How to Make Your Content More Engaging

By Shane Barker

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Every day, I read and analyze a lot of content, marketing content most of the time. After two decades of marketing experience and countless clients, I can almost sense content that converts.

And you know what I’ve found?

Most content floating around on the web is unengaging. I know it’s a bit harsh, but it’s true.

Don’t believe me?

These stats tell the real story.

Orbit Media surveyed 1,000 bloggers and found that 54% of them couldn’t get readers to engage with their posts. 

Source: Orbit Media

Moz found 75% of posts get zero backlinks and fewer than 39 shares.

Disheartening, right?

People are in a state of content shock. They are overwhelmed by the flood of content in their inboxes and social feeds. Content is exploding but their appetite for content consumption is limited. Measuring content quality is an essential factor in recent times. Also, writing engaging content may provide great content ROI for content marketers.

In fact, that appetite is dwindling. With repeated exposure to sub-standard content, people have become more discerning. They are not willing to spend a minute on content that doesn’t give value.

In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned about creating engaging content. 

I can’t promise that I’ll help you perfect your writing craft. However, I can help you write content that catches and retains attention, gets shares and subscribes, and converts your casual readers into loyal fans. 

Let’s dive in.

1. Write killer headlines

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you to devote 50% of your article-writing time to composing headlines.

Engagement starts with an eye-catching headline. When your article is competing with thousands of similar articles in Google Search results, a great headline can really make it shine.

Even if your content topic is dry, an enticing headline can earn it views. Conversely, a dry headline is enough to keep people away from reading stellar content.

A good headline does more than entice readers. It:

  • Gives a sneak peek at the post content
  • Inspires readers to trust your content
  • Attracts traffic (with keywords)

In essence, headlines are a game changer. They are a key factor that decides whether readers will check out your content or scroll past it.

I wrote about 10 headline drafts before starting this post. I ran them through CoSchedule, one of the tools that help me craft great content

Source: CoSchedule

The headline analyzer tool identified winning headlines, which satisfied the 4 Cs formula:

  • Compelling (does it tickle curiosity/create urgency/tap on a viral topic?)
  • Concise (is it short instead of too long-winded or wordy?)
  • Clear (does it unambiguously explain what the post is about?)
  • Credible (does it deliver what it promises?)

Here is another winning headline:

Source: Wired

What makes this headline a winner?

First, it hits on a hot topic, AI (artificial intelligence). Two, it connects AI to Google Search, a tool that most people can relate to. Three, it feeds on readers’ insecurity by implying that AI can impact them on a personal level.

Now here’s the catch: don’t attempt clickbait headlines. 

These headlines are provocative and intriguing, but they don’t match with the post copy. They are just a ploy to get people to click on a post.

Here is a classic clickbait headline:

Source: Medium

While some people swear by clickbait headlines, I don’t. These headlines can get your posts initial traction but can dent your credibility in the long term.

To craft perfect headlines, you can use these tips:

  • Include a number in the headline. Example: 10 Best Ads of All Times
  • Ask a question. Example: How Can You Master Photography?
  • Try paradoxes. Example: The Worst Thing in Life Could Be the Best
  • Latch on viral trends. Use Google Trends or BuzzSumo to identify hot topics in your niche. Example: Top CopyWriting Trends We Expect to See in 2020
  • Feed on the hierarchy of human needs. Example: Content Marketing is Dying. Here’s What You Need to Know (This headline feeds on career insecurity/self-preservation.)

2. Tell a story

Stories sell. It’s a fact that seasoned copywriters understand. That’s why stories have found an esteemed place in brand communications.

You have HP talking about their humble beginning in a garage and Airbnb hosts sharing experiences in their vacation homes.

Not only marketers but also content writers have learned that storytelling builds engagement. 

Stories create a lasting impression. Humans are hard-wired for stories. They retain stories for longer. So when your content weaves a narrative, readers respond to it.

Need evidence?

The Lamborghini-Ferrari rivalry is legendary. When the brands talked about it on Instagram, their posts got loads of engagement.

Source: Pinterest

Big words don’t impress readers; heartfelt words do. 

Even when you are writing a simple blog post, keep the tone personal. Don’t shy away from using “I/me/my/myself.” First-person accounts sound authentic and honest.

Here is an example (also, a pro-tip):

I was in the habit of overusing passive voice, which made my content less impactful. It took many failed content pieces for me to shake off the habit. At the time, we didn’t have tools like ProWritingAid or Grammarly point out grammar issues and error-proof content for us. 

So, write for humans and as a human. Keep your stories simple and readable so that most people are able to grasp them easily.

Stories breathe life into dry topics. Take a look at this Bloomberg post about stock markets and millennials. It starts with a story about a millennial who was struggling to make ends meet and turned to stock trading to improve her earnings. 

The juicy story is enough to grip readers to read about an unexciting topic like stock markets.

Source: Bloomberg

Stories humanize you. You can become more relatable to readers by telling them personal stories. People connect with you on a human level and start forming perceptions about you.

For instance, Airbnb is a flag bearer in experiential travel. But how did they earn this reputation? They built narratives to drive the point that they don’t just provide accommodation, but also holistic experiences.

“Stories from the Airbnb Community” is an important section in the Airbnb website. Hosts and guests recount their immersive experiences at the brand’s properties. 

Source: Airbnb

Airbnb built a persona for themselves using stories. You can use the same tactic for yourself.

If your content is educational and informative, dispense it through real use cases. Even hard-core technical topics can be made engaging if you use real-time examples to explain them. 

Get innovative and start weaving stories. I know story ideation is not easy, especially for newbies. To start with, you can hire professional storytellers. Once your content builds readership and engagement, you can take direct charge.  

3. Be original

Embrace your originality. Revel in it. Sound like self-help advice? But it stands true for content writing as well. 

TONS of content is published every second on every medium. A lot of it is regurgitated. I’m not saying it’s bad, but most of it gets skimmed through, or worse, ignored.

The reason?

People don’t have the patience to dwell on content that doesn’t offer them anything new. With attention spans dwindling, you literally have seconds to make an impression with your content. 

If you go for done-and-dusted storylines, you can forget about catching the readers’ fancy. But if you create something interesting from scratch, you earn trust and credibility. 

Ditch the curated quotes and over-shared examples. Dig into your personal experiences and proprietary data to draw unknown insights. People just love that.

Original content sets you apart from the crowd. It’s a smart technique to write about trending topics. But simply paraphrasing existing content will not get you engagement. Rather, think outside the box and come up with a unique perspective. 

Create original infographics, quotes, memes, GIFs, and videos. Package old content in new formats. Draw your own insights. Brand your content in a unique way that becomes your trademark. 

Check out this article at Writing Cooperative. The author expresses a contrarian idea that we shouldn’t aspire to reach high. 

Source: Writing Cooperative

The copy is authentic and hard-hitting because it’s completely original. The writer supports his arguments with personal observations and examples. He uses custom imagery to portray his points precisely. 

Readers walk away feeling satisfied with the value they get from the content.

Don’t be afraid of experimenting. Don’t shy away from talking on debatable topics. But don’t create sensational content just to grab eyeballs. That can backfire massively.

Original content can make you a thought leader. If you have the requisite skills and a unique perspective, you can grow your personal brand.

Adam Grant, a Wharton psychologist, is a top voice at LinkedIn. He grew his network and engagement solely by being original. By voicing his unconventional views, he became a LinkedIn influencer

Source: LinkedIn

Are you ready to engage with your content?

There are many more things you can do to boost your content’s engagement rates. Using imagery, adding videos, and quoting experts are some of them. But the three formulae I’ve shared in this post can give you quicker returns.

Do you need more tips and best practices about content writing? Leave your requests in the comments below. I’ll get back to you.

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