As the world of content marketing becomes ever more competitive, the types of posts you publish can significantly impact both your rankings and your conversion rates.
It may come as no surprise that most readers will want to read posts that interest them, as opposed to long-winded articles that are nothing more than sales pitches. As a brand, it is your job to get over your ego and what you perceive are your main needs – to promote your product or service. Instead, you’ll need to start catering to the interests and needs of your audience first.
Once you make this shift, you can expect to see the results you were hoping to achieve with the hard sell. You’ll get more checkouts, a more loyal readership, and more engagement on your posts. Here’s how to create reader-focused blog posts that will help you achieve your content marketing goals.
Know Your Audience
Understanding why people read your posts is the most important part of creating content with the reader in mind. If you don’t know what a reader is looking for, you won’t be able to meet their expectations.
Start by learning more about search intent and the way people look for answers to specific topics. For example, those who are looking to make a purchase and those who are looking to use a product they already know better will be typing different words into a search engine.
Also make sure to check out the content that is currently available on the topic. If there’s already a post out there that says it all, you may not need to add your voice to the crowd.
Once you understand what someone would like to see from a post, tailor the language of the post to the topic and the reader. When writing a technical piece, you don’t need to oversimplify matters. If you are writing for novices, don’t use terms they won’t understand.
Aim to also align your content to the different stages of the sales funnel. If a reader is just starting to explore your line of product, top-level content should cover more general topics. If they are buying a specific topic, they should be served detailed guides on it.
Take a look at how well Anna Newton knows her audience. One of her most-watched YouTube videos, and generally a topic she is known for on the web, is her capsule wardrobe. She has thus created a super-helpful blog post that tells her audience how to make one and provides a handy checklist.
This is the most popular topic on her website, so she has clearly understood what the readers want and answered the need.
Supplement Written Content with Video
Readers will sometimes prefer to listen and watch rather than read. This is especially true for more complex topics or topics that require a bit of a visual demonstration.
Think of a topic like changing the P-trap on your kitchen sink. Would you like to read a very detailed guide, or would you rather watch someone do it?
Note, however, that we are advocating supplementing your written content. Don’t replace your writing with a video. Instead, add video to appeal to a wider range of people and to cater to different needs.
Video will help you add more value to the written content, prolong the reader’s time on page, and, incidentally, rank better.
Note that not all blog posts will benefit from a video, so only create them (or embed somebody else’s) for the posts that truly need them. A topic like “top 5 beaches in Hawaii” may not need a video – you can provide additional value with images alone.
A great example of a company incorporating video into their posts well is Scott’s Cheap Flights. The brand has done a great job of describing the process of using Google Flights and has added plenty of images, but the video guide provides even more value, and you can literally follow along and do your own search.
The user who doesn’t want to spend the time reading through several thousand words will jump at the chance to get all of their questions answered in a step-by-step video.
Get to the Point and Stick to It
Long-winded introductions tend to irritate people. Unless they’ve come to a post specifically because of the author’s writing style and want to read it from top to bottom, they will most likely skip the intro and dive right into the post.
The sooner you start giving the reader what they’ve come for, the more likely they are to stay on the page. Cut out the long introduction, and use a couple of sentences to describe what you are about to talk about.
Try not to be too wordy, either. Remember that a search engine also starts reading your post from the top, so the more precisely you can say what the article is about, the better.
Meandering from the point will also get on your reader’s nerves. People want their questions answered, and they don’t want to be sold to, nor are they particularly interested in the entertainment factor you might want to provide.
Of course, you can write in your unique voice and even include puns and make the most of your wit. Just make sure that readers don’t need to search for the answer to their query in the haystack of your verbosity.
This product comparison article on Kartra vs Kajabi is a great example of a post that answers the reader’s main question without much delay. After a useful introduction, the writer immediately gets to the point, identifying which of the two tools is better for which kind of user.
Oftentimes, writers feel like an early answer to the main question would prevent readers from reading the entire post, and this may sometimes be the case. But, you have to ask yourself, if that’s your primary concern, are you really creating content with your readers’ needs in mind?
Write Meaningful Subheadings
Most readers will simply skim through an article to gather the information they want. They’ll rarely read every paragraph, and they’ll only stop to gather more info about the parts that they are particularly interested in.
Note how this post is written. All you need to do is read through the subheadings to understand what it is you need to do to write better reader-focused posts. If one of these topics has caught your eye, you’ll stop to read that specific paragraph.
In other words, no one may even be reading this sentence. If you are, give us a shout!
The better your subheadings, the easier it will be for a reader to understand where they are in your text, and the more compelled they will feel to read what you have to say about that specific point.
Look at this Copyblogger post on writing subheadings. Their three sub-heads hook you to read the rest of the post but at the same time provide enough detail for the impatient who don’t have the time and the willpower to keep reading. Everyone who has opened that article will walk away with the answer they have come looking for.
Lay Your Information Out Intelligently
In order to captivate the attention of your audience, use the inverted triangle method in your writing.
In journalism, the inverted pyramid demands that you start with the most important information first. Provide all the information about the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why up front. Then, go on to provide any supporting information.
When it comes to blog post writing, this means summarizing the key information first. This may seem counterintuitive, and you may believe you should write as much as you can before giving the reader what they’ve come for to keep them on the page for longer. But this would actually be the wrong way to go about it.
The sooner the reader’s needs are met, the sooner they will be able to relax. In turn, they are more likely to stick around and learn more about this topic they are interested in. If you ask them to read a thousand words before getting to the point, they will click off in a matter of seconds.
You should also remember that people may scan your pages in the F-pattern and focus most of their attention on the top and the left side. This is where you should place the most valuable information, ensuring it’s right there in their line of vision.
However, there are other reading patterns, and not all of your readers will stick to the top of your page. So, as long as you get to your point quickly, you should be on the right path.
Make the Content Easy to Read
Your content needs to be easy to read. No matter how useful the information you are sharing is, if all you give your readers is a wall of text, they will struggle to get through it.
Studies have proven that the process of “chunking” written content helps users process, understand, and retain written information.
There are many ways that a writer can chunk their content. The most obvious way to do so is with visual elements like images, videos, and other HTML components.
This post on being a digital nomad in Mexico is a terrific example of how to use this technique to break the monotony of text. The post is just short of 5,000 words, but the writer has used various visual elements liberally throughout the post, making the content extremely accessible for readers.
If, for various reasons, your post can’t be chunked with visual elements, there are ways you can ensure that your written content doesn’t alienate your readers. This can be tricky to do, but it is possible, as evidenced in this post by Unscramblex.
To get this right, the publishers have used a combination of the following techniques:
- The post is written in a large font.
- Paragraphs are extremely short.
- Spacing between paragraphs is generous.
- The font stands out very clearly on the page’s background color.
- There are plenty of subheadings.
- The writer uses several bullet point lists.
You can also use collapsible content elements to prevent your reader from getting overwhelmed by too much text. This is especially useful if the post is very long or if you’re discussing a complex subject. Remember that your readers will feel a bit self-conscious while trying to learn something new, so making them feel comfortable can go a long way.
This post on card sorting is a great example of this tactic. It is actually very long and detailed, but you would never see it. It is also super useful, and the subheadings themselves are enough to give you a great overview of the process. When you want to know more, all you need to do is open that specific element.
Provide Exceptional Informational Value
In order to become the best possible resource on a given topic, you will need to bring your A-game to the table. Don’t hold back on the details, and research your topic so that you become the most competent author you can be.
Ideally, you want to write about topics that you already understand so that any further research only deepens your understanding. When this is not the case, strive to gain as much insight as you possibly can.
You want the reader to be blown away by what they have learned from you, so adding personal experiences, examples, research data, and anything else you can think of that will help them feel experts themselves is a big bonus.
Take a look at this series of posts on voice acting. This is a very in-depth guide on a specific topic, created for a very specific niche. As such, it needs to be exceptionally valuable.
All of the posts in the series provide exceptional insight and advice for aspiring voice actors. There are examples, there is research, there are tips from other voice actors.
Every page provides links to other pages that cover a topic in even more depth. A reader can spend days going through this material alone and feel confident they can start earning a living recording voice overs.
Have a Logical Reason to Talk About Your Product
Let’s not forget that the main goal of your blog posts is to sell your product or service. Unless you find a way to mention it, most readers won’t ever see it or know you have it.
When coming up with the topics for your blog posts, consider which products you will be able to mention in a natural way. Don’t shoehorn a product’s features just so you can get an internal link out of it.
Remember: your readers want answers. They don’t want to feel like they are being sold to. The sale should unfold logically.
Take a look at this post on the best repricer for Amazon and how it has managed to mention the product without making it sound sales-y. True, the topic is very specific and its purpose is clearly to introduce the brand’s own solution, but it has been done in a very gentle way.
These types of posts can help you gain the kinds of traffic that will be more likely to convert.
Another company that does this very well is Semrush. Their blog posts on search engine marketing all aim to educate a reader, but they also interweave their solution so naturally that you don’t ever question the intention.
You may need some practice to come up with the most natural way to mention yourself. But as long as you aim to provide value to the reader, they won’t mind a subtle product placement if it isn’t shoved down their throats.
Writing reader-focused blog posts is an excellent way to take your blogging efforts to the next level. While it may take some time to re-adjust your focus, with a bit of practice, you can soon start producing the kind of content that both search engines and readers genuinely like to see.