Content marketing is often proclaimed to be one of the most valuable, effective marketing strategies available. But there’s a critical caveat to that description; people have to read your content for it to be valuable in any way. Of course, content comes in many forms—when I say “read” what I actually mean is “consume”. A person would need to read an article in the same way they would need to watch a video or listen to an interview—the point is, if a person isn’t engaging with your material, your material isn’t worth anything. So why people aren’t reading your content?
There are several potential reasons that could prevent someone from reading your material, and learning to prevent or mitigate those reasons can help you improve your readership (and therefore your entire content campaign). Pay special attention to these seven potential reasons, which I have found to be some of the most common and most devastating.
1. Why people aren’t reading your content? Because they can’t find your content.
The first problem is possibly the most innocuous, but it’s also one of the easiest to fix. Let’s say you’ve written a wonderful piece of content, ripe with detail and with a valuable, appealing headline. How will people know it exists if you don’t show them that it exists? Producing content in a vacuum is a sure way to prevent your content from getting read. It’s not enough to simply post a blog or video to your site and hope that people will eventually stumble across it (though it can help your search engine ranks). If you want your content to be seen, you need to take effort to get it in front of people. Publish it on higher-traffic platforms. Syndicate it on social media. Let the people know it exists.
2. Your topic isn’t valuable.
When I use the word “valuable,” I cover a lot of ground. “Valuable” could mean practical—in the sense that your content helps people accomplish something in their daily lives. It could mean entertaining—in the sense that it provides an escape for people looking for a little amusement. It could mean informative, or insightful, or educational as well. But if your topic doesn’t accomplish any of those things, people aren’t going to read it. There needs to be an incentive to reading your material, and that incentive needs to be clear to the average reader.
3. Your headline isn’t convincing.
Even a great article can suffer from a lousy headline. Take this article for example—would you have clicked it if it instead read “How to Write Better Content?” It’s arguably just as accurate, but it’s not as specific, it’s not as concise, and it offers no zest to catch readers’ attentions. At once, your headline should inform the reader about your topic (and your intentions in publishing it), the value of the material, and some degree of entertainment or sensationalism. Otherwise, your headline is likely to fall flat in the sea of other, more competitive publications—even if the content behind your headline is stronger than all of them.
4. There’s no downside to waiting.
We live in a fast-paced society, especially when it comes to online interactions and engagements. People make decisions in fractions of a second, and all it takes is one questionable impression to turn them away or prevent them from taking action. Getting readers in front of your content demands an action from the readers themselves—usually in the form of clicking a link. Any excuse to delay that action (such as your content not being compelling enough to read “right now”) will probably result in the action being delayed—indefinitely. If you want people to click on your link and read your article, you need to convince them to do so right now, in this moment, with a sense of urgency or special importance.
5. Your article can be summed up in the introduction.
How much of your article is given away by your headline and your introduction? Is the rest of your content just filler you used to take up space? If so, people won’t stick around for long. It will take them a few seconds to realize there isn’t much substantive material in your content, and then, they will leave. If you want people to stay, you need detailed examples, supporting evidence, arguments and counterarguments, and statistics—things people won’t be able to gather easily on their own. In short, add more meat to your content or people will bounce after only a few moments.
6. Your content is bulky and impenetrable.
On the other side of the spectrum, it’s entirely possible that your content is simply too thick to be readable. This is especially true of written articles—if a user sees long pages of extended, flat paragraphs, he will likely be intimidated to leave. Today’s readers want to see highlighted text with italics and bold fonts, bulleted lists, numbered lists, clear heading and subheadings, and other markers that make the article more scannable and easy to read. Mark up your content this way to encourage your readers to stick around.
7. It’s dull or difficult to get through.
Aside from the formatting, it could be that your article is too dully written or presented to support readers getting through the entire piece. Develop your own unique brand voice to distinguish your material from those of your competitors, and be sure to add a degree of personality and flair to keep things interesting.
Once you know why someone isn’t reading your piece of content, you can take an appropriate corrective action. Many of these reasons are subjective, so don’t be frustrated if your initial changes don’t force a sudden shift in reader behavior. For the most part, changes need to be applied iteratively, gradually making progress toward the ultimate goal of producing something that everyone in your target market wants to read. It’s a learning process, but if you stick with it, the rewards are well worth the effort.
If you want to get 30 effective techniques to master content marketing along with valuable insights from 10+ influencers like Mark Schaefer, Rebecca Lieb, Lee Odden, Jason Miller or Ian Cleary, download our free eBook now!
Image by Maxime MARAIS.