What else did you think you were doing by driving audiences to your site?
Think about it.
Be it via social media, paid media, SEO or lead nurturing, a marketer is constantly inviting people to check out their content.
In order to capitalize on this traffic, one must learn proper hosting etiquette when looking to elicit engagement, and more importantly, return visits.
A great way to do that is by relating the experience to the psychology of meeting someone.
In this post, find out how you can connect interpersonal value alongside three distinct creation tactics for more successful events with your content.
Before that, take a moment to reflect on why these concepts make such an impact.
The Power of First Impressions
First impressions leave a lasting impression in social life, as well as in digital.
I mean, if a person's face determines whether we think they are trustworthy, dominant or attractive, imagine what the look of a piece of content will communicate to audiences.
(Source: University of York)
According to research published by Oxford University Press, users differentially evaluate and remember websites after seeing them for only 5 seconds.
(Source: Bit Rebels)
So, while we're not here to instruct you on the use of better body language, we can help you develop content that draws the most interest from viewers for strong positive impressions.
Welcome Readers to Your Article
First and foremost, you can welcome visitors to an article by introducing what the article is actually going to provide right out of the gate.
This way, the reader knows exactly what they can expect, giving them the freedom to decide for themselves whether investing in your content is worthy of their time.
Assuming it is, the opportunity then revolves around matching their expectation.
There are several different ways that you can do this, sometimes before they even show up:
Connecting The Meta Description to the Content
Considering how, in a given year, trillions of people are searching Google for answers to questions or for resources to meet their needs, being well-optimized in the SERPs can make a large impact on the initial impression a reader has with your content.
Take this post on "A Marketer's Toolbox For The 5 Steps of Content Creation," as an example:
The meta description has been optimized to reflect what the reader can expect to take away from the piece of content and will be used as a tool for determining whether it is truly relevant to their search.
Additionally, this is the information that's pulled from a link when shared across social media.
- Highlight main aspects of the article
- Explain what you are offering inside
- Include any relevant keywords
- Communicate what the audience member will get from it
Basically, address the need you intended to meet with the piece of content you've created.
Upon clicking into the article, the reader should be reassured right away that their problems are, in fact, going to be addressed within:
Characteristic of the inverted pyramid writing style, aim to frontload all of the most important details you hope to introduce over the course of the article in the first paragraph.
Not only is it great for SEO, as it's often advised focus keywords be dropped within the first 100 words a post, but also solves the problem of users pogo-sticking from your content.
Consider this incredibly important excerpt from Moz about on-page optimization:
You have to think about all the searchers, the 90% of the searchers who may not be your customer and how do you answer their query, because otherwise you're probably going to be falling in those search results. What questions do those people have? What makes them engage versus leave? What is it, when this person performs a search, that they want to know? And if you don't know, you can ask.
Matching the Article Title to the Value Proposition
A title says a thousand words.
Sometimes, literally, in the form of a 1,000 + word article.
Whatever the case, ensuring an article is a direct representation of what you've communicated in the title is necessary to avoid that icky clickbait problem diluting reader experiences online.
Following the logic that users click through to an article to satisfy a need, a well-crafted title can often lead readers to predict the content within.
If the perceived promise isn't met, this "prediction error" can often result in lower response rates with your content, and potentially, decision-making with your brand.
This is what happens on a neural level when these predictions and evaluations of outcomes take place:
Thankfully, our dedication to headline testing has produced some data-driven results that can keep you honest when looking to increase CTR while matching engagement with your content.
Here's a quick look at findings from an analysis we did with HubSpot:
When used in a headline, the words "photo" and "who" increase CTR.
The words "easy,""how to," "credit," "cure," "magic," and "free" decrease CTR.
Bracketed clarifications, which are clarifications of the type of content represented by the headline - e.g. [Infographic], increase CTR when included in headlines.
Making references to the reader by using the words "you," "your," or "you're" in the headline decreases CTR.
Headlines generate the highest level of engagement at moderate lengths (81-100 characters).
Including positive superlatives ("best", "always") in headlines decreases CTR.
When used in the headline, the words "simple," "tip," "trick," "amazing," and "secret" decrease CTR.
Using words that convey a sense of urgency (e.g., "need," "now") in the headline decreases CTR.
It's pretty clear that providing the most descriptive and concise information about an article in the headline wins over more gimmicky and persuasive tactics.
Host Readers with the Right Engagement Techniques
You've got them through the door and have offered them a seat to your content.
Now, it's all about supporting the main takeaways of your article in a way that resonates with audiences new and familiar.
If we continue to flow from the inverted pyramid:
This portion of your content should focus on providing tons of value and knowledge to the reader in hopes of satisfying the initial needs outlined at the beginning of your article.
Again, if they aren't enabled with all of the necessary information on a particular topic or subject, they may end up outsourcing answers through another content destination.
Content creators should try as hard as they can to become all-in-one resources for their online audiences.
That doesn't all have to take place in one piece of content, either.
Check out the diagram below to see what I mean:
(Source: g2m Solutions)
Regardless of reader intent upon arriving on a piece of content, you not only want to become their touch point for education but also considered as a potential solution beyond the specific article they are interacting with.
This can be done effectively without overloading the audience through:
Smart Content Structure, Format, and Elements
Think legibility, readability, and comprehension.
A reader should be able to flow along the content in a way that is easy to process, absorbing your words and the various elements fluidly.
There is an order to it -- much like the pyramid above defines.
Years ago, Ahava Leibtag produced this amazing checklist for creating valuable content which is still essential to this day. Additionally, Neil Patel works from this " blog post anatomy" in order to identify/meet reader need.
Here's an abbreviated version of the tactics I have found most useful, which when implemented, can hyper-optimize an article framework for both the reader and search engines.
- Clear and defined <H2> headers </H2> with matching sub content
- Broken up text and short paragraphs for scannability / mobile consumption
- Cited research with internal / external links to authority domains for topic support
- Rich media such as images, video, data visualizations and diagrams
- Instructions for actionable learning or deeper problem-solving
- Smart CTAs that guide readers to other areas of your site for support upon article completion
So, you don't even have to be in the business of creating long-form content which aims to tackle comprehensive issues. You can set the reader up to succeed by leading them to other resources (owned or not) that help answer all of their questions.
This article links to other valuable information to supplement your journey in creating the best possible experience for your readers.
Before I digress too far, let's pluck one bullet from the list above and dive in.
Take a look at how clear headers make it easy for the reader to assess and prep for the intake of information:
You can guess what comes next, right?
Yes, a breakdown of the integrated PESO model (with a diagram to boot).
I know it may sound silly and incredibly simplistic, but matching these two experiences / expectations throughout an article is key.
It's like inviting someone to a 90s' party, but informing them that the event has changed to a formal affair only after they've arrived and settled in. Think about what their neural activity would look like on that level.
If they had only known...
Send Readers off with a Proper Night(re)cap
Have you ever been reading an article and all of a sudden it comes to a dramatic stop?
It's like the author just finished their last point and decided they were done writing. Hopefully, they've done enough work laying it out for you to be able to recall specific areas.
In any case, there's nothing quite like solidifying your points with a strong recap that audiences will remember after finishing your article.
Search Engine Watch has mastered the conclusion as most of their article takeaways come formatted in bullet point lists for ease of digest.
If one wanted to, they could do a quick run-through of the article by scrolling here for everything they needed to know first, then navigating to specific areas of interest.
As a marketer with very little time, I know I'm guilty of this time-saving tactic!
Basically, reiterate everything you want them to know / you think they came to your article looking for.
Make Room for Questions
With any engaged audience, you are going to solicit questions and feedback.
Sometimes naturally, sometimes not.
That's why it's important that you empower the voice of your readers by asking them to leave comments. Co-Founder of Content Marketer and Narrow.io, Sujan Patel knows the value of a solid end of article question to spark debate:
A small ask for great potential in building connections with audiences.
Readers just need to be triggered to internalize their shared experiences and anecdotes in order to hit the keyboard.
Not only does it create more affinity with your content, but when you consider commenting in relation to increased shares, it would make sense that someone would feel more inclined to share something once they've commented on it.
That feeling of contribution to a topic is immeasurable.
In the example below, we asked a question about which top five paid traffic sources every online marketer should be testing, and it generated 21 comments + return visitors checking back on the conversation.
As recommended, here are some of the important lessons from the article for your recollection:
Welcome the Reader to the Article
- Always introduce what it is that the article will accomplish. This is oftentimes done by connecting the meta description to the content, and by using the inverted pyramid style when writing to frontload all of the most important details in the first paragraph.
- Your title has to directly match the value proposition. In other words, avoid clickbait headlines and make sure that readers get the experience they predict / expect when they click through.
Host Readers with the Right Engagement Techniques
- Follow proper hosting techniques by focusing on the structure, format and elements that make up your article. If you want to become an all-in-one resources for online audiences, you have to make your content easy to assess and comprehend.
- Some tactics include using clear and defined Headers, supporting main themes with cited research, and using rich media to set readers up for success.
Send Readers off with a Proper Night(re)cap
- Provide a strong recap at the end of your article to solidify key points you want the audience to take away upon completion. Search Engine Watch uses bulleted lists to help break down content for ease of digest.
- Ask a final question to incentivize and empower your reader to make a connection with the author and brand by sharing their personal experiences or stories. Blog commenting leads to return visitors and greater shareability of an article.
Is there anything that you would add to the list above, either from the perspective of a content creator or a reader? Let us know your story and thoughts in the comment section below.