Imagine this. You walk into a beginner’s art class and the teacher tells you to paint a masterpiece or fail. Then she hands you a paintbrush and leaves the room.
Isn’t the term masterpiece subjective? Where’s the paint? …And how do I even use this brush?
This may sum up how it feels when someone tells you to create compelling content. Without the right tools and know-how, it’s incredibly frustrating.
So let’s start with a definition.
And don’t worry. I’m not leaving the room yet. There’s plenty more to come.
What is compelling content?
Compelling content is irresistible. It’s the kind of content that is painful for your readers to ignore. It starts with a title that piques their curiosity. Then it keeps them hanging on because they simply must know more.
Why is it so hard to write compelling content?
Here’s where things get confusing. It’s easy for most people to come up with fun and compelling ideas for a piece about an upcoming mission to Mars. But what if you have to write about dental services? Or accounting practices? This is when the implementation process gets fuzzy.
Just remember there’s no such thing as a boring topic.
That’s right. Even dentistry is exciting to someone. And if you’re tasked to write about it, that someone may be in your audience. Don’t let them down.
Our challenge is to make your content irresistible.
So let’s release the cloudy images of what may or may not be compelling. This post will walk you through five tangible ways to create compelling content. Follow them, and you’re on your way to creating a masterpiece.
1. Come Up With Ideas That Will Resonate With Your Audience
You may have a running list of post ideas that you just can’t wait to put onto paper. But remember…
It’s all about what hits home with your target audience.
Fortunately, figuring this out isn’t rocket science (unlike that trip to Mars). Follow these steps to find article topics that resonate with your audience.
Here are three ways to learn what your audience wants:
BuzzSumo – Visit BuzzSumo.com and enter the most descriptive keyword for your niche. This may be the top-level keyword you’re targeting for your site. So if you are in the business of dental implants, type that in BuzzSumo’s search bar to see what comes up.
From the results, you will see the most shared content with this key phrase.
Scroll through the results and note the post topics you see. Here are some trends I observed.
When it comes to dental implants, people are interested in three things:
- Breakthrough technology – Stem cells can help you regrow your own teeth!
- Happy or inspirational stories – Veteran finally gets new dental implants, Restoring happiness with dental implants
- Cost – How much do dental implants cost?
Next, put your own spin on these to create compelling content. These ideas may help get you going:
- Set Google News alerts – In this example, the stem cell story was written into the ground. Avoid stories like this (with too much exposure) unless you have a new angle. But you can be the first to write about the next big thing. Set up a Google News alert to let you know as news breaks in your industry.
- Write Customer stories – If you have customers, you have stories. Invite customers to share them with you. Then, with their permission, use the best, most heartfelt stories in your content.
- Be more specific – Taking from the example above, “How much do dental implants cost?” You can see that this is a general title that has likely been covered 2 million times over. What can you add to make your content more interesting? Let’s brainstorm with a few rough ideas:
a. 7 reasons why dental implants are worth the cost
b. Here’s what the cost of dental implants buys you
c. This unexpected surprise is included in the cost of dental implants (the surprise is how much of a confidence boost you’ll get)
Side note: BuzzSumo will show you how many shares an article got. It cannot discount shady practices, such as paying for shares. If the shares on an article seem too good to be true, they likely are. Just ignore it and move on. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often and it is rather obvious when it does.
ahrefs – Ahrefs is a great link building tool you can use to check the SEO health of your own website and the websites of your competitors, but it can also be a great content marketing tool. Here’s how to come up with unique and compelling content based on what works for your competitors.
- Make a list of the top 3-5 competitors in your space.
- Enter a competitor’s URL in the search bar and search.
- Click “Best by links” on the sidebar menu.
- Sort results by Dofollow.
- Look for the first three blog posts in your results. Jot down the titles.
- Do this for all 3-5 competitive sites.
Once you have your full list, look through to see if you notice any trends. If it helps, jot down categories that seem to work best for your competition. Then, figure out how you can write a better article.
Remember, this isn’t about copying someone else’s work. That’s blatant stealing, and there’s no real benefit. If anyone can go to your competitor’s site and read the same article, why would they come to yours?
Quora – If you aren’t already using Quora to help build authority, you’re missing out. Asking and answering questions in your field is a great way to prove your value on a specific topic. But that’s a post for another day. Today, we’re looking at how to use Quora to come up with post ideas. It’s easy. It’s even kinda fun. Here’s how it’s done:
- Search for your topic on Quora.com
- Review answered and unanswered questions.
- Make two lists. The first list will include the most popular (from the feed) questions. The second list will include interesting unanswered questions.
Once you have your lists, you’ll have to use your judgment to see which are best suited to become posts for your site. Again, even when you have the topics, you should put your own spin on the question to create your post. The best post could even be a combination of questions.
Here are a few ideas I pulled from this exercise on Divorce Law. If this were your business, you may start thinking things like:
- Princess Diana’s Divorce is a hot topic. Is there any way to relate it to another, possibly newer, hot topic?
- People fear the 50-50 split. Consider using a celebrity couple to illustrate what would likely happen if they got divorced. In which situations would the spouse be entitled to half?
- Everyone wants to prepare for the best possible outcome. A post about how to get your finances in order before divorce may hit home with this audience.
And if you haven’t spent much time on Quora until today, now is a good time to nose around. Read through all the questions and answers to get an idea of what’s on your customers’ minds. You may be surprised.
2. Create Headlines (and Content) That Convert
How can I put this delicately?
Your headline is EVERYTHING.
Not to lay the pressure on too thick, but if you blow it here, you’ve lost. EVERYTHING.
The headline is what entices readers to click on your content. If you get it wrong, no one will read your post. And that’s an incredibly sad fate for your precious words.
You really, really want to learn and practice these tricks.
How to Write Killer Headlines
Much like we did in the first tip, we’re going to borrow from what has worked in the past. The headline types that follow have been used successfully by various businesses for years.
We aren’t about to steal someone else’s headline, but we’re going to find creative ways to spin the formula to work for our needs.
As you look through the following headline examples, remember that they are just examples. You should never promise more than you can deliver. So something like “whiten your teeth for life” may be a bit of an overreach.
Your headline should be as enticing as possible, but not so enticing that you promise the impossible. Making a claim you can’t back up is a surefire way to annoy your audience. And if you get under their skin, they’ll be less likely to click your links in the future. Remember the old cliché, fool me once…
With those things in mind, let’s explore some tried-and-true formulas to create compelling headlines of your own.
- Unlock The Secret of [Blank]
It may seem overused, but it works. Everyone wants to get straight to the point and learn something only a pro can teach them. This can work for any topic or industry. And the formula can be tweaked for originality.
Uncover One Secret Trick That Will Whiten Your Teeth for Life
The Secret to Amazing Content Starts with This
Become Instantly More Attractive with This Surprising Secret
- X Ways to Get Rid of [Problem]
Most products and services solve a problem, so this headline can easily be adapted to fit your needs. It works for readers because it promises fast problem resolution. And who doesn’t want that?
5 Easy Ways to Rid Your Home of Bedbugs Now
Get Rid of Acne for Good in 3 Simple Steps
How to Rid Yourself of Back Pain in 5 Simple Steps
- Which Type of Person Are You?
The popularity of quizzes tells us something we already knew. By nature, we’re vain and we’re curious. This headline draws people into your topic by relating it to their own life.
There Are 7 Types of Exam Personalities. Which Are You?
You Might Be Embarrassed If You Fit This Common Profile
Which of These 2 Types of People Are You?
- X Things [Pop Culture Reference] Taught Us About [Topic]
Every generation is nostalgic for things from their past, but we’re seeing that millennials take this to a new level. That may be why this headline type is so popular these days. But don’t worry, you can easily switch it up to keep it fresh.
3 Surprising Life Lessons I Learned from the Pink Power Ranger
7 Things About Marketing You’ll Learn from Seinfeld Reruns
11 Ways Lisa from the Simpsons Changed Your World View
- Why [Person] Got [Topic] All Wrong
This headline makes a bold statement, so you had better be prepared to back it up. With that said, this headline gets clicks because people are naturally drawn to controversy.
Here’s What Was Wrong with Obama’s Last Speech
11 Times Chris Crocker Was Wrong About Brittney Spears
What Pharrell Williams Forgot to Mention About Happiness
Continue the momentum through your story
When you’re writing a post or article, it’s easy to think about yourself. Even if you come up with the most benefit-driven, selfless headline, it’s easy to stray. Most writers start strong, but some end up writing the post they want to write instead of what readers are expecting.
Remember, your readers clicked because they’re interested in the headline. Stay on point. Here are two tips to help:
- Proof often – Especially if you’re writing a long article, take proofing breaks every now and again. Read through with one question in mind, “Are these words delivering on my headline’s promise?” If the answer is no, cut or revise that section.
- Have a friend read it – You may be too close to the topic to realize whether you are going astray. Ask a friend to read it and tell you whether they thought any part was unnecessary to the point.
#3 Make Your Content A “Share” Magnet
When someone shares your content, it’s as good as them saying, “Hey, this is compelling.” In essence, sharable content is the same as compelling content. It compels people to share.
So let’s do a little reverse engineering to create content people will want to share.
There are at least three basic reasons people share things online.
- Convey personality – We all have an online persona, and it is partly formed by the things we share. Think about how this applies to your favorite online personality.
George Takei is a good example. He’s known for sharing funny, punny things. Most of his audience doesn’t know him personally, but they think they do. This is thanks to a consistent content message and a strong voice.
- Helping others – If you see something in your newsfeed that would help a friend, would you share it? So do most other people. When your content is helpful, people are more likely to hit the share button.
- Give kudos to great content – When was the last time you read something so amazing that you felt compelled to share? Maybe the topic doesn’t resonate with you, but you share to promote its craft and creativity. Create something you can be proud of and it is more likely to be shared.
4. Use Subheads And Bullets To Create Scannable Content
Have you ever heard of the squint test? It’s used by designers and content creators to determine whether a layout is compelling.
The squint test is quite literal. Put your content on a page, step back and squint. If you’re seeing giant blocks of text, your content has failed. What should stand out are the elements on the page that are most important. These are the ones you want your readers to focus on. This method works especially well on landing pages. But it can also help determine whether your blog post is readable.
There’s even a browser extension that does the squinting for you.
In the example above, which would you rather read?
Break big blocks of text into smaller paragraphs and add sub-headlines wherever it makes sense. And choose an easy-to-read font to help people skim through the article.
5. Rely On The Psychology Of Visual Content
If you want readers to stick around to decide whether your content is compelling…
Color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by a whopping 82%. We like images because our brain’s process them faster. Sixty-thousand times faster than text, to be exact.
Visual content also helps in a less expected way. By adding an image to your text, you instantly shorten the number of characters in the adjacent lines. This helps readers make snap decisions about your content. If the content (visual and text) is good, they will continue reading.
People only linger long enough to read 28 percent of the text on a page, so make it as scannable as possible. Images help.
It’s Time To Pick Up The Paintbrush
Now that you have the tools and know-how to create compelling content, you can get started. Just don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Content creation, brainstorming and implementation takes time to get right.
Now go forth and create your masterpiece!