First things first – this post is not intended to be political. Whatever your political leanings, however, we can all likely agree that Donald Trump has been, at least, a controversial figure in the presidential primaries. For that fact alone, you may have clicked to read more. In fact, a post is likely to achieve greater notoriety based solely on how compelling (read controversial) it’s title.
So how can you start thinking more intentionally about your titles?
Crafting “Click-worthy” Titles (Or Finding Your Angle)
Before you read on, let me clarify. I am not advocating for constantly controversial headlines, also known as clickbait. Not only will constant hype make it difficult for you to retain reader’s interest, but lack of quality content will, in the end, counteract any initial readership you may have accrued.
Here is what I will say: controversy does spark readership, but it only gets readers to read that first sentence. Then you’ve really got to deliver. So how do you do that without over-promising, or worse, polarizing?
Let’s first look at the word “controversy.” Controversy as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views.” Some definitions will mention a “strong disagreement” or other “strong” feelings. This is simply to say that there are multiple and opposing viewpoints on a subject.
It’s abundantly clear that there are multiple and opposing views on Donald Trump. But there might also be multiple and opposing views on performance reviews, or the best way to shop for a new car, or even commonly accepted truths about whatever business you happen to be in.
While you may not want to draw on celebrity or other social issues, by taking a look at what could spark disagreement, you can tune into new and fresh angles for issues that you want to discuss that are unusually tired or overdone.
Let’s face it, with more than 2 million new posts a day, getting your readers something fresh will not only spawn clicks, it will also spawn loyal readership.
Past the First Paragraph (Or How to Write for Busy People)
It’s not enough to have the perfect, captivating title promising an original look at a not-so-original idea. To get your reader past paragraph one, you’ll need to deliver. So how do begin structuring your post for maximized readership?
1. Focus Your Message
There’s potentially nothing worse than clicking on an appealing story, one that sounds both intriguing and informative, and finding nothing to substantiate what you thought you would find. You may feel let on, and you’d be right.
Focus can not only hold your reader’s attention but also help with your battle for SEO. (Find a guide for SEO here.) Specificity is key.
2. Utilize White Space
As in web design, white space is your friend. Large chunks of text can immediately turn off your readers, whether or not the substance is worth their while. Limit your paragraphs to a few sentences and ensure that your reader doesn’t get bogged down with text.
3. Find Your Voice
Purpose, audience, and genre are the 3 vital components to any piece of writing. In fact, you may have already decided that you need to keep your blog professional because of your audience. But remember that professional doesn’t mean boring. Maybe you shouldn’t begin sentences with “but,” but you should think about developing a real and interesting personality. Very few people are engaged by wrote data or fact recitation.
4. Deliver Actionable Items
Have you ever heard of anybody that enjoys a meeting that produces no results? So why do so many blog posts and other digital content provide limited to no value? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to read through content that leaves you feeling more or less empty. Fortunately, there are solutions to solution-deficient content. And the solution pairs inextricably with focus.
When you have developed the focus and specificity of content, you should also know what knowledge you wish to impart to your reader. What does your audience really need? Arethey they executives short on brain-space? Give them more time. HR administrators? Easier ways to manage applicants. Philosophers? Opportunities to think deeply. Whatever your audience, the gift of possible and actionable solutions will develop a much more loyal contingent than mere musings.
Wrapping it Up
The final piece to compelling content is what you leave your reader with. Is it a new question to ponder? A new solution to try? Whatever it is, know this – if you’ve managed to get them to the end without moving on, you’ve already won, but you can use this to your further advantage. The final phrase can percolate into the rest of their life and keep them coming back.
So think about this.
Where do you want your reader’s mind to go when they take their leave? End there.
5-Star writer Amanda S has a distinct passion for writing for many audiences and genres. She holds a BA in English/Creative Writing and has experience tutoring writing for undergraduate and graduate students at Seattle University. With a thorough understanding of purpose, audience, and genre, she has the skill set to address many writing needs.
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