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Keyboard with keys for HR management
Keyboard with keys for HR management

Creative Ways to Maximize Reader Engagement

Think about this for a second and be honest with yourself: how often do you see a commercial on TV (maybe it’s for the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk) and then immediately get on to your laptop to research it further? Not only do you go to Jeep’s website, but you also go on to other sites like YouTube to see it in action and join 4X4 forums to see what people are saying about it.

No sooner are you online than you get bombarded by ads about other seemingly better, cheaper and flashier 4X4s that you should be considering. Before you know it, you have a dozen tabs open, and you have veered off the subject and are now researching the best fishing lakes on a mountain! (You know because you are buying an off-road vehicle and you will be able to go to these places now.)

The point is, there are a million different things that will easily capture your attention once you get online. Reader engagement has never been more difficult to capture and retain as it is in this day and age. Especially since we live in a digital world where people have so many different avenues and devices through which to view this information.

Google put out a study that shows 90% of web user switch from tablets, smartphones, computers and their TVs to do their research and get information. Unless you are giving them a reason to stay and engage with your content, they will move right on and do business with your competitors. That’s how easy it is to lose your traffic.

Why Does Reader Engagement Matter?

Some studies show that anywhere between 75% to 95% of first-time visitors who happen to find themselves on your website will not return. That is a huge attrition rate. And it is not that your content was lacking or anything like that (although that’s usually a very big factor), it is because there is just so much content online.

No matter which field you are in there are always a million other people doing the exact same thing and working day in and day out trying to differentiate themselves to attract the very same readers you want.

The reason websites like Forbes or Huffington Post see so much return traffic is because they have found ways to engage with their readers. Without engagement, you will not:

  • Get return readers
  • Turn readers into clients who take action
  • Increase your search engine ranking
  • Make money

It is that simple. Reader engagement allows you to achieve your objectives online (presuming that your objective is to make money through your website in one way or another).

Tips on How to Increase Reader Engagement

The truth is, no matter how excellent your content is, there is a good chance that there is someone else in the same niche who will have better. The only thing you can do (apart from continuously putting out excellent and informative pieces) is to find ways to keep your readers engaged and coming back.

Here are some tips on how to increase reader engagement:

 

Make Your Content More Visual

Research shows over 46% of readers believe that websites with more visual elements such as images of employees and videos showing customers how to use their products or service are more credible than those who don’t have such visual effects. It is therefore advisable to provide your readers with an eye-catching experience through visuals, at least 46% of them will be more engaged.

Encourage Your Readers to Contribute

User-generated content is not only an excellent way to get more material for free, but it is also a wonderful way to encourage reader engagement. The sad fact is that every one of us loves to hear ourselves talk. Well, in this digital era, that talking has been transformed into comments, likes, and shares.

By asking your readers the right questions or, even more effectively, asking them to ‘caption this,’ you are giving them an avenue to be heard. Doing so on your social media posts will get you more comments, likes, and shares but most importantly, it will get you the social proof that comes with user engagement. The more people comment and like the more people will want to join the bandwagon.

Give Away Free Stuff

People love getting free stuff. It could be a discount, a surprise gift or maybe even a coupon…it doesn’t matter, as long as it holds value in the eyes of your target audience, giving it away for free will get them excited. You, however, have to predicate that ‘free gift’ on certain terms. Maybe tell them that the hundredth commenter will get a $20 coupon or that once you get to a thousand likes, you will select a winner at random.

Not only are you offering a gift, but you have infused an element of competition and luck into the whole mix. People love that and will be more than willing to engage and participate if only to prove to their friends that they are the luckiest of the bunch.

Keep an Eye Out for Trends

On highly engaged platforms like Twitter, unless you are talking about the currently trending #hashtag, then you are missing out of a windfall of free traffic. You need to keep an eye out for trends and leverage that to your advantage.

However, you should not abuse these #hashtags. Only participate if you are adding value to the discussion. The most discerning readers will see you for what you are and will be more than willing to engage with your brand as long as it informs them and makes them look good.

Share the Spotlight with Others in Your Niche

Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but some studies have shown that mentioning, linking, and sharing informative content from the leading brands and influencers within your niche is a wonderful way to increase your readership as well as engagement.

The fundamentals of it all are the same as they are in human interaction while in high school: if you hang out with the cool kids, it doesn’t matter how uncool you are, people will gravitate towards you because of your association with the cool kids.

In content marketing, sharing the spotlight only shows that you are willing to educate your readers even if you are not the teacher. They will appreciate you for that and who knows, the influencers will be inclined to return the favor thus sending a chunk of their own readers your way.

The truth is, a great deal of content marketing involves a lot of trial and error. You have to try things out to find the ones that work for your particular niche and readership. However, simply sitting back and hoping that they will come will not get the job done.

 

 

 

Clock with text - Time for action, three-dimensional rendering, 3D illustration
Clock with text - Time for action, three-dimensional rendering, 3D illustration

Using Content Creation to Convert Visitors into Actionable Consumers

According to Business Insider, only 2-3% of your website visitors are actually there to buy. That is a horrible conversion rate by any standard. However, if you consider the fact that some websites get over a million unique visitors each month, then the math doesn’t seem so bleak.

But, just how many websites get millions of unique visitors each month? On average, your typical small business websites get about 1,000 unique visitors each month. That kind of ruins the numbers a little bit unless you find a way to increase that 2 – 3% conversion rate. One of the best ways to do that is to create content that converts. How do you do that?

Writing Actionable Content

Actionable content is the type of content that not only tells a story and educates your visitors, but it also prompts them to take a certain action. In most cases, that action is either:

  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Buying an item on the website
  • Sharing the content with friends

Sometimes it might be something as mundane as commenting on the article itself. The desired actions are as varied as the webmasters themselves, but they all have one thing in common- they foster reader engagement.

Unless your readers are engaged, they will not take the action you want them to. Actionable content, therefore, is persuasive content and creating these pieces is an art.

Tips on How to Create Actionable Content

As much as creating persuasive content is an art, there is also a certain scientific element to it as well. The most persuasive writers take certain elements of human behavior into account. Once such aspect is something known as “headline bias“. The headline you choose will lead the reader in a specific direction depending on the kind of excitement it conveys.

It is human nature. We only take a few seconds to come up with a bias on almost everything we see. That is why the very first thing you should work on when creating content that converts is the headline.

Craft an Attention-Grabbing Title

We can assure you that most people will probably just skim through your articles unless they find them particularly informative and they really want to educate themselves on the subject matter therein. What none of them will skim through, however, is the title. EVERYONE will read the title of your articles and immediately decide the level of importance and attention to give that article.

There are tools such as Headline Analyzer that make it much easier to come up with more enticing titles. These tools look at important title factors such as:

  • Word balance
  • Headline type
  • Character length

All these are factors that search engines also take into account when scoring the readability level of your content. If your title does not excite your readers, there is a good chance that they will move right on. In fact, it is estimated that 8 out of 10 potential readers will immediately dismiss your content if they do not like the title.

Focus Your Content Around Pain Points

Apart from entertainment, there is one other major reason why people go online and run millions of searches every day: they are looking for solutions to certain person-centric problems. People buy from businesses that provide them with those solutions. Focusing your content on pain points will give them a much better chance of:

  • Attracting readers who actually need your products or services
  • Attracting readers who are ready to buy

Finding these pain points out is by far the most important bit of research you will ever do as a business owner. Once you know what solutions your customers need you can work to provide them with content that leads to that solution through your service. It is the same principle upon which keyword research is based, and we all know how important that is in today’s search engine algorithm changes.

Include a “Call-to-Action” in Your Content

Do not assume that people will automatically know what you want them to do after they have finished reading (skimming) your article. The internet is full of distractions, and you need to expressly tell people what you want them to do. That is why those huge “Buy Now” buttons tend to be very popular with e-commerce websites. People need to know what you want them to do. Always be closing.

Create Enticing Lead Magnets

There is a very good chance that you will not convert first-time readers no matter how persuasive your content. That is mostly because not everyone who ends up on your site is already at the “buy” stage of their journey. Plus, remember that whole 2-3% conversion rate we talked about?

However, the fact that you actually got them to your website is a win in itself; they could have gone to so many other landing pages. You now have to make sure that they keep coming back until they get to that whole important “buy” stage of their journey. The best way to do that is to offer them enticing lead magnets.

Lead magnets allow you to capture reader details such as:

  • Their email
  • Their phone number
  • Whatever additional information you ask them to give you

Most importantly, however, it allows you to gauge just how interested the reader is in what you have to offer. These lead magnets can be things like free eBooks, case studies or templates that they can use in their day to day lives.

Once they agree to give you their contact information, you can then follow up by sending them additional content that is geared towards converting them into buyers. After all, they say the money is in the mailing list!

Include Other Media to Educate and Convert

We are a visual species. We like nice shiny things. You can take advantage of that fact by including images and videos as part of your content to help decimate whatever information you want to give your audience. Remember, they will not buy unless they feel as if what you are selling is going to solve a problem they have. However, the only way for them to know that you have the ideal solution for your problem is for you to educate them.

And in this regard, text doesn’t always cut it (it is often too boring and dull for most people). Using images and videos to pass the same basic message can help increase your conversion rate immensely.

It will take a great deal of creativity and learning what your clients want to increase your overall conversion rate. The tips shared above will get you started on the right path, but you must include some niche specific research and tactics as well.

 

 

Handwriting of Content Strategy concept in notebook
Handwriting of Content Strategy concept in notebook

The Difference Between a Content Strategy and a Content Marketing Strategy

Starting a business is not an easy task, especially if you have never started one before. There is a lot of business jargon that has the potential to cause some confusion. Content strategy and content marketing strategy are two phrases that confuse people. In fact, many long-time business owners also struggle with the ins-and-outs of the two.

You may think that content strategy and content marketing strategy is the same concept but with interchangeable wording- this is not the case. Simply put, a content strategy refers to your business plans in their entirety while a content marketing strategy refers to a specific aspect of your content strategy at one time. They have many differences and similarities.

 

What is a Content Strategy?

 A content strategy by definition is “the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media” according to Wikipedia. This essentially means that your content strategy is the blueprint for the content you will be using in every area of your business.

It will list why and how you are creating specific content pertaining to various areas of your business. It will also detail what your short and long-term goals are and what you will do to accomplish each step.

Forming a content strategy takes time and in-depth research. A great content strategy will outline the why’s, what’s, and how’s of your business plan for the content you will put out. A content strategy includes questions such as:

 

  • Why are we publishing this content and where will it be published?
  • When will we be publishing our content?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • How will we promote our published content?
  • Who will create our content?
  • What type of content will we produce?
  • How will we maintain our social media presence?
  • How will this business be unique?

Not everyone’s content strategy will look the same. Everything should be tailored to fit your specific company. Part of your content strategy includes discovering what your business’s values and core strengths are. Who do you want to help and why are you creating this business?

It’s also vital to learn who your target audience is. What do they need and want and why should they purchase it from you? Where and when is your audience obtaining most of their online content. Through this, you learn how to cater to your target audience and understand what platforms you should be posting on.

Lastly, you need to understand your competition. What values do they have and how do they communicate with their audience? All this information is needed in order to create a strong content strategy.

 

What is a Content Marketing Strategy?

 If a content strategy is like a blueprint, then the content marketing strategy is what you will do to implement each step of that blueprint. It is smaller strategies that make up the larger one.

The Content Marketing Institute defines a content marketing strategy as “…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience- and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Everything about a content marketing strategy has to do with the execution of how you will achieve the goals the content strategy maps out. It may be helpful to think of it as the action stage. This is also where you begin assigning employees tasks and seeing if any external businesses may need to be hired for a specific role.

A content marketing strategy involves sale techniques and organic marketing, and naturally attracting customers/traffic over time. This is where you begin to build relationships with your customers and learn who your top customers are. A content marketing strategy attracts traffic, and that can be done through:

  • Social media marketing
  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers
  • SEO
  • eBooks
  • Landing page copy
  • Case studies
  • Public relations
  • Pay-per-click
  • Inbound marketing

A lot of content and marketing strategies involve trial-and-error, mostly due to the ever-changing market. A content marketing strategy also has many components that are best understood after viewing your analytics.

A content marketing strategy should also map out components such as:

  • Content planning and scheduling
  • Creating an inventory of information, existing content, and resources for producing content
  • Creating a buyer persona
  • Establishing the tone and voice of your business
  • Planning campaigns
  • Determining the right call-to-action

All of this is especially helpful after launching your business and discovering weak spots in your strategies, although it can be determined in the initial stages of the strategic planning as well. This will help you produce relevant content for your buyer at every step of the customer journey. The research doesn’t stop after creating your content strategy.

 

How do They Overlap?

 Many people use content strategy and content marketing strategy interchangeably. This is largely due to the fact that they do have a few similarities. Both strategies involve determining your vision and goals for the business.

You never stop researching your audience because their habits and platforms change- meaning both strategies involve determining what your customers want and need frequently.

Knowing your audience, what channels are driving them to you, and their habits are crucial for your business.

 

Final Thoughts

 A content strategy and content marketing strategy complement one another. A content marketing strategy can only be beneficial with a great content strategy. Without the content strategy, you are creating content that may not line up with your business goals.

A content marketing strategy makes it, so you still see what your overall business goals are without only thinking about the content-never losing sight of the direction you want your business to go in.

Once you find the right content and content marketing strategy that works for you, it is highly advised to change it each year. No, this doesn’t mean you need to scrap the whole thing.

The market is always changing and the methods that worked for you in a previous year may not prove beneficial for the next. Adjustments and changes should be made where they are necessary to ensure your strategy is fresh and can handle the current market.

Illustration involves extensive use as Wallpaper or background.
Illustration involves extensive use as Wallpaper or background.

How Any Business Can Benefit from Having A Blog

Blogs are everywhere these days educating the world on everything and anything. It’s quite common for businesses to add a few blog posts to their websites for additional content but they often don’t realize just how powerful having a blog can be. Any and every business can benefit from them, and in this post, we are taking a closer look at just how much a blog can help a business.

 

Traffic Driving Via SEO

Every business desires a more substantial flow of traffic for their websites, but many people assume that paid advertising is the only way to drive that traffic. However, that is most definitely not the case. Creating a blog for a business website will present the opportunity for search engine optimization (SEO). This nifty little technique is where related keywords are appropriately repeated throughout the text to get recognized by search engines.

As effective as SEO is, it’s essential that keyword stuffing is avoided at all costs. Not only is keyword stuffing extremely irritating for readers, but it can also reflect negatively on the business through search engines. Every new blog post that’s added to a website is another page that can show up in search engine results. Posting frequently also works in your favor as search engines love to see fresh content being added and rewards regular posting with better rankings.

 

Creating an Online Presence

Having a blog that’s regularly updated helps to create an online presence for a business. In today’s world, people want to know about authority and expertise just as much as they want to know about the product or service. Creating a blog is a way to express knowledge in the niche as well as provide readers with high-quality content. It enables you or the business to show its personality rather than just emit a business-like front.

People relate much more to other people than they do to firms or organizations. The more people read the business’s blog, the more they will recognize the name and grow to trust and like it, even if they haven’t purchased anything yet.

Business blogs are also great for receiving feedback from prospective customers or offering your assistance with issues they may have. Initiating contact through blog posts helps to engage with the audience and again, makes the business more likable.

Posting regularly on social media platforms is the most obvious answer to establishing an online presence, but it can quickly become a struggle to create fun and engaging posts. Creating new blog content also works well as a captivating social media post. Gaining interest that leads to more followers which equals more readers and vice versa. The process of linking blog posts and social media pages can be used as part of sales funnels.

 

Traffic Converts to Leads

With new posts and traffic comes more opportunities to convert the traffic into leads. The best way to do this is to use a call to action button or links wherever suitable. These call to action links could include things like:

–    Free webinars

–    Access to podcasts

–    Subscription to newsletters

–    Free trials

–    Downloadable eBooks

Or anything else that provides individuals with valuable content in exchange for their email addresses. Once someone submits their email address a lead has been created, which makes it the first step in a sales funnel. Throughout the text hyperlinking other blog posts wherever possible can also generate a lead.

Not every blog post will be as effective at generating leads as others, but it is still worth putting out some posts that aren’t necessarily lead generation focused as long as they provide value to the community. The more quality content available, the more trustworthy the business appears.

 

A Free Marketing Strategy

Adding blog posts to a business website is a free form of marketing, and it works in everyone’s favor. As a business owner, the keywords are being noticed by every search engine which is making your website a lot easier to find in the never-ending space that is the internet. Every new post can be shared on social media by current audiences which could easily lead to the friends and families of that audience following you as well.

 

Guest Posting

Once a business blog has a decent amount of followers’ guest posting is a great way to widen the reach. It works by featuring posts written by other companies that are still relatable to your audience. In most cases, it works both ways, you would feature other companies blog post, and they would feature yours. That way you are tapping into each other’s audiences and those that are interested will start to follow the business’s blog. This is another form of free advertising and is extremely effective for increasing followers.

 

It’s for The Long Term

The beauty of blogs for businesses is that they are for the long-term. As long as they remain on a live website, they will continue to be accessible. Usually, when a new blog post is uploaded, it will receive a slightly higher number of views, and then it tends to settle down. But, the best part is that a week, a month, or even a few years after posting it search engines will continue to pick up the content and scan for the keywords.

Traffic will still be generated which in turn creates leads. In fact, research suggests that the longer the post is active and the older it gets, the more likely it is to generate leads.

Any company can benefit from having a blog, and since the business will likely have its own website anyway, it’s an extremely low-cost expense. Blogs will define the character of the business and will highlight the areas that make your business stand out from the crowd. Even the smallest of companies can benefit from having a blog, and since it’s a free form of marketing, it might just cost more not to have one.

 

Female student working on project at home, view over the shoulder, selective focus
Female student working on project at home, view over the shoulder, selective focus

Habits You Can Adopt to Become a Successful Content Creator

The “Epic of Gilgamesh” was written in 2100 BC. Since then, there has been a myriad of stories told all around the world. From chilling tales of hell such as Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to beautiful tales of cruelty and triumph like “Snow White” and “Lord of the Rings.” Although the narrative in all of these stories may vary, the one thing they have in common is that they are all very well written (well, the best of them are).

As a content creator living and working in a world where 90% of all successful businesses heavily depend on your ability to sell their brand to their target market with your storytelling skills, being able to write and write well is key to your and their success.

Suffice it to say, storytelling, just like selling, is a learned skill. Yes, you might have a natural flair with words, but unless you deliberately adopt habits that help you perfect your writing skills, you may never reach your full potential (earning potential) as a gifted content creator.

 

Common Habits of Successful Content Creators

While it is true that there is no known formula for success, it is also true that there are some habits that do greatly increase your chances of achieving it (whatever success might be in your eyes).  That being said, here are some habits that you can adopt to become a successful content creator:

 

Educate yourself on industry-related trends and news

The best content creators are those that entertain as well as educate their readers. To do that, you need to know what is happening in your chosen niche. Staying up to date with industry news and trends is one way to get content. It is also an excellent way to get into the mindset of your reader.

  • What is it they are currently interested in?
  • What news can you bring them?

It is also an easy way to ensure that your content is relevant to your readers. The best way to stay up to date is to come up with a list of websites that share industry-related news and trends on a daily basis. You can also set up an industry-related RSS feed on apps such as “Flym News Reader” or “Feedly” to keep you updated.

Additionally, you could join a forum or social media group of like-minded content creators and see what it is they are reading to stay ahead of the game.

 

Always look to improve your craft

People who are excellent at what they do are always looking for ways to be better. They read a lot, practice a lot and seek out constructive criticism from people they deem more knowledgeable in their particular subject matter. As a content creator, there is a good chance that you have writer’s you admire within and without your industry. Try to network with these writers and see how you can help improve each other’s craft.

  • Go to meetups
  • Take courses online
  • Go to seminars

Most importantly, however, is to keep writing on a regular basis. This way you become more comfortable with your craft and develop a rhythm that could end up making you more productive.

 

Write with your audience in mind

It is one thing to be a great writer in your own mind and quite another to be a great writer in the eyes of your audience. The crazy truth is that you might even have slightly better than average grammatical prowess, but if you can’t find a way to speak directly to your audience and capture their attention, a significant percentage of them won’t even notice your semi-wanting writing skills.

This is why it is important to stay current on industry-related news and trends. It is also why you need to be an active member in forums that host your target readership. This way you will get to read and see their concerns; concerns that you can, later on, address through your writing.

 

Come up with a rigid schedule

A rigid schedule doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to write for 8 hours every single day from Monday to Friday (although if that works for you, well and good). This only means that you have to come up with a highly productive schedule that you adhere to no matter what happens.

Let’s be honest, content creators like most creatives are artists at heart. This means that they are often more comfortable “creating” when they find their muse.

However, as a content creator who is dead set on being successful, you cannot sit around for half a year waiting to find your muse. You need to write every day or at least every so often to be productive and useful enough to your clients.

It is therefore imperative that you come up with a rigid schedule to follow. You can batch your writing (take one or two days every week where you do all your writing) or you could come up with specific hours in the day when you are most productive to go somewhere quiet and write. It is all up to you, but you MUST come up with a schedule.

 

Break your projects down into little chunks

Which one do you find easier to do? One big 2,000-word article or 10 little 200-word articles? Most people would prefer the ten little 200-word articles. They seem simple enough to take on as opposed to the imposing 2,000-word mammoth. If you look closely, you will see that the ten little 200-word articles come up to 2,000 words in total anyway.

Breaking your projects down into little chunks is a great way to make a huge article seem very little and easy to do. With every project, be sure to write an outline with as many subheadings and bullet points as possible. This will make it easier for you to write, keep you on track when you really get going and digress a lot as well as make it easier for your readers to skim and digest. Win-win-win!

Of course, all these are just pointers on things that have already worked for the best in the industry. You have to find a formula that works for you in particular, but these tips are a good place to start.