Readers’

4 Ways to Make Your Content Gripping to Readers

mind grip

Do your readers hang on to your every word?

I bet they don’t.

Okay, that’s not fair because mine don’t all either.

The facts clearly show that a large chunk of your readers will skim your content, no matter what.

But that still leaves a lot of readers.

And these readers can choose to skim as well, read somewhat closely, or read every single word you write.

I think you’ll agree that the last option is the best for us as content creators.

Think of the blogs you read on a regularly basis. How many recent posts have really gripped you?

I mean those cases when you read every single word because you couldn’t help it.

Maybe one or two?

It’s certainly not common. And because it’s challenging to create content that does grip your readers, you won’t be able to achieve it in every case.

But that’s the goal that you should have in mind. It’s what I’m always trying to do when I write a blog post, guide, or guest post.

In this post, I want to share four methods that I personally try to use to accomplish this.

Start incorporating these tactics into your own content, one-by-one, and I guarantee that you’ll start seeing more comments, more subscribers, and better on-page metrics (like time on page, bounce rate, etc.). 

1. We NEED answers as readers

The first requirement for gripping content is that it needs to be interesting.

It doesn’t matter how well-written something is if your reader doesn’t have at least some interest in it.

I’m going to assume that you can come up with some decent content ideas fairly interesting to your audience.

More importantly, you need to use a principle called curiosity gaps as often as possible.

Curiosity gaps have less to do with what you’re writing about and more with how you are writing—to maximize interest.

Here’s what a curiosity gap is:

The more we are interested in finding an answer, and the less of an idea we have of what the answer actually is, the more curious we are. A curiosity gap is the space in between what we know and what we want to know.

Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed use curiosity gaps in their headlines all the time, despite their claims that they don’t.

image03

And it’s because they work.

Joanna Wiebe, from Copy Hackers, implemented curiosity gaps on a pricing page and increased clicks on it by 927%.

Using curiosity gaps to make your content gripping: Okay, neat, but how do you actually use curiosity gaps in your content?

You can’t control what your reader already knows; that’s going to be different for everyone.

What you can control is how much they want to know the answer to something.

It starts off with the benefit that your content provides. That’s where you get the initial interest.

The benefit might be:

  • Showing how to make an extra $ 1,000 a month
  • Teaching how to use a tool to save 5 hours a week
  • Learning from your 10 biggest mistakes as a business owner
  • Or anything else that most of your readers would want to find out.

If you emphasize a good benefit in your headline and first few paragraphs, you’ve already built up some interest—perfect.

Now, you need to deepen the curiosity gap by increasing your reader’s desire to know the answer even more.

There are a few ways to do that, but the best way is to surprise them.

Take that first example I just gave you: a method to make an extra $ 1,000 a month.

Most readers will be interested in it, but they’ll also assume that it’s going to be straightforward, like working an extra 5 hours a week or getting a second job.

Instead, you need to surprise them.

What if we changed it to: A non-obvious method to make an extra $ 1,000 a month.

Now, the reader is even more interested because they don’t even have a good guess at your answer.

But you can apply this within your content itself, not just the headline and first paragraph.

Tell the reader that you’ll reveal a trick or secret of yours to get even better results from whatever you’re writing about.

The final note I need to make here is that you need to deliver on your surprise. If you promise a non-obvious method, it needs to actually be non-obvious, or you’ll lose your reader’s trust.

2. If you saw an angel, wouldn’t you pay attention?

We’ve all seen it on TV: a guy sees a girl he thinks is beautiful, the music starts playing, and light begins radiating outwards from her.

All of a sudden, he can’t focus on anything else but her.

That’s obviously not completely realistic, but it has some truth to it:

When we are in awe of something, or even just impressed by it, we focus our attention on it.

Can you guess how this applies to content?

If your reader is impressed by either you or your content, they’ll be glued to every word on the page.

The tough part is finding a way to impress your readers.

One of the best methods to do that is to use the “halo effect”: once we see someone or something in a positive light, we rate them highly in other aspects as well.

For example, studies showed that we naturally think that beautiful people are kinder, more trustworthy, and smarter than less attractive people.

But it goes beyond just basic traits.

One study had subjects grade a written essay, but only after they saw a photo of the supposed author. Some study participants were shown photos of attractive authors, and others were shown photos of unattractive authors.

Here’s the twist: the essay was the same regardless of the author photo the subjects saw. 

The researchers found that the clearly attractive authors got a rating of 6.7 out of 10, but the unattractive writers got only 5.9 out of 10.

On a different essay with the same setup, the attractive authors got 5.2, while unattractive authors got only 2.7.

Basically, if a reader thinks highly of you in one area, their opinion of you will transfer over to other areas and, in particular, your content.

When we like people or are impressed by them, we give them the benefit of the doubt.

image01

You’ll see a few things when you come to Quick Sprout or any of my other blogs, starting with a picture of me in the sidebar:

image00

No, I’m not ready for GQ, but I had professional pictures taken and cleaned myself up the best I could before the photo shoot.

Present yourself in the most attractive light you can, and that will carry over to your content.

It’s not all about looks: I went over only a few studies about the halo effect above, but there are many more. And others prove that the effect applies not just to looks but indeed to all traits.

If someone is really nice, we think that they’re probably smart.

If someone is really accomplished, we think their content must be amazing.

And so on…

You can see that I use the halo effect further within the biography under my picture.

When someone first finds out who I am, they see that I’ve worked with massive companies and have founded two successful companies.

When someone gets to my content, they’ll see I’m not just some random guy. Instead, they’ll think something like:

Holy crap, this guy is successful! He must know what he’s talking about, so I’d better pay attention.

But don’t think the halo effect is about tricking people. It’s about making sure they see your best traits as soon as possible.

Find a way to impress people either above or beside your content or within the content itself (tell a story that relays an impressive accomplishment).

Your face isn’t the only thing that can be pretty: Think about what makes a person attractive.

It’s not just their actions or looks. It’s also things like their clothes.

Pop quiz:

Which content do you think readers would rate higher:

  • a guide with minimal formatting?
  • a guide with a beautiful design?

The answer is obvious. The same content will be rated higher when it’s designed well, and that’s because of the halo effect.

That’s one of the reasons I spent so much on design for my advanced guides (in the sidebar):

image02

Yes, the content is great, but the design is as good, or better, than that of almost any other piece of content on the Internet.

Readers have carefully read the whole guide throughout the years not only because of the content but also because of the design.

You don’t necessarily have to go to the same length, but do whatever you can to improve the look of your content (images, formatting, font, etc.).

3. Explain complex topics like your readers are 5 years old

Think about the last piece of gripping content you read.

Chances are you weren’t scratching your head every 5 seconds or heading to Google because you didn’t understand something.

The best content isn’t written in complex terms, which is why some of the smartest people can’t write content to save their lives.

This is a very simple tweak you can make to instantly make your content more gripping—just write simpler.

You don’t have to write as if your readers were literally 5 years old, but you want to write in a way that will allow 95% of them to understand everything you wrote without having to look up words, acronyms, or other terms or concepts.

4. The same old angle is never gripping

Remember when you were a kid and when learning basic addition was fun?

Most people enjoy new things.

What they don’t enjoy is repetition.

Once you learned how to add, did you really want to spend hours every day doing it?

I’m guessing no—because doing exactly the same thing over and over is boring.

This goes back to the curiosity gap. If there is no gap (because you already know the end result), there’s no curiosity.

And yet marketers regularly produce content that is very similar to tons of other content already out there.

For example, if you search for “guest post guide,” you’ll find a few different guides from well-known sites:

image04

But you can go down hundreds of results, and you’ll still find more guest-posting guides.

Who’s going to find those interesting after they’ve learned 99% of what they need from those first few guides?

Approach it from a new direction: I’m not saying you can’t write about topics that have been written about. But I’m saying you need a unique angle that hasn’t been done (at least not too much).

More lectures on addition will be boring to anyone who can already add. However, teaching someone to add in their head could be new and fun.

Readers and students will always pay more attention to new angles and new ideas.

My challenge for you here is this: the next time you’re writing an article, see if it’s been done before. Search for similar articles.

If you find several, you need to change the approach you take to your article because chances are many of your readers have already seen those other ones.

For example, you might want to write an SEO guide.

Well, there are hundreds out there that go over all the basics of SEO, so there’s nothing you can add to that.

However, you can take unique angles to appeal to specific audiences. For example:

  • How to SEO a Joomla site in under 10 minutes
  • How SEO for a local business differs from SEO for a typical website
  • How to set up your social media accounts for better search rankings

Be different.

Conclusion

If you want true fans, you need to create content they love.

They can’t just like it because in that case they’ll often skim it.

You want them to read every single word because they can’t help it. These readers will then sign up to your email lists, buy your products, and help share your content.

This isn’t easy, which is why I showed you these four ways to make your content more gripping.

Start by applying a single method, and once you have that down, start with the next one.

Track your results before and after applying each tactic, and I think you’ll be happy with the improvements you’ll get in reader engagement.

If you’ve found any other technique particularly useful to make your content more compelling, please share it with everyone in a comment below—and I’d love to hear about it too.


Quick Sprout

8 Tools That Will Help You Get Inside Your Readers’ Heads

head

Do you hate the phrase “getting inside your reader’s head?”

Although you know you are supposed to be able to do it, you don’t have any specific instructions on how to do it.

Of course, it’s important to understand your current readers and those you are trying to attract with your content, but that’s one of the hardest skills you have to develop as a writer.

It’s going to take years of continuous improvement to become really good at it.

However, there are ways for you to get this information much sooner—namely, formulas and tools.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter.

I’ve put together a list of the eight best tools for getting inside your readers’ heads.

They will give you tangible data you can use to produce content that resonates with your readers.

Finally, I’ll show you how to use the key features of these tools. I promise that none of them are difficult to use and that they are worth your time. 

Tool type #1 – Hard demographics data

If you want to know what your readers think, you first need to know who they are.

That’s where demographics come in.

Essentially, any statistic that describes a characteristic of your audience is a demographic. The most common are:

  • age
  • location
  • device preference
  • gender
  • marital status

The tools in this section will help you figure out who you should be targeting in the first place. They can be used whether you have an existing audience or are just starting off.

1. Demographics Pro for Hootsuite

This tool is one of the most complete I’ve ever come across when it comes to demographics.

The only significant limitation is that it draws its data from Twitter.

However, as long as people in your niche use Twitter (which is likely), it’s really useful.

While you can sign up for Demographics Pro directly, it’s pretty simple to use this Hootsuite app.

When you click the link in the title for this tool and then click the “Install App” button on the page, you’ll be taken to Hootsuite, where you’ll see a pop-up like this (if you’re signed in):

image04

Once you install the app, you’ll see a new tab on your account called “Demographics Pro for Twitter.”

image03

To use the tool, simply enter a Twitter handle (e.g., “@NeilPatel”), and click “get profile.”

That’ll automatically bring up some basic data:

image15

More useful, though, is the “view full profile” option. Click that link, and you’ll see an extremely detailed panel like this:

image11

From this, you can get a ton of demographic information about your (or their) followers and even some psychographics (more on that in section 2):

  • gender distribution
  • marital status
  • parental status
  • age
  • average income
  • location
  • types of jobs they have
  • types of hobbies they have
  • types of brands they like

It’s a gold mine of information.

If you’re already using Twitter, start with your own profile.

Then, get the stats of some of your top competitors. If you don’t know who they are, head to Buzzsumo’s amplification tool, and search for some keywords that describe your niche:

image05

2. Sprout Social

This is a similar type of social audience analyzer. However, it analyzes both Facebook and Twitter, so there’s a potential to get a few different insights.

Once you sign up for an account (free trials available), you can connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts (only your own).

That will populate your account with a bunch of social trends data, but more importantly—demographics.

image13

On top of getting a gender distribution of the audience on each platform, you get a detailed breakdown of their age brackets. That’s another important insight into your audience that will come in handy.

3. Google Display Planner

It might surprise you to find out that the Google Display Planner is another decent source of demographic data even though it isn’t the tool’s primary purpose.

When you open the planner, you have two options for searching:

  • keywords, topics, or sites
  • a landing page

I recommend doing both, and several times if possible. The larger your sample size, the more accurate your demographics data will be.

You can enter your own site, a competitor’s site, or keywords that you will be targeting with SEO.

Once you’ve picked an option, click the blue button to proceed:

image06

On the next page, you’ll get a whole bunch of suggestions for ad keywords. Ignore them.

The only thing we care about here is the panel in the center of the screen that breaks down the demographics of people who search for the terms you entered (or terms found on the page you entered).

It looks like this:

image00

Again, you get a gender and age breakdown.

Additionally, you can record which devices that audience prefers to use.

Is all this information redundant? It is to a degree, but it’s still useful. By now, you have demographic data from three different tools.

That data may look the same, but there may be differences because it’s collected from different sources.

Having data from multiple sources ensures that it won’t be skewed. You can take an average of all the data you collect or keep it as a range (i.e., average age might be 25-34 and not just one specific number).

4. FollowerWonk

The final tool in this section also uses Twitter to retrieve demographic data. However, it provides one important feature that the others miss.

Once you create an account, go to the “Analyze” tab on the top menu. Enter your Twitter handle, and let the tool scan your followers.

On the next page, look for a graph like the one below that shows at what times your followers are most active.

image10

This information will be useful when you are promoting your content, especially on social media.

Tool type #2 – Understand your readers’ thinking (psychographics)

Once you’ve nailed down who your readers are or will be, it’s time to start figuring out how they think.

Ideally, you want to answer questions such as:

  • what are their biggest problems?
  • what type of content do they like the most?
  • what kind of language do they use?
  • what bores them, and what excites them?

The tools in this section will help you answer these questions and eliminate guesswork.

5. Faqfox

This is a simple tool that makes getting useful data from forums easy.

Basically, you enter a keyword and sites to scan, and the tool pulls up relevant thread titles for you. You can search multiple sites at once.

Start by inputting a keyword into the first field. You could manually enter sites, but an easier option is to simply pick one of the preset categories. If you’re not sure which one to choose, pick “generic”:

image09

The tool will load the results after a few seconds of search:

image01

I recommend downloading the results into a spreadsheet and analyzing them there.

Remember those questions you need to answer? These results will help you do that.

You’ll have some irrelevant results, so start by removing those.

Once you have a few hundred relevant threads left, dig in.

Note down:

  • common questions (those that come up more than once)
  • any phrasing that you wouldn’t normally use yourself
  • any other keywords that you haven’t thought of (that you see in the titles)

Then, repeat this whole process at least a few times with different keywords.

6. Crazy Egg

If you know me well, you know I founded Crazy Egg.

I’ll let you judge the tool for yourself, but it can be incredibly useful for understanding the behavior of your readers.

The one catch is that you have to actually have readers before you can use the tool.

Assuming you do, Crazy Egg will give you a variety of heatmaps that will show you exactly how readers interact with your content.

There are two types of maps you’ll want to look at.

First is the scroll map, which tells you how people scroll through your page. You can tell what portions of the page they pay more or less attention to.

image08

It’s natural for the percentage to decline as you scroll down, but you might see that it declines at certain sections in the middle of the content.

This is a clear indication that something on your page didn’t interest your readers.

For example, if I looked at a heatmap for this post and saw that there’s a huge drop off within this section, I could conclude that my readers don’t like reading about heatmap tools (or potentially about psychographics).

Similarly, hot spots lower down the page indicate that you’ve touched upon something that excites them.

Record this information for all your content, and you’ll start seeing patterns in the type of content, the tone, and the format your readers like.

To get even more insight into your readers’ preferences, you can use click heatmaps, which show you what readers clicked on:

image12

You’ll see that certain things attract their attention more than others. Again, look for patterns.

7. Buzzsumo’s Top Content Tool

The heatmaps can give you a lot of insight into what excites and bores your readers.

However, sometimes you need more, or you don’t have enough readers to use heatmaps yet.

That’s where Buzzsumo’s top content tool comes in.

You’ll want to make a list of keywords you’ll be using within your content. Then, search them one by one in the tool:

image14

The tool will return a list of the most popular content in the past year (sorted by total shares).

Visit as many of these pages as you can, and record down the answers to these questions in your spreadsheet:

  • What format does the content use? (lots of images? videos? big font? small font?)
  • What tone does the content use? (news articles? personal stories? conversational?)
  • Why would your reader be so excited about this topic?

You can leave the last one blank for now if you don’t know, but come back to it later.

When you have a good understanding of your readers, you should be able to figure out why these top articles would appeal to them more than the average content.

Finally, search all the answers to all those questions for patterns.

For example, if a large chunk of the most popular posts are mainly image-based, you know that your readers love images.

Tool type #3 – Assemble your data, and make it useful

If you’ve used every tool up until this point, you have a lot of useful data.

Don’t just put it on a spreadsheet and forget about it.

Instead, create reader personas. It will help you and your team when you need to be reminded for whom you are writing.

I created this final section for a single tool because I feel that—although it is a small step you need to take—it’s a very important step.

8. Make My Persona

This tool was created by Hubspot, and it’s brilliant.

It guides you through a simple process that uses all the different demographic and psychographic information you’ve collected with all the other tools.

It also ensures that you don’t forget any key part of creating a reader persona, e.g., putting a real name or face to it:

image02

Once you answer all the questions, the tool will produce a well-organized persona summary:

image07

First, you should share this with everyone who helps you with content.

Next, you should be looking at this before you write any content yourself. Always ask yourself what this person would find valuable and interesting. Print it out, and hang it up if you need to.

Note that you can create multiple personas if that’s what the data supports.

Conclusion

This is not a huge list, but every tool on this list can be useful.

The better you understand your readers, the more you’ll be able to write exactly what they want to see (and value).

I recommend trying at least a few of the tools, but if you really want to get a clear picture of what your readers think and care about, use them all.

If I missed a tool that can help writers understand their audiences, please post it in the comments below, and I’ll give it a look.


Quick Sprout