10 Points to Create Compelling Content

How to Write Must Read Content That Attracts and Engages Readers

With the expanded use of content marketing, every business needs to generate a steady stream of strong content.

While it’s easy to say that you should write strong compelling content, the problem is how do you actually develop great content on a consistent basis that stands out in the sea of information available on social media, tablets, smartphones, computers and other devices, new and old.

Here are ten steps to help you produce strong content that reaches out and engages readers. (You may want to read Why Your Third Grade Teacher Was Wrong About Writing for some more tips.)

  1. Know your audience. Look beyond the basics of your audience’s demographics, psychographics and past behaviors to understand what they’re seeking from your content. Marketing personas, a composite of reader attributes, enable writers to visualize the person for whom they’re writing. If you’re writing for an established online outlet such as a blog or a website, past content performance can serve as an interest indicator. Alternatively, use comments and social media actions for insights. Lastly, ask readers what they want.
  2. Start with a powerful headline. This is the hook that lures readers in and gets them to read the article! It must be consistent with the information you’re presenting or they’re gone. Additionally, use one or two relevant keywords, preferably at the beginning. While you don’t have to start with the title, revisit your title and revise it once your content is finished to ensure it’s as strong as it can be.
  3. State your case in the first paragraph. The initial paragraph is the workhorse of your piece. It has to follow through on your title’s promise and draw readers further in to keep them engaged enough to find out more. Additionally, it must support your search optimization.
  4. Tell a story. You can’t jump into your piece with setting the stage nor can you stop writing when you hit your word count. Your writing needs a beginning, a middle and an end. The easiest formula is to state the issue you’re examining, give the evidence to support the problem’s answer, and finish by clearly showing how you answered the issue.
  5. Speak your readers’ language. Sound like a real person, not corporate gibberish. It helps to use your audience’s way of talking and vocabulary. This validates that you know what you’re talking about.
  6. Provide useful information. Readers are time-crunched. Unlike your boss, they don’t care how much work you put into the article. All that matters to them is “what’s in it for me?” The content must help, educate, inform or entertain them.
  7. Show your readers. Give readers concrete facts to illustrate your points. Use your nursery school show and tell experience to demonstrate your points with examples. Go a step further and use photographs, illustrations and/or videos to make your point.
  8. Make your writing quick to read. Remember your audience is most likely consuming your content on-the-go, in short spurts of time between other activities, or while they’re doing something else, so they’re not fully focused on your content. So make it easy to scan quickly. Therefore, less is more. Use simple words so readers don’t skip them (or your column). Write short, direct sentences. Where possible, use the active voice and keep paragraphs short with three to five sentences since blocks of text are intimidating.
  9. Guide readers with bolding and lists. Highlight or italicize important phrases. Create lists to help readers quickly consume your content. This makes your information visually inviting.
  10. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your finished piece to check for misspelling and poor grammar. Nothing takes away from your content faster than poor writing, including foul language. Get a copy editor to help and give your writing a fresh set of eyes. This is particularly important for businesses where these errors reflect poorly on your brand.

Producing strong content consistently takes practice and work. These ten steps will help ensure your writing is aligned with your audience so it has a fighting chance of breaking through the clutter to get attention.

Do you have any other suggestions to help create strong, compelling content?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some related articles that you may find of interest.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotologic/410355440/

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  • http://www.copywritematters.com.au Belinda Weaver

    This is a great list Heidi and you highlight the important difference between creating content and creating *compelling* content. The only thing I could think to add was something you do very well, linking to your other content.

    I think creating bonds between your content gives people a reason to stick around. Goodness knows how many times I’ve read a blog post then found myself there, 2 hours later, reading my third blog post from the same author.

    The words you use in your link – just like your headline – should spark some interest and have a few keywords to keep you on the right side of your SEO strategy.

    • mike pangilinan

      Great tips Heidi, thanks!
      I learned a lot reading these.
      I do hope to start blogging, consistently (my fingers crossed) this 2012.

      Cheers!