Does Anybody Even Read This Stuff?
Sometimes, creating content feels like running a machine that’s designed to produce disappointment and discouragement. When we get some traction, when we get a win, it feels great. When we release ten blog posts in a row that get no comments, no shares, no new subscribers, it’s enough to make you want to go back to your old office job.
We can’t tell you there’s a guaranteed formula for instant success, there isn’t. No matter how good your content is, it takes a bit of luck for it to catch on. But here’s the thing: You get as many free throws as you care to take. You don’t need to get lucky every time to make it worth the effort to keep trying.
But, good content can’t hurt your chances.
Writing Content That People Will Read
They say we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. That’s especially true in content marketing. You have to listen first, speak second. We’re not advertising on roadside billboards here. The internet is not television. It’s not a monologue, it’s a conversation, and when your marketing content just doesn’t seem to be working, there’s a good chance that a one-sided conversation is the culprit.
Before we can talk about how it helps to break your content up with sub-headers and bullet-pointed lists, before we can get into whether pictures or video will add a little razzle-dazzle to your blog, we have to get down to the fundamental, foundational question at the heart of your output: Are you listening to your readers?
The first thing we’re looking for when we click on an article, a video, a blog post is: I hear you. Maybe not in those exact words, but we want the content to signal to us that someone is listening. Here’s how we can show that we’re listening:
Get To The Point
We didn’t click this recipe to read your life story. When we want to read your life story, that’s what we’ll Google. We Googled “raisin bread recipes” and that’s what we want. If you can’t give us a list of ingredients in the first two hundred words, we’ll find someone who can. Respect your reader’s time and they’re more likely to share it with you.
Give your reader what you promised in the headline. Bait-and-switch ads and headlines not only burn trust with readers, they’re not as useful for your metrics as they once were, anyway.
“They’re Just Saying What We’re All Thinking”
If one of your subscribers or customers is saying it, there’s a good chance that a lot of them are thinking it. If you run an automotive maintenance blog and someone asks how far of a trip is too far for a spare tire, they’re not the only person wondering. And even if they are, when your readers see that you’ll take the time to write a whole post to answer one question, they’ll be more likely speak up.
You Do Have The Time In A Day
Addressing readers personally, answering every message and comment, it takes a lot less time than you might think. And if you can’t answer everyone, answer as many as you can. Be part of the conversation, don’t just speak your piece and leave.
Listen to your readers. They’ll tell you exactly what they want to read. Let that guide what you produce and how you produce it. Once you have that in place, the rest comes naturally.
The Nuts And Bolts
As for the nuts and bolts of creating useful, readable and effective content, it comes with experience and practice, but we can cover the basics in six short bullet points:
- Use sub-headers
- Use visuals where appropriate
- Keep your sentences and paragraphs short
- Do your research
- End with a call-to-action, and…
- Write well
Best of all, you don’t need to worry about any of that stuff in the first place. We’ll do it for you.
Gilbert S. is a professional writer with over a decade of experience writing everything from research papers and catalog descriptions to tech magazine articles and music reviews.