When creating a website, a lot of attention is paid to the visual design. This is important, but it’s not the only factor. A truly effective website has not only an appealing look, but is filled with great content that makes users stay on your site and really care about what you have to say.
This article is a quick overview of 5 techniques you can use right now to beef up your website content, whether your site is in development, or already up and running!
Headlines are an incredibly important factor in writing content for the web or anywhere else. Headlines grab the viewer’s attention, and either make them want to read the rest of the page/post/article, or not.
The other day I was reading Copyblogger, when I came across a great quote (I’m paraphrasing):
The headline’s job is to make you read the first sentence. That’s all. Then, the first sentence should make you read the second sentence, and so on.
There are a few different ideas to keep in mind when trying to come up with great headlines for your content.
- Create engagement by asking a question. Try to make sure it’s not a question that can be answered with a “no”.
- “What’s in it for me?” Are users searching for a solution to a problem? Tell them what they’ll find when they read your content.
- List posts are popular, because people know they’re going to get quick, concise information (See headline of this post). No one wants to read War & Peace in blog form.
Make Your Content Skim Friendly
In this modern world of distractions all around us, users won’t take the time to wade through a dense blog post or article to uncover the nuggets of wisdom. They skim things. Make your content clearly organized, so people know exactly what they will find in each section. This is best achieved with subheadings.
If you’re looking for it, you’ll notice that all the most popular blogs and web sites use this technique. A subheading is just like a miniature headline, and the same rules apply. You need to explain to readers what they will get in each section, and you need to do it in a creative way that captures their interest.
Tell Them Something They Don’t Know
One great technique I picked up in Made To Stick, a great book from Chip & Dan Heath, is to create what they call “knowledge gaps”.
What this means is that we find a way to show the reader that they’re lacking in information. Now that they know they’re “missing something”, they are interested and want to fill that gap. We tell them that we have that information, then we give it to them.
This technique can be repeated with each piece of information you want to communicate, but it isn’t effective to go around telling your readers that they’re stupid. You have to take care not to be condescending, and subtlety goes a long way.
Tell A Story
Another great technique I’ve read in Made to Stick among other places is the power of storytelling. The way material is presented can make all the difference. Reading technical manuals doesn’t appeal to many people, even if the content is relevant and useful.
Some types of content don’t really lend themselves to storytelling. Ask yourself if you can tell a story to your readers and still communicate the necessary information. If you can do that with a story, do it. Your content will be much more engaging.
Telling a story is, by default, more interesting than dryly stating the facts. Readers will have an easier time reading through your content if it’s wrapped up in a story, especially if it’s one they can identify with. Here’s some ideas for stories:
- Personal anecdotes: how has this information helped you, what are some applications of the information you’re presenting?
- “Have you ever?”: Tell the story of the problem and the solution to that problem. Infomercials use this technique all the time. “Are you been frustrated slaving away doing X, and thought there must be a better way? Well now there is!”
- Mysteries: If you can create a mystery story where readers can’t wait to find out what the ending is, then you’ll have no problems getting people to read and be interested in your content.
Ask For The Sale
If you’ve ever done any work in sales, you’ve likely heard this term at some point. It’s just as important on the web! This is also commonly known as the “call to action”.
You’ve taken a lot of care to this point, to create content that is as good as it can be. But there’s a question you need to ask yourself. What do you want your readers to do when they read your content? Buy a product? Sign up for a newsletter? Write a comment?
You need to ask them to do that! Usually, a call to action is included in both the introduction, and in the conclusion. You can be fairly obvious here, but still try to make it enticing. Just putting “BUY NOW” can work in some cases, but usually a bit more thinking will make a more effective call to action.
Go Forth And Create Great Content!
Of course, these are just a few techniques that can help to improve your content and get people interested. There’s a lot more out there. I may come back to this topic in future posts, explain some of the other techniques for making effective content for the web.
What did you think of these techniques? Will you use these ideas in your website and your content? If you’ve got a comment or opinion, I want to hear it! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!