What Makes Content Compelling?

young cat peering around edge of computer screen

We’ve all heard it before — if you want readers to return to your blog and bring friends, then write compelling content. So, how do we do that exactly? What makes content compelling?

Preparation

It’s tempting to sit before the screen and pound out a few hundred words in order to check “write blog post” off our daily to-do list. We can get away with that from time to time, but publishing seat-of-the-pants posts on a consistent basis will not grow our readership.

There are two main things we need to know and know well — first of all, our audience, and next, our topic. Readers read for three main reasons: Entertainment, Education, and Escape, so our job as bloggers is to know how to entertain our unique audience, what they hope to learn from our blog, and what they need to escape from.

If we sit in the seat prepared to deliver on at least one of those three items with each and every post, our readers will return. And invite their friends.

Precision

Our writing needs to be conversational, but we need to avoid babbling, too. If your writing is plagued with an overabundance of prepositions and vague qualifiers, check out the series of posts tagged “Breaking Bad Habits” which includes tips for concise writing.

Personality

Much of the craft of writing can be taught, but voice is the one thing writers learn by writing. Voice is what makes your writing unique. It’s where your personality shines through the words and lets the readers get to know you.

I’m not talking about the 19th Century author intrusion type of voice (Think: Mark Twain, who is one of my favorite authors), which is a no-no in today’s fiction-writing realm, but being oneself on the page. As one writer, whose name I forgot, put it, “If it sounds like writing, I re-write it.”

Produce Curiosity

Raise questions throughout the piece. Barney the Purple Dinosaur says “please and thank you are the magic words,” but in blogging, the magic words are “How?” and “Why?”

We’ve discussed in an earlier posts that questions make the human brain go Waka Waka (“Headlines that Make You Go Hmm. . .“). That’s because the brain is a problem-solving machine. Spotting questions that need answered engages the brain and keeps the reader reading.

This is how novelists produce page-turners, especially in the suspense genre. Fast-paced fiction is a series of unanswered questions, that the reader must keep reading in order to answer. The best novelists don’t even ask the question blatantly, but the underlying “How’s she going to get out of THAT scrape?” is there.

Bloggers can employ this tactic, too, but usually nonfiction writers spell out the question, which is fine. The point is to keep that reader’s brain active and searching, which means he will keep reading. And once one question is resolved, throw out another one. Keep the reader’s mind on a Q&A roller coaster.

Passion

We’ve talked about writing about topics we’re passionate about (“Ready, Aim, Blog“). Not only should we write about our passions, but writing with passion will engage the reader.

Throw in your opinion. Be controversial. Be in love with your topic. Writing with emotion will help evoke emotion in your readers, and if they’re emotionally involved, they’ll stick with your post to the end.

Problem-solve

This goes back to knowing your audience and what they’ve come to learn. Successful blogs produce post after post that solves problems unique to their target audience.

Bring up the problem in the lead or opening, and let your reader know if they continue through to the end of the post, they’ll have the answers they seek.

This post began by asking what makes content compelling and how do we produce it. Hopefully you’ve already found some good answers to those questions. Keep reading and I’ll share a few more content-creation tips.

Promote Interaction

There are many ways to involve your audience on your blog:

  • Polls (people are curious and like to return and check the resutlts)
  • Contests & competitions
  • Asking questions, especially at the end of your post
  • Challenging the readers with a next step or call to action
  • Writing a series of posts on a topic promotes anticipation for the next installment

Provide Information

Give value to your readers. Make their time spent reading your blog worth their while. Take-aways and actionable steps they can implement immediately are great ways to keep readers coming back.

Permit Some Wiggle Room

Have you ever been to a presentation where the speaker asked if anyone had questions and the audience stared back at her with blank faces? She probably covered the topic so thoroughly, no one could think of anything to ask.

If you make every blog post as comprehensive as possible, there is little left for readers to share in the comments section for questions or for comments.

Hopefully you’ve found this information helpful, but I’m sure there are more tips on creating compelling content. What are your thoughts?

Until next time,

Happy blogging!

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2 comments ↓

#1 Karen Cioffi on 03.18.10 at 5:41 pm

This is great advice. It’s important to know what your readers are looking for and it’s just as important to provide it.

#2 Linda Fulkerson on 03.18.10 at 8:16 pm

I’m glad you found this helpful, Karen! Thanks for commenting.

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