, digital content needs to add a concrete value to audience members’ lives. Effective digital content educates and entertains. Digital content that blatantly promotes a brand is overlooked.
To create compelling content that an audience takes in entirely, focus on educating them. Provide information that’s useful to their lives, and present it in an accessible manner.
Know Your Niche
Understand your audience, and do NOT aim to speak to a large demographic. The more specific your niche, the more compelling your message is to your potential readers, and buyers.
The reason most digital content creators become noise rather than a voice, is that they are too generic. Don’t worry about who you will lose if you’re direct; worry about who you will not win over if you attempt to appeal to everyone.
The best information you ever received was about you, for you, and it took into account your feelings, your age, your context and your needs. Most likely, it came from a friend or a loved one. Great marketers attempt to do the same by creating content for individuals, not crowds. To become a voice and transcend the noise, identify your niche and be fearless about speaking intimately to its members.
Add Your Unique Perspective
In the words of Picasso, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” When you set out to write an article, chances are, there are hundreds of books and existing articles on the same topic. What makes your article worth reading, however, is that you’re someone with a unique life, and a different perspective than anyone who came before you. Milk it!
When you see a compelling article that inspires you to write one of your own, go for it! But don’t just copy the idea. Make it your own by making an observation about its implications. This process is calling, “yes, and-ing.” It entails that you ask yourself, “If that’s true, what else is true?”
Once you’ve created a list of new observations, or new contexts to put your observations into, you can begin writing the content with your unique perspective integrated into it.
Use Research and Objective Facts
Opinions are like mouth-holes, everyone has one! While a unique perspective makes an article interesting, without supporting evidence or facts, it’s less compelling. To grab readers and hold their attention, include objective information about observable patterns. Use your perspective to create a hypothesis about the implications of those patterns.
Including research or objective facts when writing, even when writing an essay, allows the reader to play a participatory role in the article rather than take you at your word. Honor readers by giving them the opportunity to draw their own conclusions based on the presented evidence. But go the extra mile by giving them your interpretation.
Boring content often presents all facts, or all opinions. Excellent articles present both.
Make Your Content Easy to Read
Digital content consumers rarely read web content word for word. Instead, they skim and browse. To grab the attention of visitors and help them find information relevant to their needs, here are a few proven techniques you should employ:
- Use bullet points
- Use lists
- Only write three to five sentence paragraphs
- Divide your article into sections with headlines
- Bold important words
- Include images
- Use action words in the first sentence of a paragraph
Repurpose and Dig Deeper
If you run a blog or manage a website you have access to the website’s daily traffic numbers and total page visit numbers. Pay attention to the pages and articles that attract the most visitors. What did you write about? If that topic was popular once, chances are your target demographic would like to know more about it.
Instead of continually searching for something new to write about on a surface level, create content that digs deeper into the topics your audience already cares about. Ask yourself and your team why your audience responded positively to a particular topic. Does it reflect a need they have? Does it represent a question they want answered?
Once you’ve brainstormed a few ideas, you can test your hypotheses by creating content that addresses each sub-topic you came up with.
Use Catchy Headlines
You’ve seen a headline that demanded you to stop whatever you were doing and read on. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you write your articles. Use the time-tested headline strategies that conjure interest.
The following are excellent ways to write a compelling headline:
- Use a pun
- Make it short and sweet
- Create an inconsistency to evoke curiosity
- Use numbers
- Use unusual adjectives
- Use negative wording
- Be specific
- Be personal
Include a Hook
A hook is a short sentence that gives a reader a question to answer, or a problem to solve. The purpose of a hook is to grab a reader’s attention, and to persuade them to read to the end of the article.
An excellent way to write a hook is to open in the middle of a pivotal moment in a story. Get a reader to wonder what’s going to happen or what did happen, or why a man would be without clothes in the middle of a wedding reception.
Hooks create an interesting picture in the reader’s mind. They present a character, and they give the reader an idea of what that character stands to lose or gain. A strong narrative voice can be a character, or a company on the verge of failure or success can be a character, or the topic itself can be presented as a character.
Here are examples of excellent hooks:
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“Shopping for furniture can be such fun, but that browsing buzz can quickly deteriorate if you don’t have a strong idea what you want.” — 3 Questions To Answer When Shopping Dining Tables
As you begin your journey of compiling information into stories, opinions and researched content, take pride in being a quality creator. Remember, you’re unique, and you have the power to share your perspective with the world in a way that adds real value to others’ lives.